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Topical social issues explored in recent books by Lisa Ko, Ijeoma Oluo and more

Books like “The Leavers” and “An American Marriage” are conversation starters.

Pick up a book that addresses current social

Pick up a book that addresses current social issues this month. Photo Credit: Convergent Books / Seal Press

Forget the light summer beach read. For engaging, enlightening reads this month, reach for books that cover topical issues, from identity politics to discrimination to misogyny to criminal justice.

These contemporary books — found on both fiction and nonfiction shelves — examine pressing social issues of the day, while still being accessible enough that you can enjoy them during your commute (or even on your next trip to the beach).

‘The Leavers’

By Lisa Ko

Polly Guo, mother to 11-year-old Deming Guo, mysteriously doesn’t return home from her job at a Bronx nail salon one day. Or ever. A white couple upstate adopts Deming, renames him Daniel Wilkinson and a journey of self-preservation, discovery and identity begins in this novel set between New York and China.

‘So You Want to Talk About Race’

By Ijeoma Oluo

Readers will quite literally be talking about countless thought-provoking, challenging and enduring issues Oluo discusses in her bestselling book, which offers an approachable, smart look at the racial injustices that plague America today.

‘The Female Persuasion’

By Meg Wolitzer

Wolitzer’s latest novel starts with a campus sexual assault case (or lack thereof) in 2006. Readers follow Greer Kadetsky, who, after being assaulted in a fraternity house, boldly meets legendary feminist Faith during a casual on-campus appearance, an interaction that shapes how she sees herself and the surrounding world and the life she leads upon graduation and beyond.

‘An American Marriage’

By Tayari Jones

Celestial and Roy have barely celebrated a year together as newlyweds when Roy is arrested and jailed in his Louisiana hometown for a crime he didn’t commit. This poetic, heartbreaking look at criminal justice, race and relationships in America is told through various perspectives, making for a fast-paced, provocative novel touching at multifaceted issues all Americans should be discussing.

‘I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness’

By Austin Channing Brown

Austin Channing Brown is a woman of color, but you may not know it from the author’s name. Her parents made that choice intentionally to help prevent Brown from experiencing discrimination growing up in a world that unjustly prioritizes skin color. This debut memoir looks at her lived experiences and the larger story they tell.


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