Welcome to the faculty's tenth annual summer reading recommendations list! Once you've explored this one, you can click on the "summer reading" label at the end to see the previous ones.
I just flew through Claire Jiménez’s brand-new debut novel. What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez is the ideal summer read if you’re looking for humor and heft in a compact package (224 pages). Jiménez invites readers into the tumultuous world of three generations of Afro-Puerto Rican women on Staten Island. We meet the Ramirez family twelve years after thirteen-year-old Ruthy disappeared following track practice. Younger sister Nina has returned home after college graduation and finds herself working in a kitschy lingerie store. Older sister Jessica cares for her baby and the cantankerous residents of a nursing home. Their mother Dolores teaches a Proper Parenting workshop for struggling mothers. When Jessica and Nina see a “grown-up Ruthy”—or is it a “fake Ruthy”?—on the outrageous reality TV show Catfight, the family begins to reckon with Ruthy’s absence by way of her virtual presence. I loved how What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez gives each of these four characters their own endearingly combative narrative turns. It’s as if the split screens we’re watching merge. The show’s public spectacle and the family’s own private “catfight,” with all of that word’s troubling implications, become one uproarious, potentially healing story of grief, labor, and love.
The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker
This is an odd apocalyptic novel in which people in a college town in Sothern California start falling asleep and staying asleep. It may not sound very exciting, but I couldn’t put it down!
This Book Will Save Your Life by A.M. Homes
I’m working on a chapter for a literary history of Los Angeles right now, and among the books I’ve read about LA, I found this one especially moving. It is about a very wealthy, very lonely man, who, after a near-death experience, begins to make an effort to connect with the people around him.