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 a great new book 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.
For this month’s You Oughta Read debuts, we look at three fresh new faces hitting the lit scene.
Morgan Jerkins, This Will Be My Undoing
Morgan Jerkins is a writer based in NYC, Associate Editor at Catapult and, oh yeah – she’s a Princeton graduate. Her words have appeared in publications like Shondaland, ELLE, Lenny Letter, Rolling Stone, and The New Yorker. (All signals of Jerkins’ cosmopolitan valor.)
This Will Be My Undoing, in a nutshell: Jerkins spearheads her first discourse by turning her attention to the mirror. And thus, the question (“What does it mean to be?”) is born and a compilation of distinctive experiences unfurl from it. Jerkins manifests what it means to experience her physical self, dating under the visor of race, and how she survives as a woman of color “doubly disenfranchised by race and gender” in a world overpowered by white male dominion.
My two cents: 2017 was not my year to read memoirs, but let me tell you, I am really interested in checking this book out. Not to mention, it’s received a ton of buzz on Twitter and elsewhere lately, but what makes me most curious for its arrival is that a person of color within my age bracket is at the front of the conversation. Plus, I follow Jerkins on Twitter; and trust me, every tweet is an indication of her greatness. I’m excited!
Sharon Bala, The Boat People
Dubai-born novelist Sharon Bala is the Journey Prize-winning wonder behind the novel, The Boat People, a harrowing narrative of refugees whose lives are usurped upon their arrival along the shores of British Columbia. Bala was thrice a recipient of the Arts and Letters award by Newfoundland and Labrador. She also has bylines with publications such as Hazlitt, The Dalhousie Review, and The New Quarterly.
The Boat People, in a nutshell: More than 500 refugees named “the boat people” find themselves marooned along British Columbian shorelands after Sri Lanka’s civil war has ended, only to be held captive by Canadian government officials who speculate an infamous terrorist is among them.
My two cents: Bala’s The Boat People sounds heart-breaking and I love the legal aspects of it as well. In case you weren’t already aware, I love books that devastate me. Plus, it will be the first time I’ve ever read anything associated with Sri Lanka or refugees, which could make for a more staggering first impression.
Rachel Lyon, Self-Portrait With Boy
A New Yorker at heart, Rachel Lyon is a working writer, copywriter, and editor whose resume spans everywhere from Publishers Weekly, Indiana Review, LitWrap, ArtCritical, and elsewhere. She’s also an educator for the Sackett Street Writers Workshop, Catapult, and Slice; and when she isn’t dolling out writing prompts on her newsletter, she serves as the co-founder of Ditmas Lit, a monthly reading series in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn.
Self-Portrait With Boy, in a nutshell: A floundering photographer absent-mindedly captures a boy falling to his death in what is remarkably her best work yet. A literal blessing and curse, Lu Rile’s big break could usurp the faithful friendship developing between her and the child’s grieving mother.
My two cents: I love the premise of this one! There’s something so twisted and sad about it, which speaks to how off the wall my reading interests have been lately. But the peculiarity of Lyon’s debut seems like one I could easily latch onto.