California Book Club’s Three Winter Selections

In this newsletter, the California Book Club announces its next books: Sarah Shun-lien Bynum’s Likes, Natalie Diaz’s Postcolonial Love Poem, and Karen Tei Yamashita’s I Hotel.

sarah bynum, natalie diaz, karen tei yamashita

Alta Journal’s California Book Club is delighted to announce our next three books. We’ll be journeying through a short story collection with surrealist and fairy-tale touches, a poetry collection that resists the erasures of colonialism, and a doorstop novel that features Asian American activism. Each of these evokes a different mood and atmosphere with original, beautiful language.

We encourage you to get ahold of these stunners before the holidays so that you can settle in and start reading them on these long, cool winter nights after you finish The Barbarian Nurseries.

Here are the books our wonderful selection panel has chosen to kick off the new year, with comments by Alta books editor David L. Ulin.

likes, sarah shun lien bynum
Farrar, Straus and Giroux


When: Thursday, January 20, 5 p.m. Pacific time.

It would be hard not to be enchanted by this collection of nine stories, taking over as they do the terrain between waking dreams and dark spells. Yet Likes slips in and out of contemporary spaces with assurance and finely calibrated language: a Waldorf Fair, an Instagram account, a path for rollerblading. Ulin notes that Bynum’s first collection, her third book so far, “reinvents the fairy tale through a contemporary filter, finding the phantasmagoric in the everyday.” He explains, “Bynum is a nuanced stylist, and her sense of the world as magical infuses nearly every moment in the book. At the same time, she understands, magic can be dangerous or at least disruptive, which gives Likes its own vivid edge.”

postcolonial love poem, natalie diaz
Graywolf Press


When: Thursday, February 17, 5 p.m. Pacific time.

Diaz’s lush second collection won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. We defy you not to love this book, deeply, wildly. Its imagery, its imaginative associations, its political ferocity bowls us over. Here are hips that are “quartz-light and dangerous.” Anxiety that is “a garden.” Ocelots with “mathematical faces.” Understanding its power, Ulin observes that in Postcolonial Love Poem, “Diaz seeks nothing less than a fundamental reframing of the way we imagine colonial and postcolonial experience. That this is necessary should go without saying; that it is difficult is equally true. In reconstructing our relationship to the colonial imagination, after all, we have no choice but to use many of the tools of oppression, not least those of language and of form. The contradiction sits at the center of her collection.”

i hotel, karen tei yamashita
Coffee House Press


When: Thursday, March 17, 5 p.m. Pacific time.

Groundbreaking novelist Yamashita is the author of many books, including the bold, award-winning novel I Hotel. It starts in 1968 and tells the story of a cast of Asian American students, artists, activists, and laborers. Centered on a real-life San Francisco landmark, a residential hotel in Manilatown, it is multivoiced, a magnificent book about a crucial decade in the civil rights movement. Ulin calls the 10 linked narratives a “masterpiece of fragmentation” and marvels at how “Yamashita aspires to create not a unified voice but rather a chorus of perspectives: Filipino American, Japanese American, Chinese American, and more.” The result, he says, is “a novel that encapsulates not just one community or moment but the diaspora of Asian experience in the Bay Area during the decade from 1968 to 1977.”

We can’t wait for you to hear what these authors have to say about their books. In the meantime, be sure to sign up for the upcoming CBC gathering with Héctor Tobar, author of The Barbarian Nurseries, on December 16 and join your fellow book club members in the Alta Clubhouse for an ongoing discussion about the book.•


close up of unrecognizable housekeeper holding towels at a hotel
Andres Rodriguez


Ilana Masad considers how Héctor Tobar’s The Barbarian Nurseries develops readers’ sympathies for Araceli, the maid and central character, while also presenting the inner landscapes of her employers. —Alta

the every, dave eggers


In Dave Eggers’s timely new novel The Every, a “sequel of sorts” to The Circle, the titular tech company has rebranded. Technology works by weaponizing shame. —Alta

independent bookstore


Booksellers gathered at a virtual conference launched by Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park and cohosted by 23 other stores, some of which are located in other states, to find practical solutions to ensure a future for their stores. —Alta

there there, tommy orange


CBC author Tommy Orange wasn’t used to being the center of attention when There There first came out, but it was important to him to pave the way for other Indigenous writers. —NPR

gustavo arellano
Los Angeles Times


Alta contributor Gustavo Arellano opines that Californians need to harness their fighting spirit for the difficulties 2022 will bring and suggests four books about Mexican American communities that might help.Los Angeles Times

tommy caldwell
Noah Sahady/The New Yorker


CBC author William Finnegan writes about legendary rock climber Tommy Caldwell, who trains by intense bouldering. —New Yorker

california book club bookplates

Alta’s California Book Club email newsletter is published weekly. Sign up for free and you also will receive four custom-designed bookplates.


Anita Felicelli, Alta Journal’s California Book Club editor, is the author of the novel Chimerica and Love Songs for a Lost Continent, a short story collection.
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