Read a New Book Month: Iowa Writers’ Workshop Grads’ 2018 Debuts

Whether it means curling up with a fresh release or simply a new-to-you classic, December is ‘Read a New Book’ month.

Here at the City of Literature, we’ve put together a list of book recommendations that are not only new releases from 2018, but also are debut works for each of the authors. Can you make it through the list before 2018 ends?


How to Love a Jamaican- Alexia Arthurs

(Fiction)

Tenderness and cruelty, loyalty and betrayal, ambition and regret-Alexia Arthurs navigates these tensions to extraordinary effect in her debut collection about Jamaican immigrants and their families back home. Sweeping from close-knit island communities to the streets of New York City and midwestern university towns, these eleven stories form a portrait of a nation, a people, and a way of life.

“This dazzling debut marks the emergence of a knockout new voice.”-O: The Oprah Magazine 


Atrophy- Jackson Burgess

(Poetry)

In his moving debut collection, Jackson Burgess examines heartbreak, depression, and empathy through a lens of rigorous introspection. Atrophy’s poems vary in location, mostly between Los Angeles and Iowa City, with reoccurring characters serving as touchstones, forming the book’s narrative. Atrophy wrestles with loneliness, substance abuse, and dissociation, utilizing lists, letters, prose poems, and free verse. These poems celebrate the past while mourning it, armed with the advantage of retrospect. Prescription drugs, dog fights, dance parties, love letters, and ghosts–the world depicted is at times dark, at times humorous, but always human. Atrophy is vulnerable and cinematic, a series of manic meditations exploring what it means to love and be loved, to hurt and be hurt.

“Jackson Burgess is the most dazzling, urgently urban and unfailingly inventive young chronicler of lost highways and avenues of broken dreams since the early poems of Denis  Johnson and the ballads of Tom Waits.” -David St. John, Chancellor of the Academy of  American Poets


The Dependents- Katharine Dion

(Fiction)

After the sudden death of his wife, Maida, Gene is haunted by the fear that their marriage was not all it appeared to be. Alongside Ed and Gayle Donnelly, friends since college days, he tries to resurrect happy memories of the times the two couples shared, raising their children in a small New Hampshire town and vacationing together at a lake house every summer. Meanwhile, his daughter, Dary, challenges not only his happy version of the past but also his view of Maida. As a long-standing rift between them deepens, Gene starts to understand how unknown his daughter is to him’and how enigmatic his wife was as well. Katharine Dion’s assured debut moves seamlessly between Gene’s present-day journey and the long history of a marriage and friendship. Rich and wonderfully alive, The Dependents is the most moving kind of drama, an intimate glance into the expanse of family life and the way we must all eventually bridge the chasm between what we want to believe and what we know to be true.


How Are You Going To Save Yourself- J.M. Holmes

(Fiction)

Bound together by shared experience but pulled apart by their changing fortunes, four young friends coming of age in the postindustrial enclave of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, struggle to liberate themselves from the legacies left to them as black men in America. With potent immediacy and bracing candor, this provocative debut follows a decade in the lives of Dub, Rolls, Rye, and Gio as they each grapple with the complexity of their family histories, the newfound power of sex and drugs, and the ferocity of their desires.

How Are You Going to Save Yourself illuminates in breathtaking detail an entire world-one that has been underrepresented in American fiction. At times funny, often uncomfortable, occasionally disturbing, these stories fearlessly engage with issues of race, sex, drugs, class, and family. Holmes’s blistering and timely new voice, richly infused with the unmistakable rhythms of hip-hop that form the sound track to his characters’ lives, delivers an indelible fiction that has never been more vital and necessary.

“As up-to the-minute as a Kendrick Lamar track and as ruefully steeped in eternal truths as a Gogol tale” (Kirkus, starred review).


Fall Together- Sarah Strickley

(Poetry)

Sarah Strickley’s work is bold, honest, and confident. Her language is the perfect combination of lyricism and directness. Fall Together is remarkable for its inventive stories that carry the reader into dark territory. The sensibility overseeing these powerful stories is quirky and playful; Strickley is a connoisseur of a myriad of source materials, from contemporary tabloid fodder to age-old literature and legend.

“In each piece, a wholly human character comes to life to delight and instruct the reader, to make her revisit what she thought was the familiar world and find it, somehow, faintly shifted and newly fresh.” -Antonya Nelson, author of Bound and Funny Once


Other People’s Love Affairs- D. Wystan Owen

(Fiction)

In the ten luminous stories of D. Wystan Owen’s debut collection, the people of Glass, a picturesque village on the rugged English coast, are haunted by longings and deeply held secrets, captive to pasts that remain as alive as the present. Each story takes us into the lives of characters reaching earnestly and often courageously for connection to the people they have loved.

Owen observes their heartbreaks, their small triumphs, and their generous capacity for grace. A young nurse, reeling from the disappearance of her mother, forges an unlikely friendship with a local vagrant. A young boy is by turns dazzled and disillusioned by a trip to the circus with a family friend. A widower revisits the cinema where, as a teenager, he and an older woman shared trysts that both thrilled and baffled him. A woman is offered fragile, uneasy forgiveness for a cruel act from years ago. And in the title story, a shopkeeper’s vision of the woman she loved is upended by the startling revelation of a secret life. Surprising and powerful, and in the classic tradition of fiction by James Joyce, William Trevor, and Elizabeth Strout, Owen’s interconnected stories strike a deep and resounding emotional chord.

“Owen writes exquisite stories that lodge somewhere in my chest and keep detonating–loudly, devastatingly–again and again.”–Garth Greenwell


Ohio- Stephen Markley

(Fiction)

On one fateful summer night in 2013, four former classmates converge on the rust belt town where they grew up, each of them with a mission, all of them haunted by regrets, secrets, lost loves. There’s Bill Ashcraft, an alcoholic, drug-abusing activist, whose fruitless ambitions have taken him from Cambodia to Zuccotti Park to New Orleans, and now back to “The Cane” with a mysterious package strapped to the underside of his truck;

Stacey Moore, a doctoral candidate reluctantly confronting the mother of her former lover; Dan Eaton, a shy veteran of three tours in Iraq, home for a dinner date with the high school sweetheart he’s tried to forget; and the beautiful, fragile Tina Ross, whose rendezvous with the captain of the football team triggers the novel’s shocking climax.

At once a murder mystery and a social critique, Ohio ingeniously captures the fractured zeitgeist of a nation through the viewfinder of an embattled Midwestern town and offers a prescient vision for America at the dawn of a turbulent new age.


Bindi: A Novel- Paul Matthew Maisano

(Fiction)

Kerala, 1993: Eight-year-old Birendra suddenly loses his mother, but he refuses to believe he’s an orphan. He’s certain that his mother’s twin sister, the troubled but winning Nayana, will come for him all the way from West London. But when the letter informing Nayana of her sister’s death goes missing, numerous lives are forever altered, and Birendra is set adrift.

Madeline, a Los Angeles native and interior designer to the stars, is floundering in her personal life. In the aftermath of a failed attempt to get pregnant, she flies to India where she finds herself face-to-face with Birendra. In a moment of sudden certainty, she decides she must adopt the boy in order to save them both.

As Nayana falls deeper into crisis at work and in her marriage in London, Birendra learns to make himself at home in Los Angeles, forging an especially close bond with Madeline’s younger brother, Edward, who begins to worry that his sister may have met her match in motherhood. When he learns of his adopted nephew’s family in London, Edward is faced with an impossible choice. If he can find Nayana and reunite her with her nephew, should he? Even if in doing so he would risk unwittingly setting the two women who love the boy most against each other?

Written in stirring prose, and infused with keen emotional insight, Bindi is about our search for family and for home, and an exploration of the ways that loss and longing can be converted into hope, connection, and love.

Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed.