New Writers To Watch | Fiction Previews, Feb. 2018

Andreasen, Michael. The Sea Beast Takes a Lover: Stories. Dutton. Feb. 2018. 240p. ISBN 9781101986615. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781101986622. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. SHORT STORIES
A little sister born without a head turns out to be quite annoying. A lovelorn kraken pulls a ship into the deep. A man longs for his wife even as his extramarital affair results in an alien abduction. Andreasen writes short stories that are nothing if not fantastical. Smart readers will know his work from The New Yorker, Tin House, Zoetrope: All-Story, and more.

Emezi, Akwaeke. Freshwater. Grove. Feb. 2018. 240p. ISBN 9780802127358. $24. LITERARY
A Nigerian-born Igbo and Tamil writer and artist now living in Brooklyn and Trinidad, Emezi won the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Africa. This first novel features a young Nigerian woman named Ada, splintered into separate selves, who finds two selves taking over when she moves to America for college and suffers a terrible assault. Look for marketing at PLA and ALA.

Halliday, Lisa. Asymmetry. S. & S. Feb. 2018. 288p. ISBN 9781501166761. $26. LITERARY
Exploring imbalance in human relations, this debut novel by 2017 Whiting Award winner Halliday is divided into three parts. “Folly” explores the relationship, eventually romantic, between a young editor named Alice and older, distinguished author Ezra Blazer; “Madness” limns the fate of Amar, an Iraqi American stuck in a holding room at Heathrow, where he’s been detained on his way to visit his brother in Kurdistan. An epilog ties these two stories together. With a five-city tour.

Hobson, Brandon. Where the Dead Sit Talking. Soho. Feb. 2018. 288p. ISBN 9781616958879. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781616958886. LITERARY
Pushcart Prize winner Hobson, a member of the Cherokee
Nation, relates the story of a 15-year-old Cherokee named Sequoyah who is fostered out to the Troutt family when his single mother lands in jail. He’s been damaged by his unstable upbringing, but he starts to heal when he draws close to Rosemary, another Native American teenager fostered by the Troutts. Set in late 1980s rural Oklahoma and billed as appropriate for YA crossover.

Kenny, Meghan. The Driest Season. Norton. Feb. 2018. 192p. ISBN 9780393634594. $25.95. LITERARY
Another novel slated as YA appropriate, this debut was spun from a short story that won the Iowa Review Award and a Pushcart Prize Special Mention. It’s set in World War II Wisconsin and stars 16-year-old Cielle, who finds her father hanging in the barn one drought-ridden summer. Thereafter, she must puzzle out dark family secrets and the meaning of her father’s life.

Lazarin, Danielle. Back Talk: Stories. Penguin. Feb. 2018. 256p. ISBN 9780143131472. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781524705190. SHORT STORIES
Lazarin won several Hopwood Awards while attending the University of Michigan’s Helen Zell Writer’s Program, and Vela recently included her on its list of Seven Emerging Short Story Writers, which bodes well for this first collection. A teenager in Paris, a recent widower and his young babysitter, a woman getting ready to end her marriage, a 16-year-old mourning her mother’s death—these characters all negotiate unexpected moments in life.

McIlvain, Ryan. The Radicals. Hogarth: Crown. Feb. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9780553417883. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780553417890. Downloadable: Random Audio. LITERARY
Graduate students in New York, Eli and Sam bond over their love of poetry and belief in socialism. But the group gathered around them to protest against Soline, an energy company cheating homeowners of their savings, includes types that seem dangerously fringe. As usual, love complicate all: Sam is getting involved with Eli’s ex-girlfriend. Former Stegner fellow McIlvain debuted with the well-received Elders.

Rosengaard, Mikkel. The Invention of Ana. Custom House: Morrow. Feb. 2018. 288p. ISBN 9780062679079. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062679093. LITERARY
Here’s a conversation starter: though he now lives in New York, Rosengaard hales from Elsinore, Denmark. Another conversation starter: his book has won awards in Denmark, been published in five countries, and comes with a 50,000-copy first printing. In balmy Brooklyn, an aspiring writer fresh from Copenhagen meets Ana Ivan, a performance artist and mathematician of Romanian heritage who claims she can time travel. Our hero gets involved in one of her dark experiments as the novel moves from New York to Bucharest to Morocco and back.

Rothman-Zecher, Moriel. Sadness Is a White Bird. Atria. Feb. 2018. 288p. ISBN 9781501176265. $26. LITERARY
Born in Jerusalem, raised in America, and back home working with several groups to end the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories, MacDowell Fellow Rothman-Zecher offers the portrait of a conflicted young man. Jonathan is ready to defend the Israeli state, which his grandfather helped found. But he’s also grown close to Palestinian siblings Nimreen and Laith, and he finds the idea of having to monitor the occupied Palestinian territories repugnant.

Sachdeva, Anjali. All the Names They Used for God: Stories. Spiegel & Grau. Feb. 2018. 288p. ISBN 9780399593000. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780525508670. Downloadable: Random Audio. SHORT STORIES
A workman is forever marked by Andrew Carnegie’s steel mills. A fisherman sails away, drawn by something from which there is no return. John Milton muses over Paradise Lost. And young women are kidnapped by Boko Haram. Winner of the Orange/Northern Woman Short Story prize and anthologized in the Best American Nonrequired Reading, Sachdeva uses her first collection to look at things beyond our control.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.

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