By Corinna Kloth
New & Upcoming Indie Releases to add to your reading list.
1. Like the Appearance of Horses by Andrew Krivak
Rooted in the small, mountain town of Dardan, Pennsylvania, where patriarch Jozef Vinich settled after surviving World War I, Like the Appearance of Horses immerses us in the intimate lives of a family whose fierce bonds have been shaped by the great conflicts of the past century.
After Bexhet Konar escapes fascist Hungary and crosses the ocean to find Jozef, the man who saved his life in 1919, he falls in love with Jozef’s daughter, Hannah, enlists in World War II, and is drawn into a personal war of revenge. Many years later, their youngest son, Samuel, is taken prisoner in Vietnam and returns home with a heroin addiction and deep physical and psychological wounds. As Samuel travels his own path toward healing, his son will graduate from Annapolis as a Marine on his way to Iraq.
Like the Appearance of Horses is the freestanding, culminating novel in Andrew Krivak’s award-winning Dardan Trilogy, which began with The Sojourn and The Signal Flame.
Andrew Krivak is the author of four novels: The Bear, a Mountain Book Competition winner, Massachusetts Book Award winner, LibraryReads selection, and NEA Big Read selection, as well as the freestanding novels of the Dardan Trilogy, which include The Sojourn, a National Book Award finalist and winner of both the Chautauqua Prize and Dayton Literary Peace Prize; The Signal Flame, a Chautauqua Prize finalist, and more!
2. Rewriting Illness by Elizabeth Benedict
By turns somber and funny but above all provocative, Elizabeth Benedict’s Rewriting Illness: A View of My Own is a most unconventional memoir. With wisdom, self-effacing wit, and the story-telling skills of a seasoned novelist, she brings to life her cancer diagnosis and committed hypochondria. As she discovers multiplying lumps in her armpit, she describes her initial terror, interspersed with moments of self-mocking levity as she indulges in “natural remedies,” among them chanting Tibetan mantras, drinking shots of wheat grass, and finding medicinal properties in chocolate babka. She tracks the progression of her illness from muddled diagnosis to debilitating treatment as she gathers sustenance from her family and an assortment of urbane, ironic friends, including her fearless “cancer guru.”
In brief, explosive chapters with startling titles – “Was it the Krazy Glue?” and “Not Everything Scares the Shit out of Me” – Benedict investigates existential questions: Is there a cancer personality? Can trauma be passed on generationally? Can cancer be stripped of its warlike metaphors? How do doctors’ own fears influence their comments to patients? Is there a gendered response to illness?
Elizabeth Benedict, a graduate of Barnard College, is a bestselling novelist, journalist, teacher of creative writing, editor, and writing coach. Her latest book is the memoir, REWRITING ILLNESS: A VIEW OF MY OWN, to be published May 23, 2023. “Witty, vivid, and harrowing,” writes Thomas Beller, Sigrid Nunez comments: “It’s the kind of inspiring book you want to share with all the important people in your life.”
3. V is for Victory by Craig Nelson
As Nazi Germany began to conquer Europe, America’s military was unprepared, too small, and poorly supplied. The Nazis were supported by robust German factories that created a seemingly endless flow of arms, trucks, tanks, airplanes, and submarines. The United States, emerging from the Great Depression, was skeptical of American involvement in Europe and not ready to wage war. Hardened isolationists predicted disaster if the country went to war.
In this fascinating and deeply researched account, Craig Nelson traces how Franklin D. Roosevelt steadily and sometimes secretively put America on a war footing by convincing America’s top industrialists such as Henry Ford Jr. to retool their factories, by diverting the country’s supplies of raw materials to the war effort, and above all by convincing the American people to endure shortages, to work in wartime factories, and to send their sons into harm’s way.
Craig Nelson, the author of Rocket Men, The First Heroes, Thomas Paine (winner of the 2007 Henry Adams Prize), and Let’s Get Lost (short-listed for W.H. Smith’s Book of the Year). His writing has appeared in Vanity Fair, Salon, The New England Review, Reader’s Digest, The New York Observer, Popular Science, and a host of other publications; he has been profiled in Variety, Interview, Publishers Weekly, and Time Out.
4. The Nightingale Affair by Tim Mason
You can go home again.
When twenty-three-year-old Maia Trieu, a curator’s assistant at the Museum of Folklore & Rocks in Little Saigon, Orange County, is offered a research grant to Vietnam for the summer of 1991, she cannot refuse. The grant’s sponsor has one stipulation: Maia is to contact her great-aunt to pass on plans to overthrow the current government. The expatriates did not anticipate that Maia would become involved with excursions in search of her mother or attract an entourage: an American traveler, a government agent, an Amerasian singer, and a cat.
Maia carries out what she believes is her filial role to her late father, a former ARVN soldier, by returning to their homeland to continue the fight for an independent Vietnam. Along the way, however, she meets a cast of characters—historical and fictional, living and dead—who propel her on a journey of self-discovery through which she begins to understand what it means to love.
Tim Mason is a playwright whose work has been produced in New York City, throughout the United States, and around the world. Among the awards he has received are a Kennedy Center Award, the Hollywood Drama-Logue Award, a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a Rockefeller Foundation grant. In addition to his dramatic plays, he wrote the book for Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical, which had two seasons on Broadway and tours nationally every year. He is the author of the young adult novel The Last Synapsid. The Darwin Affair was his first adult novel.
5. Something Major: The New Playbook for Women at Work by Randi F. Braun
“Pick up this book now! Every woman wants to believe she is on the precipice of something major and this book gives you the tools to get yourself there. Randi Braun has created a fun and practical way forward for women who are looking to channel their inner bad-ass, crack the leadership code, and soar!”- Jen Mormile, Chief Business Officer of Condé Nast
She’s changing women’s lives, one play at a time.Women are natural leaders but they’ve been taught to play the game by an outdated set of rules. So certified executive coach, Randi Braun, wrote them a new playbook. In Braun’s book, Something Major: The New Playbook for Women at Work, women will discover how to play the leadership game on their own terms and win when it comes to achieving their goals: whether it’s cracking the code on your self-doubt by ditching perfectionism, external validation, and the tyranny of your inner critic, or learning new tactics for owning your message (don’t miss 16 things she forbids you to say at work).
Randi F. Brawn is an expert at empowering women who have demanding jobs and bold goals. As a certified executive coach and CEO of the women’s leadership firm, Something Major, she helps women thrive at work. Braun infuses conversations with life-changing ideas, advancing women leaders one wildly entertaining story at a time.
6. Secret Harvests by David Mas Masumoto
I discover a “lost” aunt, separated from our family due to racism and discrimination against the disabled. She had a mental disability due to childhood meningitis. She was taken away in 1942 when all Japanese Americans were considered the enemy and imprisoned. She then became a “ward” of the state. We believed she had died, but 70 years later found her alive and living a few miles from our family farm. How did she survive? Why was she kept hidden? How did both shame and resilience empower my family to forge forward in a land that did not want them? I am haunted and driven to explore my identity and the meaning of family—especially as farmers tied to the land. I uncover family secrets that bind us to a sense of history buried in the earth that we work and a sense of place that defines us.
Mas Masumoto masterfully weaves dramatic history with domestic tragedy into a coherent, revealing whole. This “secret’ merits serious pursuit.
—Lawson Fusao Inada
David Mas Masumoto‘s book Epitaph for a Peach won the Julia Child Cookbook award and was a finalist for a James Beard award. His writing has been awarded a Commonwealth Club of California silver medal and the Independent Publisher Books bronze medal. He has been honored by Rodale Institute as an “Organic Pioneer.” He has served on the boards of the James Irvine Foundation, Public Policy Institute of California, Cal Humanities, and the National Council on the Arts with nomination by President Obama.
7. Spring in Siberia by Artem Mozgovoy
In lyrical, impassioned prose, Eliane Brum recounts her move from São Paulo to Altamira, a city along the Xingu River that has been devastated by the construction of one of the largest dams in the world. In community with the human and more-than-human world of the Amazon, Brum seeks to “reforest” herself while building relationships with forest peoples who carry both the scars and the resistance of the forest in their bodies. Weaving together the lived stories of the region and its history of violent corruption and destruction, Banzeiro Òkòtó is a call for radical change, for the creation of a new kind of human being capable of facing the potential extinction of our species. In it, Brum reveals the direct links between structural inequities rooted in gender, race, class, and even species, and the suffering that capitalism and climate breakdown wreak on those who are least responsible for them.
Artem Mozgovoy: Born and raised in a small town in Central Siberia at the time when the Soviet Union was falling apart, he began his career as a cadet journalist in a local newspaper when he was sixteen; at twenty-six he was an editor-in-chief. In 2011, as Russia began legalizing its persecution of gay people, he left his homeland. Artem today holds a Luxembourgish passport, speaks five languages and, with his Romanian partner, lives in Belgium.
8. Floppy by Alyssa Graybeal
One of the first books to explore the emotional landscape of living with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome from a patient’s perspective; a playful story of falling down, getting back up again, and realizing you should have gone to the hospital sooner.
When ten-year-old Alyssa is diagnosed with the rare genetic connective tissue disorder Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, she vows not to let it stop her. Unfortunately, her efforts to avoid being “too sensitive” lead her to neglect not only her health but other aspects of her life as well. Twenty years later, she’s finally forced to confront the reality of her condition head on. When she finds herself tangled in an unwieldy combination of chronic pain, a library job for which she is particularly ill-suited, and her wife’s mystifying health problems, her body starts to unravel in ways she can no longer ignore. If pushing through is not the answer, what does homecoming to her floppy body even look like?
Alyssa Graybeal is a queer writer and cartoonist whose work focuses on the emotional landscape of living with chronic illness and disability, in particular the connective tissue disorder Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Floppy: Tales of a Genetic Freak of Nature at the End of the World is her first memoir and won the 2020 Red Hen Press Nonfiction Book Award. She has a BA from McGill University and an MLIS from Dalhousie University, and she works as an editor and writing coach. You can find her online at www.alyssagraybeal.com. She lives in Astoria, Oregon.
9. Aqueous by Jade Shyback
#1 Hot New Release on Amazon Canada in Dystopian Sci-Fi Books for Young Adults (11/16/2022)
From debut young adult novelist Jade Shyback comes the first in the Aqueous series. On the eve of Earth’s collapse, young Marisol Blaise is taken to live on an underwater mersation known as Aqueous with parents not her own. There, she must compete in the trials, grueling tests designed to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each trainee, hoping to be assigned to the all-male elite diving team known as the Cuviers. Desperate to prove to herself, the residents, and all of her parents, dead and alive, that she is worthy of this prestigious placement, she works tirelessly to shatter misogynistic beliefs, only to discover that it was not only the men who constrained her. A much uglier untruth exists.
Jade Shyback was born in Red Deer, Alberta on June 24, 1973. A nature lover, she spent five glorious years with her parents and brother in Nanaimo, British Columbia, riding her bike and scavenging for sea life on the rocky beaches of the Pacific coast. At age nine she returned to Alberta to live on a farm nicknamed Mosquito Flats until she obtained a degree in English, the only faculty that would have her, from the University of Calgary.
10. Owlish by Dorothy Tse
In a city called Nevers, there lives a professor of literature called Q. He has a dull marriage and a lackluster career, but also a scrumptious collection of antique dolls locked away in his cupboard. And soon Q lands his crowning acquisition: a music box ballerina named Aliss who has tantalizingly sprung to life. Guided by his mysterious friend Owlish and inspired by an inexplicably familiar painting, Q embarks on an all-consuming love affair with Aliss, oblivious to the protests spreading across the university that have left his classrooms all but empty.
The mountainous city of Nevers is itself a mercurial character with concrete flesh, glimmering new construction, and “colonial flair.” Having fled there as a child refugee, Q thought he knew the faces of the city and its people, but Nevers is alive with secrets and shape-shifting geographies. The winner of a 2021 PEN/Heim Translation Fund grant, Owlish is a fantastically eerie debut novel that is also a bold exploration of life under oppressive regimes.
Dorothy Tse is a Hong Kong writer who has received the Hong Kong Book Prize, the Hong Kong Biennial Award for Chinese Literature, and Taiwan’s Unitas New Fiction Writers’ Award. Her first book in English, Snow and Shadow (translated by Nicky Harman), was long-listed for the Best Translated Book Award. She is the co-founder of the literary journal Fleurs des Lettres.
11. Elixir by Kapka Kassabova
In Elixir, in a wild river valley and amid the three mountains that define it, Kapka Kassabova seeks out the deep connection between people, plants, and place. The Mesta is one of the oldest rivers in Europe and the surrounding forests and mountains of the southern Balkans are an extraordinarily rich nexus for plant gatherers.
Over several seasons, Kassabova spends time with the people of this magical region. She meets women and men who work in a long lineage of foragers, healers, and mystics. She learns about wild plants and the ancient practice of herbalism that makes use of them, and she experiences a symbiotic system where nature and culture have blended for thousands of years. Through her captivating encounters we come to feel the devastating weight of the ecological and cultural disinheritance that the people of this valley have suffered. And Kassabova reflects on what being disconnected from place can do to our souls and our bodies. Yet, in her search for elixir, she also finds reasons for hope. The people of the valley are keepers of a rare knowledge; how to transform collective suffering into healing.
Kapka Kassabova is a writer of narrative nonfiction, poetry, and fiction. She grew up in Sofia, Bulgaria, and lives in the Scottish Highlands. She is the author of To the Lake and Border, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.
12. Shy by Max Porter
This is the story of a few strange hours in the life of a troubled teenage boy.
He is wandering into the night listening to the voices in his head: his teachers, his parents, the people he has hurt and the people who are trying to love him.
Got your special meds, nutcase?
He is escaping Last Chance, a home for “very disturbed young men,” and walking into the haunted space between his night terrors, his past, and the heavy question of his future.
The night is huge and it hurts.
In Shy, Max Porter extends the excavation of boyhood that began with Grief Is the Thing with Feathers and continued with Lanny. But here he asks: How does mischievous wonder and anarchic energy curdle into something more disturbing and violent? Shy is a bravura, lyric, music-besotted performance by one of the great writers of his generation.
Max Porter is the author of Lanny, which was longlisted for the Booker Prize, Grief Is the Thing with Feathers, winner of the International Dylan Thomas Prize, and The Death of Francis Bacon. He lives in Bath with his family.
“Max Porter has a way of writing unlike anyone else. I loved Shy. I finished it elated and tearful, joyful and terrified, changed by the journey. It moved me and surprised me and that is what I look for in my favorite artists.”—PJ Harvey
13. The Sky Above the Roof by Nathacha Appanah
It all begins with a crash.
One night, seventeen-year-old Wolf steals his mother’s car and drives six hundred kilometers in search of his sister, who left home ten years ago. Unlicensed and on edge, he veers onto the wrong side of the road and causes an accident. He is arrested and incarcerated, forcing his mother and sister to reconnect and pick up the pieces in order to fight for his release.
What follows is a lyrical, precise, and unflinching account of the events that led to this moment, told through the alternating perspectives of Wolf’s mother, sister, and grandfather, as well as the doctor who was present at Wolf’s birth. With each chapter, new versions of the story and views of reality unfold, and they fit together like puzzle pieces: in an uncertain order at first, and then slowly falling neatly into place as the pages turn. As details about the characters’ lives and the disconnections in their relationships are revealed, the story becomes even more propulsive, even more compelling.
Nathacha Appanah was born in Mahébourg, Mauritius. She is the award-winning Tropic of Violence, Waiting for Tomorrow, and The Last Brother. She works as a journalist and translator and lives in France. “Lyrical and striking. . . . [The Sky above the Roof is] a tender and beautiful portrayal of unarticulated pain.”—Publishers Weekly
14. Saltwater Demands a Psalm by Kweku Abimbola
In Ghana’s Akan tradition, on the eighth day of life a child is named according to the day of the week on which they were born. This marks their true birth. In Kweku Abimbola’s rhapsodic debut, the intimacy of this practice yields an intricately layered poetics of time and body based in Black possibility, ancestry, and joy. While odes and praise songs celebrate rituals of self- and collective-care—of durags, stank faces, and dance—Abimbola’s elegies imagine alternate lives and afterlives for those slain by police, returning to naming as a means of rebirth and reconnection following the lost understanding of time and space that accompanies Black death. Saltwater Demands a Psalm creates a cosmology in search of Black eternity governed by Adinkra symbols—pictographs central to Ghanaian language and culture in their proverbial meanings—and rooted in units of time created from the rhythms of Black life. These poems groove, remix, and recenter African language and spiritual practice to rejoice in liberation’s struggles and triumphs. Abimbola’s poetry invokes the ecstasy and sorrow of saying the names of the departed, of seeing and being seen, of being called and calling back.
Kweku Abimbola earned his MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan’s Helen Zell Writers’ Program. His work has been published or is forthcoming in Shade Literary Arts, 20.35 Africa, the Common, and elsewhere. He lives in Detroit, Michigan.
15. The Red Book of Farewells by Pirkko Saisio
For fans of Tove Ditlevsen and Karl Ove Knausgaard, an enigmatic work of autofiction set in a time of leftist politics and criminalized sexuality.
Pirkko Saisio’s autofictional novel, in Mia Spangenberg’s tender translation, is a mesmerizing account of radical politics and sexual awakening in a series of farewells–to her mother, to the idealism of youth, to friends and lovers, and finally to her grown daughter. The novel embeds readers in a delirious Finland, where art and communist politics are hopelessly intertwined, and where queer love, still a crime, thrives in underground bars. But then one morning in 2002, on a remote island off the coast of Finland, the narrator Pirkko Saisio informs her publisher that she’s accidentally deleted her latest manuscript, The Red Book of Farewells. Playful and mysterious, The Red Book of Farewells is a work that stoically embraces the small revolutions of moving on.
Pirkko Saisio (b. 1949) studied drama and completed her actor’s training in 1975. Her debut novel The Course of Life (Elämänmeno, 1975) won the J. H. Erkko Award. Saisio has been nominated for the Finlandia Prize seven times, winning it in with The Red Book of Farewells (Punainen erokirja, 2003). She has, among other awards, received Aleksis Kivi Prize and State Literature Award. Apart from novels, she has written numerous plays and scripts for film and more!
Article originally Published in the April / May 2023 Issue: Voices.