The Commissions

By Paul Madonna (San Francisco)
West Margin Press (Sept. 5, 2023)

Paul Madonna’s new book, The Commissions, comes out September 5, 2023.

Nine months after a life-threatening car accident on his way home from his studio left him badly injured and temporarily bedridden, the author-illustrator Paul Madonna is finally releasing the book he was working on that day. The Commissions, which comes out Sept. 5, is the third book in Madonna’s Emit Hopper mystery series, which he describes as a “noir-ish detective mystery novel set in San Francisco.” Like his previous books, The Commissions is filled with dozens of Madonna’s very distinctive drawings.  

“This release is momentous for me,” Madonna said in an email. On Nov. 16, 2022, “I was in a life-threatening car accident. At the time, the book was one month from going to print, and graciously my publisher waited for me to recover. It’s been a long and difficult road, but I’m proud to say that over the many months of rehabilitation—and with me from bed—we were able to get it finished, off to print, and make the scheduled fall pub date. I can’t tell you how much this means to me. To be alive, walking, and able to celebrate the release of this book is just incredible.”

Madonna may be best known for the series “All Over Coffee,” which he drew for the San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and the best-selling Spirits of San Francisco: Voyages through the Unknown City, a portrait of the city with illustrations by Madonna and historical vignettes by the author Gary Kamiya.

The Emit Hopper books are fiction, however. They feature Hopper, a “struggling painter who became a one-hit wonder rock star, then went on to be a novelist, museum artist, laundromat owner, and unintentional detective.” The first two books were set in Asia and Europe but this installment involves some time travel which brings readers to San Francisco in the late 1990s. 

Madonna had recovered enough from the car accident (which was not his fault) by April to resume work on The Commissions. He is planning a huge book launch, art exhibition, and I-Didn’t-Die Party on Sept. 15th in San Francisco.

More new books, from Bay Area and Northern California authors, listed by release date.

Forget I Told You This

By Hilary Zaid (Oakland)
Nebraska Press (Sept. 1, 2023)

Amy Black loves calligraphy, an art form no longer fashionable. As a queer, single mother she dreams of landing a cushy artist residency at Q, a social media company. One day a mysterious man comes into the table she has set up in a plant store Telegraph Avenue in Oakland. Black transcribes a love letter for him, but when he disappears she is drawn into the vortex of Q, where she discovers the most beautiful illuminated manuscript she has ever seen. But a group of data privacy vigilantes confront her and try to persuade Black to burn Q to the ground.  Forget I Told You This is the winner of the Barbara Dibernard Prize and is the inaugural title of Zero Street Fiction, a new imprint of the University of Nebraska Press. 


By Vicky Fang (Mountain View)
MIT Kids Press (Sept. 12, 2023)

Vicky Fang is a prolific children’s book author and illustrator who inspires kids to explore their internal scientist. A former children’s product designer at Google and the author of 20 STEM-related books, Fang’s latest, AlphaBot, is a flip-flap book that lets readers create 729 mix-and-match robots. Alongside the cheery illustrations of robot parts, there is an alphabetical listing of terms—from android to gears, neural network to program, wheels to Z-drive—and a basic definition of each. The book is made of sturdy cardboard to stand up to the most curious hands.

Mom Rage

By Minna Dubin (Berkeley)
Seal Press (Sept. 19, 2023)

Minna Dubin lives in Berkeley and never expected to find herself an angry mom. After the birth of her son, and later her daughter, she was exhausted by the grueling work of full-time parenting and the loss of her identity as a writer. She found the expectations of motherhood too high (she was the type who pureed vegetables for her kids rather than buying baby food at the store) and societal support too thin. Dubin later realized her angry feelings were not unique and she began investigating what she considers the hidden crisis of rage facing American mothers. After interviewing mothers across the spectrum of race, sexual orientation, and class, Dubin developed some practical tools to help parents disarm their rage.

The Golem of Brooklyn

By Adam Mansbach (Berkeley)
One World (Sept. 26, 2023)

Leave it to Adam Mansbach of “Go the F**k To Sleep” fame to reimagine the myth of the golem, an inanimate and mystical clay object steeped in Jewish mythology. A stoned, down-on-his-luck Brooklyn high school teacher who knows little about Judaism manages to bring a 9’6” 400-pound, Yiddish-speaking creature to life. When Len Bronstein can’t communicate with the golem he has created,  he enlists the help of a bodega clerk and ex-Hasid to translate. The golem learns English by watching “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and ingesting LSD, and the unlikely gang is soon off to fight American anti-Semitism. 

The Siren, the Song, and the Spy

By Maggie Tokuda-Hall (Oakland)
Candlewick Press (Sept. 26, 2023)

Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s new teen/young adult fantasy book (which got a starred review from Kirkus) comes out 18 months after the release of Love in the Library, a mostly true children’s book about Tokuda-Hall’s grandparents who met in a Japanese-American concentration camp during World War II. Scholastic Books, a huge publisher with a pipeline directly into elementary schools, wanted to license the book but only if Tokuda-Hall toned down her author’s note that called out the racism behind imprisoning Japanese-Americans. She refused and the interaction went viral.Her new book, The Siren, the Song, and the Spy, is a companion to her best-selling debut, The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea. The fantasy novel tells the story of a diverse resistance force fighting to take down an empire.