As 2021 comes to a close, we at Cambridge Common Writers have carved out a space to celebrate our community’s many accomplishments throughout this year by compiling a list of publications and other creative ways in which Lesley MFA alums and mentors have shared their talents with the world.
We encourage you to read through the list, to spend time with these works, and to cheer on the members of our CCW community — with the sheer variety of work being created, you’re bound to find a lot to love. And if you want to complete the trifecta of purchasing from local bookstores, supporting Lesley alums and mentors, and crossing people off your holiday shopping list, this collection is perfect for you.
We can’t wait to see what you come up with next year! Thank you all for being a part of the Cambridge Common Writers community.
This year, we’ve expanded our End-of-Year feature to include any kind of publishing news. Short stories, poems, podcasts–all are amazing and worth celebrating!
Ella Nathanael Alkiewicz (Nonfiction, June 2018): “Life during the Pandemic,” the first article in the 50th year edition of Inuktitut Magazine, published by the national organization for Inuit of Canada, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK). Ella’s article is available on pages 4-9 in English, French, Inuktitut and Syllabics.
Ella Nathanael Alkiewicz, Labrador Inuk, has had a busy, productive year despite the germs. She is delighted to participate in three art shows this November and December 2021. The first exhibition, “November Red Native Artists Exhibit,” will be held at the Paper City Company in Holyoke, MA from Nov. 5th to Dec. 18th. The second art exhibition will be held in 50 Arrow Gallery of Easthampton, MA from Nov. 6th to Dec. 11th. Ella is excited to showcase her acrylic and digital art pieces with other fabulous Native American artists.
The third show “Small Wonders” of Gallery A3 will be in Amherst, MA in December. Ella, a guest artist, is challenged to create six-inch by six-inch pieces. This past summer, Ella’s 18” by 26” piece “Under the Atsanik” showed in Boris Georgiev City Art Gallery in Varna, Bulgaria. (Atsanik means Northern Lights/Aurora Borealis in Inuttut.) Her second digital art piece “Every Child Matters” sold in Toronto, Ontario in August.
Ella uses her MFA in creative writing nonfiction to aid her summaries and pitch her artwork. She is most grateful for the supportive Lesley MFA community and looks forward to another great year! Happy 2022!
Alissa Butterworth (Fiction, June 2012): “The Carriage Held But Just Ourselves,” a short story of speculative fiction. The small seaside town where Aurelie grows up is haunted by the urban legend of the Terror; the story goes that if you see the specter three times, you’ll die. Aurelie’s greatest wish from childhood is to see it head on–when the Terror finally reveals itself, Aurelie learns that the legends she’s always heard aren’t anywhere close to reality.
To purchase a print copy of the full anthology, please follow the link in the Gift Guide below.
Julie Cyr (Poetry, January 2017): The Year My Grandfather Didn’t Speak and My Mother Played in a Mortuary. These poems were inspired by Julie’s French Canadian heritage and ancestors. They play with the concept of boundaries, and how death affects each of us differently.
Fiction June 2008 cohorts Christine Junge and Tavi Taylor Black have joined together to start The Personal Element Podcast, where they listen to personal essays they love and talk about what makes them so great. The episodes can be found on their website or on various Podcast apps.
Jennifer LeBlanc (Poetry, June 2012): “Backstory of the Poem: Jennifer LeBlanc’s ‘Ghazal of the Virgin Mary,’” a photo-feature blog post about a poem from her book, Descent (Finishing Line Press, 2020). She also had five poems published at Eunoia Review: “Hot Plate Alley,” “Cinema,” “Same Tired Walk,” “Falconer,” and “Sister Visits From South Korea.”
Jon D. Lee (Poetry, January 2017): “The Minotaur,” an excerpt from a book-length poem currently in progress; and “Death and the Miser,” an ekphrastic poem based on the painting of the same name by Hieronymus Bosch. See the Gift Guide below for more of Jon’s work.
Gene Luetkemeyer (Fiction, June 2015): Gene has had several short stories published this year, including “Geometry of the External World;” the micro-fiction “The Southwest Chief;” “The Migration of Plastic Pink Flamingos,” a piece of a few thousand words with a hint of Magical Realism in the May 2021 issue; “A Special Cake;” “Is It Soup Yet,” a short fiction of two writers in prison comparing their work and their points of view excerpted from the novel Penitentiary Tales: a Love Story, which was named a finalist in the 2021 Wishing Shelf Independently published book awards.
Scott Mashlan (Fiction, June 2015): “Ten Dead Men,” a short story in the publication, Rejection Letters.
Michael Mercurio (Poetry, January 2017): “Credo (sections II-IV),” an excerpt from a longer poem considering the tension between individual histories and capital-H History; and “Before I lived in this house someone else did,” an elegy for his friend and fellow poet Michael Biegner.
Caitlin T.D. Robinson (WFYP, June 2018): “The Birds That Matter,” published in Braided Way, “Moonglow” featured in a recital of poems from Love in the Time of COVID, “A Field of You” published in Soul-Lit, “When it Comes to Sorrow” in Blue Lake Review, and two poems in the Fall 2021 issue of Willows Wept Review: “In High Summer” and “Honeymoon: Iceland.”
Lisa Ann Weiss (Fiction, June 2015): “My Husband’s Heads,” a close-up profile/interview of an artist as he works on a project in his various studios. Lisa’s article will be published in the winter quarterly edition of Fine Lines to be released in December.
Amber Wong (Nonfiction, January 2014) and Laurie Foos (Fiction, MFA Writing Faculty) both have essays out in The Pandemic Midlife Crisis: Gen X Women on the Brink.
Amber’s essay, “Nature Has Its Say,” is a quirky journey through a rower’s consciousness as she tries to enlist logic to quell her pandemic fears. Problem is, her logic is informed by oddly idiosyncratic sources: the Endangered Species Act, a cult movie, science fiction, and lab coats. As she considers the odds of humanity gaining the upper hand, which side of nature will have the final say?
Laurie Foos’s essay is entitled, “Soon.”
2021 Holiday Gift Guide
Looking for the perfect book, film, or album to wrap up for the holidays? Any one of the choices below would make for a perfect gift (more than one!).
Writing for Young People
Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed: 15 Voices from the Latinx Diaspora
Flatiron Books; November 2, 2021
In Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed, bestselling and award-winning authors as well as up-and-coming voices interrogate the different myths and stereotypes about the Latinx diaspora. These fifteen original pieces delve into everything from ghost stories and superheroes, to memories in the kitchen and travels around the world, to addiction and grief, to identity and anti-Blackness, to finding love and speaking your truth. Full of both sorrow and joy, Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed is an essential celebration of this rich and diverse community.
Edited by The Bronx Is Reading founder Saraciea J. Fennell and featuring an all-star cast of Latinx contributors, including: Elizabeth Acevedo, Cristina Arreola, Ingrid Rojas Contreras, Naima Coster, Natasha Diaz, Saraciea J. Fennell, Kahlil Haywood, Zakiya Jamal, Janel Martinez, Jasminne Mendez, Meg Medina, Mark Oshiro, Julian Randall, Lilliam Rivera, and Ibi Zoboi
A Peek At Beak: Tools Birds Use
Millbrook Press; September 7, 2021
Guess which birds have beaks resembling commonly used tools in this playful picture book from award-winning author Sara Levine. Delightfully detailed collage artwork by Kate Slater helps this book take flight!
Germs Up Close
Millbrook Press; April 6, 2021
Have you ever seen a germ up close? Really, really close? Award-winning science writer Sara Levine introduces readers to a variety of viruses, bacteria, protozoa, and fungi that can make people sick―including SARS-CoV-2, E. coli, and ringworm. Micrographs and illustrations show extremely close-up views of the germs that are at once incredible and a little gross.
Harper Teen; July 13, 2021
Cello prodigy Jenny has one goal: to get into a prestigious music conservatory. When she meets mysterious, handsome Jaewoo in her uncle’s Los Angeles karaoke bar, it’s clear he’s the kind of boy who would uproot her careful plans. But in a moment of spontaneity, she allows him to pull her out of her comfort zone for one unforgettable night of adventure…before he disappears without a word.
Three months later, when Jenny and her mother arrive in South Korea to take care of her ailing grandmother, she’s shocked to discover that Jaewoo is a student at the same elite arts academy where she’s enrolled for the semester. And he’s not just any student. He’s a member of one of the biggest K-pop bands in the world—and he’s strictly forbidden from dating.
When a relationship means throwing Jenny’s life off the path she’s spent years mapping out, she’ll have to decide once and for all just how much she’s willing to risk for love
Candlewick Press; October 26, 2021
I am a barn. All are safe within my walls.
One hundred years ago, many hands raised a red-cedar barn. Now the barn stands tall, smelling of freshly cut hay and dusty horses. As the animals wake and wander through its weathered doors, the barn watches the day unfold. Chickens peck, cows shoo flies with swishing tails, swallows fly in and out, and a cat crouches in the grass to hunt for dinner. When peepers start their evening song and the animals settle in their bedding again–the horses in their stalls, the cows in their pen, the swallows in their nests–the barn settles, too, until morning, when it gets to live the day all over again. Written by a debut author and narrated by the barnyard’s serene sentinel, this lyrical and beautifully illustrated introduction to farm life is also a gentle way to wind down to bedtime.
Alicia Alonso Dances On
Albert Whitman & Company; October 1, 2021
As a young girl in Cuba, Alicia Alonso practiced ballet in tennis shoes. Within a few years, she was in New York City, with a promising ballet career. But her eyesight began to fail. When Alicia needed surgeries to save her vision, dancing was impossible, but she wouldn’t give up her dream. She found the strength and determination to return to the stage and become a prima ballerina. This is the true story of a woman who overcame her challenges, mastered her art, and inspired others to dance and dream.
The Many Meanings of Meilan
Kokila; August 17, 2021
Meilan Hua’s world is made up of a few key ingredients: her family’s beloved matriarch, Nǎinai; the bakery her parents, aunts, and uncles own and run in Boston’s Chinatown; and her favorite Chinese fairy tales.
After Nǎinai passes, the family has a falling-out that sends Meilan, her parents, and her grieving grandfather on the road in search of a new home. They take a winding path cross-country before landing in Redbud, Ohio. Everything in Redbud is the opposite of Chinatown and Meilan’s not quite sure who she is—being renamed at school only makes it worse. She decides she is many Meilans, each inspired by a different Chinese character with the same pronunciation as her name. Sometimes she is Mist, cooling and invisible; other times, she’s Basket, carrying her parents’ hopes and dreams and her guilt of not living up to them; and sometimes she is bright Blue, the way she feels around her new friend Logan. Meilan keeps her facets separate until an injustice at school shows her the power of bringing her many selves together.
“Wang’s resonant middle grade debut features stunning prose and a fierce protagonist… Meilan’s journey to reclaiming her identity and finding her inner strength is remarkably compelling and relatable.” —Booklist, starred review
Neal Porter Books/Holiday House; March 30, 2021
Driving through Ohio in an old Pontiac, a young girl’s parents stop suddenly when they spot something growing in a ditch by the side of the road…watercress! With an old paper bag and some rusty scissors, the whole family wades into the muck to collect as much of the muddy, snail-covered plant as they can. At first, it’s embarrassing. Why can’t her family get food at the grocery store? But when her mother shares the story of her family’s life in China, the girl learns to appreciate the fresh food they foraged. Together, they make a new memory of watercress in this tender story inspired by the author’s childhood memories and illustrated by Caldecott Honor artist Jason Chin.
“Understated, deep, and heart-rending–bring tissues.” —Kirkus, starred review
Touch That Which We Cannot Possess
Spuyten Duyvil Press; February 12, 2021
“Jorge Armenteros’ Touch That Which We Cannot Possess is a wonderful novel: passionate, fascinating, and educational at the same time. It is all about being human, music, love, and miracle. Readers who are far from classical music will learn a lot and get interested in music as it has been happening with many generations after reading Leo Tolstoy’s The Kreutzer Sonata.” — Levon Ambartsumian, Franklin Professor of Violin, University of Georgia Hugh Hodgson School of Music
“In the tradition of Tolstoy’s “Kholstomer” or Victor Pelevin’s “The Life and Adventures of Shed No. XII,” Jorge Armenteros takes us on a consciousness expanding picaresque with an unnamed “cheap” violin from 17th century Venice to modern day New York, from classical music to jazz, to a deep exploration not only of our relationship with music but of “the brotherhood of bodies,” both animate and inanimate, with which we inhabit this world. As Armenteros says so eloquently, “There is the music of birds and elephants. There is the music of fish underwater. There is the music of falling leaves. And there is the music of the world spinning and the winds whirling.” Bravo for the hands that write such musical sentences. Bravo for the imagination that dares to show us what a novel can do. Bravo for this new book by Jorge Armenteros.” — Peter Grandbois, author of Half-Burnt and The Three-Legged World
Where Are We Tomorrow?
Touchpoint Press; May 30, 2021
Four women working backstage on a rock show each come to terms with working in a male-dominated industry.
“Every so often, you find a book–against all odds–that changes the way you think. A book that you know you might not have found. Where Are We Tomorrow? is just such a book. Tavi Black has written a story about women who are ambitious, who are talented and who are free to their artistry. […] Books can change your mind about life, about what work you might do, about what kinds of other ‘you’s might be out there, working in the world. Where Are We Tomorrow? will change some readers, especially girls and young women who need the critical reminder that not all women wear heels.”
“The Carriage Held But Just Ourselves”
(Available in Telephone Writing Book)
Crosstown Press; April 21, 2021
The small seaside town where Aurelie grows up is haunted by the urban legend of the Terror; the story goes that if you see the specter three times, you’ll die. Aurelie’s greatest wish from childhood is to see it head on–when the Terror finally reveals itself, Aurelie learns that the legends she’s always heard aren’t anywhere close to reality.
The Elixir of Denial
Clarkwoods; December 21, 2021
“If she notched her bedpost, it’d look like a ruler. But she knows she’ll only ever have one true love… until a trek through time proves her wrong.”
Ashley Silver is stuck in mourning. Since the woman of her dreams was killed outside a time-traveling pub, the stripper has been scattering ashes across the country—and drowning her sorrows in meaningless sex. Then, when a potion with the potential to resurrect her love shatters in her face, she doubles down on her resolve to bring the rockstar back by any means.
Journeying between eras with the help of the mystical, age-phasing bar, Ashley passes out from the shock of spotting her future self locked in a loving embrace with a stranger. And with everything ahead of her dependent on this massive fork in the road, she must make the heaviest decision of her life.
The Elixir of Desire is the fourth book in The Stains of Time family saga series.
(Available in Weird Horror, Issue 3)
Undertow Publications; Fall 2021
In this horror holiday short story, two vampires attend a Christmas party thrown by the immortal elite, but when they discover what exactly will be served, they must decide if they will indulge their bloodiest hunger or save the Feast.
Rootstock Publishing; April 20, 2021
Blue Desert is the story of Alice George, a headstrong young British woman who goes to Morocco in 1910 and ends up living with the Tuareg tribe in the Sahara for five years. In 1970 she receives news from the desert that forces her to reveal long-held secrets.
“Crossing continents, cultures, and history, this story of one woman’s ordeal and renewal is filled with hope and generosity. Alice is a remarkable character whose bravery and determination are as much a part of her survival as her expansive heart, curiosity, and capacity for forgiveness. “The desert is a palace of winds. A palace of space,” Alice recalls about her years away from home. The same can be said of BLUE DESERT, an exquisite, expansive, and transporting novel.” –Hester Kaplan, Author of The Tell
The Falling Girls
Penguin Random House; October 5, 2021
Shade and Jadis are everything to each other. They share clothes, toothbrushes, and even matching stick-and-poke tattoos. So when Shade unexpectedly joins the cheerleading team, Jadis can hardly recognize who her best friend is becoming.
Shade loves the idea of falling into a group of girls; she loves the discipline it takes to push her body to the limits alongside these athletes . Most of all, Shade finds herself drawn to The Three Chloes—the insufferable trio that rules the squad—including the enigmatic cheer captain whose dark side is as compelling as it is alarming.
Jadis won’t give Shade up so easily, though, and the pull between her old best friend and her new teammates takes a toll on Shade as she tries to forge her own path. So when one of the cheerleaders dies under mysterious circumstances, Shade is determined to get to the bottom of her death. Because she knows Jadis—and if her friend is responsible, doesn’t that mean she is, too?
In this compelling, nuanced exploration of the layered, intoxicating relationships between teen girls, and all the darkness and light that exists between them, novelist Hayley Krischer weaves a story of loss and betrayal, and the deep reverberations felt at a friendship’s breaking point.
The Passenger: How a Travel Writer Learned to Love Cruises & Other Lies from a Sinking Ship
David R. Godine, Publisher; June 2021
In March 2019, the Viking Sky cruise ship was struck by a bomb cyclone in the North Atlantic. Rocked by 60-foot swells and 87-mile-per-hour gales, the ship lost power and began to drift straight toward the notoriously dangerous Hustadvika coast in Norway. This is the suspenseful, harrowing, funny, touching story by one passenger who contemplated death aboard that ship.
Chaney Kwak is a travel writer used to all sorts of mishaps on the road, but this is a first even for him: trapped on the battered cruise ship, he stuffs his passport into his underwear just in case his body has to be identified. As the massive cruise ship sways in surging waves, Kwak holds on and watches news of the impending disaster unfold on Twitter, where the cruise ship’s nearly 1,400 passengers are showered with “thoughts and prayers.” Kwak uses his twenty-seven hours aboard the teetering ship to examine his family history, maritime tragedies, and the failing relationship back on shore with a man he’s loved for nearly two decades: the Viking Sky, he realizes, may not be the only sinking ship he needs to escape.
The Passenger takes readers for an unforgettable journey from the Norwegian coast to the South China Sea, from post-WWII Korea to pandemic-struck San Francisco. Kwak weaves his personal experience into events spanning decades and continents to explore the serendipity and the relationships that move us—perfect for readers who love to discover world travel through the eyes of a perceptive and humorous observer.
Ig Publishing; May 4, 2021
Coconut trees. Carnival. Rum and coke. To many outsiders, these idyllic images represent the supposed easy life in Caribbean nations such as Trinidad and Tobago. However, the reality is far different for those who live there—a society where poverty and patriarchy savagely rule, and where love and revenge often go hand in hand.
Written in a combination of English and Trinidad Creole, Pleasantview reveals the dark side of the Caribbean dream. In this novel-in-stories about a fictional town in Trinidad, we meet a political candidate who sets out to slaughter endangered turtles for fun, while his rival candidate beats his “outside-woman,” so badly she ends up losing their baby. On the night of a political rally, the abused woman exacts a very public revenge, the trajectory of which echoes through Pleasantview, ending with one boy introducing another boy to a gun and to an ideology which will help him aim the weapon.
Merging the beauty and brutality of Trinidadian culture evoked by writers such as Ingrid Persaud and Claire Adam with the linguistic experimentation of Marlon James’s A Brief History of Seven Killings, Pleasantview is1 a landmark work from an important new voice in international literary fiction.
An Ordinary Wonder
Dialogue Books (Little, Brown UK); September 7, 2021
An Ordinary Wonder is a powerful coming-of-age story that explores complex desires as well as challenges of family, identity, gender, and culture, and what it means to feel whole.
Oto leaves for boarding school with one plan: excel and escape his cruel home. Falling in love with his roommate was certainly not on the agenda, but fear and shame force him to hide his love and true self. Back home, weighed down by the expectations of their wealthy and powerful family, the love of Oto’s twin sister wavers and, as their world begins to crumble around them, Oto must make drastic choices that will alter the family’s lives for ever.
An Ordinary Wonder “highlights the limiting dangers of the gender binary, while also reminding us of the power storytelling has to help us envision a more expansive and inclusive world.” —The New York Times
Bowing Into Sensei Glioblastoma
Self-Published; May 22, 2021
Poetry and prose that describes using aikido principles, humor, a positive attitude, and grit to live with the multiple challenges of glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer. This book is intended to be helpful to anyone facing life challenges, whether they be serious and life threatening or day-to-day.
Burning and Dodging: A Novel
Black Rose Writing; December 23, 2021
“Burning and Dodging is brimming with philosophical debates, like a marvelous dinner party where every guest is fascinating. Most fascinating of all is Tina, Julie Schlack’s funny, restless, acerbic heroine
…This is an enormously intelligent and compassionate look at how talking and listening create empathy.” –Suzanne Berne, Orange Prize-winning author of The Dogs of Littlefield
“Burning and Dodging is smart, sophisticated, and with so much for the reader to ponder about … the hard but necessary work of defying someone else’s dreams for us so that we can discover our own.” –Janet Pocorobba, author of The Fourth String: A Memoir of Sensei and Me
Lily Poetry Review; April 2, 2021
“Clarissa Adkins has a mind I’d love to inhabit, fully attuned to the strangenesses of love, parenthood, mortality, and fleeting beauty. These poems are playful, sharp, dextrous, and witty—but they’re also filled with sonic brilliance, her mastery of the musical possibilities of language evident throughout. This is a terrific first book, one that I’ll return to with great pleasure.” — Kevin Prufer, author of The Art of Fiction
Edge of the Echo
Iris Press; May 7, 2021
Within each season of the year, a threshold emerges where the elements intersect, allowing the possibility to cross the thin spaces into the “Other” that perforates the darkness around us. Spend time with the earth: revel in its strength. Drink deeply of the air and let it satisfy you. Taste the water, whether clear or salty, for its cleansing power. Dance with the flames of passion. Let the elements speak to you, speak through you. It’s time to live again.
“In KB Ballentine’s new collection, Edge of the Echo, she reminds us that the earth supports us in beautiful and bountiful ways. These are thoughtful, layered poems of gratitude and reverence. Ballentine truly has a gift for painting with words. Every line evokes beauty in a stunning array of color. With a deep connection to nature, every aspect of life is filtered through the poet’s lens of tenderness and compassion. These offerings bring us hope for the weary heart. Ballentine beckons us to “believe in everything again,” and we do. A stunning collection to be celebrated and savored.” –Cristina M. R. Norcross, Founding Editor of Blue Heron Review, author of Beauty in the Broken Places
Simple As A Sonnet
Kelsay Books; January 27, 2021
A chapbook of poems about the complications of modern romantic relationships.
“This book is as wry as its tongue-in-cheek title, self-aware and scorchingly honest, like the big sister or best friend who’ll always give it to you straight. DeSiro takes as her subject a modern woman’s search for romantic fulfillment, its asymmetries and its indignities, its charades and its compromises, showing how love can be, at one moment, tender as a kiss and, at the next, tender as a bruise. Amid the sleaze and setbacks and soured dreams, she harnesses her musical affinities to provide achingly lovely glimpses of the transcendent, the bedroom window-blind becoming “a grand staff / where the full moon floats like a perfect / whole note,” honoring the heart’s resilience and the courage required to plead guilty to “wanting love; wanting; love.” –Jenna Le, author of A History of the Cetacean American Diaspora
Jacar Press; November 8, 2021
IN/DESIDERATO is a poetic meditation on what remains of us, and what has been left behind.
As refracted through the battlefields of WWII and the War on Terror, and equally through the deepest ocean depths and the planet’s oldest organisms, we have left indelible marks on all that we have claimed a troubled stewardship over. This positioning demands difficult questions about our relationship to time, nature, and each other—especially as they are lensed through the eyes of a new father. Combining personal narrative, environmental ethic, and lyric philosophy, this long poem raises important criticisms about what each of us are owed.
(Available in Spread the Word: A Pandemic Open Mic Anthology)
Jacar Press; February 21, 2021
A collection of poems selected from Jacar Press Open Mics held in the early days of the Coronavirus Pandemic, March and April 2020. “Superbloom” is a poetic meditation on nature, the environment, and cyclicality.
Writing for Stage and Screen
Shake the Spins – Kitner
Relief Map Records; October 1, 2021
Shake The Spins has had the luxury of both marinating in its influences and allowing plenty of time for the band to meticulously explore ways to make their own nuances by including pitched string arrangements, swirling layers of samples, and harmonica solos – all of which together serve to build one of the most cohesive and impressive debuts in recent memory. With final touches by legendary mastering engineer Alan Douches (Saves the Day, the Promise Ring, Japandroids), Kitner have finally arrived with Shake The Spins and with plenty of gas left in the tank.
“Easily one of the slickest sounding rock albums of the year” —Pop Matters
14 African Women Who Made History
Tuli Media LLC; May 12, 2021
14 African Women Who Made History is a children’s book that celebrates phenomenal African women who have made transformative change in their communities.
Memoirs of a Black Girl
Tuli Media LLC; 2021
Memoirs of a Black Girl is a coming-of-age narrative feature set in Roxbury, MA. Aisha, a scholarly student is up for a prestigious scholarship, but when she tries to do the right thing, her life is turned upside down putting her promising future in jeopardy.
MFA Writing Faculty
African Icons: Ten People Who Shaped History
Algonquin Young Readers; October 19, 2021
In a richly designed work with maps, portraits, and graphics throughout, the award-winning author of the Jumbies series shows readers this underrepresented side of Black history and Black excellence.
Every year, American schoolchildren celebrate Black History Month. They study almost exclusively American stories, which are not only rooted in struggle over enslavement or oppression, but also take in only four hundred years of a rich and thrilling history that goes back many millennia across the African continent. Through portraits of ten historical figures—from Menes, the first ruler to be called Pharaoh, to Queen Idia, a sixteenth-century power broker, visionary, and diplomat—African Icons takes readers on a journey across Africa to meet some of the great leaders and thinkers whose ideas built a continent and shaped our world.
It Isn’t a Ghost if It Lives in Your Chest
Four Way Books; September 15, 2021
Houlihan’s sixth collection of lyric poems reflects upon the persistence of what is lost and the accidental ruptures of trauma that allow re-entry into our world. These poems are at once despairing and hopeful.
“Many things die out and we don’t notice—species, cultural norms, types of social niceties, slang, fashions, tropes and shorthand references, symbols and world views. The poems in this collection circle the fossils of past experiences, thoughts, feelings and ways of being in the world and encounter the ruptures through which what is gone comes back, with the underlying premise that nothing ever truly goes away.” —Four Way Books
Sex with Strangers: Stories
University of Wisconsin Press; March 16, 2021
A fiercely honest exploration of the risks and rewards of contemporary relationships—and hookups—Sex with Strangers embraces the dizzying power of attraction across the spectrum of passion and infatuation. In this fearless collection, lust and loneliness drive a diverse cast of queer and straight characters into sometimes precarious entanglements.
Recognizing that any partner is unknowable on some level, Michael Lowenthal writes about how intimacy can make strangers of us all. A newly ordained priest struggles with guilt and longing when he runs into his ex-girlfriend. A woman weighs the cost of protecting her daughter from a man they both adore. A teenage busboy has a jolting brush with a famous musician. A young man tries to salvage a long-distance relationship while caring for his mentor, an erotic writer dying of AIDS.
In edgy, disquieting stories, Lowenthal traces the paths that attraction and erotic encounters take, baffling and rueful as often as electrifying. This fraught and funny collection forces us to grapple with our own subconscious desires and question how well we can ever really know ourselves.
The Long Field – Wales and the Presence of Absence, A Memoir
Little Toller Books; September 14, 2021
“Not since Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek have I felt so involved, as a reader, in ‘finding out what it all means.’ This is a beautifully written, un-put-downable book about language, love, and being alive, here, now.” –Gillian Clarke, former National Poet of Wales
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