From the Lit Director Desk: What I’m Reading

IMG_9937I’ve been to some very cold places this year in the name of books. 

 

The beginning of February saw me return from one book conference in time to promptly turn around and fly out to another book conference. I had just enough time to empty my suitcase of one load of books and make room for another. (Pity me, I know. Play the world’s smallest violins. My dishes were dirty for weeks! The cat did not learn how to do laundry in my absence!)

The great thing about flying in airplanes is that I’m too terrified to look out the window (the ground is so far away) or into the faces of my fellow passengers (which one of these people will be the one to fix the mask over my face when this steel machine goes down???) so I keep my head down and read. And drink tiny little bottles of airplane wine. And hope for the best. I read quite a lot this month. Here are a few of the books that stood out to me. There have been tons of great new books to read and 2017 has barely begun. Get to a bookstore! Browse around! There are good books afoot!

 

right way to be

The Right Way to be Crippled and Naked: The Fiction of Disability
edited by Sheila Black, Michael Northen and Annabelle Hayse

Available now! // Cinco Puntos Press

I’m so grateful to Cinco Puntos Press for sending this beautiful anthology my way. Twenty-seven writers present stories about “disability” in all ways the word can be defined. This is the first time – the first time – that short fiction by writers with disabilities, featuring disabled characters, has been anthologized. In addition to unfolding underrepresented perspectives, this book is just chock full of beautiful, lyrical writing. I am mesmerized, story to story. I’m a fan of anthologies in general and love being able to flip between a panoply of voices and styles between two covers. I’m thrilled to have this collection on my shelf.

 

kintu

Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
On sale May 16 // Transit Books

I’ve just begun this sweeping story of family, inheritance and history by Ugandan novelist and short story writer Makumbi. Longlisted for the 2014 Etisalat Prize for Debut African Fiction, Transit Books is publishing this debut novel in the US in May. Moving through time, it follows the cursed bloodline of the Kintu clan across generations. I’m really getting into the layers of Kintu Kidda’s journey and family life early on in the book, in the section set in 1750 in Buddu Province, Buganda. The tension of ritual, of tradition adhered to, subverted and manipulated, runs through Kintu’s large family and underscores the violent political turmoil incited by the region’s royalty. The ways in which the characters are bound to one another by blood, tradition, social norms, expectation, love and friendship create a rich and engaging emotional plot. There’s a lot more of this story to come, which is amazing, because Makumbi has already packed so much into the first 100 pages. This book already feels like several novels in one.

 

we are never meeting

We Are Never Meeting In Real Life: Essays by Samantha Irby
On sale May 30 // Vintage

Hallelujah, all praise be, our year is saved thanks to Samantha Irby. This collection of ab-so-lute-ly hilarious essays reads like a long, wine-laced night with the good friend with whom you can discuss all of your totally honest and unpopular opinions about sex, life, love, mental health, aging, family, money, work, and being alive in a seriously less-than-perfect world. Irby is by turns irascible and endearing, self-deprecating and self-assured. In fashioning herself as an anti-hero with a penchant for cheap and dirty meals, doomed relationships and a happy life of cranky spinsterhood, Irby cracks sharp jokes with one hand while revealing poignant emotional vulnerability with the other. I don’t know whether or not it’s a good idea to glean dating advice from this book, but, I have to say, I have found her stories of romance and relationship-building both informative and reassuring. (Date someone who is the opposite of you, that person will know how to pack real road trip snacks; I will remember this advice forever.) If you’re shy and prefer to avoid attention in public, do not read this book outside of your home. You will laugh out loud, a lot, and people will look at you. I also do not recommend attempting to read this book at the gym. Especially don’t try to read the essay about exercising while you are trying to exercise. Take it from me: you cannot laugh this hard and elliptical at the same time. Samantha Irby is also the author of the essay collection Meaty and writes this blog over here.

 

goodbye vitamin

Goodbye Vitamin: A Novel by Rachel Khong
On Sale July 11 // Henry Holt and Co.

I ate this book right up. Yes, it has a tremendous cover, a cover that, at thirty-almost-six years old, intimidated me just a smidge. Am I hip enough to read this book?! Embrace the lemons, my friends, and get to page one, because you’ll forget yourself and be hooked straight away. This book is all humor and big, big heart. Told in dated entries that begin on December 26, it’s the story of Ruth Young, a thirty year old woman recovering from major heartbreak in her parents’ home, where she stays on after Christmas to help her mother manage her father’s rapidly developing Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s and broken hearts sound like a hoot, I know, but I promise, Khong delivers the hard stuff of heartache and health in memorable characters and tender, hilarious situations. This book has some of that oddball Miranda July dark humor I enjoy, with notes of Palahniuk’s ‘broken humans in extreme but somehow functioning and believable circumstances’ style, along with some deadpan emotional lines that punched me right in my Amy Hempel heart. As Ruth comes to terms with her parents’ marriage, her relationship with her father and family, and her own messy emotions, the story lifts right off the page and soars with hope. Khong was executive editor of Lucky Peach and is also the author of All About Eggs: Everything We Know About the World’s Most Important Food. This book will be called the perfect summer read, because it comes out in July, but, I promise, you’ll love it any time of year.

 

abandon-me separation-kitamura dear-friend

New Books On Shelves Now That I Really Enjoyed:

There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce by Morgan Parker
A Separation
 by Katie Kitamura
The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Abandon Me by Melissa Febos
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life by Yiyun Li
Why I Am Not A Feminist by Jessica Crispin
Animals Strike Curious Poses by Elena Passarello
Difficult Women by Roxane Gay
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund
Always Happy Hour by Mary Miller
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

 

exit-west all-grown-up sorry to disrupt the peace

Books to Look for in March: 

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
White Tears by Hari Kunzru
South and West: From A Notebook by Joan Didion
All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
The Idiot by Elif Batuman
Wait Till You See Me Dance by Deb Olin Unferth
Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy
Sorry to Disrupt the Peace : A Novel by Patty Yumi Cottrell
The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hanna Tinti

2017 Internship Opportunities!

Join the Texas Book Festival Team as an Intern!

The Texas Book Festival and the Texas Teen Book Festival offer ongoing unpaid internships designed to expose qualified applicants to editorial, marketing and publicity, and development work, and other aspects of publishing, nonprofit organizations, and event planning. We’re now accepting applications for 2017 internships!

Take a look at the full list of available internships.

From programming to outreach to development and graphic design, we’re looking for help! Festival internships are particularly valuable for those interested in publishing, journalism, creative writing, and nonprofit operations. Interns receive a front row view of the inner workings of book marketing, publicity and event management, as well as gain an understanding of the rhythms and cycles of publishing, nonprofit fundraising, and community engagement.

Full disclosure: if you intern for the Texas Book Festival, there’s a 95% chance you will be asked to pose for Instagram. It’s painless, we promise. Look at these happy interns:

 

 

And also sometimes there’s dancing!

 

APPLY TO BE A FESTIVAL INTERN!

From the Lit Director Desk: What I’m Reading

FullSizeRender (11)(Getting the hard work done.)

 

Greetings from the new year! I’ve been busy powering through my early 2017 reading list while I start to get things up and running for this year’s Festival. (This year’s Texas Book Festival takes place November 4-5 here in Austin.) Here’s a quick look at the books that have stuck to the top of my pile. They all come out in The Future, which isn’t always convenient for those of us who live in The Now, so I’ve also put together a quick list of books to look for this month, as well as new books that have recently hit shelves.

 

what it means

What It Means When A Man Falls From the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah
(Riverhead, April 4)

Sharp and surprising, fantastic and dark, human and heartbreaking, this debut collection by Lesley Nneka Arimah is a must-add to your short fiction list this year. Arimah covers a lot of ground in these stories, digging into the tension of parent-child relationships (particularly mothers and daughters), the hollows of loss, and the small ways in which we move forward, sometimes with hope and sometimes not. Elements of magical realism drift through this collection, creating a world in which human babies begin as handmade bundles of found material and a dead mother steps out of a photograph and back into life. I was met with the unexpected, story after story, page after page. I loved every minute of reading this book.

 

salt-houses

Salt Houses by Hala Alyan
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May 2)

I’m about halfway through this absorbing story by Palestinian-American poet and debut novelist Hala Alyan. Opening with the wedding of Alia in 1967, the novel tells the story of a Palestinian family over the course of generations, beginning with the Six Day War, as they’re uprooted physically and emotionally by political violence. This is the book I’m itching to stop everything and read during those awful moments when I’m forced to do other things like go to work and talk to humans. Alyan’s well-drawn characters are a personal, poignant lens on the effects of the long conflict, presenting history in its human details; a New Year’s celebration underpinned by dread, marital spats grown out of the grief of unspoken tragedy, children born into a word changed in manners they don’t even know. Alyan’s attention to visual detail underscores the poignant emotional tension of the story, creating a world I can feel in all senses. Beautifully done. I can’t wait to finish this blog post and read more.

 

the rules do not apply

The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy
(Random House, March 2017)

I started reading this memoir with many plans on deck for that day; now, hours later, the dishes weren’t done, I was still in my pajamas, and I’d wholly consumed this story, cover to cover. Levy writes of being a woman in her late thirties who has proudly built an unconventional life as a globe-trotting journalist and wife, only to watch the elements of her security and success come apart in perfectly human ways she did not expect. The consequences of presumption underscore each chapter; the presumption that a marriage built on love will survive unscathed; the presumption that you can have everything you set out to want in life and not expect to want more; the presumption that a life carefully and joyfully planned will play out precisely according to script. When presumptions fail, then what? The writing is sharp and vibrant (Levy is a journalist) and swept me right along. This book is recommended for anyone staring at the rest of her life, whatever joys and tragedies may lay in her wake, and wondering, What could possibly come next?

 

sing-unburied-sing

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
(Scribner, September 2017)

This novel absolutely blew me away. Jesmyn Ward is the author of the 2011 National Book Award-winning novel Salvage the Bones, the memoir The Men We Reaped, and is the editor of the 2016 essay collection, The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race. Sing, Unburied, Sing is her first novel since winning the National Book Award. It’s been at the top of my most-anticipated books of 2017. Ward is a phenomenal writer with a classic style. Each sentence in this novel feels forged from the blood and dirt of the human heart, visceral and precise, vital and inevitable. Chapters alternate perspective between Jojo, a boy coming of age on his grandparents’ farm in Mississippi, and his mother, Leonie, whose drug addiction pitches the family into a steady thrum of danger that ratchets up page by page. I loved this book, even during scenes when the tension was excruciating. I held my breath for Jojo, for his two year old sister, Kayla, for their grandfather, for Leonie. Ward weaves tremendous tenderness in with the tension, binding the family in deep love and haunting history. Supernatural elements sew their generations together, dissolving time and lighting up the long effects of racism, incarceration and grief. As soon as I finished reading it, I wanted to discuss Sing, Unburied, Sing with someone. An unforgettable story, told in unforgettable writing. I wish it was September so we could all get together and talk about this book together right now.

 

Books to look for in February

the refugees more-beautiful-beyonce abandon-me

There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce by Morgan Parker
A Separation
 by Katie Kitamura
The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life by Yiyun Li
Abandon Me by Melissa Febos
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
The Nearness of You by Amanda Eyre Ward

 

New Books Out Now To Keep On Your Radar

selection day lucky boy history-of-wolves

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund
Selection Day by Aravind Adiga
Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin
Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran
Always Happy Hour by Mary Miller
Human Acts by Han Kang
My Life, My Love, My Legacy by Coretta Scott King

 

 

The 2017 Texas Teen Book Festival!

TTBF 2017 Date Enews Announcement

The Texas Teen Book Festival has announced its 2017 date! Mark your calendars now for another awesome celebration of YA authors, books, reading, writing, and the wonderful YA community we have here in Texas.

Head to the #TTBF website for full details of when and where to be. Be sure to sign up for the #TTBF enewsletter while you’re there to stay up to the minute with #TTBF news as it hits.

Want to keep up with #TTBF YA love every day? Follow the Texas Teen Book Festival on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

2017 Book Submissions Now Open!

insta-book-submissions

Sound the trumpets and send us your books! Submissions are now open for the 2017 Texas Book Festival, which will take place November 4-5 in and around the State Capitol grounds in downtown Austin.

Before you start packing your manuscripts in bubble wrap and heading to the post office, be sure to check out all of our submission information and guidelines.

As always, we’re looking for a wide variety of books by writers who represent diverse genres and perspectives. We’re excited to get reading and begin planning conversations for this year’s Festival. Thanks so much for taking the time to submit. We look forward to reading your work!

2017 Texas Book Festival Dates!

save-the-date

Mark Your Calendar for the 2017 Texas Book Festival!

Join us on the Texas State Capitol grounds in downtown Austin for the 22nd annual Texas Book Festival on November 4-5, 2017!

2016 was a record-setting year for the Texas Book Festival. We welcomed 300 authors and 50,000 attendees in our biggest celebration of books, literacy and the culture of ideas in the Festival’s history. Thank you for being a part of a memorable Festival Weekend!

We’re now hard at work making plans for another tremendous Festival. This means we’re reading a ton of new books. Be sure to keep up with us for reading recommendations and book news all year long on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

We can’t wait to see you in Austin November 4-5

P. S. Book submissions for the 2017 Festival are open! Check out all of the submission guidelines and instructions.

Texas Teen Book Festival Announces 2016 Keynotes!

OpeningKeynoteTaylor2016 ClosingKeynoteBardugo2016

 

Texas Teen Book Festival has announced its 2016 keynote speakers! Get excited for bestselling authors Laini Taylor (Strange in the Dreamer) and Leigh Bardugo (Crooked Kingdom)! Check out the full announcement over on the TTBF blog.

Stay tuned for plenty more news to come about this year’s Texas Teen Book Festival! Join the #TTBF mailing list, follow TTBF on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (@txteenbookfest) and mark your calendars for October 1, when we’ll celebrate a great, big day of #YAlit on the campus of St. Edward’s University!