“Short, sharp, and quietly brutal. . . . [What Are You Going Through] is concerned with the biggest possible questions and confronts them so bluntly it is sometimes jarring: How should we live in the face of so much suffering? Dryly funny and deeply tender.”—Kirkus, STARRED review
From the publisher: A woman describes a series of encounters she has with various people in the ordinary course of her life: an ex she runs into by chance at a public forum, an Airbnb owner unsure how to interact with her guests, a stranger who seeks help comforting his elderly mother, a friend of her youth now hospitalized with terminal cancer. In each of these people the woman finds a common need: the urge to talk about themselves and to have an audience to their experiences. In What Are You Going Through, Nunez brings wisdom, humor, and insight to a novel about human connection and the changing nature of relationships in our times. A surprising story about empathy and the unusual ways one person can help another through hardship, her book offers a moving and provocative portrait of the way we live now.
Sigrid Nunez is the author of the novels Salvation City, The Last of Her Kind, A Feather on the Breath of God, and For Rouenna, among others. She has been the recipient of several awards including a Whiting Writers’ Award, the Rome Prize in Literature, a Berlin Prize Fellowship, and the 2018 National Book Award for her New York Times-bestselling novel The Friend. She lives in New York City. Her fiction appeared in NER 18.3.
“What Scholastique Mukasonga accomplishes with this collection is nothing short of alchemy… Mukasonga is a genius and her work should be savoured again and again.” — Diriye Osman, author of Fairytales For Lost Children
From the publisher: Scholastique Mukasonga’s autobiographical stories rend a glorious Rwanda from the obliterating force of recent history, conjuring the noble cows of her home or the dew-swollen grass they graze on. In the title story, five-year-old Colomba tells of a merciless overlord, hunger or igifu, gnawing away at her belly. Her writing eclipses the great gaps of time and memory; in one scene she is a child sitting squat with a jug of sweet, frothy milk and in another she is an exiled teacher, writing down lists of her dead. As in all her work, Scholastique sits up with them, her witty and beaming beloved.
Scholastique Mukasonga was born in Rwanda in 1956 and experienced from childhood the violence and humiliation of the ethnic conflicts that shook her country. In 1960, her family was displaced to the polluted and under-developed Bugesera district of Rwanda. Mukasonga was later forced to leave the school of social work in Butare and flee to Burundi. She settled in France in 1992, only two years before the brutal genocide of the Tutsi swept through Rwanda. In the aftermath, Mukasonga learned that 27 of her family members had been massacred. Twelve years later, Gallimard published her autobiographical account Inyenzi ou les Cafards, which marked Mukasonga’s entry into literature. This was followed by the publication of La femme aux pieds nus in 2008 and L’Iguifou in 2010, both widely praised. Her first novel, Notre-Dame du Nil, won the Ahmadou Kourouma prize and the Renaudot prize in 2012, as well as the 2013 Océans France Ô prize, and the 2014 French Voices Award, and was shortlisted for the 2016 International Dublin Literary award. Her work has appeared numerous times in NER in translations by Melanie Mauthner, most recently in 41.3.
(Starred review in Publishers Weekly) In Jeff W. Bens’s blistering latest (after Albert, Himself), Tim “Oak” O’Connor is an enforcer for a West Texas Hockey League team. During a two-month suspension for injuring another player, Oak flies home to Boston for his mother’s funeral. There, he’s ashamed to be seen by Kate, his 14-year-old estranged daughter from a failed marriage. Oak, addicted to painkillers from all the damage the game has done to his body and mind, works odd (and sometimes illegal) jobs, such as stealing copper wiring from a demolition site with his old friend, Slats, now married to Oak’s ex and raising Kate, while reflecting on his years of absence and regrets. Oak gets some hope from a new relationship with Joan Linney, an attorney who defends him after he is arrested for hitting a cop, and bonds with Kip, a 14-year-old boy he rescues from bullying outside a hockey rink. Both Joan and Kip play an important role as Oak struggles to make a new life for himself, both in and out of the rink. Oak is deeply tragic, a man of good intentions who is dogged by bad luck and worse impulse control; the author makes his story an emotionally fraught and enriching one for the reader. Filled with memorable characters, pungent dialogue, and a lean, hard-bitten writing style, Bens’s superb novel brilliantly faces down traditional notions of manhood.
Jeff W. Bens’s story, Golden Day, appeared in NER 19.1 (1998).
The Mighty Oak can be purchased at Bookshop.org or your local independent bookstore.
“Because Biespiel is Jewish (though admittedly ‘retired’) he is compelled to remember. Because he is a storyteller, he caresses the complex characters and places of his past. And finally, because he is a poet, he makes it all sing—gorgeously.” —Lia Purpura, National Book Critics Circle finalist and author of All the Fierce Tethers
From the publisher: Acclaimed poet and essayist David Biespiel tells the story of the rise and fall of a Jewish boyhood in Texas, and his search for the answer to his life’s central riddle: Are we ever done leaving home? Written in the years that followed the devastation of Houston wrought by three 500-year floods in three years, including the worst flood in Texas history, Biespiel’s account is by turns personal and philosophical, a meditation on time’s inevitable losses and a writer’s hard-won gains. A Place of Exodus is not only a memoir, but an essential companion for anyone who has journeyed far—and equally those who have stayed close to the unresolvable paradoxes of home, the aches of time and heart none of us can escape.
David Biespiel is a contributing writer at the New Republic, the New Yorker, Poetry, Politico, and Slate. He is the author of six collections of poetry, three books of nonfiction, and is the editor of two anthologies. His most recent books include: Republic Café and The Education of a Young Poet. He is poet-in-residence at Oregon State University, a core faculty member in the Rainier Writers Workshop MFA Program, and founder of the Attic Institute of Arts and Letters. Three of his poems appeared in NER 39.4.
A Place of Exodus can be purchased at Bookshop.org or your local independent bookstore.
“Wang sees deeply into his subject. With offhand precision, his stories present a vision of recent China that feels utterly genuine even when he is raucously, indubitably inventing. This is political fiction of a high caliber.”—Sharon Solwitz, author of Once, in Lourde
From the publisher: Steeped in a long history of violence and suffering, Michael X. Wang’s debut collection of short stories interrogates personal and political events set against the backdrop of China that are both real and perceived, imagined and speculative. Wang plunges us into the fictional Chinese village of Xinchun and beyond to explore themes of tradition, family, modernity, and immigration in a country grappling with its modern identity. Further News of Defeat is rich with characters who have known struggle and defeat and who find themselves locked in pivotal moments of Chinese history—such as World War II and the Tiananmen Square massacre—as they face losses of the highest order and still find cause for revival.
Michael X. Wang was born in Fenyang, a small coal-mining city in China’s mountainous Shanxi Province. He immigrated to the United States when he was six and has lived in ten states and fifteen cities. In 2010, he completed his PhD in Literature at Florida State University. Before that, he received his MFA in Fiction at Purdue. His work has appeared in New England Review, Greensboro Review, Day One, and Juked, among others, and they have won an AWP Intro Award and been selected by the Best American Anthology as a notable story of the year. He lives with his wife and pets at Russellville, Arkansas, and is currently an Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at Arkansas Tech University. The titular story of this collection first appeared in NER 36.2. Read his “Behind the Byline” interview on the story here.
Further News of Defeat can be purchased at Bookshop.org or your local independent bookstore.