One of the most fulfilling prospects of being a writer is publishing your first work. For those who can relate, when I was an English undergrad, nothing excited me more than knowing that people might actually want to read, let alone buy, my work one day.
I am always on the prowl for great debut books to read, and so it’s always a delight to find a book by first-timers—these little discoveries have been the ray of light and silver lining of hope in my tunneled life as a freelancer over the years.
I usually select three debuts, but I couldn’t taper this month’s debuts down to three — and because this is my column — I’m introducing four new faces on the lit scene whose works I think you’ll really enjoy.
If You Leave Me, Crystal Hana Kim
New York-born Columbia alum, Crystal Hana Kim is a contributing editor at Apogee Journal whose garnered a myriad of awards throughout her writing career. Among them include PEN America’s Story Prize for Emerging Writers and fellowships from Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown.
If You Leave Me, in a nutshell: A debut of a forbidden love broken by war and cuts against family ties when two ill-fated lovers must cope with the generational repercussions of their actions.
My two cents: I’ve never read a war-torn novel before, but I think this story sounds so interesting I just had to purchase it.
Severance, Ling Ma
Ling Ma is a Cornell University alum with a background in journalism and editing and teaches creative writing at the University of Chicago. An excerpt of her debut novel, Severance, received early praise as the winner of the 2015 Graywolf SLS Prize. Her work has been published in gazettes such as Granta, Chicago Reader, Ninth Letter and elsewhere.
Severance, in a nutshell: An apocalyptic caricature of a novel that follows one tech-savvy millennial woman’s escape from a plague sweeping through New York.
My two cents: Ever since I read The Hunger Games and Never Let Me Go, I’ve sort of fallen in love with dystopian and those focused on the end of days — case in point: this one is right up my alley.
Open Me, Lisa Locascio
Lisa Locascio an Anglophone writer and editor of ekphrastic collab magazine 7×7, and co-publisher of the regional fiction zine Joyland. Her writings of Bolaño have appeared in publications like Salon, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Believer and elsewhere.
Open Me, in a nutshell: A bildungsroman of a young woman’s pre-college study abroad going horribly awry.
My two cents: I’ve always been fascinated with love triangles and the way in which erotic fiction is written — can’t wait to crack this one open.
Ohio, Stephen Markley
Stephen Markley‘s short fiction and essays have been published online and in print publications like Paste Magazine, The Iowa Review, The Chicago Tribune and elsewhere. A graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, Markley’s first novel, Ohio, releasing via Simon and Schuster, is forthcoming August 21.
Ohio, in a nutshell: A paralyzing coming-of-age debut about four classmates writhing through the Great Recession in northeastern Ohio.
My two cents: I already own — and highly recommend — Markley’s debut. If not for its harrowing characters than for its surprisingly lyrical portrait of denizens surviving through the opioid crisis.