IWP Bookshelf: New Releases from IWP Alumni

For over 50 years now, the International Writing Program (IWP) has been bringing writers from all over the world to Iowa City. For some, it’s a first encounter with America, certainly with the Midwest; a good number of them already have a publishing career in the U.S., however. Check out a selection of 2017-8 titles by IWP alumni here below. Chances are excellent that you can find them at University of Iowa Main Library, whether you are a UI or a community borrower. – Nataša Ďurovičová, IWP Editor


Pakistani novelist, journalist, and blogger Bina Shah (IWP Fall Resident ’11) has written Before She Sleeps, “a book that is in explicit conversation with The Handmaid’s Tale, and though Shah’s society is emphatically secular, situating her narrative in a predominantly Muslim area of the world is an overdue enlargement of the cultural conversation that Atwood’s novel continues to provoke. But Shah’s novel, which blends the spy genre and soap opera with speculative fiction, isn’t really the feminist dystopia one might expect.” – Kirkus Review

(HarperCollins, 2018)


Bride and Groom, the new novel by IWP veteran Alisa Ganieva (Russia, IWP Fall Resident ’12, ’18; IWP Between the Lines Instructor ’15-’17; “To What Do I Belong” IWP Conference ’17) “…seems to promise traditional marriage story. Her main characters, a young man and woman who have each returned home from Moscow to ‘an outlying settlement’ near a big city in Dagestan, and face pressure from their respective families to find a suitable match, seem to be playing stock parts familiar from romantic comedies… But ultimately this is a tenser, sadder tale that underscores the horror and despair of post-Soviet life. Ganieva immerses us in a world where corruption and violence are so widespread and legal protections so meaningless that even love at first sight cannot guarantee a happy ending.” – Emily Johnson, World Literature Today

(English edition translated from the Russian by Carol Apollonio. Deep Vellum, 2017.)


In Crimson Papers: Reflections on Struggle, Suffering, and Creativity in Pakistan, a collection of four essays entitled “Blood,” “Sweat,” “Tears,” and “Ink,” Harris Khalique (IWP Fall Resident ’15; “To What Do I Belong” IWP Conference ’17) “elaborate(s) on what has happened to Pakistani citizens’ rights to a dignified physical space to live, a respectable economic space to earn a decent living, a free intellectual space to think, and an uninhibited artistic space to create.” – Anwar Shaheen, The Free Library

(Lahore: Oxford University Press, 2018)


Zot ani, Iowa [It’s Me, Iowa] is a slim “memoir” of Galit Dahan Carlibach’s 2016 Fall Residency at the IWP, “during which she underwent a complete mental breakdown, commencing an affair with a local musician before murdering him and dumping his body in the Mississippi. That is, it’s not an actual memoir at all but a very dark comedy taking wild fictional liberties in Philip Roth fashion with the happily married (and not homicidal) writer’s real-life 2016 stint at the Iowa program.” – Jewish Review of Books, Fall 2018

(In Hebrew. Tel Aviv, Graff, 2018)


In Negative Space, her third collection of poems published in the US, Luljeta Lleshanaku (IWP Fall Resident ’99) “searches for answers to… the existential and historical ‘why.’ One may read this collection as a poetry of witness, as Lleshanaku seeks to understand significant moments of recent Albanian history through the lens of her family’s experiences. However, the poet complicates the act of witnessing by refusing to denounce those responsible for atrocities [and] instead focuses on poetry’s ability to help people come to terms with trauma. The opening poem… recalls the narrator as a 12-year-old girl watching her parents return from making love in the barn, ‘looking around in fear / like two thieves.’ Familiarity with fear and deprivation mean that her empathetic, if deliberately inattentive, eye will retain these memories over the decades: ‘You cannot easily forget what you watch with one closed eye— / the death of the hero in the film, / or your first eclipse of the sun.’” – Viktor Berberi, Poetry Foundation

(English translation from the Albanian by Ani Gjika. New York: New Directions, 2018)


Trol, by the Slovak journalist, translator, and novelist Michal Hvorecký (IWP Fall Resident ‘04) is set in eastern Europe in a near future: the European Union has collapsed, and is replaced by Fortress Europe.

The antagonist it now faces is a dictatorship in whose realm public opinion is fully managed by an army of internet trolls. One of them, the unnamed protagonist, gripped by ever stronger doubts, attempts to destroy the System from within, together with an ally. The effort pushes them into freefall inside the network—and to the far edge of their trust in each other. – Translated from the German publisher Klett-Cotta

(In Slovak and German. Bratislava: Marenčín, 2017)


Novelist, essayist, and scholar Dung Kai-cheung (IWP Fall Resident ’09) tells two stories in The History of the Adventures of Vivi and Vera: “One of a novelist who recounts his family’s history against the backdrop of Hong Kong’s development from the 1930s to the 1990s, building his story through vignettes about the protagonist’s relationship with technological inventions that shaped his life, as glimpsed through his uncertain memory and family myths. Running parallel to this is a rebellion by the novelist’s oppressed fictional characters, who attempt to break the yoke of servile obedience laid upon them by the conventions of novel-writing. The central character, Vivi, has been written into being by the author but, once created, takes a life of her own.” – BooksActually

(English translation from the Chinese by Wai Ping Yau. Hong Kong University Press, 2018)


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