Monthly Archives: December 2010

(A Few) Women Writers in 2010

I thought it would be nice to end the year with a few of my favorite books by women in 2010… If you haven’t read these, I hope you’ll consider them the next time you visit your local bookstore or library.

I don’t know what I admire more about Kim Dana Kupperman’s debut collection of essays, I Just Lately Started Buying Wings, the exquisite prose or the clear-eyed, hard-won insights (particularly into loss and identity). Kupperman won the Bakeless Prize in nonfiction and was also published by Graywolf Press. This book, along with Eula Biss’s Notes from No Man’s Land, inspired me to work on essays this summer.

In writers’ questionnaires, sometimes you’ll get this: “Name a book you wish you had written.” This year, Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks –an important, moral, fascinating work of narrative nonfiction–came to mind often. I bought this book the day it came out and have recommended it to just about everyone I know. 

Another nonfiction book I loved this year was Jane Brox’s Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light. I heard Brox read from the first chapter at Bread Loaf this summer and was captivated by her beautiful prose and the attention she pays not just to the history but also to the aesthetics of artificial light–from the earliest crude candles to yellowy gaslight to today’s energy-saving CFC’s and LED lights. A great book to curl up with in the winter.

Mona Simpson’s My Hollywood was a book I waited a long time for, ever since she published “Coins,” an excerpt, in Harper’s (back in 2002, I think). I thought it was worth the wait and was glad to return to her characters, particularly Lola.

I could not put down Michelle Hoover’s The Quickening, a starkly written novel about two Iowa farmwives at the beginning of the Great Depression. I think I read the entire book in a couple of afternoons, in a hammock, and I felt fully immersed in the world Hoover created from the first page to the last. I think this would be a really smart book club pick.

A great book to park beside your bed–read a few of these smart, funny, sometimes heartbreaking stories every night; they are almost all very short and always edifying. The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis came out in 2009 but was published in paperback just recently. I think you should probably get the hardcover though; it’s very nicely done. 

Another late 2009 title that came out in paperback this year, Lori Ostlund’s The Bigness of the World is a sharply written, funny, unsentimental collection of stories peopled with characters you won’t forget. Winner of the 2009 Flannery O’Connor Short Fiction Prize and a great book club pick.

And I haven’t read this one yet, but:

Wasn’t Jaimy Gordon’s surprise National Book Award win a great story? And is it just me, or doesn’t it seem that she has received less attention than Paul Harding for his small-press Pulitzer Prize-winning Tinkers (a book I loved)? I bought Lord of Misrule for my dad. Early 1970s, West Virginia, down-and-dirty horse racing: it seemed like a perfect book for him. Hopefully he’ll read it soon so I can borrow it.



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Southern Living!

It occurs to me that some people may find my little blog through an article I wrote for January’s Southern Living. I was thrilled, as Southern Living‘s “Best New Southern Author,” to share space in a special section of the magazine with Malaprop’s Bookstore (best bookstore), Only Burger (best food truck), the Avett Brothers (new kings of Southern Rock), and Shenandoah National Park (best summer escape), among other Southern favorites.

I wrote about my grandparents in the article in part because my grandmother, Mildred Boggs, was an avid reader of Southern Living. I wish I could have surprised her with the issue. But I have a student–a soon-to-be-Marine–who says Southern Living is his favorite (he loves to cook). So I’ll take him a copy next week, in case he hasn’t seen it.

If you’re curious about Mattaponi Queen, a collection of linked stories set on and around the Mattaponi Indian Reservation in Virginia, here are a few stories you can read online:

“Opportunity,” a story about a lonely elementary school principal, was published in storySouth.

“Jonas,” a story about a couple dealing with a sex change, first appeared in FiveChapters

“Homecoming,” which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, is about a teenager from Brooklyn who moves to King William County to live with his grandmother. It was published in At Length, a journal specializing in longer fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.  

Thanks for visiting! And please feel free to contact me; I haven’t found any clovers lately (too cold and snowy), but hopefully that will change soon!

(And if you have a book club interested in reading Mattaponi Queen, I would be glad to visit with you via Skype or–if you’re local–in person. I live in Chatham County, North Carolina, and as a rural person, I have a fairly broad definition of “local.”)


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MQ News; Graywolf Discount

Mattaponi Queen has been named to a couple of very nice end-of-year lists:

Largehearted Boy chose Mattaponi Queen as a favorite short story collection of the year. (Click here to read my Largehearted Boy playlist.)

And just today Kirkus Reviews named Mattaponi Queen one of the top debuts of 2010.

If you’re looking for holiday gifts for the readers in your life, Graywolf Press has a buy-two-get-one-free discount until Thursday, December 16. Click here for the discount code. (I have honestly never been disappointed by a Graywolf title.) I’ll try to post a guide to some of my favorite books of 2010 this weekend. Stay warm!

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