The best recent books on secrecy and denial

Who am I?

I come from worlds that look much like the worlds in these books: raised in poverty, absent father, generational trauma, and mental illness running strong in my genes. I’ve always been interested in the ways our opportunities shape us, and the coping mechanisms we wield—secrecy, denial, anger, violence, even love—as we try to survive. 

I wrote...

The House of Deep Water

By Jeni McFarland,

Book cover of The House of Deep Water

What is my book about?

With two kids in tow, Beth Hanson, a Black divorcee, moves back in with her white father, Earnest, only to find him with a live-in girlfriend, Linda, whom Beth babysat in high school. The move comes right as their neighbor has been arrested for horrific crimes, which Beth was a victim of growing up. Back home, Beth is forced to confront the town’s—and Ernest’s—“benign” racism, and her father’s long denial of the abuse that tainted her childhood.

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The books I picked & why


By Megan Giddings,

Book cover of Lakewood

Why did I love this book?

You want a book on serious gaslighting? Here it is! Lakewood is about a young woman who, amid financial need, signs up to be a lab rat in an experiment. And it gets dark pretty fast. This book will have you wondering what’s happening and where the character is while she navigates this experiment. And, bonus! It’s set in my home state of Michigan!

By Megan Giddings,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Lakewood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NPR Book of the Year 2020

Electric Literature: One of 55 Books by Women and Nonbinary Writers of Color to Read in 2020 | Lit Hub & The Millions: Most Anticipated Books of 2020 | Ms. Magazine: Anticipated 2020 Feminist Books | Refinery29: Books by Black Women We are Looking Forward To Reading | One of The Millions' Most Anticipated Reads of 2020 | Amazon Book of the Month Pick | Audible Editor's Pick | Essence's Pick| Glamour's Must Read | Ms. Magazine's Anticipated Read of 2020

A startling debut about class and race, Lakewood evokes a terrifying world of…

Hell of a Book

By Jason Mott,

Book cover of Hell of a Book

Why did I love this book?

Mott surely earned his National Book Award for this! It discusses police brutality of Black people with a main character who is incapable of even acknowledging the latest shooting, and brings in questions like what art is, and what’s an artist’s responsibility to weigh in on these national conversations. The writing is stellar, the character is a little wonky in the best possible way, and the book itself is a page-turner. And if you go to my website, I have a link to where I had the honor of interviewing Mott for this book about a month before it won the NBA! Just scroll to the bottom of the first page where it says “Fox Cities Book Festival.”

By Jason Mott,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Hell of a Book as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?



Winner of the 2021 Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction, Joyce Carol Oates Literary Prize Finalist, 2022 Chautauqua Prize Finalist, Willie Morris Award for Southern Writing Shortlist, and the 2021 Aspen Words Literary Prize shortlist

A Read With Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick!

An Ebony Magazine Publishing Book Club Pick! 

One of Washington Post's 50 Notable Works of Fiction | One of Philadelphia Inquirer's Best Books of 2021 | One of Shelf Awareness's Top Ten Fiction Titles of the Year | One of TIME Magazine’s 100 Must-Read Books | One of…

Book cover of If You Want to Make God Laugh

Why did I love this book?

Marais does an excellent job of moving among these three point-of-view characters: a Black woman and two white sisters, all brought together by a child and the question of parentage. At the heart of the story is life in apartheid-era South Africa. A must-read for anyone who loves messy families and complex characters.

By Bianca Marais,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked If You Want to Make God Laugh as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the author of the beloved Hum If You Don't Know the Words comes a rich, unforgettable story of three unique women in post-Apartheid South Africa who are brought together in their darkest time and discover the ways that love can transcend the strictest of boundaries.

In a squatter camp on the outskirts of Johannesburg, seventeen-year-old Zodwa lives in desperate poverty, under the shadowy threat of a civil war and a growing AIDS epidemic. Eight months pregnant, Zodwa carefully guards secrets that jeopardize her life.

Across the country, wealthy socialite Ruth appears to have everything her heart desires, but it's…

Mexican Gothic

By Silvia Moreno-Garcia,

Book cover of Mexican Gothic

Why did I love this book?

I love a good gothic, and this does not disappoint. A house full of secrets and magic, and a mentally ill family who guards the secrets and magic. I call this a perfect beach read because Moreno-Garcia writes the kind of strong, willful, clever, active heroine we all wish we could see ourselves in a book.

By Silvia Moreno-Garcia,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked Mexican Gothic as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The award-winning author of Gods of Jade and Shadow (one of the 100 best fantasy novels of all time, TIME magazine) returns with a mesmerising feminist Gothic fantasy, in which a glamorous young socialite discovers the haunting secrets of a beautiful old mansion in 1950s Mexico.

He is trying to poison me. You must come for me, Noemi. You have to save me.

When glamorous socialite Noemi Taboada receives a frantic letter from her newlywed cousin begging to be rescued from a mysterious doom, it's clear something is desperately amiss. Catalina has always had a flair for the dramatic, but…

The Mothers

By Brit Bennett,

Book cover of The Mothers

Why did I love this book?

A young couple of star-crossed lovers: the son of the minister, and the daughter of a woman who committed suicide. And at the helm of their relationship is the church community, steering their path. This book brings up a lot of questions of who gets a say, and who is worthy, all brought to you by Bennet’s gorgeous writing.

By Brit Bennett,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Mothers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Vanishing Half.

The Mothers is a dazzling debut about young love, a big secret in a small community and the moments that haunt us most.

All good secrets have a taste before you tell them, and if we'd taken a moment to swish this one around our mouths, we might have noticed the sourness of an unripe secret, plucked too soon, stolen and passed around before its season.

It's the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, seventeen-year-old beauty. Mourning her own mother's recent suicide, she takes…

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