Check out these amazing works from our Mentors!
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Spellbinding Sentences: A Writer’s Guide to Achieving Excellence & Captivating Readers
Writers Digest; 2015
With Spellbinding Sentences as your guide, you will master two essential writing skills. You’ll become fluent at finding words, and expert in arranging them into powerful sentences—sentences that will grab and keep your readers’ attention.
I hope young writers find this book and profit from it! I give it the Vulcan salute—”Live long and prosper!”
—Ursula K. Le Guin
Barbara Baig’s Spellbinding Sentences is a tribute to the pleasure and vitality of the English language. Never prescriptive and always clear, this enlightening book is sure to help all those wishing to add grace and strength to their writing.
—Jane Brox, award-winning author of Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light, one of TIME magazine’s top ten nonfiction books of 2010
How to be a Writer: Building Your Creative Skills Through Practice and Play
Writer’s Digest Books; August 30, 2010
“Barbara Baig is not afraid to go back to the basics, and in doing so, illuminates the writing process for both beginners and seasoned professionals. Her approach to writing as ‘practice and play’ makes good sense—and yet we’ve never heard it before. In strong, clear, humorous prose, Barbara teaches writers skills they can use right away to start making the writing process their own. I have used her ideas with my graduate and undergraduate students with great success, and her approach helped me reconnect with the writing process in a way I’d never learned before. Barbara’s approach builds confidence because it’s about doing. If you buy only one writing book, buy this one—it’ll give you all the tools you need for your journey!”
—Janet Pocorobba, Assistant Professor and Coordinator, Lesley University MFA Program in Creative Writing
Dial Books; February 1, 2022
From NYT bestselling author Tracey Baptiste comes a singular picture book that is both a biography about Claudette Colvin, the teen whose activism launched the Montgomery bus boycott, and a celebration of collective action.
When fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin boarded a segregated bus on March 2, 1955, she had no idea she was about to make history. At school she was learning about abolitionists like Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, which helped inspire her decision to refuse to give up her seat to a white woman, which led to her arrest, which began a crucial chain of events: Rosa Park’s sit-in nine months later, the organization of the Montgomery bus boycott by activists like Professor Jo Ann Robinson and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the Supreme Court decision that Alabama’s bus segregation was unconstitutional—a major triumph for the civil rights movement.
Because of Claudette’s brave stand against injustice, history was transformed. Now it’s time for young readers to learn about this living legend, her pivotal role in the civil rights movement, and the power of one person reaching out to another in the fight for change.
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.
(Available in The Talk: Conversations about Race, Love & Truth)
Crown Books for Young Readers; August 11, 2020
Thirty diverse, award-winning authors and illustrators invite you into their homes to witness the conversations they have with their children about race in America today in this powerful call-to-action that invites all families to be anti-racists and advocates for change.
As long as racist ideas persist, families will continue to have the difficult and necessary conversations with their young ones on the subject. In this inspiring collection, literary all-stars such as Renée Watson (Piecing Me Together), Grace Lin (Where the Mountain Meets the Moon), Meg Medina (Merci Suárez Changes Gears), Adam Gidwitz (The Inquisitor’s Tale), and many more engage young people in frank conversations about race, identity, and self-esteem. Featuring text and images filled with love, acceptance, truth, peace, and an assurance that there can be hope for a better tomorrow, The Talk is a stirring anthology and must-have resource published in partnership with Just Us Books, a Black-owned children’s publishing company that’s been in operation for over thirty years. Just Us Books continues its mission grounded in the same belief that helped launch the company: Good books make a difference.
In “TEN,” Tracey Baptiste tells a story based on real events when she was pulled over by the police with her child in the car.
The Jumbie God’s Revenge
(Book 3 of The Jumbies)
Algonquin Young Readers; September 03, 2019
Corinne must use her emerging supernatural powers to battle the angry god who would destroy her Caribbean home. She must find a way for her friends, her family, and even the her jumbie enemies to work together to stop Huracan.
Minecraft: The Crash
Del Rey Books; July 10, 2018
When Bianca Marshall, an avid Minecraft enthusiast, wakes in the hospital, almost paralyzed by injuries from a car crash, she finds herself drawn into a surprisingly realistic VR version of Minecraft. Is her best friend Lonnie in there with her too? And can Bianca help him to return to reality with her?
If You Were a Kid in the Wild West
C. Press/F. Watts Trade; February 1, 2018
Follow two kids during the 1800s as their families survive in the Old West where cattle ranchers drive through the plains, general stores rule, and charlatan doctors try to bilk people of money.
Rise of the Jumbies
(Book 2 of The Jumbies)
Algonquin Young Readers; September 19, 2017
Corinne La Mer comes face to face with danger once again. When local children begin to go missing, suspicious eyes turn to Corinne. To rescue the children and clear her name, Corinne must face another jumbie–deep in the ocean. The only thing more perilous than Corinne’s adventures in the sea is the foe that awaits her back home.
(Book 1 of The Jumbies)
Algonquin Young Readers; April 26, 2016
Caribbean island lore melds with adventure and touches of horror in a tale about Corinne La Mer, who on All Hallow’s Eve accidentally draws a monstrous jumbie out of the forest, sparking a very personal war that only she can stop – a war made even more difficult once she discovers her own dark truth.
Silence: A Social History of One of the Least Understood Elements of Our Lives
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; January 15, 2019
Through her evocative intertwined histories of the penitentiary and the monastery, Jane Brox illuminates the many ways silence is far more complex than any absolute; how it has influenced ideas of the self, soul, and society. Brox traces its place as a transformative power in the monastic world from Medieval Europe to the very public life of twentieth century monk Thomas Merton, whose love for silence deepened even as he faced his obligation to speak out against war. This fascinating history of ideas also explores the influence the monastic cell had on one of society’s darkest experiments in silence: Eastern State Penitentiary. Conceived of by one of the Founding Fathers and built on the outskirts of Philadelphia, the penitentiary’s early promulgators imagined redemption in imposed isolation, but they badly misapprehended silence’s dangers.
Finally, Brox’s rich exploration of silence’s complex and competing meanings leads us to imagine how we might navigate our own relationship with silence today, for the transformation it has always promised, in our own lives.
Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light
Mariner Books; July 7, 2011
In Brilliant, Jane Brox traces the fascinating history of human light from the stone lamps of the Pleistocene to the LEDs embedded in fabrics of the future—and reveals that the story of light is also the story of our evolving selves. As Brox uncovers the social and environmental implications of the human desire for more and more light, she captures with extraordinary intensity the feel of historical eras: the grit and difficulty of daily life during the long centuries of meager illumination when crude lamps and tallow candles constricted waking hours; and the driven, almost crazed pursuit of whale oil and coveted spermaceti across the world’s oceans.
She indelibly portrays, too, the emergence of a vibrant street life under gaslight, a new illumination which not only opened up the evening hours to leisure, but also fundamentally changed the ways we live and sleep. These changes became all the more pronounced with the advent of incandescent light, as Edison’s “tiny strip of paper that a breath would blow away” produced illumination that seemed to its users all but divorced from human effort or cost. And yet, as Brox’s informative, chilling portrait of our current grid system shows, the cost is ever with us.
Brilliant is a compelling story imbued with human voices, startling insights, and—only a few years before it becomes illegal to sell most incandescent light bulbs in the United States—timely questions about how the light of the future will shape our lives.
Clearing Land: Legacies of the American Farm
North Point Press/Farrar, Straus and Giroux; September 2004
Jane Brox twines two narratives, personal and historic, to explore the place of the family farm as it has evolved from the Pilgrims’ brutal progress at Plymouth to the modern world, where much of our food is produced by industrial agriculture while the family farm is both marginalized and romanticized. In considering the place of the farm Brox traces the transformation of the idea of wilderness – and its intricate connection to cultivation – which changed as our ties to the land loosened. Exploring these strands with neither judgment or sentimentality, Brox arrives at something beyond a biography of the farm: a vivid depiction of the half-life it carries on in our collective imagination.
Five Thousand Days Like This One: An American Family History
Beacon Press; 1999
Amid the turmoil after her father’s death – family decision to be made, the future of their farm to be settled – Jane Brox begins a search for her family’s story. The search soon leads her to the fascinating and quintessentially American history of New England’s Merrimack Valley, its farmers, and the immigrant workers caught up in the industrial textile age.
At the center of Brox’s journey through family history is a poignant question: How can her own family identity – language, food, a grandfather’s wish for “five thousand days like this one” – be recovered when so few traces of former lives are left? When Five Thousand Days Like This One returns to the present, along with decision on how the orchards and farm stand will or won’t change, the author must make her own discoveries about those aspects of family identity she can cherish and those she must let go.
Here And Nowhere Else: Late Seasons of a Farm and Its Family
North Point Press; September 1994
After years of living away Jane Brox made the decision to return to the family farm of her birth, where her aging father still tended the crops. In this striking memoir of her reintroduction to the land and its habits, Brox captures the cadences of farm life and those who sustain it, at a time when the viability of both are waning.
BOA Editions; October 1, 2009
Recipient of the Isabella Gardner Award, Sharon Bryan’s fourth poetry collection blends such disparate subjects as biology, astronomy, sports, philosophy, and music to probe humankind’s desire for spiritual, even physical, transcendence. From Charles Mingus to Charles Barkley, from Buddy Holly to Bishop Berkeley, no reference is squandered in Bryan’s prodigious imagination.
Sarabande Books; July 1, 1996
Flying Blind is Sharon Bryan’s third collection of poems.
“It’s a brilliant book…smart as hell. Behind the brainy voice in the poem is a real woundedness. It’s felt thinking.” —Fredrick Busch
“This is a delicious book of poetry, dedicated to exploring right ways of conducting our lives.” —Peter Davison
Objects of Affection
Wesleyan University Press; August 1, 1987
Objects of Affection is Sharon Bryan’s second collection of poems.
“There is a striking boldness to this book, an unusual power.” –Lorrie Goldensohn
Wesleyan University Press; March 1, 1983
Recipient of the Governor’s Award from the State of Washington, Salt Air is Sharon Bryan’s first collection of poetry.
MadHat Press; October 15, 2020
Steven Cramer’s sixth poetry collection generates scores of illuminating juxtapositions: the privacy of a son’s shower-aria and the public lies spewed by the demagogue; what Martin Luther, The Thinker, and Charmin have in common; Renaissance garb—the stomacher, pincnets—wrapped in a headline announcing the moon-landing, to name just a few. Listen begins by facing and facing down the paradox Dickinson called “that White Sustenance/Despair,” and ends its journey nearby the “questionable sea” of emotional autonomy. Along the way, there are poems that vivify the magical thinking which shapes, or misshapes, our deepest attachments, as well as the impingements of the so-called world on the so-called self. Experimenting with many verse forms to give shape to the mind’s restless shifts and associations—sometimes absurdly funny, bracingly honest, and always sharp in thought and craft—the lyric testimony of Listen reaffirms the indispensable, if fragile, consolations of art.
Sarabande Books; October 23, 2012
Clangings is a book-length sequence of poems comprising a single dramatic monologue. The speaker manifests the thought disorder known as “clang associations”–mental connections made between dissociated ideas through rhymes, puns, neologisms, and other non-linear speech, occurring frequently in schizophrenia and mania. This dramatic premise, coupled with strict form–each poem composed in five rhyming quatrains–develops a character who articulates, through and against language, a pressing need for coherence and stability.
Goodbye to the Orchard
Sarabande Books; October 1, 2004
In Steven Cramer’s fourth collection of poems, we encounter a winning combination of grace, eclectic intelligence, and dryly comic self-regard. Goodbye to the Orchard is a refreshing tonic to the claustrophobia of much contemporary poetry. Cramer takes subjects that are familiar at first glance and makes them oddly affecting, weirdly fresh. Icons of high and popular culture appear in unpredictable ways, so that as a whole Goodbye to the Orchard strikes an original tone—a curious, undeluded sweetness. No other poet sounds quite the same note.
Cramer employs agile structures in service of ambitious themes, his work by turns brave, disarmingly funny, and adroit at symmetrical form and free-verse syncopation. At the heart of the book we encounter a sister’s fatal illness, and these poems tell us of our search, especially at such last moments, to find words for what can’t, ultimately, be described.
Beginning with the word “defeat” and concluding with the word “alive,” Goodbye to the Orchard testifies that we must remain open in the face of loss, because loss is a given; and that our glimpses of the mysteries—whether of dying or living—are all we’re allowed. But those prismatic views, well rendered, are all we need.
Dialogue for the Left and Right Hand
Brookline Books/Lumen Editions; April 25, 1997
Steven Cramer’s third poetry collection orchestrates a complex interplay of voices: lyrical, colloquial, mordant; even, at times, enraged. Whether in fixed forms or free verse, the raw energy of these poems derives power from Cramer’s restraint—his sense of line, of stanza, of pattern. Here are sensuous memories, mysterious as the unlit room in which a boy, “opens his eyes, and in the blue light/From the window sees, or thinks he sees,/The door open an inch or two, no more.” Here also are evocative homages to the “tutors” of the imagination: John Keats’ snow-swept heath, admonishing us to be “simple, watchful, true.” And here are fictions of the spirit, appeals to deities who wait at the top of the stairs. Sometimes narrative, sometimes startlingly associative, always shaped and honed, Dialogue for the Left and Right Hand is Cramer’s most diverse, and best, work to date.
The World Book
Copper Beech Press; January 1, 1992
At a time when many poets seem most concerned with striking a winning pose, Steven Cramer in his passionate second book is not afraid to let down his ego’s defenses. For instance, he admits his adolescent, Sixties self was sometimes as awkward, sanctimonious, or misled as the decade itself, and even in his grief he recounts long-standing differences with those he elegizes, keeping them alive rather than burying them in the interests of presenting himself as larger than life. Such honesty not only respects the dead but encourages the living to be nothing more—and nothing less—than ourselves. Affirming the personal as their lifeblood, his arrestingly vivid, emotionally direct poems dispense with the Confessionals’ theatrics and, instead of playing to an audience, bear witness to the heart’s uneasy truths.
The Eye That Desires to Look Upward
Galileo Pr Ltd; April 1, 1987
Whether the triggering subject is the beguiling sensuousness of a medieval city in Cézanne’s southern France or an unexpected visitation of grace in an abandoned backyard lot, the poems in Steven Cramer’s first collection chart a course between those conflicting parts of the self we recognize as noble and base, susceptible and calloused, selfless and vain, sexual and sublime. With an inviting, direct style and an attention to telling juxtapositions, the poems affirm that “the eye that desires to look upward” must first accommodate the “detritus of the world” in order to earn its passage.
Keeping Planes in the Air
Salmon Poetry; March 19, 2020
In this thoughtful and nuanced collection, Lori Desrosiers maps that country sometimes called the past, sometimes called memory, into which loved ones have gone or soon will be disappearing. It’s a space limned by nostalgia, which can be beautiful for the trace of what used to be, in the way that an armless goddess is lovely. It’s a place inhabited by spectral presences who don’t seem to realize they are going or gone— Such is the thrall and pull that this world still exerts over all of us. And so, the ghosts of those who perished in the tsunami in Japan hail taxis and reserve private rooms at hotels. The poet’s grandmother at 70 shoplift[s] at the five and dime. The ghost of Emily Dickinson speaks through her washbowl, her inkwell, her quill. In the ordinary calamity of our days, we seek their guidance and benevolence. Among those still with us, we realize we miss each other even while we’re still here. Love is a longing thrown across a bridge where someone is waiting on the other side: we call to each other, we wait for the answer. The poems in Keeping Planes in the Air live in both the waiting and the calling—but the poet gently reminds us that it is the work of our breathing that keeps things aloft. –Luisa A. Igloria
typing with e. e. cummings
Glass Lyre Press; August 1, 2019
Like e.e. cummings, Desrosiers writes about love and death. There is such sadness in her poetry, but beauty in her memories. She is carrying on in this life without her mother, father, and many others she has lost, yet she reflects on her love for her husband and stays in the now. Reading Desrosiers’ poetry is like reading small odes. We all are eavesdropping on words that are delicate and private such as: You can put your sorrows down now Mother / It is your daughter’s turn to take / the concerns you carried for us. / I put your worries into this stone. / I carry it for you. Reading this book of poetry should be a pact we have with life. So beautifully written.
Sometimes I Hear the Clock Speak
Salmon Poetry; December 7, 2016
“Lori Desrosiers’ Sometimes I Hear the Clock Speak enfolds in an origami of memory the poet’s life and the lives of her family and others. As with any fine poetry, the poems mostly transcend clock-time, soaring to a Blakean cleansing of the “doors of perception.” In vignettes alchemized from everyday experiences, the poet gives us an “eternity in an hour” of music-laced memoir. Here is an immersion in the dance of a woman who shakes off the shackles of domestic oppression; here is a gentle dreamer who embraces the liberation of being a daring writer.” –Susan Deer Cloud
Glass Lyre Press; March 10, 2015
“I am alive,” Lori Desrosiers asserts at the end of her harrowing, potent, and necessary chapbook, Inner Sky, which details a cage formed by domestic-abuse. In poem after poem her fluctuating pronouns expose blurred boundaries (between self and other, beloved and despised) typical to the abuse-dynamic. Her re-visitation of past tragedy and its players comes at the reader forcibly-in the form of “wire cutters,” “bitter beets,” an “ice crow,” and “the dark of the pantry.” This is the shedding of rotten images and masks. Yet, what else can a woman do to heal from domestic-abuse but “clean him from her mind”? Desrosiers goes one step better by offering us this book which bravely “lends a hand/ to others mired in storm.”
The Philosopher’s Daughter
Salmon Poetry; February 15, 2013
Lori Desrosiers’ collection of poems, The Philosopher’s Daughter starts with a child watching her father “conducting Beethoven in thin air” while her mother shouts, “Len, please, keep your hands on the wheel,” and ends with a grown woman Night Writing with “breasts round as similes.” Her father, Leonard Charles Feldstein, a Professor of Philosophy and a Psychiatrist, died young (when Lori was 28) of brain cancer. His life and death are the inspiration for these poems that read like skillfully drawn postcards. The poet’s family and thoughts arrive, page by page, in intimate, clear-eyed meditations. This volume invites the reader to witness the poet’s journey from girl to woman, from The Philosopher’s Daughter to Philosopher. –Sally Bellerose
The Persistence of Memory
W. W. Norton & Company; July 17, 2005
In this humane yet savagely witty portrait of apartheid South Africa in its waning years, Tony Eprile renders his homeland’s turbulent past with striking clarity. The Baltimore Sun declared Eprile’s “horrifying yet heartrendingly beautiful” prose to be “comparable to his fellow authors of Apartheid Andre Brink and Nadine Gordimer.” As the novel builds to a harrowing conclusion, the protagonist, a veteran of the secret war in Angola and Namibia, is forced to appear before the Truth and Reconciliation Committee with astonishing results. Nobel Prize-winning author J. M. Coetzee calls The Persistence of Memory “a story of coming to maturity in South Africa in the bad old days. Always warm-hearted, sometimes comic, ultimately damning.”
Temporary Sojourner and Other South African Stories
Fireside; August 1, 1989
Eprile’s debut collection is a vigorous, supple portrayal of the diversity and divisiveness of his native South Africa. The stories explore the inner lives of liberal whites and outcast blacks, of jailers, students and emigres. Among the most memorable tales is “The Witness,” a powerful parable of a blind man with a lowly prison job, bullied by a sadistic guard who enjoys victimizing his captives, secure in the knowledge that the blind man cannot act as a witness. “The Ugly Beetle” tells of an African man, deformed in infancy by a tribal ritual and forced into beggary, who fashions a life of unique strength and status, only to be confronted by his ultimately inescapable vulnerability. Four Spiegelman Family stories, about expatriated German Jews, are scattered through the book as counterpoint to those told from blacks’ points of view. Their narrator, Mark, a child of white privilege with an inborn sense of brotherhood, represents the hope of a sane future in a schizophrenic land. Least successful of the collection is “Thank God for Informers,” a wooden portrayal of a prison guard who self-righteously persecutes a Mandela-like black leader. But false steps are few in this vibrant work, ringing with harnessed outrage and with love for a people and a land rich in potential.
Gemma Open Door; June 7, 2022
Ava was born with wings. No one called them that until she was two years old. She hides her wings under a special device her father made for her. She never takes off her backpack at school. No one knows her secret, not even her best friend Theo, who was born with two different-colored eyes. The doctor told Ava that she can choose to have the wings removed when she turns sixteen.
(Available in The Pandemic Midlife Crisis: Gen X Women on the Brink)
The HerStories Project; August 2021
In this essay collection, thirty-one midlife women describe their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are writers, teachers, artists, mothers, daughters, caregivers, activists, friends, and neighbors. They share stories of heartache, joy, loss, love, sacrifice, despair, anxiety, loneliness, and connection. Resilience is at the heart of each essay. Gen X women were overwhelmed and stretched like never before by this pandemic. They were hit hard in all of their many roles — as workers, as caregivers, and more. In this anthology, women share how they coped with this unprecedented crisis. This collection will take you behind the news headlines of job losses, virtual schooling, and quarantines. These stories reveal how real women have confronted the daily challenges of pandemic life.
Gemma Open Door; November 15, 2018
In many ways, the Hamilton children are like any other kids. Eleven-year-old Mia and ten-year-old Will love playing Minecraft, eating pizza, and playing in the yard. But Mia knows that because Will is on the autism spectrum, some things are different for him. For starters, he doesn’t like things to change. Pizza has to be just so crispy, or he won’t eat it. He uses lines from movies to answer most questions. If his toast is too dark, Will could have a total meltdown.
When Mom and Dad announce they’re getting a babysitter for the first time, Mia is alarmed. What will happen if the babysitter doesn’t understand the unusual things Will does? Her parents know that she is Will’s “translator” because she always understands him. Can they manage a whole night with a brand-new person in charge? Is it always Mia’s job to worry, or can she find a way to rely on other people? Toast explores the tender, scary, funny, and always complex relationship between a girl and her autistic brother.
The Blue Girl
Coffee House Press; July 14, 2015
In this small lakeside town, mothers bake their secrets into moon pies they feed to a silent blue girl. Their daughters have secrets too—that they can’t sleep, that they might sleep with a neighbor boy, that they know more than they let on. But when the daughters find the blue girl, everyone’s carefully held silences shake loose.
The Giant Baby
Gemma Open Door; September 28, 2012
What do you do when something magical happens…in your own backyard?
Linda and Earl are a happy couple. Although married for many years, they have never had children. Still, they are content being together, and watching reruns of “I Love Lucy” keeps them close. That, and a magical garden that never seems to grow what they plant.
One day Earl finds a set of infant toes in the loam. He and Linda plant them and watch in amazement as the garden produces an enormous baby. Now Earl and Linda have to figure out how to be parents—if they are parents—and what to do about the giant baby who eats everything and cries for his mama.
Before Elvis There Was Nothing
Coffee House Press; May 1, 2005
A modern-day superwoman, Cass embodies the Elvis adage “Taking Care of Business“-from coping with the disappearance of her Elvis-obsessed parents and caring for her agoraphobic sister to treating the folically-challenged and avoiding the attentions of a perverse podiatrist-until the day a horn sprouts from her forehead. As Cass seeks treatment for her unwelcome appendage, she finds herself in a facility only Dr. Moreau could love. Join the beautiful Cass as she plans her escape and, in the process, resolves her physical and spiritual ailments, discovering more about herself than she ever thought possible.
In a world gone mad, where we’re all on display and our obligations and obsessions are magnified by a voyeuristic culture, this feverishly hip, comic caper is the perfect tonic-one that may even answer the burning question that lurks deep in all of our hearts: “Has Elvis really left the building?”
Bingo Under the Crucifix
Coffee House Press; September 1, 2002
THE TWISTED, ECCENTRIC characters in this hilarious metaphor-stretching novel are ripped straight from today’s tabloids: a man obsessed with Spiderman, whose irresponsibility has reached such epic proportions that he literally reverts to being a newborn; and a homecoming queen who secretly gives birth in the locker room during halftime, then claims the infant was kidnapped by aliens. Foos’s satirical genius strikes funny, bittersweet chords about women, men, and responsibility gone haywire.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; September 22, 1999
A WILDLY ORIGINAL STORY about a woman who unwittingly gives birth to herself. Long before Dolly the sheep, there were Maxi, Minnie, and a clone called Middle. Maxi Dublin, a cat breeder, is thirty-four, single, and pregnant. She and her mother have been preparing for the birth of Maxi’s first child for months, years even. But when the day arrives, something goes horribly wrong. Instead of delivering a healthy newborn, Maxi gives birth to herself-a clone. In the medical world Maxi becomes a cause clbre. But when her controlling, eccentric mother, Minnie, kidnaps the clone, all hell breaks loose. The doctors threaten Maxi with lawsuits, the media goes into a feeding frenzy, and the entire nation waits for the latest Maxi, Minnie, and Middle news. Angry but inspired, Maxi enlists the help of Cecilia, a clairvoyant therapist with an uncanny ability to impersonate the Duchess of York. Together they hit the road in hot pursuit of Minnie, so that Maxi can once and for all find . . . herself.
Portrait of the Walrus by a Young Artist
Coffee House Press; May 1, 1997
“IF I’D KNOWN WALRUSES were waiting for me on some back road in Florida, I might have taken more of an interest in bowling.” The first sentence of Laurie Foos’s bizarre yet wonderful novel, Portrait of the Walrus by a Young Artist, gives readers an indication of the novel’s major preoccupations and a taste of its author’s deadpan style. The book’s heroine, Frances Fisk, acquires on the eve of her 18th birthday both a stepfather and a bowling alley, complete with pizza, pins, and polyurethane. Until her mother’s remarriage and the death of her father, a sculptor, Frances traveled in daddy’s world of demented artists and impossible artistic visions; now the change in station proves too much for her, sending her into a depression from which she is unable to recover.
Until she meets the walruses. After seeing two of the libidinous beasts mating at the local aquarium, Frances becomes obsessed with the animals. Walruses, bowling alleys, pizza—only Laurie Foos could seamlessly blend these disparate items into riotous satire. Portrait of the Walrus by a Young Artist is funny and strange; by its end, it even starts to make sense.
Coffee House Press; April 1, 1995
IN THIS ODD, hilarious parable, Rita loses her uterus, setting off a chain reaction of sympathetic reactions in other women. Off she sets to retrace her steps as though she’s hunting her car keys. No uterus. Luckily, talk show host Rod Nodderman offers her a spot on his TV talk show—and life will never be quite the same as Rita’s plight is followed by a sympathetic, if bumbling, public.
An Embarrassment of Witches by Sophie Goldstein & Jenn Jordan
Top Shelf Productions; March 3, 2020
A coming-of-age urban fantasy set in a world full of animal familiars, enchanted plants, and spell-casting that explores the mundane horrors of breakups, job searches, and post-graduate existential angst.
Life after college isn’t turning out exactly as Rory and Angela had planned. Rory, recently dumped at the gate of her flight to Australia, needs to find a new life path ASAP. What do you do with a B.A. in Communications and a minor in Southeast Asian Spellcraft? Maybe her cute new housemate Guy is the answer she’s looking for (spoiler alert: he isn’t).
Meanwhile, Angela is buckling under the pressure of a high-stakes internship in a cutting-edge cryptopharmocology lab run by Rory’s controlling mother, who doesn’t know Rory is still in town… and Angela hates keeping secrets.
An Embarrassment of Witches is the story of two childhood friends learning how to be adults—and hoping their friendship can survive the change.
House of Women
Fantagraphics Books; November 7, 2017
When Sarai and her fellow emissaries from the Empire disembark from their ship, they find themselves on an unknown planet teeming with life and mystery. The natives, whom they intend to “civilize,” are not as malleable as expected and their only other human contact, a man with some unexpected genetic modifications, only causes further conflict within their ranks. Something dark is growing in Mopu. The only question is whether the danger that will undo the women’s delicate camaraderie is outside the gates—or within.
AdHouse Books; June 16, 2015
Ozone depletion and dwindling resources have driven the human race into domed cities where population controls are strictly enforced. When a young couple goes looking for an anti-government paradise in the desert they may have found more than they bargained for.
Darwin Carmichael is Going to Hell by Sophie Goldstein & Jenn Jordan
It’s tough living in the 21st century, when mythical beings not only roam the earth, but camp out on your sofa and raid your refrigerator. Jobs are scarce; angels infest Brooklyn (the demons have taken all the good property in Manhattan) and minor gods bus tables at the local diner. The mortals of New York must balance not only their checkbooks but keep a close eye on their souls’ karmic account.
Darwin lives in Brooklyn, the borough of choice for hipsters, artists, deities and an assortment of mythological creatures. Darwin has a problem. Due to an unfortunate incident involving some intense snogging, an unbalanced high chair, and a framed image of the Buddha, he acquired a massive karmic deficit. Long story short, he’s going to go to Hell. Darwin doesn’t particularly want to go to Hell, so he’s doing everything he can to save his immortal soul.
Managing his complete karmic rehabilitation, a soul-crippling day-job in financial aid counseling, life in a ridiculously gentrified, rent-inflated neighborhood, and a pack of free-loading stoner angels is tricky, to say the least. His best friend, Ella Fitzgerald, the daughter of saints with good karma to burn, coaches Darwin on saving his soul. His 2000 year old pet manticore, Skittles, provides moral support, the wisdom of the ancients, and fluffy hugs. Darwin must contend with his obnoxious roommate—art student and suspected alien Matt Westbury—but there’s also his friendly minotaur landlord, Patrick, who drinks Darwin’s beer and fixes the sink.
Every day is a fresh hell, but it’s a chance at redemption.
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
Four Way Books; March 6, 2018
Shadow-feast is a chronicle of dying—the awareness, denial, pain, and hope surrounding incurable illness, as well as the aftermath of grief as told from three points of view: Hers, His, and Theirs (the couple). The collection as a whole is a Kage-zen, or Shadow-feast, a traditional Japanese meal offered to the dead. However, here it is set out not for an absent beloved, but for the reader.
“These are urgent and fiercely incorruptible lyrics where the unsettlingly oblique and surreal is juxtaposed against moments of lucid and visceral anguish: “We had married ourselves to a trance.” And “When they came for him full-dressed / and somber, they lifted a body made lighter / by suffering, laid it into the rubber bag / then zipped it to the top of his head.” Who writes with this kind of prescient confidence and startling lyricism besides Joan Houlihan? Emily Dickinson, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Harryette Mullen come to mind.” —Peter Covino
Tupelo Press; February 16, 2014
A powerful sequel to The Us, which ended with the son Ay wounded, rendered silent and immobile by a head injury. In Ay, the boy is propped up and worshiped, as others project a kind of divinity onto his stillness. While Ay recovers, in a series of lyrical monologues he discovers an individual self-awareness, separate from family and tribe.
“Musically rugged, riddled with insight, resonant, gripping, and chock-full of moments that startle with their vividness (‘What eats grass slow and bent- / necked, eyed from the side, is deer’) Ay deploys its fertile idiom not only for the pleasure of it, which is immeasurable, but as a medium through which to investigate the mechanics of subjectivity, grief, empathy, and forgiveness. The result is one of the most radically inventive and invigorating books of poetry I’ve read in years” —Timothy Donnelly
Tupelo Press; September 1, 2009
The Us, Joan Houlihan’s tantalizing third book of poetry, is a poetic sequence spoken in the collective voice of nomadic hunter-gatherers. Incompatible with a stronger, more advanced culture (“Thems”), the Us must live outside civilization in order to be free and fully alive. Practical and canny, the Us are also possessed by a sense of awe expressed in superstition and ritual. With echoes of classical mythology, age-old legends, and resilient allegory, this is an absorbing and altogether unique book of poetry. Houlihan’s language is ancient in sound and texture yet entirely modern in impact.
“The Us is like nothing I have ever read or seen. These poems are just extraordinary: wildly hewn, classically construed and skewed by an imagined lexicon.… In a voice that is elemental ancient, animistic, pre-lingual even, the speaker manages, with nothing short of magic, to communicate… in a language both syntactically inventive and radically simple.” – Lucie Brock-Broido
Hand-Held Executions (Expanded Edition)
Room 204; March 18, 2009
Award-winning poet Joan Houlihan’s acclaimed collection of intense lyrical poems and hard-hitting “Boston Comment” essays.
“Joan Houlihan’s rich, dense poems . . . have a rare music of language and imagery, and a striking sense of necessity and controlled passion . . . like fables we’d forgotten having read, but find ourselves living out nonetheless.” —Reginald Shepherd
The Mending Worm
New Issues Poetry and Prose; September 2006
“Joan Houlihan’s images and figures are lapidary, her diction alert and startling, her lines chiseled, their sounds echoing back and forth, and yet for all the exquisite craft in these poems, there is something terrible and wild underneath their surfaces. Feral animals are prowling through them. Her typical landscape is a desolate, snowy shoreline. ‘What the sea dredges up in the dark’ writes Houlihan, ‘is sand tooth, fishbone, spine, / hard fruit of tide.’ So too this book delivers hard news. There are murderers about to be executed, and cancers to be survived maybe. Injury and pain is at the heart of being, but as the title poem tells us, there is also a mending impulse, a restoration to be humbly sought or created. It is something, as Houlihan writes, ‘we can do together.’ The Mending Worm gives us poems that in their art and authenticity render whole that which has been shattered. Read them and you will see.” —Fred Marchant
The Weight of Ink
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; June 6, 2017
Set in London of the 1660s and of the early twenty-first century, The Weight of Ink is the interwoven tale of two women of remarkable intellect: Ester Velasquez, an emigrant from Amsterdam who is permitted to scribe for a blind rabbi, just before the plague hits the city; and Helen Watt, an ailing historian with a love of Jewish history.
As the novel opens, Helen has been summoned by a former student to view a cache of seventeenth-century Jewish documents newly discovered in his home during a renovation. Enlisting the help of Aaron Levy, an American graduate student as impatient as he is charming, and in a race with another fast-moving team of historians, Helen embarks on one last project: to determine the identity of the documents’ scribe, the elusive “Aleph.”
Electrifying and ambitious, sweeping in scope and intimate in tone, The Weight of Ink is a sophisticated work of historical fiction about women separated by centuries, and the choices and sacrifices they must make in order to reconcile the life of the heart and mind.
I Was Here
Fancy Sisters Press; September 22, 2014
In a working-class Irish Catholic town, the abuse of a young girl is hushed up by a community more interested in civility than justice. Now, almost two decades later, sweet, damaged Charlotte starts receiving obscene text messages from someone who insists he knows her secret, and ten seemingly unconnected lives are pulled into an intricate and dangerous swerve toward tragedy.
This heart-stopping tale unfolds at the pace of a thriller, but its exquisite tension is generated by the precision of its character portraits. Equal parts Gillian Flynn and Tobias Wolff, I WAS HERE is not only a tour de force of storytelling but a profound look at human fragility, the momentum of evil, and the bravery required for kindness. It is, in short, a dazzlingly good read, marrying the depth and beauty of literary fiction to the adrenaline rush of a thriller, and told with the fierce empathy that fans of Kadish’s first two novels have come to know as distinctively her own.
Tolstoy Lied: A Love Story
Mariner Books; September 11, 2007
Tolstoy famously wrote, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” To Tracy Farber, thirty-three, happily single, headed for tenure at a major university, and content to build a life around friends and work, this celebrated maxim is questionable at best. Because if Tolstoy is to be taken at his word, only unhappiness is interesting; happiness must be as placid and unmemorable as a daisy in a field of a thousand daisies.
Having decided to reject the petty indignities of dating, Tracy focuses instead on her secret project: to determine whether happiness can be interesting, in literature and in life, or whether it can be—must be—a plant with thorns and gnarled roots. It’s an unfashionable proposition, and a potential threat to her job security. But Tracy is her own best example of a happy and interesting life. Little does she know, however, that her best proof will come when she falls for George, who will challenge all of her old assumptions, as love proves to be even more complicated than she had imagined. Can this young feminist scholar, who posits that “a woman’s independence is a hothouse flower—improbable, rare, requiring vigilance,” find happiness in a way that fulfills both her head and her heart?
Love may be the ultimate cliché, but in Rachel Kadish’s hands, it is also a morally serious question, deserving of our sober attention as well as our delighted laughter.
From A Sealed Room
Mariner Books; September 1, 2006
In this affecting, perceptive novel, Rachel Kadish reflects on the ghosts of the past, the tensions of war, and the difficult bonds of family. When Maya enrolls at Hebrew University in Jerusalem shortly after the Gulf War, she hopes to leave New York and a fraught relationship with her mother behind her. In Israel, she gets to know her older cousin Tami, a housewife whose home has a room sealed against the war’s Scud missile attacks. Like Maya, Tami feels distanced from the people closest to her — her mother, her husband, her only son. But it will ultimately be Maya’s visits with Shifra, an elderly recluse and Holocaust survivor who lives in the apartment below her, that give Maya the courage to confront her problems and break free of the burdens of her past.
Ig Publishing; July 8, 2014
In this haunting new collection of stories from award-winning writer Hester Kaplan, the past has a way of showing up when it is least welcome. In the title story “Unravished,” a woman reconsiders her marriage to a man bent on destroying a world famous landscape. In “The School of Politics,” a bored museum director struggles to understand her youthful affair with a corrupt politician. The fastidious preservationist in “The Aerialist” makes an emergency appointment to see the dentist who gave him advice on love years before. When two prickly private school colleagues in “This Is Your Last Swim,” find they are the only people left on campus in the days before the world’s end, they urgently and uncharacteristically come clean with their old secrets and shames. Masterfully written and emotionally packed, these stories seduce and startle, and remind us of the shifting ways we choose to narrate our own lives.
Harper Perennial; January 8, 2013
Mira and Owen’s marriage is less stable than they know when Wilton Deere, an aging, no longer famous TV star, moves in to the grand house next door. With plenty of money and plenty of time to kill, Wilton is charming but ruthless as he inserts himself into the couple’s life in a quest for distraction, friendship—and most urgently—a connection with the daughter he abandoned years earlier. Facing stresses at home and work, Mira begins to accompany Wilton to a casino and is drawn to the slot machines. Escapism soon turns to full-on addiction and a growing tangle of lies and shame that threatens her fraying marriage and home. Betrayed and confused, Owen turns to the elusive Anya, Wilton’s daughter, who is testing her own ability to trust her father after many years apart.
THE TELL is a finely wrought novel about risk: of dependence, of responsibility, of addiction, of trust, of violence. Told with equal parts suspense, sympathy, and psychological complexity, it shows us the intimate and shifting ways in which we reveal ourselves before we act, and what we assume but don’t know about the ones we love.
Little Brown & Co; February 2001
“Who better than a mother to do it? It’s just reversing the natural order a bit.” That’s how Dale explains to her mother that she wants her to bear the child Dale herself cannot have. When Maggie, forty-seven and divorced, agrees, and through gestational surrogacy is soon carrying Dale’s baby, the lives of both women quickly change in unexpected ways. This powerfully involving novel, which marks the debut of a fresh and singular voice in American fiction, succeeds brilliantly in capturing a world rife with emotional hazard—the lives of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.
The Edge of Marriage
University of Georgia Press; September 1, 1999
In nine stories of choice, discovery, and change, the characters in this extraordinary debut collection ride the wavering line between commitment and promise. In language that is eloquent and moving, Kaplan’s stories speak to the mystery and pleasure of friendship, love, and marriage. This startling and powerful collection is illuminated by keen insight and hope.
Curse of the Evil Librarian
(Book 3 of the Evil Librarian trilogy)
Candlewick Press; August 13, 2019
Contains Spoilers for Books 1 and 2: Cynthia Rothschild’s world is finally just as it should be. The evil librarian Mr. Gabriel has been locked up safe in the demon world ever since their showdown over the summer at theater camp. All her friends are still alive and no one’s been attacked or possessed by demons for months now. Plus, this year’s fall musical is going to be Les Misérables, which means Cyn gets to create the most incredible barricade set design in all of high school theater history and her boyfriend, Ryan, is sure to land his dream role of Javert. They’re clearly going to have an amazing senior year. So why can’t Cyn relax and trust that things are really okay?
Maybe it’s because meanwhile, down in the demon world, an epic mishandling of Mr. Gabriel’s essence leads to his escape. The newly free evil librarian places a curse on Ryan, forcing Cyn to return to the demon world to make a deal for a Ryan’s life. But what she has to do to save him will make Mr. Gabriel more powerful than he’s ever been before.
Will Cyn and her friends ever be able to bring d1own the final curtain on Mr. Gabriel once and for all?
Revenge of the Evil Librarian
(Book 2 of the Evil Librarian trilogy)
Candlewick Press; February 14, 2017
Contains spoilers for Book 1: Last fall, Cynthia Rothschild saved her best friend, Annie, from the demon librarian, Mr. Gabriel. But now all that demon stuff is over, and Cyn is ready to have the best summer ever—at theater camp (!) with her former crush and now boyfriend (!!), Ryan Halsey. Once she gets to camp, though, Cyn finds some very unpleasant surprises . . . including that the demon stuff is not as entirely over as she had hoped. At least any new demons that show up to ruin her summer can’t possibly be as evil as Mr. Gabriel, who is, thankfully, very dead now. It’s not like he could come back to life to seek his terrible revenge or something. RIGHT?
The Mage of Trelian
(Book 3 of Trelian)
Candlewick Press; April 2016
Apprentice mage Calen shocked everyone when he disappeared—apparently willingly—with Krelig, the incredibly powerful and evil mage intent on destroying the Magistatum and forcing the world to submit to his rule. Krelig believes Calen’s untapped magical power will be the key to his victory, and is training him to unlock his full potential. Calen is desperate to escape, but knows he must first learn as much as he can if there is to be any hope of defeating Krelig.
Meanwhile, Trelian is at war, and Princess Meg has been training with her dragon to fight the enemy forces. She refuses to accept that her best friend, Calen, could really be a traitor, but she might be the only one. As the mages prepare for their own deadly battle, Calen must find a way to get back to Trelian to stop Krelig before it’s too late—if those he left behind will forgive and trust him enough to let him come home at all.
Dragon fire, dark magic, and the bonds of friendship clash in a thrilling finale to the middle-grade fantasy trilogy by best-selling author Michelle Knudsen.
Candlewick Press; March 10, 2015
Some of the kids in Marilyn’s class have monsters. Marilyn doesn’t have hers yet, but she can’t just go out and look for one. Your monster has to find you. That’s just the way it works. Marilyn tries to be patient and the kind of girl no monster can resist, but her monster doesn’t come. Could she go out and search for him herself? Even if that’s not the way it works? From favorite picture book creators Michelle Knudsen and Matt Phelan comes a story about one little girl and the perfect monster she knows is out there . . . and what happens when she decides she’s waited long enough.
(Book 1 of the Evil Librarian trilogy)
Candlewick Press, September 2014
When Cynthia Rothschild’s best friend, Annie, falls head over heels for the new high school librarian, Cyn can totally understand why—he’s really young and ridiculously hot and apparently thinks Annie would make an excellent library monitor.
But almost immediately, Cyn starts to sense that something about Mr. Gabriel isn’t quite right. Maybe it’s the creepy look in the librarian’s (literally) mesmerizing eyes, or the weird feeling Cyn gets whenever she’s around him, or the blood and horns and giant bat-like wings that appear when he thinks no one is looking. Before long, Cyn realizes that Mr. Gabriel is, in fact . . . a demon.
Now, in addition to saving her beloved school musical (Sweeney Todd!) from technical disaster and avoiding making a complete fool out of herself with her own hopeless crush (who happens to be the only other person who knows the truth about Mr. Gabriel), Cyn has to save her best friend from the attractive-yet-very-very-bad clutches of the evil librarian, who has not only bewitched Annie but seems to be slowly sucking the life force out of the entire student body!
Big Mean Mike
Candlewick Press, August 14, 2012
Big Mean Mike is the biggest, toughest dog in the whole neighborhood. He’s even got a big, mean car that he drives around the big, mean streets. Everyone knows how big and tough he is — which is just the way Mike likes it.
Then one day a tiny, fuzzy bunny shows up in his car. Mike puts it on the sidewalk and drives away before anyone can see. But the bunny keeps coming back — with friends! — no matter how many times Mike tells them to scram. Big, mean dogs do not hang around with tiny, fuzzy bunnies! But gosh, those bunnies sure are cute . . . .
The Princess of Trelian
(Book 2 of Trelian)
Candlewick Press, April 2012
The hundred-year war with Kragnir is over, and Meg will soon be named the princess-heir of Trelian. But her connection to her dragon, Jakl, is making her parents’ subjects uneasy. Will they ever accept this dragon princess as their future queen? It doesn’t help that Meg is suffering horrible nightmares and sudden, uncontrollable rages-and with the link joining them, Jakl is feeling the rages, too. Meg is desperate to talk to Calen, to see if he can help her figure out what is happening and how to stop it before she or her dragon does something terrible.
Meanwhile, Calen is having troubles of his own. He’s far away, gone off with Mage Serek to receive his first true mage’s mark. But his marking ceremony is disrupted by a mysterious magical attack, and ominous prophecies predict a terrifying new danger. The Magistratum’s greatest enemy may soon reappear-and the other mages believe that Calen himself may have a hand in his return!
Candlewick Press, February 22, 2011
Mrs. Henshaw’s class is hatching eggs for a science project. Sally’s egg looks . . . different.
The Dragon of Trelian
(Book 1 of Trelian)
Candlewick Press; April 2009
Calen is a mage’s apprentice with a problem: he’s not especially skilled at magic. Meg is a princess with a secret: she found an orphaned dragon in the forest. They never expected to become friends. But when Meg begins to feel the dragon in her mind, calling to her, Calen is the only one she can turn to for help. And now, just as Meg’s sister is preparing to marry an enemy prince to end a hundred-year war, Meg and Calen
discover a deadly plot against the royal family. Will Calen’s magic, Meg’s dragon, and their unlikely friendship be enough to save the kingdom of Trelian?
Candlewick Press, July 2006
Miss Merriweather, the head librarian, is very particular about rules in the library. No running allowed. And you must be quiet. But when a lion comes to the library one day, no one is sure what to do. There aren’t any rules about lions in the library. And, as it turns out, this lion seems very well suited to library visiting. His big feet are quiet on the library floor. He makes a comfy backrest for the children at story hour. And he never roars in the library, at least not anymore. But when something terrible happens, the lion quickly comes to the rescue in the only way he knows how.
Fish and Frog
Candlewick Press, April 2005
Based on what experts know about how children learn to read, Brand New Readers—published by Candlewick Press—are short, funny stories with words and pictures that help children reading for the first time succeed—and have fun! Visit the Brand New Readers website to learn more.
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 Paternity Test
University of Wisconsin Press; June 7, 2018
Pat Faunce yearns for more than his carefree New York life and his open relationship with Stu, an airline pilot. Above all, he wants to be a father. He persuades a reluctant Stu to move to Cape Cod, where they enlist Debora, a charismatic Brazilian immigrant, as a surrogate mother. But the men’s attempt to have a child creates new emotional complications–with Stu’s parents and sister, with Debora and her husband, and with each other. Building to a harrowing conclusion, this fearless, darkly funny novel asks whether making a new family is worth risking the one you have.
(Available in True Story, Issue #17)
Creative Nonfiction; June 1, 2018
In the wake of a sex-abuse scandal at an all-boys’ summer camp, an openly gay alum returns as a “guest-star counselor.” But then, he finds himself not only a role model but also the object of an adolescent camper’s crush.
Face the Music
Ploughshares Solos; August 16, 2016
In 1990, the avant-garde jazz musician Sun Ra arrived at Dartmouth to collaborate with the school’s jazz band, where Michael Lowenthal–an anxious, 20-year-old senior–played trumpet. As rehearsals got underway and two musical worlds collided, Lowenthal struggled with the improvisation that Sun Ra’s sparse, yet spiritual, melodies demanded. In this essay, Lowenthal recounts his “otherworldly” experience with the famous jazz star who claimed to be from Saturn.
Mariner Books; January 8, 2008
During World War I, seventeen-year-old Frieda Mintz secures a job at a Boston department store and strikes out on her own, escaping her repressive Jewish mother and marriage to a wealthy widower twice her age. Determined to find love on her own terms, she is intoxicated by her newfound freedom and the patriotic fervor of the day. That is, until a soldier reports her as his last sexual contact, sweeping her up in the government’s wartime crusade against venereal disease. Quarantined in a detention center, Frieda finds in the Home’s confines a group of brash, unforgettable women who help her see the way to a new kind of independence. Charity Girl is based on a little-known chapter in American history that saw fifteen thousand women across the nation incarcerated. Like When the Emperor Was Divine, Lowenthal’s poignant, provocative novel will leave readers moved – and astonished by the shameful facts that inspired it.
St. Martins Press-3PL; November 1, 2002
Jeremy struggles to write his dissertation on the Amish and the laws of expulsion. How does someone, excluded entirely from the only community they have ever known, live the rest of their life? After extensive interviews with Beulah–a young woman banished–Jeremy is no closer to understanding her choice than he is to his own peculiar exile.
Camp Ironwood, set in the Vermont woods, is more than a summer distraction for restless adolescent boys–it is a place to belong. And not unlike the Amish community, it is a place where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. For Jeremy, first as a camper and later as the co-director, the usual camp activities become their own kind of ritual that binds the community. But when he is blindsided by the seductive charm of Max, a fourteen-year-old boy from Manhattan, all arms and legs and attitude, Jeremy must confront his desires, and worse yet, uncover the dark secrets of his beloved Camp Ironwood.
In the powerful and daring novel Avoidance, Lowenthal elegantly draws unexpected parallels between the Amish and Camp Ironwood. By doing so, he ingeniously explores an age-old dilemma: individual desires versus the good of a community.
The Same Embrace
Dutton Adult; September 1, 1998
The Same Embrace tells the powerful story of two young men struggling against a heritage of intolerance and silence. Twins Jacob and Jonathan were inseparable while growing up in their second-generation-American Jewish family. As adults, though, they are almost hopelessly estranged–Jacob is a gay activist in Boston, while Jonathan lives the strict, disciplined life of an Orthodox student at a yeshiva in Jerusalem. In the shadow of a tragedy, Jacob travels to Israel in the hopes of finding common ground with his brother. But his twin’s new assurance and faith force Jacob to reexamine his own sexual and religious identities, as well as his place in his complex and haunted family history. An ultimate confrontation between the brothers lays bare the shattering secrets of a legacy that began during the Holocaust. Alternating between the present and Jacob’s childhood memories, The Same Embrace moves gracefully from anger and alienation toward forgiveness and acceptance. A striking debut, this novel depicts a quintessentially American search for belonging.
The Long Field
Little Toller Books; September 2021
The Long Field burrows deep into the Welsh countryside to tell how this small country became a big part of an American writer’s life. Petro twines her story around that of Wales by viewing both through the lens of hiraeth, a Welsh word that’s famously hard to translate, literally meaning ‘long field’, but is also the name for the bone-deep longing for something or someone – a home, culture, language, or a younger self. The Long Field braids memoir with the essential hiraeth stories of Wales, and in doing so creates a radical new vision of place and belonging.
Sitting Up with the Dead
Arcade Publishing; February 14, 2017
The story of the South is not finished. The southeastern states of America, the old Confederacy, bristle with storytellers who refuse to be silent. Many of the tales passed down from generation to generation to be told and re-told continue to change their shape to suit their time, stretching elastically to find new ways of retailing the People’s Truth. Travelling back and forth, from the Carolinas to Louisiana, from the Appalachians to Atlantic islands, from Virginian valleys to Florida swamps, and sitting before bewitching storytellers who tell her tales that hold her hard, Pamela Petro gathers up a fistful of history, and sieves out of it the shiny truths that these stories have been polishing over the years. Here is another America altogether, lingering on behind the façade of the ubiquitous strip-mall of anodyne, branded commerce and communication, moving to other rhythms, reaching back into the past to clutch at the shattering events that shaped it and haunt it still.
Travels in an Old Tongue
Flamingo; October 16, 2009
The idiosyncratic and witty travelogue of a young Welsh-speaking woman who travels the globe in search of Welsh communities. The acclaimed debut of a remarkably witty and engaging travel writer (Bill Bryson meets Jan Morris). At once a fascinating travelogue and an innovative book about the consequences of language.
The Slow Breath of Stone
HarperCollins UK; October 1, 2006
In the years following the devastations of the first world war, a brilliant, young American couple, Kingsley and Lucy Porter, travelled to south-west France to document the abbeys and basilicas of the Romanesque period. Their extraordinary photographs revealed some of the most feverishly inventive stonescapes in Europe, stories chiselled from the Bible and nightmares: rams playing harps and devils eating men’s brains; a female centaur pulling a mermaid’s hair; women suckling snakes at their breasts. For the Porters, these were images of an imagined world that unlocked secrets of the eleventh century but, menacingly, cast a dark shadow over their marriage. In The Slow Breath of Stone, Pamela Petro rents a car and, using the Porter’s photographs and Lucy’s journal as her map, retraces their journey through the wild landscapes of the Rouergue. She visits the beautiful and disturbing sculptures of monsters and animals devouring prey that adorn the cathedrals of Cahors and Carcassonne, and she explores a limestone quarry from where these great slabs of stone were hewn a thousand years ago. She walks the routes of pilgrimages, testaments to the tenacity of human hope, meeting people along the way and savouring the local food and wine. Above all, she journeys deep into the strange relationship of the sexually incompatible Lucy and Kingsley, following them to Donegal where their marriage was to end tragically and mysteriously on the cliffs of Inishbofin.
How He Loved Them
Four Way Books; March 6, 2018
Kevin Prufer’s How He Loved Them, winner of the 2018 Julie Suk Award, sets love in a fraught, paradoxical world where bombs explode, fields burn, and armies advance. With clear, compassionate eyes, Prufer finds powerful intimacy between fathers and sons, soldiers and civilians, the living and the (sometimes un)dead.
Four Way Books; March 4, 2014
A gothic extravaganza featuring alligators, avalanches and medical devices left inside bodies, delivered largely in long, musical free verse lines. Poetry at full boil, poured with deliberate abandon. —David Orr, The New York Times
In a Beautiful Country
Four Way Books; March 8, 2011
In a Beautiful Country, Kevin Prufer’s fifth collection, examines America’s suburbs and exurbs where “The thrown newspaper fails / to reach the steps.” Taking place beside hospital beds and amid outlet malls, within earshot of military bases and in light of horror movies, these poems mourn the loss of parents, friends, and our sense of our nation. A follow-up to the critically acclaimed National Anthem (Publishers’ Weekly 5 Best Poetry Books of 2008, Poets’ Prize Finalist), In a Beautiful Country takes us into the new century carrying our gasmasks and our pulsebombs.
Four Way Books; April 30, 2008
The poems in National Anthem, the fourth collection of poetry from critically-acclaimed poet and critic Kevin Prufer, are finely-studied short films about America in the 21st century. Set in an apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic world that is disturbing because it is uncannily familiar, National Anthem chronicles the aftermath of the failure of imperial vision. Allowing Rome and America to bleed into one another, Prufer masterfully weaves the threads of history into an anthem that is as intimate as it is far-reaching.
Fallen From A Chariot
Carnegie Mellon University Press; March 31, 2005
Editors’ Choice: Best Books of the Last 25 Years, The Bloomsbury Review
Finalist, Balcones Prize, 2006
William Rockhill Nelson Award, 2006
The Finger Bone
Carnegie Mellon University Press; March 12, 2013
Finalist for the James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets.
Winner of the William Rockhill Nelson Award.
The Finger Bone is a challenging and provocative book by an exciting young writer who speaks from — and to — the uncertainties of the contemporary world…. These poems need to be writ large on the American psyche. —The Georgia Review
LSU Press; March 1, 1998
Strange Wood contains verse remarkable for its fearless insight. The first poems in this lush, lyrical collection are populated with infants and adolescents, while the middle section gives way to bewildered, misguided adults, who are futilely attempting to understand and conquer the myriad difficulties of modern life. The last poems are concerned with deaths — in the family, in history, and in the abstract. In this astounding debut, Prufer reminds us of the fragility of life in a world where “everything’s / the chance for flying / failing somehow,” and loss is the hardest truth of all—“the body blooms, unfolding / then is gone.”
Ain’t Burned All the Bright
Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books; January 11, 2022
Prepare yourself for something unlike anything: A smash-up of art and text for teens that viscerally captures what it is to be Black. In America. Right Now. Written by #1 New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Jason Reynolds.
Jason Reynolds and his best bud, Jason Griffin had a mind-meld. And they decided to tackle it, in one fell swoop, in about ten sentences, and 300 pages of art, this piece, this contemplation-manifesto-fierce-vulnerable-gorgeous-terrifying-WhatIsWrongWithHumans-hope-filled-hopeful-searing-Eye-Poppingly-Illustrated-tender-heartbreaking-how-The-HECK-did-They-Come-UP-with-This project about oxygen. And all of the symbolism attached to that word, especially NOW.
And so for anyone who didn’t really know what it means to not be able to breathe, REALLY breathe, for generations, now you know. And those who already do, you’ll be nodding yep yep, that is exactly how it is.
Stuntboy, in the Meantime
Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books; November 30, 2021
From Newbery Medal honoree and #1 New York Times bestselling author Jason Reynolds comes a hilarious, hopeful, and action-packed middle grade novel about the greatest young superhero you’ve never heard of, filled with illustrations by Raúl the Third!
Portico Reeves’s superpower is making sure all the other superheroes—like his parents and two best friends—stay super. And safe. Super safe. And he does this all in secret. No one in his civilian life knows he’s actually…Stuntboy!
But his regular Portico identity is pretty cool, too. He lives in the biggest house on the block, maybe in the whole city, which basically makes it a castle. His mom calls where they live an apartment building. But a building with fifty doors just in the hallways is definitely a castle. And behind those fifty doors live a bunch of different people who Stuntboy saves all the time. In fact, he’s the only reason the cat, New Name Every Day, has nine lives.
All this is swell except for Portico’s other secret, his not-so-super secret. His parents are fighting all the time. They’re trying to hide it by repeatedly telling Portico to go check on a neighbor “in the meantime.” But Portico knows “meantime” means his parents are heading into the Mean Time which means they’re about to get into it, and well, Portico’s superhero responsibility is to save them, too—as soon as he figures out how.
Only, all these secrets give Portico the worry wiggles, the frets, which his mom calls anxiety. Plus, like all superheroes, Portico has an arch-nemesis who is determined to prove that there is nothing super about Portico at all.
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
Little Brown, Books for Young Readers; March 10, 2020
This is NOT a history book.
This is a book about the here and now.
A book to help us better understand why we are where we are.
A book about race.
The construct of race has always been used to gain and keep power, to create dynamics that separate and silence. This remarkable reimagining of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning reveals the history of racist ideas in America, and inspires hope for an antiracist future. It takes you on a race journey from then to now, shows you why we feel how we feel, and why the poison of racism lingers. It also proves that while racist ideas have always been easy to fabricate and distribute, they can also be discredited.
Through a gripping, fast-paced, and energizing narrative written by beloved award-winner Jason Reynolds, this book shines a light on the many insidious forms of racist ideas–and on ways readers can identify and stamp out racist thoughts in their daily lives.
Look Both Ways
Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books; October 8, 2019
This story was going to begin like all the best stories. With a school bus falling from the sky. But no one saw it happen. They were all too busy—
Talking about boogers.
Stealing pocket change.
Executing complicated handshakes.
Planning an escape.
But mostly, too busy walking home.
Jason Reynolds conjures ten tales (one per block) about what happens after the dismissal bell rings, and brilliantly weaves them into one wickedly funny, piercingly poignant look at the detours we face on the walk home, and in life.
(Book 4 of Track)
Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books; October 8, 2019
Lu must learn to leave his ego on the sidelines if he wants to finally connect with others in the climax to the New York Times bestselling and award-winning Track series from Jason Reynolds.
Lu was born to be cocaptain of the Defenders. Well, actually, he was born albino, but that’s got nothing to do with being a track star. Lu has swagger, plus the talent to back it up, and with all that—not to mention the gold chains and diamond earrings—no one’s gonna outshine him.
Lu knows he can lead Ghost, Patina, Sunny, and the team to victory at the championships, but it might not be as easy as it seems. Suddenly, there are hurdles in Lu’s way—literally and not-so-literally—and Lu needs to figure out, fast, what winning the gold really means.
Expect the unexpected in this final event in Jason Reynold’s award-winning and bestselling Track series.
For Every One
Atheneum Books for Young Readers; April 2, 2019
For Every One is exactly that: for every one. For every one person. For every one who has a dream. But especially for every kid. The kids who dream of being better than they are. Kids who dream of doing more than they almost dare to imagine. Kids who are like Jason Reynolds, a self-professed dreamer. Jason does not claim to know how to make dreams come true; he has, in fact, been fighting on the front line of his own battle to make his own dreams a reality. He expected to make it when he was sixteen. Then eighteen. Then twenty-five. Now, some of those expectations have been realized. But others, the most important ones, lay ahead, and a lot of them involve kids, how to inspire them: All the kids who are scared to dream, or don’t know how to dream, or don’t dare to dream because they’ve NEVER seen a dream come true. Jason wants kids to know that dreams take time. They involve countless struggles. But no matter how many times a dreamer gets beat down, the drive and the passion and the hope never fully extinguishes—because simply having the dream is the start you need, or you won’t get anywhere anyway, and that is when you have to take a leap of faith.
A pitch-perfect graduation, baby, or inspirational gift for anyone who needs to me reminded of their own abilities—to dream.
Long Way Down
Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books; April 2, 2019
A cannon. A strap.
A piece. A biscuit.
A burner. A heater.
A chopper. A gat.
Or, you can call it a gun. That’s what fifteen-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That’s where Will’s now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother’s gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he’s after. Or does he?
As the elevator stops on the sixth floor, on comes Buck. Buck, Will finds out, is who gave Shawn the gun before Will took the gun. Buck tells Will to check that the gun is even loaded. And that’s when Will sees that one bullet is missing. And the only one who could have fired Shawn’s gun was Shawn. Huh. Will didn’t know that Shawn had ever actually USED his gun. Bigger huh. BUCK IS DEAD. But Buck’s in the elevator?
Just as Will’s trying to think this through, the door to the next floor opens. A teenage girl gets on, waves away the smoke from Dead Buck’s cigarette. Will doesn’t know her, but she knew him. Knew. When they were eight. And stray bullets had cut through the playground, and Will had tried to cover her, but she was hit anyway, and so what she wants to know, on that fifth floor elevator stop, is, what if Will, Will with the gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, MISSES.
And so it goes, the whole long way down, as the elevator stops on each floor, and at each stop someone connected to his brother gets on to give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows. A story that might never know an END…if Will gets off that elevator.
(Book 3 of Track)
Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books; March 26, 2019
Sunny tries to shine despite his troubled past in this third novel in the critically acclaimed Track series from National Book Award finalist Jason Reynolds.
Ghost. Patina. Sunny. Lu. Four kids from wildly different backgrounds, with personalities that are explosive when they clash. But they are also four kids chosen for an elite middle school track team—a team that could take them to the state championships. They all have a lot to lose, but they all have a lot to prove, not only to each other, but to themselves. Sunny is the main character in this novel, the third of four books in Jason Reynold’s electrifying middle grade series.
Sunny is just that—sunny. Always ready with a goofy smile and something nice to say, Sunny is the chillest dude on the Defenders team. But his life hasn’t always been sun beamy-bright. You see, Sunny is a murderer. Or at least he thinks of himself that way. His mother died giving birth to him, and based on how Sunny’s dad treats him—ignoring him, making Sunny call him Darryl, never “Dad”—it’s no wonder Sunny thinks he’s to blame. It seems the only thing Sunny can do right in his dad’s eyes is win first place ribbons running the mile, just like his mom did. But Sunny doesn’t like running, never has. So he stops. Right in the middle of a race.
With his relationship with his dad now worse than ever, the last thing Sunny wants to do is leave the other newbies—his only friends—behind. But you can’t be on a track team and not run. So Coach asks Sunny what he wants to do. Sunny’s answer? Dance. Yes, dance. But you also can’t be on a track team and dance. Then, in a stroke of genius only Jason Reynolds can conceive, Sunny discovers a track event that encompasses the hard beats of hip-hop, the precision of ballet, and the showmanship of dance as a whole: the discus throw. But as he practices for this new event, can he let go of everything that’s been eating him up inside?
(Book 2 of Track)
Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books; October 23, 2018
A newbie to the track team, Patina must learn to rely on her teammates as she tries to outrun her personal demons in this follow-up to the National Book Award finalist Ghost by New York Times bestselling author Jason Reynolds.
Ghost. Lu. Patina. Sunny. Four kids from wildly different backgrounds with personalities that are explosive when they clash. But they are also four kids chosen for an elite middle school track team—a team that could qualify them for the Junior Olympics if they can get their acts together. They all have a lot to lose, but they also have a lot to prove, not only to each other, but to themselves.
Patina, or Patty, runs like a flash. She runs for many reasons—to escape the taunts from the kids at the fancy-schmancy new school she’s been sent to ever since she and her little sister had to stop living with their mom. She runs from the reason WHY she’s not able to live with her “real” mom any more: her mom has The Sugar, and Patty is terrified that the disease that took her mom’s legs will one day take her away forever. And so Patty’s also running for her mom, who can’t. But can you ever really run away from any of this? As the stress builds, it’s building up a pretty bad attitude as well. Coach won’t tolerate bad attitude. No day, no way. And now he wants Patty to run relay…where you have to depend on other people? How’s she going to do THAT?
(Book 1 of Track)
Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books; August 29, 2017
Ghost wants to be the fastest sprinter on his elite middle school track team, but his past is slowing him down in this first electrifying novel of a brand-new series from Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award–winning author Jason Reynolds.
Ghost. Lu. Patina. Sunny. Four kids from wildly different backgrounds with personalities that are explosive when they clash. But they are also four kids chosen for an elite middle school track team—a team that could qualify them for the Junior Olympics if they can get their acts together. They all have a lot to lose, but they also have a lot to prove, not only to each other, but to themselves.
Running. That’s all Ghost (real name Castle Cranshaw) has ever known. But Ghost has been running for the wrong reasons—it all started with running away from his father, who, when Ghost was a very little boy, chased him and his mother through their apartment, then down the street, with a loaded gun, aiming to kill. Since then, Ghost has been the one causing problems—and running away from them—until he meets Coach, an ex-Olympic Medalist who sees something in Ghost: crazy natural talent. If Ghost can stay on track, literally and figuratively, he could be the best sprinter in the city. Can Ghost harness his raw talent for speed, or will his past finally catch up to him?
All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books; August 29, 2017
In this New York Times bestselling novel, two teens—one black, one white—grapple with the repercussions of a single violent act that leaves their school, their community, and, ultimately, the country bitterly divided by racial tension.
A bag of chips. That’s all sixteen-year-old Rashad is looking for at the corner bodega. What he finds instead is a fist-happy cop, Paul Galluzzo, who mistakes Rashad for a shoplifter, mistakes Rashad’s pleadings that he’s stolen nothing for belligerence, mistakes Rashad’s resistance to leave the bodega as resisting arrest, mistakes Rashad’s every flinch at every punch the cop throws as further resistance and refusal to STAY STILL as ordered. But how can you stay still when someone is pounding your face into the concrete pavement?
There were witnesses: Quinn Collins—a varsity basketball player and Rashad’s classmate who has been raised by Paul since his own father died in Afghanistan—and a video camera. Soon the beating is all over the news and Paul is getting threatened with accusations of prejudice and racial brutality. Quinn refuses to believe that the man who has basically been his savior could possibly be guilty. But then Rashad is absent. And absent again. And again. And the basketball team—half of whom are Rashad’s best friends—start to take sides. As does the school. And the town. Simmering tensions threaten to explode as Rashad and Quinn are forced to face decisions and consequences they had never considered before.
Written in tandem by two award-winning authors, this four-starred reviewed tour de force shares the alternating perspectives of Rashad and Quinn as the complications from that single violent moment, the type taken directly from today’s headlines, unfold and reverberate to highlight an unwelcome truth.
Miles Morales: Spider Man
Marvel Press/Disney Publishing; August 2017
Miles Morales is just your average teenager. Dinner every Sunday with his parents, chilling out playing old-school video games with his best friend, Ganke, crushing on brainy, beautiful poet Alicia. He’s even got a scholarship spot at the prestigious Brooklyn Visions Academy. Oh yeah, and he’s Spider Man.
But lately, Miles’s spidey-sense has been on the fritz. When a misunderstanding leads to his suspension from school, Miles begins to question his abilities. After all, his dad and uncle were Brooklyn jack-boys with criminal records. Maybe kids like Miles aren’t meant to be superheroes. Maybe Miles should take his dad’s advice and focus on saving himself.
As Miles tries to get his school life back on track, he can’t shake the vivid nightmares that continue to haunt him. Nor can he avoid the relentless buzz of his spidey-sense every day in history class, amidst his teacher’s lectures on the historical “benefits” of slavery and the importance of the modern-day prison system. But after his scholarship is threatened, Miles uncovers a chilling plot, one that puts his friends, his neighborhood, and himself at risk.
It’s time for Miles to suit up.
As Brave As You
Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books; May 9, 2017
When two brothers decide to prove how brave they are, everything backfires—literally—in this “pitch-perfect contemporary novel” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) by the winner of the Coretta Scott King – John Steptoe Award.
Genie’s summer is full of surprises. The first is that he and his big brother, Ernie, are leaving Brooklyn for the very first time to spend the summer with their grandparents all the way in Virginia—in the COUNTRY! The second surprise comes when Genie figures out that their grandfather is blind. Thunderstruck, Genie peppers Grandpop with questions about how he hides it so well (besides wearing way cool Ray-Bans).
How does he match his clothes? Know where to walk? Cook with a gas stove? Pour a glass of sweet tea without spilling it? Genie thinks Grandpop must be the bravest guy he’s ever known, but he starts to notice that his grandfather never leaves the house—as in NEVER. And when he finds the secret room that Grandpop is always disappearing into—a room so full of songbirds and plants that it’s almost as if it’s been pulled inside-out—he begins to wonder if his grandfather is really so brave after all.
Then Ernie lets him down in the bravery department. It’s his fourteenth birthday, and, Grandpop says to become a man, you have to learn how to shoot a gun. Genie thinks that is AWESOME until he realizes Ernie has no interest in learning how to shoot. None. Nada. Dumbfounded by Ernie’s reluctance, Genie is left to wonder—is bravery and becoming a man only about proving something, or is it just as important to own up to what you won’t do?
The Boy in the Black Suit
Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books; August 16, 2016
Just when seventeen-year-old Matt thinks he can’t handle one more piece of terrible news, he meets a girl who’s dealt with a lot more—and who just might be able to clue him in on how to rise up when life keeps knocking him down—in this “vivid, satisfying, and ultimately upbeat tale of grief, redemption, and grace” (Kirkus Reviews) from the Coretta Scott King – John Steptoe Award–winning author of When I Was the Greatest.
Matt wears a black suit every day. No, not because his mom died—although she did, and it sucks. But he wears the suit for his gig at the local funeral home, which pays way better than the Cluck Bucket, and he needs the income since his dad can’t handle the bills (or anything, really) on his own. So while Dad’s snagging bottles of whiskey, Matt’s snagging fifteen bucks an hour. Not bad. But everything else? Not good. Then Matt meets Lovey. Crazy name, and she’s been through more crazy stuff than he can imagine. Yet Lovey never cries. She’s tough. Really tough. Tough in the way Matt wishes he could be. Which is maybe why he’s drawn to her, and definitely why he can’t seem to shake her. Because there’s nothing more hopeful than finding a person who understands your loneliness—and who can maybe even help take it away.
When I Was the Greatest
Atheneum Books for Young Readers; August 18, 2015
In Bed Stuy, New York, a small misunderstanding can escalate into having a price on your head—even if you’re totally clean. This gritty, triumphant debut that Publishers Weekly calls “a funny and rewarding read” captures the heart and the hardship of life for an urban teen.
A lot of the stuff that gives my neighborhood a bad name, I don’t really mess with. The guns and drugs and all that, not really my thing.
Nah, not his thing. Ali’s got enough going on, between school and boxing and helping out at home. His best friend Noodles, though. Now there’s a dude looking for trouble—and, somehow, it’s always Ali around to pick up the pieces. But, hey, a guy’s gotta look out for his boys, right? Besides, it’s all small potatoes; it’s not like anyone’s getting hurt.
And then there’s Needles. Needles is Noodles’s brother. He’s got a syndrome, and gets these ticks and blurts out the wildest, craziest things. It’s cool, though: everyone on their street knows he doesn’t mean anything by it.
Yeah, it’s cool…until Ali and Noodles and Needles find themselves somewhere they never expected to be…somewhere they never should’ve been—where the people aren’t so friendly, and even less forgiving.
My Name Is Jason. Mine Too.: Our Story. Our Way.
by Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin
HarperTeen; April 21, 2009
Miss Chloe: A Memoir of a Literary Friendship with Toni Morrison
Amistad; May 10, 2022
Toni Morrison, born Chloe A Wofford, was a towering figure in the world of literature when she entered A.J. Verdelle’s life. Their literary friendship was a young writer’s dream—simultaneously exhilarating, intimidating, fulfilling, and challenging. The relationship crossed generations, spanned several cycles in life, exhibited high and low notes, reached and dipped and found its way. Like many women friends, these two writers imagined and built a relationship that was responsive, inventive, and engaged.
Miss Chloe powerfully situates the risks writers face and the freedom they find when they put Black women’s lives into words. Verdelle chronicles her grief at Morrison’s passing, and finds comfort in Morrison’s astute advice—wisdom Verdelle didn’t always recognize at the time. In this pensive and intricately lyrical book, Verdelle honors Morrison among the cultural greats, while illuminating and celebrating the power of language, legacy, and genius.
The Good Negress
Workman Publishing; January 3, 1995
Twenty years after its initial publication, The Good Negress continues to be an important part of the literary canon, as relevant and necessary as ever. Set in 1960s Detroit, the novel centers around Denise Palms, who leaves her grandmother’s home in rural Virginia to reunite with her mother, stepfather, and older brothers. As a black teenage girl, Denise is given scarce opportunity beyond cooking, cleaning, and raising her mother’s baby. But an idealistic, demanding teacher opens Denise’s eyes to a future she has never considered, and soon she begins to question the limits of the life prescribed to her.
With lyrical, evocative prose, A. J. Verdelle captures Denise’s journey from adolescence to womanhood as she navigates the tension between loyalty and independence, and between circumstance and desire. The Good Negress is an unforgettable debut—simultaneously the portrait of a family and a glimpse into an era of twentieth-century America.
Winner of the Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters
Finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction
This Creative Life: A Handbook for Writers
J Street Productions; April 5, 2022
There are a lot of books about writing out there. If you’re like most writers, you’ve read them all.
But learning how to write (and organize and outline and plot and edit and save the cat and market a breakout book) is one thing. Making and living a sustainable creative life in the face of…everything…is an entirely different matter. To know how to do that, we need to take a look at what goes on between the lines of our lives as writers so that we can live them with maybe a little more thought and intention–no matter the many interior and exterior obstacles that can threaten to derail our purpose.
Sara Zarr brings her fifteen-year publishing career and experience as a speaker, teacher, mentor, and podcast host to this collection of hard-won insights about what it means not to just write (and perchance to publish), but to be a writer.
A Song Called Home
Balzer & Bray/Harperteen; March 1, 2022
From award-winning author Sara Zarr comes a story of the small moments that show us who we are, and how family is not just something you’re part of, but something you make.
Lou and her family don’t have much, but for Lou it’s enough. Mom. Her sister, Casey. Their apartment in the city. Her best friend, Beth. It would be better if Dad could stop drinking and be there for her and Casey, and if they didn’t have to worry about money all the time. But Lou doesn’t need better–she only needs enough.
What’s enough for Lou, however, is not enough for Mom. Steve, Mom’s boyfriend, isn’t a bad guy, he’s just…not what Lou is used to. And now, he and Mom are getting married, and that means moving. Packing up life as they’ve known it and storing it in Steve’s garage. Lou will be separated from everything in her small but predictable life, farther from Dad than ever.
Their last night in the city, Lou receives a mysterious birthday gift: A guitar, left for her by their front door. There’s nothing saying who left it, but it must be from Dad. And as she leaves the only place she’s ever known, she starts to believe that if she can learn how to play it, maybe she can bring a piece of him, and of her old life, home.
Courageous Creativity: Advice and Encouragement for the Creative Life
Beaming Books; September 29, 2020
BEING CREATIVE TAKES COURAGE.
It can be scary to create something. Before you can even work on your craft, you have to face down the fear of messing up or looking silly, the perfectionism that keeps you from even starting, and the negative voices inside your head that say you don’t have anything valuable to offer.
Well, you do have something to offer! Being creative is a right, and in this book, National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr will help you get started. Her advice and encouragement are paired with tips to help you face down your fears, let go of expectations, stop comparing yourself to others, and make your art with courage. A perfect gift for anyone who wants to be creative but doesn’t know where to start, or for people who’ve been doing creativity for a while but want more inspiration, Courageous Creativity will empower readers to express themselves with self-confidence, bravery, and joy.
Goodbye from Nowhere
HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray; April 7, 2020
Sara Zarr, author of the National Book Award finalist Story of a Girl, returns with an intimate, exquisitely crafted novel of the courage it takes to see those we love for who they are.
Kyle Baker thought his family was happy. Happy enough, anyway. That’s why, when Kyle learns that his mother has been having an affair and his father has been living with the secret, his reality is altered.
He quits baseball, ghosts his girlfriend, and generally checks out of life as he’s known it. With his older sisters out of the house and friends who don’t get it, the only person he can talk to is his cousin Emily—who is always there on the other end of his texts but still has her own life, hours away.
Kyle’s parents want him to keep the secret of his mother’s affair from the rest of the family until after what might be their last big summer reunion. As Kyle watches the effects of his parents’ choices ripple out over friends, family, and strangers, and he feels the walls of his relationships closing in, he has to decide what his obligations are to everyone he cares for—including himself.
Gem & Dixie
HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray; April 4, 2017
Gem has never known what it is to have security. She’s never known an adult she can truly rely on. But the one constant in her life has been Dixie. Gem grew up taking care of her sister when no one else could: not their mother, whose issues make it hard for her to keep food on the table, and definitely not their father, whose intermittent presence is the only thing worse than his frequent absence. Even as Gem and Dixie have grown apart, they’ve always had each other.
When their dad returns home for the first time in years and tries to insert himself back into their lives, Gem finds herself with an unexpected opportunity: three days with Dixie—on their own in Seattle and beyond. But this short trip soon becomes something more, as Gem discovers that that to save herself, she may have to sever the one bond she’s tried so hard to keep.
From renowned author and National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr comes a deep, nuanced, and gorgeously written story about the complex relationship between two sisters from a broken home.
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; December 24, 2013
The countdown to college has begun.
When Elizabeth receives her freshman-year roommate assignment at the beginning of summer, she shoots off an email to coordinate the basics: TV, microwave, mini-fridge. She can’t wait to escape her New Jersey beach town, and her mom, and start life over in California.
That first note to Lauren in San Francisco comes as a surprise; she had requested a single. But if Lauren’s learned anything from being the oldest of six, it’s that you can’t always get what you want, especially when what you want is privacy.
Soon the girls are emailing back and forth, sharing secrets even though they’ve never met. With family relationships and childhood friendships strained by change, it suddenly seems that the only people Elizabeth and Lauren can rely on are the complicated new boys in their lives … and each other.
With humor and heart, Sara Zarr, National Book Award finalist for Story of a Girl, and Tara Altebrando, acclaimed author of The Leaving, join forces for a novel about that time after high school, when everything feels like it’s ending just as it’s beginning.
The Lucy Variations
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; May 7, 2013
It could be a depressing thing to believe, at sixteen, that your best years were behind you. Especially when the people closest to you seemed to agree.
Lucy Beck-Moreau once had a promising future as a concert pianist. The right people knew her name, her performances were booked months in advance, and her future seemed certain.
That was all before she turned fourteen.
National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr takes readers inside the exclusive world of privileged San Francisco families, top junior music competitions, and intense mentorships. The Lucy Variations is a story of one girl’s struggle to reclaim her love of music, and herself. It’s about finding joy again, even when things don’t go according to plan. Because life isn’t a performance, and everyone deserves the chance to make a few mistakes along the way.
How to Save a Life
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; October 18, 2011
Jill MacSweeney just wishes everything could go back to normal. But ever since her dad died, she’s been isolating herself from her boyfriend, her best friends—everyone who wants to support her. And when her mom decides to adopt a baby, it feels like she’s somehow trying to replace a lost family member with a new one.
Mandy Kalinowski understands what it’s like to grow up unwanted—to be raised by a mother who never intended to have a child. So when Mandy becomes pregnant, one thing she’s sure of is that she wants a better life for her baby. It’s harder to be sure of herself. Will she ever find someone to care for her, too?
As their worlds change around them, Jill and Mandy must learn to both let go and hold on, and that nothing is as easy—or as difficult—as it seems.
Once Was Lost
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; October 2009
When thirteen-year-old Jody goes missing, the national spotlight turns to Samara Taylor’s small town of Pineview. With few clues for investigators to follow, everyone is a suspect, including Jody’s older brother, Nick. But even as the town rallies in solidarity, Sam feels more alone than ever. Her mother is drifting farther and farther away while her father grows increasingly preoccupied as he steps in to help Jody’s family in the wake of the disappearance. During the tense, uncomfortable days that follow, Sam draws closer to Nick as the local tragedy intersects with her personal one.
National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr delivers a powerful novel about community, family, faith, and one girl’s realization that sometimes you have to lose everything to find what’s been missing all along.
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; February 1, 2008
When Jenna Vaughn’s childhood sweetheart unexpectedly comes back into her life during her senior year of high school, she is forced to confront her troubled past. This is a story about the power of memory, the bond of friendship, and the quiet resilience of our childhood hearts.
Story of a Girl
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; January 10, 2007
In the three years since her father caught her in the back seat of a car with an older boy, sixteen-year-old Deanna’s life at home and school has been a nightmare, but while dreaming of escaping with her brother and his family, she discovers the power of forgiveness.
In the ten years since its first publication, Story of a Girl has sold hundreds of thousands of copies around the world, continues to appear on school reading lists, and was made into a television movie, directed by Kyra Sedgwick.