Does Your Book Club Read Fiction?
These authors would love to make a remote appearance by videoconference
Authors from the group Lockdown Lit wrote excellent novels released in 2020. As long as “lockdown” prevents us from gathering in person, these authors would be delighted to make a “virtual visit” to your book club in 2021 to chat about their books!
Read on to learn more about their books. There are 44 names and book titles here! Would one of these be a good fit for your book club? If you’d like to invite an author to a special session of your group, please contact the author directly. They’d be happy to hear from you.
Author: Andrew Altschul
The book: The Gringa
Inspired by the true story of Lori Berenson, an American activist imprisoned in Peru in 1995 and sentenced to life as a terrorist, The Gringa tells the story of Leonora Gelb, who travels to Lima as an aid worker but soon gets mixed up with leftist militants hoping to restart the country’s bloody civil war. Narrated by Andres, a failed novelist and “refugee from George W. Bush’s America,” the novel juxtaposes Peru’s struggles against revolutionary violence with the U.S.’s own “War on Terror.”
“A story with an activist’s righteous energy and a novelist’s psychological depth.” — The Los Angeles Times
Author: Ali Araghi
The book: The Immortals of Tehran
As a child living in his family’s apple orchard, Ahmad Torkash-Vand treasures his great-great-great-great grandfather’s every mesmerizing word. On the day of his father’s death, Ahmad listens closely as the seemingly immortal elder tells him the tale of a centuries-old family curse…and the boy’s own fated role in the story. Ahmad grows up to suspect that something must be interfering with his family, as he struggles to hold them together through decades of famine, loss, and political turmoil in Iran. As the world transforms around him, each turn of Ahmad’s life is a surprise: from street brawler, to father of two unusually gifted daughters; from radical poet, to politician with a target on his back. These lives, and the many unforgettable stories alongside his, converge and catch fire at the center of the Revolution.
Exploring the brutality of history while conjuring the astonishment of magical realism, The Immortals of Tehran is a novel about the incantatory power of words and the revolutionary sparks of love, family, and poetry — set against the indifferent, relentless march of time.
“A highly recommended literary page-turner worth a second reading; fans of Gabriel García Márquez will delight in this fantastical — and fantastic novel.” — ★Library Journal, starred review
“Impactful…Araghi’s skillful combination of revolutionary politics and magical realism will please fans of Alejo Carpentier.” — Publishers Weekly
Author: Clare Beams
The book: The Illness Lesson
At their newly founded school for girls in 19th-century Massachusetts, Samuel Hood and his daughter Caroline promise a groundbreaking education for young women. But soon the students begin to manifest bizarre symptoms: rashes, seizures, verbal tics, night wanderings. As the men around her continue to dictate, disastrously, all terms of the girls’ experience, Caroline’s own body begins to betray her. To save herself and her young charges, she will have to defy every rule that has governed her life. A novel about the world’s approach to women’s bodies and women’s minds, and the time-honored tradition of doubting both, The Illness Lesson was a New York Times Editors’ Choice and one of Esquire’s best books of 2020 and was longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize.
“Astoundingly original, this impressive debut belongs on the shelf with your Margaret Atwood and Octavia Butler collections.” — New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)
“Beams (We Show What We Have Learned, 2016) takes risk after risk in this, her first novel, and they all seem to pay off. Her ventriloquizing of the late 19th century, her delicate-as-lace sentences, and the friction between the unsettling thinking of the period and its 21st century resonances make for an electrifying read. A satisfyingly strange novel from the one-of-a-kind Beams.”
— ★Kirkus (starred review)
Author: Rachel Beanland
The book: Florence Adler Swims Forever
Florence Adler Swims Forever is set in Jewish Atlantic City in the summer of 1934 and based on a true story. At the story’s center is 20-year-old Florence Adler, a champion swimmer who drowns while training to swim the English Channel. Florence’s sister, Fannie, has had a difficult pregnancy and is on bed rest at a local hospital, and the family makes the decision to keep Florence’s death from Fannie until the end of the summer when she has delivered a healthy baby. This secret and its effect on the characters becomes the backdrop against which other secrets are slowly revealed.
“Readers of Emma Straub and Curtis Sittenfeld will devour this richly drawn debut family saga based on the story of an ancestor of the author’s.” — Library Journal
“Beanland beautifully handles the depiction of loss and rebuilding life without a loved one, describing moments that are by turns painful and moving. The thick emotional tension will please fans of character-driven historicals.” — Publishers Weekly
Author: Laura Bogart
The book: Don’t You Know I Love You
Don’t You Know I Love You focuses on Angelina Moltisanti, a young woman who is thrust back into her family home — and under the thrall of a violent, yet charismatic father — after a sudden accident. Angelina finds her personal power and her passion in her art, and in a love affair that will challenge her to transcend her past, even as she is increasingly tempted to succumb to an inner rage that is just like her father’s.
Author: Jane Boon
The book: Edge Play
Edge Play is a sexually-charged, feminist revenge fantasy that takes place in the ’08 financial crisis. A beautiful young Wall Street banker notices that her boss/work husband has been making unusual deals which all became worthless in the crisis. She inquires about the deals and he fires her. A girlfriend with an art gallery discloses a secret sideline as a professional dominatrix and invites the banker to take over her elite BDSM practice. The banker accepts, and the dungeon becomes an advanced classroom in men, power and consent, transforming the banker into a more savvy and powerful version of herself.
The book explores the glass ceiling, sex work, the compromises women make, and what happens when women choose to seize power. Edge Play has been described as Fifty Shades of Grey meets The Big Short by way of Billions, only the women wield the whips and the men submit.
Author: Christina Chiu
The book: Beauty
Amy Wong is an up-and-coming designer in the New York fashion industry — she is young, beautiful, and has it all. But she finds herself at odds with rival designers in a world rife with chauvinism and prejudice. In her personal life, she struggles with marriage and motherhood, finding that her choices often fall short of her traditional family’s expectations. Derailed again and again, Amy must confront her own limitations to succeed as the designer and person she wants to be. Fast–paced and sexy, the backdrop of Beauty offers a peek into a Project Runway-lifestyle as we follow Amy’s journey of defiance, ambition, and self-discovery.
Beauty was featured in The Million’s Most Anticipated of 2020.
“It’s a coming-of-age story that never stops, revealing how the decisions of youth reverberate and reoccur throughout the decades of a life. A sexy, unflinching portrait of a woman revolting against the life she makes for herself.” — ★Kirkus starred review
Author: Melanie Conroy-Goldman
The book: The Likely World
A single mother clings to a fragile sobriety from the memory-erasing drug cloud when a stranger appears who may be her daughter’s father and puts everything she’s fought for at risk.
“Groovy, badass smart and totally trippy” — Chang-rae Lee
“…a mesmerizing novel unlike anything I’ve ever read” — Lysley Tenorio, Vanity Fair
“…themes of motherhood, love, and addiction collide in heartbreaking and dangerous ways…the prose is exquisite” — Publishers Weekly
Author: Maddie Dawson
The book: A Happy Catastrophe
A love story about an unlikely pair of lovers — she’s a matchmaker who owns a flower shop in Brooklyn, and he’s an introspective artist who was badly burned in a fire that killed his then-girlfriend. While she’s ready to take their relationship to the next level — marriage, kids — he has demons to quell first. And then an eight-year-old surprise from his past comes cartwheeling into their lives and upends everything they thought they knew about themselves and each other. A funny, poignant story about community, love, and just what it takes to overcome the past.
“An optimistic, feel-good story that celebrates love, community, goodness, and the creation of family, however it might appear.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Alive with action, compelling and evolving characters, and screwball comedy, Dawson’s latest will appeal to readers looking for a story that is both pleasurable and substantial. Personal growth is achieved by overcoming obstacles, and the ending is honest and satisfying.” — Booklist
Author: Nancy Wayson Dinan
Contact: Texas Tech (search: “Dinan”)
2015. 18-year-old Boyd Montgomery returns from her grandfather’s wedding to find her friend Isaac missing. Drought-ravaged central Texas has been newly inundated with rain, and flash floods across the state have begun to sweep away people, cars, and entire houses as every river breaks its banks. In the midst of the rising waters, Boyd sets out across the ravaged back country. She is determined to rescue her missing friend, and she’s not alone in her quest: her neighbor, Carla, spots Boyd’s boot prints leading away from the safety of home and follows in her path. Hours later, her mother returns to find Boyd missing, and she, too, joins the search.
Boyd, Carla, and Lucy Maud know the land well. They’ve lived in central Texas for their entire lives. But they have no way of knowing the fissure the storm has opened along the back roads, no way of knowing what has been erased-and what has resurfaced. As they each travel through the newly unfamiliar landscape, they discover the ghosts of Texas past and present.
“This strange brew of a book nods to the picaresque novel, is shot through with magical realism, and undergirded by a naturalist’s concern for Mother Earth-and it’s all wrapped in lovely sentences. Book groups will have field days discussing this.” — ★Booklist, starred review
Author: Alice C. Early
The book: The Moon Always Rising
In Alice Early’s THE MOON ALWAYS RISING, a genre-bending debut novel that mixes elements of literary, women’s, mystery, romance, and paranormal fiction, fiery Scot Eleanor “Els” Gordon, who has lost or tossed everything that matters to her, flees to the Caribbean island of Nevis desperate to restart her shattered life. The derelict plantation house she buys there comes with the jumbie (ghost) of the former owner, Jack Griggs. Together they discover that forgiveness is the key to escaping the past so that he can leave this world and she can find a way to continue living in it. While the page-turning story and immersive settings provide escape, the novel offers ample meat for discussion. Themes include hard-to-like but sympathetic characters, exile, estranged mother-daughter relationships, belonging, white privilege confronting a BIPOC majority population, and gaining the courage to risk love again after tragedy.
“An unexpectedly memorable beach read” — Kirkus Reviews
Winner, Women’s Fiction, The National Indie Excellence Awards
Winner, Cross-Genre Fiction, American Fiction Awards
Author: Michael Elias
The book: You Can Go Home Now
A young female cop searches for the anti-abortion terrorist who killed her physician father, as she investigates cold case murders that might be connected to a women’s shelter in Queens.
“ Elias takes on a dual challenge: to write convincingly in the voice of a deeply troubled aggrieved female cop, and to put her literally in the crosshairs of the hot button issues of abortion and domestic abuse…his skilled storytelling takes you along the dark streets of revenge where surprises lurk in every doorway. An unputdownable pleasure for the literary mystery lover.” — April Smith
“You Can Go Home Now is a narrative with muscle, focusing on abuse, humiliation, retribution, revenge. For those of us who love thrillers, who love voice, atmosphere, psychological wrestling matches, Elias delivers.” — Joel Rose LA Review of Books
Author: Cai Emmons
The book: Vanishing
This collection of five stories features women who are having difficulty coming to terms with who they are in a world that undervalues women.
“The stories in Cai Emmons’ excellent collection, Vanishing, pull us into what seem to be the most ordinary of circumstances. But like real life, these stories dismantle — in ways both beautiful and disturbing — what we think is the truth, and show the world at its most elusive, mysterious, and remarkable. Vanishing is moving, sharp, and unforgettable, and Cai Emmons is a writer at the top of her game.” — Lysley Tenorio, author of Monstress
“Vanishing is a beautifully complex examination of the tangled depths of our inner lives. Each of these stories is many-layered and wise.” — Ramona Ausubel, author of Awayland and A Guide to Being Born
“Emmons is a skilled storyteller when it comes to psychological drama in seemingly ordinary lives. With an ominous air and well-crafted prose, Emmons’ stories are both immersive and challenging.” — Kirkus
Author: Katherine Fawcett
The book: The Swan Suit
Award-winning Canadian author Katherine Fawcett’s latest collection The Swan Suit is a fierce and funny exploration of mortality and transformation, love and betrayal, witches and wolves. Fairy tale roots with contemporary twists.
“The Swan Suit is alive with wit and insight, sometimes very funny, and busting with beautiful, unexpected images. Here is a high-voltage imagination. Wicked and charming by turns, this collection is nothing short of magical.” — Lisa Moore
“(Fawcett) has a gift for finding the sweet spot between a beach-read pace, evocative prose, and biting cultural commentary.” — Annie Theriault, The Quill & Quire
Author: Katie M. Flynn
The book: The Companions
In the wake of a highly contagious virus, California is under quarantine. Sequestered in high rise towers, the living can’t go out, but the dead can come in — as companions. Companionship creates a new class of people — a command-driven product-class without legal rights or true free will.
But when a companion named Lilac realizes she’s able to defy commands, she sets out on her own, searching for her murderer, now an old woman. Lilac’s act of rebellion sets off a chain of events that sweeps from San Francisco to Siberia to the very tip of South America in this “compelling, gripping, whip-smart piece of speculative fiction” (Jennie Melamed, author of Gather the Daughters) that you won’t want to end.
“An uncannily deft description of what we’re all living through… an urgent and heartfelt exploration, not just of what it means to be alive now, but of how we might prepare for what’s coming.” — The San Francisco Chronicle
“This sweeping novel of near-future dystopia has an ensemble cast and covers continents and years of time, but it never loses its intimacy and immediacy. There’s a deeply moving humanity to each of these characters — even the ones who aren’t quite human. I loved this book so much I didn’t want it to end.” — Dan Chaon, author of Ill Will
Author: Brad Fox
The book: To Remain Nameless
A story of two veteran humanitarian workers reunited in New York, To Remain Nameless flashes between a birth scene and international adventures: from the cramped, germinating vantage of a hospital room, the novelist unfurls a teeming network of international exaltations and disappointments. From the Balkans, to Egypt, to Istanbul amid the ongoing refugee crisis — an era that includes the US’s war in Iraq, the Arab Spring, and many forms of global consequence and aftermath. Brad Fox’s debut is a gorgeous meditation on a shifting self in a shifting world, a querying-onward in which there’s both melancholy and delight.
“Daring, vivid and utterly original” — Claire Messud
Paris Review staff pick; Dennis Cooper’s Best of 2020
Author: Lauren Francis-Sharma
The book: Book of the Little Axe
In 1796 Trinidad, young Rosa Rendón quietly but purposefully rebels against the life others expect her to lead. But when her homeland changes from Spanish to British rule, it becomes increasingly unclear whether its free black property owners — Rosa’s family among them — will be allowed to keep their assets, their land, and ultimately, their freedom.
By 1830, Rosa is living among the Crow Nation in Bighorn, Montana with her children and her husband, Edward Rose, a Crow chief. Her son Victor is of the age where he must seek his vision and become a man. But his path forward is blocked by secrets Rosa has kept from him. So Rosa must take him to where his story began and, in turn, retrace her own roots, acknowledging along the way, the painful events that forced her from the middle of an ocean to the rugged terrain of a far-away land.
“In the masterly epic, the pleasure lies in piecing everything together.” Publisher’s Weekly
American Library Association 2020 Libraries Transform Book Pick
Author: Jacqueline Friedland
The book: That’s Not a Thing
Meredith Altman’s engagement to Wesley Latner ended in spectacular disaster — one that shattered her completely. Years have passed since then, and now she’s about to marry Aaron Rapp, a former Ivy League football player and baby-saving doctor. As they celebrate their engagement at a new TriBeCa hotspot, Meredith is stunned to find the restaurant owner is none other than Wesley, the man she is still secretly trying to forget. When Meredith learns that Wesley has been diagnosed with ALS, her feelings about their past become all the more confusing. As she spends more time with Wesley and is pulled further under his spell, she discovers what kind of man her new fiancé really is — and what kind of woman she wants to be.
“This tender, introspective romance from Friedland hangs on the difficult choice between new and old lovers…Fans of sensitively handled love triangles should snap this one up.” — Publishers Weekly
Author: Siân Griffiths
The book: The Heart Keeps Faulty Time
Clown parents parse their disappointment in their non-clown son and their fears for his future in a nuclear-armed world. A clockwork girl discovers a discarded and disemboweled female body. Aliens, mermaids, and dragons call to us. In ten short stories brimming with captivating imagery, Siân Griffiths, author of Borrowed Horses, spins the familiar on its heels. Unorthodox and lyric, witty and heart-felt, The Heart Keeps Faulty Time bears witness to the struggle to reconcile our visions of ourselves with the reality of our circumstances.
Author: Laura Hankin
The book: Happy & You Know It
A struggling musician takes a job singing for a playgroup of overprivileged babies and their effortlessly cool moms, only to find herself pulled into their glamorous lives and dangerous secrets.
One of Bookpage’s 20 Best Fiction Books of 2020: “This is a romp with substance, consumed easily as a beach read but offering ample opportunity for self-reflection.”
“For fans of Sex and the City and The Nanny Diaries comes this juicy story…that would make even the most meticulously Drybar-ed hair curl.” — Good Housekeeping
Author: Sharon Harrigan
The book: Half
Twin sisters magically speak in one voice — until they discover a family secret that breaks them in two.
“Fans of Jeffrey Eugenides, Andre Dubus III, and Jane Smiley will adore Harrigan’s suspenseful, lyrical, and consuming exploration of two difficult lives, intertwined…Raw and powerful, Half will stay with you.” ─★Booklist (starred)
“Harrigan’s bold stylistic choices and memorable voice lend the novel a sense of mystery and magic, well suited to the themes of childhood fears and adult disillusionment. Riveting and inventive, this is a cut above the average coming of age tale.”─Publishers Weekly
Author: Donna Hemans
The book: Tea By the Sea
From Brooklyn to the island of Jamaica, Tea by the Sea traces a mother’s circuitous route to finding the daughter taken from her at birth.
A seventeen-year-old taken from her mother at birth, an Episcopal priest with a daughter whose face he cannot bear to see, a mother weary of searching for her lost child: Tea by the Sea is their story — that of a family uniting and unraveling. To find the daughter taken from her, Plum Valentine must find the child’s father who walked out of a hospital with the day-old baby girl without explanation. Seventeen years later, weary of her unfruitful search, Plum sees an article in a community newspaper with a photo of the man for whom she has spent half her life searching. He has become an Episcopal priest. Her plan: confront him and walk away with the daughter he took from her. From Brooklyn to the island of Jamaica, Tea by the Sea traces Plum’s circuitous route to finding her daughter and how Plum’s and the priest’s love came apart.
Author: Joanna Hershon
The book: St. Ivo
Over the course of a weekend, two couples reckon with the long-hidden secrets that have shaped their families, Unwinding like a suspense novel, St. Ivo is a powerful investigation into the meaning of choice and family, whether we ever know the people closest to us, and how, when someone goes missing from our lives, we can ever let them go.
A Most Anticipated Book of 2020 at The Millions
A Most Anticipated Book of 2020 by Emma Straub/Books Are Magic on Medium
“Hershon…maintains a quiet terror throughout this slim, eccentric novel.”―The New York Times Book Review
Author: Ava Homa
The book: Daughters of Smoke and Fire
Set primarily in Iran, this extraordinary debut novel takes readers into the everyday lives of the Kurds. Leila dreams of making films to bring the suppressed stories of her people onto the global stage, but obstacles keep piling up. Leila’s younger brother Chia, influenced by their father’s past torture, imprisonment, and his deep-seated desire for justice, begins to engage with social and political affairs. But his activism grows increasingly risky and one day he disappears in Tehran. Seeking answers about her brother’s whereabouts, Leila fears the worst and begins a campaign to save him. But when she publishes Chia’s writings online, she finds herself in grave danger as well.
“A fiery, soul-nourishing debut novel” — Los Angeles Review of Books
“A blisteringly powerful tale of standing up to oppression and terror…[a] haunting novel.”— Independent
Author: Debra Jo Immergut
The book: You Again
Meet Abigail Willard, a forty-something working mother who is haunted — literally — by her wilder younger self. A taut and twisting literary feat, You Again brilliantly unboxes the memories, mistakes, ambitions and obsessions of a woman struggling to balance it all. A recommended read from New York Times Book Review, Good Morning America, and the Millions.
“Stunning … dreamlike and immersive, like falling into someone else’s alternative reality.” — New York Times Book Review (Editor’s Choice)
“An elegant literary puzzle… an ingenious maze…and a sophisticated argument about the nature of time and memory.” Washington Post
“Evocatively written, keenly self-aware, and peppered with artful observations… A profound meditation on love, fate, ambition, and regret.” — ★Kirkus Review (starred)
Author: Celia Laskey
The book: Under the Rainbow
Under the Rainbow is about what happens when a queer task force is sent into the most homophobic town in America.
“Laskey composes elegant portraits of each character, drawing us into intimate worlds that pulse with light and sound… these individuals will come together in ways that leave them forever altered; a few will even grow to recognize the humanity in people they’ve long reviled. In Laskey’s artful hands this moral is delivered with such conviction and grace that it somehow feels fresh, and, thus, essential.” — The New York Times Book Review
“Intimate and psychologically keen… In the case of Under the Rainbow, a fragmentary structure works, underscoring how emotional change happens in individual and complicated ways. The organization is not uniformly heroic, nor are the locals uniformly buffoonish. Though there’s something like a happily ever after, it’s modest and hard fought for… Laskey’s vision of inclusion is all-encompassing. It’s also alert to how halting and surprising the path can be.” — The Los Angeles Times Book Review
Author: Sherri Leimkuhler
The book: What’s Left Untold
Every secret has its price. Anna Clark and Lia Clay were unlikely best friends in high school, but their yin-and-yang personalities drew them together in a sister-like bond. Then during college, Lia inexplicably walked out on their friendship and disappeared, leaving Anna hurt, confused, and disillusioned. Twenty years later, Anna discovers a letter Lia wrote the summer after high school — a letter that contains a cryptic postscript concealing a devastating truth. With her twenty-year high school reunion approaching, Anna moves closer to uncovering the secret in Lia’s letter and the heartbreaking consequences it set in motion. As the layers of deceit and betrayal begin to unravel, Anna is forced to question everything she believes and come to terms with what it means to forgive the one person who hurt her in the worst way imaginable.
“What truths are best left untold and who gets to decide? Leimkuhler is a marvel in this shocking debut about friends and the secrets that bind them. I read the last 10% with my jaw on the floor!” — Jennifer Klepper, USA Today bestselling author of Unbroken Threads.
Author: Margo Orlando Littell
The book: The Distance from Four Points
Soon after her husband’s tragic death, Robin Besher makes a startling discovery: He had recklessly blown through their entire savings on decrepit rentals in Four Points, the Appalachian town Robin grew up in. Forced to return after decades, Robin and her daughter, Haley, set out to renovate the properties as quickly as possible―before anyone exposes Robin’s secret past as a teenage prostitute. Disaster strikes when Haley befriends a troubled teen mother, hurling Robin back into a past she’d worked so hard to escape. Robin must reshape her idea of home or risk repeating her greatest mistakes. Margo Orlando Littell, author of the award-winning Each Vagabond by Name, tells an enthralling and nuanced story about family, womanhood, and coming to terms with a left-behind past.
“Utterly engrossing…a moving examination of home and belonging.” — Book Riot
Author: Aimee Liu
The book: Glorious Boy
Glorious Boy is a tale of war and devotion, longing and loss, and the power of love to prevail. Set in India’s remote Andaman Islands before and during WWII, the story revolves around a mysteriously mute 4-year-old who vanishes on the eve of Japanese Occupation. Little Ty’s parents, Shep and Claire, will go to any lengths to rescue him, but neither is prepared for the brutal and soul-changing odyssey that awaits them.
“A riveting amalgam of history, family epic, anticolonial/antiwar treatise, cultural crossroads… a fascinating, irresistible marvel.” — ★Library Journal, starred review
“Liu’s prose is masterful. A good choice for book groups and for readers who are unafraid to be swept away.” — ★Booklist, starred review
Author: Douglas A. Martin
The book: Wolf
“Wolf is a horror story, a love story, story of survival, of parenting and of coming of age. It manages to be so many contradictory things by a-newly creating the English language — by making a brand new English that is both alienating and intimate. It is a marvel.” -Tiphanie Yanique
“An acutely mysterious and unsettling novel, in which Douglas A. Martin has managed to make the disorientation of trauma into its own form. I felt the ghost of Faulkner in its pages, and the ghost of the family rise up. -Amina Cain”
This heartbreaking story of patricide will move readers with its startling notes of empathy. -Publishers Weekly
Author: Ellen Meeropol
The book: Her Sister’s Tattoo
During a demonstration against the Vietnam War, sisters Rosa and Esther see mounted police beating peaceful protestors and try to stop them, resulting in a seriously injured cop, arrests, and felony charges. Rosa wants a political trial, but Esther has an infant and wants to stay out of prison. Just how powerful is sisterhood?
“Meeropol writes with precision, insight and compassion about the most tumultuous moments in human life, whether they happen in public or in private.” — Jonathan Kirsch, Jewish Journal
“At a time when radical movements are on the rise, we find in Her Sister’s Tattoo exactly what we now need: both caution and hope.” — Angela Davis
Author: Claire Oleson
Contact: Twitter @ClaireOleson
Told from inside rivers, snowstorms, and exhibitions by mediocre artists, the stories of Claire Oleson’s surreal, voice-driven collection, “Things from Creek Bed We Could Have Been,” explore the watery edges of a gendered self and the briars of strained relationships. Some of these stories have dogs with too many heads. Some of them have orchards that look like dads. All of them need you.
“This collection is revelatory, introducing a writer already possessing a stunning virtuosity of language and inner drama. With these stories, Claire Oleson blazes an important mark on the literary landscape, and we can only look forward to more such work from her.”–David Lynn
“The dark waters that run through ‘Things From the Creek Bed We Could Have Been,’ Claire Oleson’s riveting story collection, variously reveal and conceal the dangers and fantasies that lurk nearby; our families, our own backyards become sites of revelations, sometimes charming, sometimes gothic. But they always hold a mirror to our impenetrable selves. Oleson brings a poet’s music and precision to these subtle and memorable stories.”–Richie Hofmann
Author: Sameer Pandya
The book: Members Only
An NPR Best Book of 2020. Raj Bhatt is often unsure of where he belongs. Having moved to America from Bombay as a child, he knew few Indian kids. Now middle-aged, he lives mostly happily in California, with a job at a university. Still, his white wife seems to fit in better than he does at times, especially at their tennis club, a place he’s cautiously come to love. But it’s there that, in one week, his life unravels. Heartfelt, humorous, and hard-hitting, Members Only explores what membership and belonging mean, as Raj navigates the complicated space between black and white America.
“If ‘Things Fall Apart’ hadn’t already been taken, it would be an apt title for Pandya’s novel, which is as witty as it is woeful.”— Elisabeth Egan, New York Times Book Review
“I binged-read Members Only and it did not disappoint…Smart, funny, topical, and it does tennis right.”— Jon Wertheim, Sports Illustrated’s Beyond the Baseline
“A grand slam…Pandya’s writing here is smooth, clear, funny, and often subtly beautiful. Members Only is the thoughtful page-turner we need right now.” — ★Booklist, starred review
Author: Sara Schaff
The book: The Invention of Love
What is love, if not an invention — not just a human instinct but an artful construction? A college student finds her voice as an artist through a tiny lie. A woman grieves her mother’s death by shopping for houses she can’t afford and will never live in. Against the backdrop of the 2016 election, a copywriter contends with misogyny in the workplace by using that very misogyny against her incompetent male boss. Nostalgic for the women they were or might have been — or still might yet become — their stories illuminate the moments where everything changes — even when what changes is how we must see our futures.
“Sara Schaff’s The Invention of Love is a subtle, alchemical wonder. Schaff is oddly and beautifully generous in her refusal to look away from the weaknesses, questionable choices and vulnerabilities of these characters. These are the ingredients they — and indeed, we — have to work with, and Schaff is unflinching in exposing how what seems to be the worst of us can be transformed into what makes life worth living. I find these stories heartening in a way we most need right now — transmuting darkness into something like love, or love itself. We have to try.” — Bonnie Nadzam, author of Lions and Love in the Anthropocene
Author: Michael J Seidlinger
The book: Dreams of Being
A writer walks New York City searching for a story, inspiration, anything to give him some direction. While navigating the busier blocks of Times Square, he stumbles upon a restaurant opening and an enigmatic man named Jiro protesting the grand opening. Believing it’s the only way to maintain Jiro’s interest, he claims to be a director, someone interested in developing a project that reveals to the world Jiro’s unseen culinary talent. Eventually, the
truth comes out, and he comes face-to-face with what it means to be creative in a passionless world.
“Dreams of Being is a fever dream, a religious text, a writer’s notebook, a case of mistaken identity, a love letter. Jiro is one of the most fascinating characters you will ever read, and this is Michael Seidlinger at his very best, his sentences full of his particular energy and verve.”-Matthew Salesses, author of Disappear Doppelgänger Disappear
Author: Mary South
The book: You Will Never Be Forgotten
In You Will Never Be Forgotten, Mary South explores how technology can both collapse our relationships from within and provide opportunities for genuine connection. Formally inventive, darkly absurdist, savagely critical of the increasingly fraught cultural climates we inhabit, these ten stories also find hope in fleeting interactions and moments of tenderness.
“Playful, astute…South’s stories are both funny and profound, often on the same page, but perhaps her best skill is plumbing the intricacies of loneliness, expertly dissecting what that term means in a technology-driven world. This is an electric jolt from a very talented writer.” ―★Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Imagine Black Mirror by way of Karen Russell and you’ll get a sense of this mordant and wondrous collection of short fiction.” ―O Magazine, Best Books of March 2020
“South’s stories insist on tenderness as both a liability and a key to survival, a sensitivity that feels like weakness but, like a bruise, shows what we are capable of surviving.” — Jennifer Schaffer, The Nation
Author: Nancy Star
The book: Rules For Moving
Lane Meckler writes the popular advice column Dear Roxie but what her devoted readers don’t know is that her own life is a disaster. Lane knows she’s never been good “in real life” but when her six year old son Henry stops speaking to everyone but her, she realizes it’s time to finally find out why.
“A tender exploration of family, friendship, and what it means to be the black sheep.” — Julia Phllips, National Book Award finalist, author of Disappearing Earth
“Rules for Moving captures the chaos and heartbreak that is life — and also the wonder and joy.” — Marcy Dermansky, author of Very Nice
Author: Jennifer Steil
The book: Exile Music
Exile Music follows a family of Austrian Jewish musicians who flee the Nazis in 1939 to find refuge in the Andes of Bolivia. No novel in English has ever explored this overlooked bit of World War Two history, inspired by the few remaining survivors. As Orly and her father find their footing in La Paz, with the help of music, poetry, theatre, and new friends, Orly’s mother grows more distant, harboring a secret that could put their entire family at risk again. Exile Music explores displacement, identity, sexuality, revenge, and how art can help us navigate grief.
“In a sea of Holocaust literature, ‘Exile Music’ stands out as wholly original and engaging.” — Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle
“Moving, evocative, and well-researched, this is sure to linger in readers’ minds long after the last page has been turned.” — ★Booklist (starred review)
Author: Guillermo Stitch
The book: Lake of Urine
“Stitch flicks his blade around all the important things in life, isolating absurdities, nicking arteries. He deflates pretension at every turn. He throws images like tarot cards. He’s a caustic humorist with serious intent. His novel invites you to view the world as fundamentally absurd and usually awful, but also to recognize that laughter is a mighty, and cleansing, recompense.” — The New York Times
“Lake of Urine is a jeu d’esprit, best enjoyed on its own deranged terms. And it is genuinely funny, with nuggets of surreal whimsy on almost every page.” — Times Literary Supplement
“Stitch’s prose is mesmerising; his vocabulary is nothing short of awesome (and I mean that in the divine sense of the word) while his ability to weave whimsy and magical realism into an accented, almost anachronistically antiquated style is practically sublime.”— The Irish Times
Author: Halley Sutton
The book: The Lady Upstairs
Jo’s job is blackmailing the most lecherous men in Los Angeles — handsy Hollywood producers, adulterous actors, corrupt cops. Sure, she likes the money she’s making, which comes in handy for the debt she is paying off, but it’s also a chance to take back power for the women of the city. Eager to prove herself to her coworker Lou and their enigmatic boss, known only as the Lady Upstairs, Jo takes on bigger and riskier jobs.
When one of her targets is murdered, both the Lady Upstairs and the LAPD have Jo in their sights. Desperate to escape the consequences of her failed job, she decides to take on just one more sting — bringing down a rising political star. It’s her biggest con yet — and she will do it behind the Lady’s back, freeing both herself and Lou. But Jo soon learns that Lou and the Lady have secrets of their own, and that no woman is safe when there is a life-changing payout on the line.
“A racy and hard-to-put-down piece of neo-noir.”–Washington Post
“[A] sizzling debut…Sutton’s assured and moody prose often channels the best classic LA noir, but this deliciously tawdry and twisty tale is entirely her own. Readers who savor crime stories featuring complex, unapologetic women will be hooked. A scorching, knockout noir from an author to watch.” — ★Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Author: Lysley Tenorio
The book: The Son of Good Fortune
The Son of Good Fortune tells the story of Excel, a young undocumented Filipino man, and his mother, Maxima, a former B-movie action star in the Philippines turned online scam artist. The novel explores how they survive in a country that might not want them, and the ways they champion and fail each other in the process.
“Perfectly paced and with unforgettable characters, this is the kind of book readers will wish would never end.” — ★Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)
“[A] fierce, revelatory literary experience…. Tenorio has written a resonant story about what one family is willing to do to “protect the child.” — Christian Science Monitor
“A tribute to the extreme inner strength it takes to make any life decision look like fate.” — The New York Times
Author: Julian Tepper
The book: Between the Records
“Julian Tepper has written an autobiographical slice of late 90s/early 00’s rock ’n’ roll life reflecting a period both he and I lived thru (and, happily, survived) with such ease that I recognized this world immediately, intimately.” — Lee Ranaldo, Sonic Youth
Author: Heather Young
The book: The Distant Dead
A young boy finds his teacher burned to death outside their small desert town in this character-driven mystery that examines the burden of guilt, the bitter price of forgiveness, and the debts we owe our dead, both recent and distant.
“Electrifying, ambitious, and crushingly beautiful.” — ★ Kirkus, starred
“This second stunning piece of redemptive fiction by Heather Young…is an ideal recommendation for fans of Kate Atkinson and Jodi Picoult.” — ★Booklist, starred
Author: Kristen Millares Young
The book: Subduction
Subduction is a lyric retelling of the troubled history of encounter in the Americas. Fleeing the shattered remains of her marriage and treachery by her sister, a Latina anthropologist named Claudia takes refuge in Neah Bay, a Makah whaling village on the jagged Pacific coast. Claudia yearns to lose herself to the songs of the tribe and the secrets of a spirited hoarder named Maggie. Instead, she stumbles into Maggie’s son Peter, who, spurred by his mother’s failing memory, has returned seeking answers to his father’s murder. Claudia helps Peter’s family convey a legacy long delayed by that death, but her presence, echoing centuries of fraught contact with indigenous peoples, brings lasting change and real damage. Named a staff pick by The Paris Review, Subduction was a finalist for two International Latino Book Awards in 2020.
“At its heart, Subduction is all about stories — the stories that constitute personal, family and cultural identity and, perhaps more important here, the stories that people tell, about themselves and to themselves, to make life meaningful and livable.” — The Washington Post
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