June 12, 2021
This week we feature remarkably assured debuts from writers who seem destined for bright careers, drawing from their personal lives to shape their fiction. We also have the first work of nonfiction from a seasoned fiction author, along with a selection of books from our virtual events that are not to be overlooked. Remember, you can view past events in our video library.
Buyer, The Center for Fiction Bookstore
The Sweetness of Water
By NATHAN HARRIS
Published by LITTLE, BROWN AND COMPANY
For a young writer to take on the Civil War in his first fiction is ambitious and admirable. But Harris’s novel goes beyond the usual research-based retelling. He focuses on two brothers who are freed slaves, and their experiences on a farm whose owner has lost his own son. There are also a couple of Confederate soldiers who face consequences when they are outed as gay upon returning home. Harris’s story brings the 1860s in rural Georgia alive in new ways, and his language and prose are equally transporting. Watch his star rise once readers discover this powerful work.
By CLAIRE BOYLES
Published by WW NORTON
A refreshing take on the genre of (often male-dominated) fiction set in the American West. Boyles brings a female perspective to her debut collection with an emphasis on the land she knows well. She draws on her own experiences as a former organic farmer to discuss issues such as fracking and water rights (like in “Chickens, 2019”), as well as her infectious love of the great outdoors. She has said that, “Farm management, in my experience, is a direct and consistent connection to both beauty and death.” That juxtaposition gives her work both urgency and lyricism..
By JESSE MCCARTHY
Published by MELVILLE HOUSE
McCarthy, author of the essay collection Who Will Pay Reparations on My Soul?, teaches English and African American studies at Harvard. While at Princeton he developed a project based on archives of the legendary bookseller Sylvia Beach of Shakespeare and Company in Paris called Mapping Expatriate Paris. His first novel features a Paris-raised, Black teacher in Brooklyn who is doing some soul-searching to find his place in the world. This impressive fiction debut traverses continents and encompasses issues of racial identity, lost loves, and a passion for contemporary music.
By PHOEBE WYNNE
Published by ST. MARTIN'S PRESS
In the mood for something like Du Maurier or one of Shirley Jackson’s creepier Gothics? Madam is definitely for you. Wynne’s first novel delivers the requisite chills in this boarding school story set on the Scottish cliffs. When her young heroine comes to teach Classics (like the author) at a prestigious girls’ institution she uncovers some very uncomfortable information about her predecessor. (Fun fact: Wynne’s nephew is the brilliant child actor who starred in the film Jo Jo Rabbit.) This is a keeper..
By AKWAEKE EMEZI
Published by RIVERHEAD
Emezi’s output since their first novel, Freshwater (which was shortlisted for The Center for Fiction First Novel Prize) has been prodigious. The next year came Pet, a young adult novel, and in 2020 they published The Death of Vivek Oji. Now, in their first memoir, they share personal stories of growing up in Nigeria. All of their books expand our knowledge and understanding about the issues facing non-binary people across the globe. Emezi continues to break new ground here as the spirituality of their Igbo background and issues of gender identity are beautifully represented.