Note from the Editor: 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 — something I’d written myself.
I am always on the prowl for a great new book to read, and so it’s always a pleasure when that book happens to be a debut title — these little discoveries are the ray of light, the silver lining of hope, to which I look forward through my own tunneled life as an aspiring writer.
With that, it is with immense joy that I share the following writers who are breaking onto the literary scene this month with their first book below.
Regina Porter, The Travelers
Regina Porter is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was an Iowa Arts Fellow and recipient of a 2017-2018 Rae Armour West Postgraduate Scholarship. She is also a 2017 Tin House Summer Workshop Scholar. Her fiction has been published in The Harvard Review. An award-winning writer with a background in playwriting, Porter has worked with Playwrights Horizons, the Joseph Papp Theater, New York Stage and Film, the Women’s Project, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, and Horizon Theatre Company. She has been anthologized in Plays from Woolly Mammoth by Broadway Play Services and Heinemann’s Scenes for Women by Women. She has also been profiled in Southern Women Playwrights: New Essays in History and Criticism from the University of Alabama Press. Porter was born in Savannah, Georgia, and lives in Brooklyn.
About The Travelers: The adventures of two families unfold and intertwine—across continents and generations, spanning the 1950s through Obama’s first year as president—in The Travelers, an absorbing tale of family, history, and the persistence of love.
My two cents: Porter manifests a fierce, ever-prevailing love between two families with a debut that will appeal to admirers of Jacqueline Woodson.
De’Shawn Charles Winslow, In West Mills
De’Shawn Charles Winslow was born and raised in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. He is a 2017 graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and holds a BFA in creative writing and an MA in English literature from Brooklyn College. He lives in New York.
About In West Mills: For readers of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie and The Turner House, an intimately told story about a woman living by her own rules and the rural community that struggles to understand her.
My two cents: Winslow’s modern, compelling debut novel is an anthem to the black woman’s individuality and the prices of such independence.
Ocean Vuong, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous
Ocean Vuong is an American poet and essayist. He is a recipient of the 2014 Ruth Lilly/Sargent Rosenberg fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, a 2016 Whiting Award, and the 2017 T.S. Eliot Prize for his poetry.
About On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous: A Vietnamese son writes his coming of age in a letter of ancestry, love, and forgiveness to his illiterate mother.
My two cents: Vuong’s emotive debut novel lays bare the beauty and shock of an immigrant boy’s sexual awakening that does nothing but pull at the heartstrings.
The Gone Dead, Chanelle Benz
Chanelle Benz has published short stories in Guernica, Granta.com, Electric Literature, The American Reader, Fence, and The Cupboard, and is the recipient of an O. Henry Prize. Her story collection The Man Who Shot Out My Eye Is Dead was published in 2017 by Ecco. It was named a Best Book of 2017 by the San Francisco Chronicle and one of Electric Literature’s 15 Best Short Story Collections of 2017. It was also longlisted for the 2018 PEN/Robert Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction. She currently lives in Memphis, where she teaches at Rhodes College.
About The Gone Dead: A young woman returns to her childhood home in the American South and uncovers secrets about her father’s life and death.
My two cents: I loved this story, even more so because it (finally) puts a black woman at the helm of a breakneck mystery. If Jesmyn Ward and Gillian Flynn were to collaborate on a novel, it would certainly resemble this.
Read our thoughts of The Gone Dead here.