Tiphanie Yanique’s new novel offers “a rich and honest examination” of love.
On this episode, Tiphanie Yanique discusses Monster in the Middle (Riverhead, Oct. 19), a finely wrought love story from the author of How To Escape From a Leper Colony and Land of Love and Drowning. Written in part as a response to an argument by cultural critic Vivian Gornick (“Put romantic love at the center of a novel today, and who could be persuaded that in its pursuit the characters are going to get to something large?”), Yanique’s sophomore novel views the connection between two young lovers in 2020 New York City in light of former loves: theirs, their parents', and their ancestors'.
Here’s a bit from Kirkus’ review:“At the heart of [Yanique’s] story are Fly and Stela, who will meet in New York City on the cusp of a pandemic. He’s a Black American, raised on religion and weed, with a mentally ill father and an ear for music; she’s half an orphan from the Virgin Islands with an artist’s eye who loves the colors of the sea and dreams of landing in the belly of a whale. A long and compelling road leads to their love story, one lined with mistakes, regrets, and other emotional flotsam.…This author understands how we come to be who we are. ‘We all know it takes a village to raise a child. But I can tell you honestly that it takes an ancestry to make a man or woman,’ says Stela’s stepfather. Look to your roots, Yanique urges us, and maybe you’ll see the outline of your future.”
Yanique and host Megan Labrise discussthe Gornick quote (the book’s epigraph); the provenance of the map at the front of the book; the love letter that begins the text; characters’ questioning of their own desires, especially “monstrous” desires; natural talent/artistry as a gift, not a curse; why Yanique works on multiple projects at once; the benefits of taking a long time to write a novel; and much more.
And in a special editors’ segment, we welcome Kirkus’ new young readers’ editor, Summer Edward, to Fully Booked. She and Megan discuss her new role at Kirkus; the book that made her a reader; her experience as a children’s book author; and Anansesem, the online literary magazine she founded to promote Caribbean authors and illustrators writing in English. Beginning Nov. 2, she’ll join fellow editors Laura Simeon, Eric Liebetrau, and Laurie Muchnick on our regular editors’ segments, recommending their top picks in books for the week.
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Fully Booked is produced by Cabel Adkins Audio and Megan Labrise.