Whether you’re traveling around the world or enjoying a staycation this summer, there’s no better time to enjoy a good book. In the past few months, the MFA in Creative Writing Program at The New School has seen several new books published by alumni and faculty. From heartwarming nonfiction to thrilling novels to fun reads for kids, here is a look at ten books we recommend you pick up this summer:
Since it hit shelves in April, people just can’t stop talking about Sunshine State. This book of deeply felt essays has seen stellar reviews from the New York Times, NPR, the Paris Review, and Rolling Stone, just to name a few. In Sunshine State, Gerard, a 2012 alum of the MFA in Creative Writing Program, uses her experiences growing up along Florida’s gulf coast to illuminate the struggles of modern human survival — physical, emotional, environmental — through a collection of essays exploring intimacy, addiction, obsession, religion, homelessness, and incarceration. She explores Florida as a microcosm of the most pressing economic and environmental perils haunting our society.
But don’t just take our word for it, PBS is calling Sunshine State one of 19 Summer books that will keep you up all night reading. Also check out 2017 MFA graduate Christine Sang’s interview with Sarah Gerard in the Brooklyn Rail.
Complete with an irresistible plot and deeply flawed, affectionately rendered characters, 2006 MFA alum Kris D’Agostino’s “sharp, funny [novel] conveys the disorienting and ever-shifting effects of grief” (The New York Times) and the unexpected epiphanies that emerge in chaos. This “darkly humorous portrait of the American family under duress…balances scathing and humorous commentary on the foibles of family with keen insight” (Publishers Weekly). Perfect for “fans of funny family dysfunction novels like Jonathan Tropper’s This Is Where I Leave You…and Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s The Nest” (Booklist), The Antiques is a heartbreaking, nimble, laugh-out-loud funny send-up of modern family life.
A Separation is a searing, suspenseful story of intimacy and infidelity and lays bare what divides us from the inner lives of others. With exquisitely cool precision, MFA faculty Katie Kitamura propels us into the experience of a woman on edge, with a fiercely mesmerizing story to tell. According to The New York Times, “(Kitamura) has created a kind of postmodern mystery in which we end up with a dead body, evidence of a violent crime, an abundant trail of clues and even angry mourners, yet nobody feels compelled to pursue the investigation. There is something unknowable in human nature, the novel seems to assume, something better left unexamined.”
In its review of this thoughtful and powerful young adult novel by The New School Liberal Arts graduate Renée Watson, Booklist calls Piecing Me Together, “a balancing act between class, race, and social dynamics, with Watson constantly undercutting stereotypes and showing no fear in portraying virtues along with vices.” In the book sixteen-year-old Jade believes she must get out of her poor neighborhood if she’s ever going to succeed. Her mother tells her to take advantage of every opportunity that comes her way. And she has. She accepted a scholarship to a mostly-white private school and even Saturday morning test prep opportunities. But some opportunities feel more demeaning than helpful. Like an invitation to join Women to Women, a mentorship program for “at-risk” girls. Except really, it’s for black girls. From “bad” neighborhoods. And just because Maxine, her college-graduate mentor, is black doesn’t mean she understands Jade. And maybe there are some things Jade could show these successful women about the real world and finding ways to make a real difference.
Poems in the Manner Of is an illuminating journey through centuries of writers who continue to influence new work today, including that of MFA faculty David Lehman.
“Very few writers can actually shape how you see the world. David Lehman is such a writer,” says Robert Olen Butler. In the book, Lehman channels, translates, and imagines a collection of “poems in the manner of” Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Shakespeare, W.B. Yeats, Rilke, William Carlos Williams, and more.
Lehman has been writing “poems in the manner of” for years, in homage to the poems and people that have left an impression, experimenting with styles and voices that have lingered in his mind. Finally, he has gathered these pieces, creating a striking book of poems that channels poets from Walt Whitman to Sylvia Plath and also calls upon jazz standards, Freudian questionnaires, and astrological profiles for inspiration.
One of Lehman’s poems written in the manner of William Wadsworth was featured on The New Yorker. Read it here.
MFA alum Lee Matthew Goldberg has set out to thrill readers in his forthcoming book (June 13, 2017) The Mentor.
New York Times best selling author Jennifer Close says about Goldberg’s debut novel: “A dark, whirling, and gripping book, The Mentor pulls you in from the very first page. Goldberg is a masterful storyteller and this tale of jealousy and ambition is one that will stay with you long after you’re done.” Along with reading his book, you can celebrate the book’s launch with Goldberg at 6:30 p.m. on June 13th at Mysterious Books in New York City. More details here.
The Kirkus Review calls 2015 MFA alum Laura Silverman’s Girl Out of Water, “a quick summer read to reassure teens who worry about college or blooming where they’re planted.”
Ocean breeze in her hair and sand between her toes, Anise can’t wait to spend the summer before her senior year surfing and hanging out on the beach with friends. Santa Cruz is more than her home-it’s her heart. But when her aunt, a single mother, is in a serious car accident, Anise must say goodbye to California to help care for her three young cousins. Landlocked Nebraska is the last place Anise wants to be… Then she meets Lincoln, a charismatic, one-armed skater who challenges her to swap her surfboard for a skateboard. Because sometimes the only way to find your footing is to let go.
The Hue And Cry At Our House is a moving and insightful memoir from MFA faculty Benjamin Taylor, one of the most astute, engaging cultural critics writing today, that uses one transformative year in Taylor’s childhood in 1960s Texas as its jumping off point.
“Proustian” is the word early readers have used to describe Taylor’s transporting reflections on childhood and the struggle of “coming into my own (loveliest phrase in the language)” when marked by otherness from the start. “A repellently good boy,” homosexual, Jewish, on the spectrum in a time when any and all behavioral aberrations were neatly summed up by a few catchall slurs, and a young admirer of Kennedy (then LBJ) in Goldwater country — Taylor is anathema to the mores of the affluent Fort Worth suburb where we witness him grow up.
For more about Taylor and his most recent book, you can click here to readan in depth Q&A about his life.
Get the kids reading this summer, too! MFA alum and Writing for Children and Young Adults coordinator Caron Levis celebrated the launch of her latest children’s book, May I have a Word?, on May 23.
In May I Have a Word?, a battle of the magnet letters ensues across the refrigerator door when C and K get into a fight about who gets to start the cooler (kooler?) words. When the two letters storm off in opposite directions, everything is turned upside down. SOCKS are now SO, there aren’t any CLOCKS to TICK or TOCK, and the world is just out of LUCK — until other letters work to bring C and K back together again. You can celebrate the launch of May I Have a Word? with Levis on June 10th from 12–2 p.m. at Books of Wonder in New York City. More details here.
New York Times best selling author E. K. Johnston says, “The Careful Undressing of Love is a book you relax into. For the first few pages, you’re picky, trying to sort (2012 MFA alum) Haydu’s magical world from our real one, and then it just takes you over. It’s weird until it’s not, and then it’s an examination of love and legacy and family, and the things girls do when we back them into corners and blame them for being there in the first place.”
In the book, the girls of Devonairre Street have always been told they’re cursed. Any boy they love is certain to die too soon. But this is Brooklyn in 2008, and the curse is less a terror and more a lifestyle accessory — something funky and quaint that makes the girls from the shortest street in Brooklyn special… Then Jack — their Jack, the one boy everyone loved — dies suddenly and violently. And now the curse seems not only real, but like the only thing that matters. All their bright futures have suddenly gone dark.
For more, you can check out Kirkus Review’s look at the book by clicking here.