You might have seen the New York Times book review’s look at “Fresh Voices” this weekend. The entire review was dedicated to novels, memoirs and story collections written by first- or second-time authors. The accompanying editorial noted that, “‘new’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘young’ – youth (or age, for that matter) being no indicator of talent. But all the voices were fresh, and all made us sit up a bit straighter before settling in for the journey.” This reflects a trend I have seen elsewhere where debut authors are being appreciated for their age, not judged for it.
Of the eight fiction reviews, three were for short story collections. That also stood out to me, as often people say that it is harder to publish short story collections and to get them read than novels. Rare is the collection that ends up on the bestseller list. But it could be that the Times has short stories on their radar right now, as last month they published an article (that was debated by other others) about how short stories “are experiencing a resurgence.” The “Fresh Voices” round-up provides a nice collection of new authors to choose from.
The Toronto Globe & Mail also published an article recently by Zoe Whittal, “For a new generation of writers, it’s go big AND go home,” which looks three debut authors not mentioned by the Times: Ayelet Tsabari, Taiye Selasi and Kenneth Bonert. All three write about exiles and cross-continental identity in our contemporary world.
In the article, Whittal is nostalgic for the 90s, a period during which she posits it was easier to publish a debut novel than now. She cites two stand-out Canadian authors from that period – Yann Martell and Anne Marie McDonald. This is something that has been said in the U.S. press as well and an idea that I am mulling as I read debut works. The central point to her piece, which resonated with me, is “new authors are having to be more ambitious than ever before in their scope and range. Perhaps, these days, one has to go big to get noticed.”
Of the three authors she reviews, Taiye Salesi’s Ghana Must Go, has been released, and is getting press in the U.S. It tells the story of a Ghanaian family that return to Accra from all over the world after a patriarch dies.
The last book I want to mention this week, Poison, is a YA fantasy novel written by an American author, Bridget Zinn. I am not a big fantasy reader, but I was deeply moved by Bridget’s life story – she was a young woman (early 30s) who died of colon cancer after this, her first novel, was bought and did not live to see it in print. Her book debuted this month, and friends and family have been promoting it. Her moving story, and the family’s campaign to market her book is getting written about in blogs and papers. Publishers Weekly did a nice story on her earlier this month.
I have Poison on my Kindle and am about three chapters in. It is the story of Kyra, a 16-year old potions master who is on the run in her kingdom. The plot moves easily and Kyra is a sympathetic protagonist. For those of you who like fantasy, or who have YA family members who do, I encourage you to give Poison a look. And thanks to Proto Libro reader EB for telling me about Bridget’s story. I find it very moving. What an accomplishment for her to have sold this book, but deeply sad that she did not live to see it in print.