8 Interesting New Books From Minnesota Presses

8 Interesting New Books From Minnesota Presses

Thursday, October 27, 2016

A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of going to a Minnesota booksellers rep night. Representatives from some local publishers and some bigger publishers talked to us about books. And let us take some. It's pretty much as glorious as an event can get, and I'm here to report back with some of the things I learned! Below you'll find 8 books, some recently published and some yet to come out, that sound super interesting to me + my summary of what the reps told us about them.


The Home Place by J. Drew Lanham (October 11)
I'm so excited for this one. It's about a black ornithologist (a very white field) and feeling like an outsider. Also how his family owns and lives on the land that his ancestors lived on as slaves. So writing about nature + race, which is perfection.

“In me, there is the red of miry clay, the brown of spring floods, the gold of ripening tobacco. All of these hues are me; I am, in the deepest sense, colored.” From these fertile soils of love, land, identity, family, and race emerges The Home Place, a big-hearted, unforgettable memoir by ornithologist and professor of ecology J. Drew Lanham.


Fish in Exile by Vi Khi Nao (October 10)
This sounds so devastating. Vi Khi Nao talks around the death of a child by instead talking about how the father starts getting into fishtanks and how the mother starts making little aprons for the fish (or something). I started it and the prose is sparse and interesting. I'm prepared to be devastated.

How do you bear the death of a child? With fishtanks and jellyfish burials, Persephone's pomegranate seeds, and affairs with the neighbors. Fish in Exile spins unimaginable loss through classical and magical tumblers, distorting our view so that we can see the contours of a parent's grief all the more clearly.

Unbearable Splendor by Sun Yung Shin (October 11)
Unbearable Splendor is written in fragments (which I love). Race, adoption, religion, and robots?? Things I'm interested are discussed.

Sun Yung Shin moves ideas—of identity (Korean, American, adoptee, mother, Catholic, Buddhist) and interest (mythology, science fiction, Sophocles)— around like building blocks, forming and reforming new constructions of what it means to be at home.

What is a cyborg but a hybrid creature of excess? A thing that exceeds the sum of its parts. A thing that has extended its powers, enhanced, even superpowered.

Camanchaca by Diego Zúñiga (March 7, 2017)
If you're looking for another short, devastating book, here it is. Coffee House has a type, clearly.

A long drive across Chile's Atacama desert, traversing "the worn-out puzzle" of a broken family—a young man's corrosive intimacy with his mother, the obtrusive cheer of his absentee father, his uncle's unexplained death—occupies the heart of this novel. Camanchaca is a low fog pushing in from the sea, its moisture sustaining a near-barren landscape. Camanchaca is the discretion that makes a lifelong grief possible. Sometimes, the silences are what bind us.


Encircling by Carl Frode Tiller (February 7, 2017)
The first of a trilogy! Encircling is written in three letters from three different people explaining the main charater's life to him - an idea I love. The rep insists that it doesn't get old or boring.

David has lost his memory. When a newspaper ad asks his friends and family to share their memories of him, three respond: Jon, his closest friend; Silje, his teenage girlfriend; and Arvid, his estranged stepfather. Their letters reveal David’s early life in the small town of Namsos, full of teenage rebellion, the uncertainties of first love, and intense experiments in art and music.

As the narrative circles ever closer to David, the letters interweave with scenes from the present day, and it becomes less and less clear what to believe. Jon’s and Silje’s adult lives have run aground on thwarted ambition and failed intimacy, and Arvid has had a lonely struggle with cancer. Each has suspect motives for writing, and soon a contradictory picture of David emerges. Whose remembrance of him is right? Or do they all hold some fragment of the truth?

The Impossible Fairy Tale by Han Yujoo (March 7, 2017)
When I heard this pitch, I circled the title on my paper at least 5 times. Creepy! Weird! Dark!

The Impossible Fairy Tale is the story of two unexceptional grade-school girls. Mia is “lucky”—she is spoiled by her mother and, as she explains, her two fathers. She gloats over her exotic imported color pencils and won’t be denied a coveted sweater. Then there is the Child who, by contrast, is neither lucky nor unlucky. She makes so little impression that she seems not even to merit a name.

At school, their fellow students, whether lucky or luckless or unlucky, seem consumed by an almost murderous rage. Adults are nearly invisible, and the society the children create on their own is marked by cruelty and soul-crushing hierarchies. Then, one day, the Child sneaks into the classroom after hours and adds ominous sentences to her classmates’ notebooks. This sinister but initially inconsequential act unlocks a series of events that end in horrible violence.

Wait Till You See Me Dance by Deb Olin Unferth (March 21, 2017)
I don't know anything about this writer, but apparently she's prolific. And she was compared to Barthelme, among others, so I'm interested.

Wait Till You See Me Dance consists of several extraordinary longer stories as well as a selection of intoxicating very short stories. In the chilling “The First Full Thought of Her Life,” a shooter gets in position while a young girl climbs a sand dune. In “Voltaire Night,” students compete to tell a story about the worst thing that ever happened to them. In “Stay Where You Are,” two oblivious travelers in Central America are kidnapped by a gunman they assume to be an insurgent—but the gunman has his own problems.

A Little More Human by Fiona Maazel (March 21, 2017)
I was nervous about this pitch until I realized it was written by a woman. So maybe it will be fine/good?? Maazel wrote a book called Woke Up Lonely about a cult leader that I want to read reaaally badly.

Meet Phil Snyder: new father, nursing assistant at a cutting-edge biotech facility on Staten Island, and all-around decent guy. Trouble is, his life is falling apart. His wife has betrayed him, his job involves experimental surgeries with strange side effects, and his father is hiding early-onset dementia. Phil also has a special talent he doesn’t want to publicize—he’s a mind reader and moonlights as Brainstorm, a costumed superhero. But when Phil wakes up from a blackout drunk and is confronted with photos that seem to show him assaulting an unknown woman, even superpowers won’t help him. Try as he might, Phil can’t remember that night, and so, haunted by the need to know, he mind-reads his way through the lab techs at work, adoring fans at Toy Polloi, and anyone else who gets in his way, in an attempt to determine whether he’s capable of such violence.

I'm so impressed by my local presses!! Do you have a favorite local press?


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