Archives de catégorie : Literary

MELANCTHA de Wayétu Moore

A masterful work of magical realism which follows the life of a West African immigrant girl living in the US who discovers that she can breathe underwater.

MELANCTHA
by Wayétu Moore
Viking, Fall 2022
(via Writers House)

Melanctha is dealing with relentless bullying from her middle school classmates when she meets Habila, a sea witch in the vein of Mami Wata (an ancient West-African mythological figure who drowns civilians so she won’t be alone). Habila first coerces Melanctha to drown her bully. He is the first of two men throughout her life who she hypnotizes with help of a family heirloom. As Habila pushes Melanctha further, encouraging her to use her power to rid the world of evil men, Melanctha discovers that the use of this power has a catch.
As the novel unfolds in three parts: “small girl,” “gronah girl,” and “woman,” we see Melanctha come of age and enter adulthood, while the narrative voice takes on a unique style in each part to coincide with each phase of her life. This wrenching story is a complex exploration of the many faces and stages of a woman’s power, and what happens when she decides that she does not want to use it for good.
Moore invites her readers to carefully consider how racism and misogyny overwhelmingly encourage Black women to act out a pathology of perpetual forgiveness by presenting it as a seemingly necessary means of survival. By showing what can happen when a remarkably strong woman goes against the grain and chooses to seek justice and dole out punishment on her own terms, rather than do what is expected of her, MELANCTHA offers a revolutionary alternative to this insidious aspect of our culture.
Through her brilliant weaving of history, myth, cultural criticism, and the supernatural, Moore’s writing resonates with readers of contemporary greats Imbolo Mbue, Naomi Alderman, Marlon James, Yaa Gyasi, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and recalls classic writers like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Toni Cade Bambara and Toni Morrison.

Wayétu Moore is the author of She Would Be King, which was a Sarah Jessica Parker Book Club selection, a BEA Buzz Panel Book and a #1 Indie Next Pick, and the memoir The Dragons, The Giant, The Women. She is the founder of One Moore Book, a non-profit organization that encourages reading among children of countries with low literacy rates and underrepresented cultures by publishing culturally relevant books that speak to their truths, and by creating bookstores and reading corners that serve their communities. Her first bookstore opened in Monrovia, Liberia in 2015. Her writing can be found in The New York Times, The Paris Review, Guernica Magazine, The Rumpus, The Atlantic Magazine and other publications, and she has been featured in Vogue, The Economist Magazine, NPR, NBC, BET and ABC, among others.

LOVE de Maayan Eitan

An incendiary tale of sex work from a young literary provocateur.

LOVE
by Maayan Eitan
Penguin Press, April 2022
(via Writers House)

LOVE is a fever dream of a novel about a young sex worker whose life blurs the boundaries between violence and intimacy, objectification and real love. Startlingly vulnerable and lyrically deft, Maayan Eitan’s debut follows Libby as she goes about her work in a nameless Israeli city, riding in cars, seeing clients, meeting and befriending other sex workers and pimps. In prose as crystalline as it is unflinching, Eitan brings us into the mind of her fierce protagonist, as Libby spins a series of fictions to tell herself, and others, in order to negotiate her life under the gaze of men. After long nights of slipping in and out of the beds of strangers, in a shocking moment of violence, she seizes control of her narrative and then labors to construct a life that resembles normalcy. But as she pursues love, it continually eludes her. She discovers that her past nights in cheap hotel rooms eerily resemble the more conventional life she’s trying to forge. 
 A literary sensation in Israel, Maayan Eitan’s debut set off a firestorm about the relationship between truth and fiction, and the experiences of women under the power of men. Compact and gemlike, this is a contemporary allegory of a young woman on the verge.

Maayan Eitan is a pensive rebel seductress and a literary trickster. Love, her debut, is celebrated by various deans and kingmakers of Israeli letters as one of the new century’s most important books. Her prose-poem account of life as an underage whore is so emotionally persuasive, so transparently metaphorical, so startlingly concrete, so obviously not true, that it had everyone in Israel convinced it was straight-up autofiction.” —Nell Zink, author of Mislaid and The Wallcreeper

Maayan Eitan’s short fiction and essays have been published in The Kenyon Review, World Literature Today, and The Tel Aviv Review of Books, and her work appears regularly in Israeli literary magazines. She holds a master’s degree in comparative literature from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Hebrew literature in Israel. LOVE is her first book. She lives in Tel Aviv, Israel.

WHERE THERE WAS FIRE de John Manuel Arias

A debut novel set in Costa Rica between the Civil War of 1948 and the mid-1990s, following three generations of women in a family as they grapple with the specter of colonialism, the toxicity of American agribusiness, and long-buried family secrets, exploring how the tides of history and international politics impact their lives.

WHERE THERE WAS FIRE
by John Manuel Arias
Flatiron/St. Martin’s Press, November 2022

In this lush, lyrical debut, Teresa Cepeda is staring down old age alone, estranged from her eldest daughter, Lyra. With her husband missing and her youngest dead, Teresa’s only companion is the petulant ghost of her mother, Amarga. But when an aberrant hurricane makes landfall in San Jose’s Valley, an unexpected visitor—the grandson she love but was never permitted to meet—arrives on her doorstep. Thirty years ago, when Teresa’s husband murdered Amarga and burned the American Fruit Corporation to the ground, Teresa was forced to flee Costa Rica. Now that her grandson is asking questions, will the Cepedas learn why their patriarch committed these shocking acts of violence? Will Lyra finally forgive Teresa for abandoning her and her late sister when they were children? As the hurricane wreaks havoc, the Cepedas will need to reconcile soon—if at all. Brimming with ancestral spirits, omens, and the anthropomorphic forces of nature, Where There Was Fire weaves a brilliant tapestry of love, loss, secrets, and redemption. John Manuel Arias chronicles the rich history of Costa Rica from the civil war in 1948 through the mid-1990s and shows how the lives of one family are intertwined with the tides of history and international politics.

John Manuel Arias is a gay, Costa Rican and Uruguayan writer back in Washington, DC after many years. He is a Canto Mundo fellow & alumnus of the Tin House Summer Writers Workshop. His fiction has found homes in Joyland Magazine, The Kenyon Review, Barren Magazine and F(r)iction. His poetry has appeared in several literary magazines, including PANK, Platypus Press, Sixth Finch, the Journal, and Assaracus: A Journal of Gay Poetry, with poems forthcoming in The Offing and The Minnesota Review. He has been nominated for both the Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net three times. WHERE THERE WAS FIRE is his debut novel. Before DC, he lived in Costa Rica with his grandmother and four ghosts.

THE SKIN AND ITS GIRL de Sarah Cypher

A girl is born with cobalt-blue skin to a Palestinian American family on the night their ancestral soap factory in Nablus is destroyed in an air strike; the family’s matriarch believes the girl embodies their sacred family history, but as she looks back from her auntie’s graveside, she recognizes a hidden queer history speaking through the folktales, echoing her fears as she faces a decision to emigrate with the woman she loves and continue the family’s cycle of exile.

THE SKIN AND ITS GIRL
by Sarah Cypher
Ballantine, Spring 2023
(via Defiore & Company)

On an early-April dawn in 2003, in a Portland hospital far from the Rummani family’s ancestral home in Palestine, a stillborn baby girl comes back to life and turns a vibrant cobalt blue. On the same day, the Rumanni’s beloved soap factory in Nablus is destroyed in a bombing. To Nuha, the girl’s great-aunt, there’s no question that this inexplicable child somehow embodies their sacred family history, when the Rummanis were among the wealthiest soap-makers and their blue soap was a symbol of a famous, unlikely love.
Decades later, still impossibly blue, Elspeth returns to the gravestone of her aunt to weave together her own story, the family legends, and the thread of Nuha’s twisting life as a queer woman who hid her identity to help the family emigrate to the US. Now, Elspeth is faced with an impossible decision of her own – whether she should stay where it’s safe or leave for the woman she loves and continue the family’s cycle of exile. Elspeth navigates this choice the only way her aunt taught her how – through lies and fables braided with the truth – looking for a path forward in the words underneath the words.
Filled with stunning images and poetic repetitions inspired by Arabic ghazals that grow like a rising tide as the plot circles in on itself, THE SKIN AND ITS GIRL is about the fictions we create to explain away the magic that surrounds us, as well as the stories that can create new magic in the world. It’s about the pressure to hide in someone else’s more conventional narrative, when finally telling your own story may be the only true survival.

Sarah Cypher is from a Lebanese American Christian family that traces its history to the Kanaan soap factory in Palestine, much like the novel’s characters. She has an MFA from Warren Wilson, and her writing has appeared in the North American Review, LEON, and Crab Orchard Review, among others. She works as a freelance editor and lives in Washington, DC with her wife. THE SKIN AND ITS GIRL is her debut novel.

PRETEND IT’S MY BODY de Luke Dani Blue

In a vivid debut story collection, Luke Dani Blue asks: is there such a thing as a real self? If so, how do you find it?

PRETEND IT’S MY BODY
by Luke Dani Blue
The Feminist Press, Fall 2022
(via Defiore & Company)

In the vein of Carmen Maria Machado, Kelly Link, and Daniel Lavery, and born of the author’s experience in and between genders, these stories blur the line between fantasy and reality, between the lives we wish for and the ones we actually lead, excavating new meanings from our varied dysphorias. Ranging from a tornado survivor grappling with a new identity, to a trans teen psychic that can only read undecided minds, from a woman telling her family of her plans to upload her consciousness and abandon her body, to con artists, runaways, and lost souls returning home, Blue’s characters all share an insistence on forging their own realities. Surreal, darkly funny, and always tender, PRETEND IT’S MY BODY is a collection bound together by the act of searching – for a story of one’s own, for a glimpse of certainty, and for a spark of recognition in others.

The magic in [the short story] “Bad Things That Happen to Girls,” is so subtle and slow-building and so unprepossessing that, while reading it, I understood I was holding my breath only when the story started to swim before me…It’s a story that aches with truth and desperation, and I marvel at the way Blue ratchets up the motion, breath by breath, to the story’s logical but stunning end.” —Lauren Groff, author of Fates and Furies and Florida

Luke Dani Blue’s stories have appeared in the Colorado Review, Crab Orchard Review, and have been included on the list of the year’s most distinguished stories in Best American Short Stories 2016. They have an MFA from San Francisco State University and currently live in Alberta, Canada.