Spring is the perfect time to get to know some new authors. If you’ve been keeping up with your BookTrib reading, you know that 2014 has been dubbed “The Year of Reading Women.” My run-down last month of five female authors everyone should read hopefully got you off to a good start, but what’s next?
This month, we’ll go off the beaten path, highlighting a handful of new novels from small presses. Small or “indie” presses—meaning those that are independently owned and operated outside of the control of a large conglomerate like Penguin/Random House or Simon & Schuster—are the place to go to find new, creative, and often experimental work. These presses operate on smaller budgets, and with lower expectations for profits; since they don’t have shareholders to keep happy, they can afford to take risks. In the world of big publishing, unknown authors, experimental books, and new takes on genre are all considered risky. All this means that small presses are your best bet if you’re looking for a book that surprises you, or that pushes the boundaries of traditional narrative in any way.
Spheres of Disturbance by Amy Schutzer (Red Hen Press, April 1)
The nine revolving points of view in this novel, which takes place over the course of one day in 1985, give the reader something of the experimental that we come to expect from small presses. The book details the impending death of Helen, and the characters surrounding her, including her daughter, an art thief, a housewife, a lesbian poet, and a pregnant Vietnamese pot-bellied pig, to come to terms with her death. Spheres of Disturbance is Schutzer’s second novel.
The Cold Song by Linn Ullmann (Other Press, April 8)
Linn Ullmann’s fifth book, translated from Norwegian, is about Siri Brodal and her husband Jon Dreyer. Siri, a chef, and Jon, a novelist suffering from writer’s block, spend the summer on the coast of Norway with their two daughters, where they hire a nanny named Milla. When Milla disappears one night in July, the entire family must come to terms with their role in the tragedy. This isn’t really a crime story, though, as it focuses more on questions of deeper culpabilities.
Yabo by Alexis De Veaux (RedBone Press, April 11)
In her work, De Veaux focuses on the racial and sexual experiences of black female characters. She is a poet, activist, and author of two award-winning biographies. Her novel Yabo, which has been compared to the work of Toni Morrison, is a novel of place—Manhattan; Asheville, NC; Buffalo, NY; Jamaica; the hold of slave ship—and time, and an exploration of the possibilities of life.
The Understory by Pamela Erens (Tin House Books, April 15)
It’s no wonder that Tin House was drawn to The Understory, which was first published in 2007 by Ironweed Press and was a finalist for both the 2007 Los Angeles Times Book Award and the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. The book tells the story of an unemployed former lawyer, Jack Gorse, who lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Gorse, a man who clings to his daily routines, develops a surprising attraction to a man he hardly knows, while at the same time faces eviction from his long-time apartment. The novel is s psychological study with an ending that will shock you.
Tribute by Anne Germanacos (Rescue Press, May 1)
Technically, Germanacos’s second book doesn’t come out for a few weeks, but you can wait, right? In Tribute, Germanacos experiments with the forms of journal, poetry, and novel to tell the story of the day-to-day life of a woman whose mother is dying. The book is both about this character’s story, as well as her relationship to story, and explores the theme of desire.
Which of these indie must-reads will YOU pick up next?