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Three books I loved this summer

Mary E. Hotvedt, Vice-chair of the Southwest Festival of the Written Word, chooses her favorite books of 2018.

There are authors I wait and wait for, hungry for their next release: David Mitchell, Hilary Mantel. I suffer over the loss of the late Peter Matthiessen and Umberto Eco. There are a few serials I follow, looking for a powerful atmosphere and strong characters. John Straley’s detective series set in Sitka is one of my favorites.

Fresh out of favorite authors to follow, I took to wandering our public library this summer, making sure I left with three novels. I probably read one and a half of the three I chose each time, and some of them were gems. All were by authors I didn’t know before. Here are a few that stayed with me:

cover of Spoonbenders by Daryl GregorySpoonbenders by Daryl Gregory (2017)

Imagine a showbiz family with supposed psychic abilities whose act breaks down on the Johnny Carson show. The mom dies of cancer and the family semi-disintegrates over the next 30 years or so. But it’s a comedy. It’s about ordinary families and also about the help in life from a little belief in magic. The story is told through the voice of the teenage grandson of Teddy Telemachus, the family patriarch and impresario. Did I mention the Mafia part?

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (2012)

cover of The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson WalkerAnother teenage narrator, this time a girl we follow into and through adolescence. She and her family are ordinary comfortable Californians who try to hang on to some semblance or normalcy as the earth, for no known reason, slows in its rotation. Part coming-of-age story, part sci-fi, Walker keeps her character’s voice throughout the years of a planet becoming unlivable. The book was both dystopian in vision and loving in its sad message.

The Sellout by Paul Beatty (2015)

Okay, I bought this one. I don’t think our library carries it, but they should. This book made me, as a white woman, think about our racial/racist history and lunacy in new ways. I want to discuss the book with anyone who’s read it. I also laughed out loud many, many times.

cover of The Sellout by Paul BeattyMe—that’s the narrator’s last name- is up before the U.S. Supreme Court for promoting segregation and owning a slave. How he got there and what in fact he tried to do—and why—are the guts of the book. Beatty asks the question, what is racial identity in a (phony) post-racial nation? Along the way, you meet the residents of a small Los Angeles enclave, Dickens, losing its soul to the encroaching city. There’s a slight whiff of magical realism in Me’s struggle to save Dickens, and you root for him to make it. Along the way, Beatty’s satire rightly skewers every sacred cow it encounters.

I’ve added Beatty to my group of authors I will follow for years to come.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Southwest Word Fiesta™ or its steering committee.

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Mimbres Press of Western New Mexico University is a traditional academic press that welcomes agented and unagented submissions in the following genres: literary fiction, creative non-fiction, essays, memoir, poetry, children’s books, historical fiction, and academic books. We are particularly interested in academic work and commercial work with a strong social message, including but not limited to works of history, reportage, biography, anthropology, culture, human rights, and the natural world. We will also consider selective works of national and global significance.