After a 20-year publishing hiatus, Gayl Jones is back with a heady historical fiction

After publishing to great acclaim in the 1980s and 1990s, Gayl Jones disappeared from the public eye. Somewhere in the last few pages of this brutal historical fiction that has been half a century in the making, our protagonist—the observational Almeyda—asks “how can one write such a history and live through it at the same time?”. A fragmented narrative of slavery and survival set in 17th century colonial Brazil, Palmares begs the same question.

The Booker-nominated Black Moses is a damning portrait of 80s Congo-Brazzaville

Longlisted for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize, Alain Mabanckou’s Black Moses zeroes in on corruption in late 1970s Congo-Brazzaville. In this cynical coming-of-age story, Mabanckou changes the narrative by troubling what is expected of the bildungsroman. Straddling an array of themes like orphan suffering, governmental corruption, and mental health in a seedy setting, this tale of endearing novice gangsters and charming sex workers offers a refreshing take on the well-worn tropes of urban fiction.