The Boat People

Sharon Bala (Doubleday)

This powerful and timely debut is based on an actual 2010 incident. When a cargo ship docks in a Canadian port carrying 500 Sri Lankan refugees, the passengers believe their ordeal is over, trusting in Canada’s reputation for “being a soft touch.” But government officials, fearing the ship harbors members of a terrorist cell, resolve to detain the passengers until investigators can ensure they present no threat. Bala weaves together the stories of a refugee, his lawyer, and an inexperienced adjudicator to explore the difficult decisions at the intersection of compassionate ideals and political reality—and the consequences for all involved.

No One Ever Asked

Katie Ganshert (WaterBrook)

Thunderstruck by an episode of This American Life about segregation in today’s schools, Ganshert set aside the project she was working on to write this story. When a failing school district loses its accreditation, the affluent neighboring district reluctantly admits the bused students as the law requires. “This isn’t about race,” the PTA chair proclaims at the town meeting, but it’s undeniable that the bused students are mostly black and brown, and the students at their new school mostly white. Weaving together fact and fiction, Ganshert portrays three very different women, connected by the same classroom full of eight-year-olds, whose lives are changed by the challenges and revelations of the groundbreaking school year.

A Place for Us

Fatima Farheen Mirza (Hogarth)

Mirza’s story about an Indian-American Muslim family opens with a celebration, but not all is well: The bride scans the crowd for her prodigal brother, hoping he’ll appear despite being estranged from the family for years. Through a series of flashbacks, Mirza examines the series of small betrayals that splintered the family, skillfully imbuing quotidian events—a chance meeting at a party, a dinner conversation about a spelling test—with deep significance. Despite their smallness, they have irrevocably altered the course of the family’s life. A powerful meditation on faith and family, love and loss, and a father’s fervent hope for forgiveness.

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