By Alyse Mgrdichian
1. Dolores Reyes
First, let’s meet to Dolores Reyes. Born and raised in Buenos Aires, Dolores studied classical literature, then went on to become a teacher. She is best known for her feminist activism, and is a mother of seven children. Eartheater, her first novel, was originally published in Spanish on January 12, 2021 by HarperCollins Español. Then, on September 14, 2021, Eartheater became available in English through HarperVia, and was translated by Julia Sanches. If you want to learn more about Dolores and her debut, follow this link to read one of her interviews.
Set in an unnamed slum in contemporary Argentina, Eartheater is the story of a young woman who finds herself drawn to eating the earth—a compulsion that gives her visions of broken and lost lives. With her first taste of dirt, she learns the horrifying truth of her mother’s death. Disturbed by what she witnesses, the woman keeps her visions to herself. But when the Earth-eater begins an unlikely relationship with a withdrawn police officer, word of her ability begins to spread, and soon desperate members of her community beg for her help, anxious to uncover the truth about their own loved ones.
Surreal and haunting, spare yet complex, Eartheater is a dark, emotionally resonant tale told from a feminist perspective that brilliantly explores the stories of those left behind—the women enduring the pain of uncertainty, whose lives have been shaped by violence and loss.
2. Erica Martin
Next there’s Erica Martin. Born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, Erica strives to make a positive impact on the world through her activism and writing. Her debut publication, And We Rise, is a poetry collection that is equal parts art and history, guiding readers through the Civil Rights movement via verse. On February 1, 2022, And We Rise will be published by Viking Books for Young Readers.
In stunning verse and vivid use of white space, Erica Martin’s debut poetry collection walks readers through the Civil Rights Movement— from the well-documented events that shaped the nation’s treatment of Black people, beginning with the ‘Separate but Equal’ ruling—and introduces lesser-known figures and moments that were just as crucial to the Movement and our nation’s centuries-long fight for justice and equality.
A poignant, powerful, all-too-timely collection that is both a vital history lesson and much-needed conversation starter in our modern world. Complete with historical photographs, author’s note, chronology of events, research, and sources.
3. Andrew Joseph White
Now we’ll meet Andrew Joseph White, a queer, trans author from Virginia with a lifelong love for monsters. Having studied creative writing in college, Andrew writes stories, as he states on his website, about trans kids who have “claws and fangs, and what happens when they bite back.” His debut book, Hell Followed with Us, will be published by Peachtree Teen in June 2022. To learn more about Andrew and his writing journey, follow this link to read his interview with Project Write.
Sixteen-year-old trans boy Benji is on the run from the cult that raised him—the fundamentalist sect that unleashed Armageddon and decimated the world’s population. Desperately, he searches for a place where the cult can’t get their hands on him, or more importantly, on the bioweapon they infected him with.
But when cornered by monsters born from the decimation, Benji is rescued by a group of teens from the local Acheson LGBTQ+ Center, affectionately known as the ALC. The ALC’s leader, Nick, is gorgeous, autistic, and a deadly shot, and he knows Benji’s darkest secret: the cult’s bioweapon is mutating him into a monster deadly enough to wipe humanity from the earth once and for all. Still, Nick offers Benji shelter among his ragtag group of queer teens, as long as Benji can control the monster inside and use its power to defend the ALC. Eager to belong, Benji accepts Nick’s terms…until he discovers the ALC’s mysterious leader has a hidden agenda, and more than a few secrets of his own.
4. Megha Majumdar
Next is Megha Majumdar, born and raised in Kolkata, India. She came to America for college, attending Harvard University for her undergraduate degree and John Hopkins University for her graduate degree, now living and working in New York City as an editor. Her debut novel, A Burning, was initially published in 2020 (via Knopf), but is now available in paperback form as of June 29, 2021 (via Vintage). To learn more about Megha, follow this link to read her interview with the Guardian.
In this National Book Award Longlist honoree and ‘gripping thriller with compassionate social commentary’ (USA Today), Jivan is a Muslim girl from the slums, determined to move up in life, who is accused of executing a terrorist attack on a train because of a careless comment on Facebook. PT Sir is an opportunistic gym teacher who hitches his aspirations to a right-wing political party, and finds that his own ascent becomes linked to Jivan’s fall.
Lovely—an irresistible outcast whose exuberant voice and dreams of glory fill the novel with warmth and hope and humor—has the alibi that can set Jivan free, but it will cost her everything she holds dear. Taut, symphonic, propulsive, and riveting from its opening lines, A Burning has the force of an epic while being so masterfully compressed it can be read in a single sitting. Majumdar writes with dazzling assurance at a breakneck pace on complex themes that read here as the components of a thriller: class, fate, corruption, justice, and what it feels like to face profound obstacles and yet nurture big dreams in a country spinning toward extremism.
5. Sue Lynn Tan
Now we’ll meet Sue Lynn Tan, born and raised in Malaysia. She studied in London and France, and now lives in Hong Kong with her family. Sue loves to write stories inspired by the myths and tales she grew up with, and her debut is no exception. Daughter of the Moon Goddess, Sue’s first book, was made available by Harper Voyager on January 11, 2022. As she puts it on her website, Daughter of the Moon Goddess is “inspired by the beloved Chinese legend, of Chang’e flying to the moon upon taking the elixir of immortality.” To learn more about Sue’s writing journey and her debut, follow this link to read one of her interviews.
Growing up on the moon, Xingyin is accustomed to solitude, unaware that she is being hidden from the powerful Celestial Emperor who exiled her mother for stealing his elixir of immortality. But when Xingyin’s magic flares and her existence is discovered, she is forced to flee her home, leaving her mother behind. Alone, untrained, and afraid, she makes her way to the Celestial Kingdom, a land of wonder and secrets.
Disguising her identity, she seizes an opportunity to learn alongside the Crown Prince, mastering archery and magic, even as passion flames between her and the emperor’s son. To save her mother, Xingyin embarks on a perilous quest, confronting legendary creatures and vicious enemies across the earth and skies. When treachery looms and forbidden magic threatens the kingdom, however, she must challenge the ruthless Celestial Emperor for her dream—striking a dangerous bargain in which she is torn between losing all she loves or plunging the realm into chaos.
Daughter of the Moon Goddess begins an enchanting, romantic duology which weaves ancient. Chinese mythology into a sweeping adventure of immortals and magic, of loss and sacrifice—where love vies with honor, dreams are fraught with betrayal, and hope emerges triumphant.
6. Mark Prins
Next is Mark Prins, a recent graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and the recipient of multiple fellowships, namely from the Truman Capote Trust, the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, and the Sun Valley Writer’s Conference. Mark now lives in Brooklyn, and, as of January 4, 2022, has published his debut novel. The Latinist, made available by W.W. Norton, is a modern reimagining of the Daphne and Apollo myth.
Tessa Templeton has thrived at Oxford University under the tutelage and praise of esteemed classics professor Christopher Eccles. And now, his support is the one thing she can rely on: her job search has yielded nothing, and her devotion to her work has just cost her her boyfriend, Ben. Yet shortly before her thesis defense, Tessa learns that Chris has sabotaged her career–and realizes their relationship is not at all what she believed.
Driven by what he mistakes as love for Tessa, Chris has ensured that no other institution will offer her a position, keeping her at Oxford with him. His tactics grow more invasive as he determines to prove he has her best interests at heart. Meanwhile, Tessa scrambles to undo the damage–and in the process makes a startling discovery about an obscure second-century Latin poet that could launch her into academic stardom, finally freeing her from Chris’s influence. A contemporary reimagining of the Daphne and Apollo myth, The Latinist is a page-turning exploration of power, ambition, and the intertwining of love and obsession.
7. Sasha Lapointe
Now we’ll meet Sasha taqwšәblu Lapointe, an indigenous author, poet, and artist from the Upper Skagit and Nooksack Indian Tribe. Her debut book, Red Paint, will be published by Counterpoint Press on March 8, 2022. Acting as a memoir, Sasha’s debut will take punk rock aesthetics and blend them with the traditional spiritual practices of her Coast Salish ancestors. Also forthcoming from Sasha is a poetry collection, which will be published by Milkweed. To read “What he should have had,” one of the poems from Sasha’s upcoming collection (along with the poems of other indigenous women), follow this link.
Sasha has always longed for a sense of home. When she was a child, her family moved around frequently, often staying in barely habitable church attics and trailers—dangerous places for young Sasha. With little more to guide her than a passion for the thriving punk scene of the Pacific Northwest and a desire to live up to the responsibility of being the namesake of her beloved great-grandmother —a linguist who helped preserve her Indigenous language of Lushootseed—Sasha throws herself headlong into the world, determined to build a better future for herself and her people.
Set against a backdrop of the breathtaking beauty of Coast Salish ancestral land and imbued with the universal spirit of punk, Red Paint is ultimately a story of the ways we learn to find our true selves while fighting for our right to claim a place of our own.
Examining what it means to be vulnerable in love and in art, Sasha offers up an unblinking reckoning with personal traumas amplified by the collective historical traumas of colonialism and genocide that continue to haunt native peoples. Red Paint is an intersectional autobiography of lineage, resilience, and, above all, the ability to heal.
8. Xochitl Gonzalez
Next is Xochitl Gonzalez, an author, screenwriter, essayist, and producer from Brooklyn. With an MFA from the Univeristy of Iowa Writer’s Workshop, Xochitl is also a contributor to The Atlantic, in which she writes Brooklyn, Everywhere, a weekly newsletter that explores the topic of gentrification. Her debut novel, Olga Dies Dreaming, was published on January 4, 2022 by Flatiron Books.
It’s 2017, and Olga and her brother, Pedro ‘Prieto’ Acevedo, are boldfaced names in their hometown of New York. Prieto is a popular congressman representing their gentrifying Latinx neighborhood in Brooklyn, while Olga
is the tony wedding planner for Manhattan’s power brokers. Despite their alluring public lives, behind closed doors things are far less rosy.
Sure, Olga can orchestrate the love stories of the 1 percent, but she can’t seem to find her own … until she meets Matteo, who forces her to confront the effects of long-held family secrets. Olga and Prieto’s mother, Blanca, a Young Lord turned radical, abandoned her children to advance a militant political cause, leaving them to be raised by their grandmother. Now, with the winds of hurricane season, Blanca has come barreling back into their lives.
Set against the backdrop of New York City in the months surrounding the most devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico’s history, Xochitl Gonzalez’s Olga Dies Dreaming is a story that examines political corruption, familial strife, and the very notion of the American dream— all while asking what it really means to weather a storm.
9. Jamar J. Perry
A Palestinian activist jailed at sixteen after a confrontation with Israeli soldiers illuminates the daily struggles of life under occupation in this moving, deeply personal memoir.
‘What would you do if you grew up seeing your home repeatedly raided? Your parents arrested? Your mother shot? Your uncle killed? Try, for just a moment, to imagine that this was your life. How would you want the world to react?’
Cameron Battle grew up reading The Book of Chidani, cherishing stories
about the fabled kingdom that cut itself off from the world to save the Igbo people from danger. Passed down over generations, the Book is Cameron’s only connection to his parents who disappeared one fateful night, two years ago. Ever since, his grandmother has kept the Book locked away, but it calls to Cameron.
When he and his best friends Zion and Aliyah decide to open it again, they are magically transported to Chidani. Instead of a land of beauty and wonder, they find a kingdom in extreme danger, as the Queen’s sister seeks to destroy the barrier between worlds. The people of Chidani have been waiting for the last Descendant to return and save them . . . is Cameron ready to be the hero they need?
Inspired by West African and Igbo history and mythology, this adventurous middle-grade fantasy debut is perfect for fans of Aru Shah and Tristan Strong, celebrating the triumphs and challenges of a boy finding his true path to greatness.
10. Silje Ulstein
The final debut author we will meet is Silje Ulstein, a Norwegian writer with a Master’s degree in Literature from the University of Oslo. Silje’s debut thriller, Reptile Memoirs, was originally published in 2020 by H. Aschehoug & Co. However, on March 15, 2022, Reptile Memoirs will be published in English by Grove Press, translated from Norwegian by Alison McCullough.
Liv has a lot of secrets. For her, home is the picturesque town of Ålesund, perched on a fjord in western Norway. One night, in the early-morning embers of a great party in the basement apartment she shares with two friends, Liv is watching TV, high on weed, and sees a python on an Australian nature show. She becomes obsessed with the idea of buying a snake as a pet. Soon Nero, the baby Burmese python, becomes the apartment’s fourth roommate.
As Liv bonds with Nero, she feels extremely protective, like a caring mother, and she is struck by a desire that surprises her with its intensity. Finally she is safe. Thirteen years later, in the nearby town of Kristiansund, Mariam Lind goes on a shopping trip with her eleven-year-old daughter, Iben, who angers her mother by asking for a magazine one too many times. Mariam storms off, leaving Iben in the shop and, expecting her young daughter to find her own way home, heads off on a long calming drive. When she returns home in the evening, her husband is relieved to see her but terrified that Iben isn’t also there. Detective Roe Olsvik is assigned to the case of Iben’s disappearance; he has just turned sixty and is new to the Kristiansund police department. As he interrogates Mariam, he instantly suspects her—but there is much more to this case and these characters than their outer appearances would suggest.
Article originally Published in the February / March 2022 Issue: New & Upcoming.