The Loved Ones: Essays to Bury the Dead by Madison Davis Dzanc Books, June 2023
The Loved Ones: Essays to Bury the Dead by Madison Davis, Winner of the Dzanc Nonfiction Prize, explores the deaths of four family members across three generations: an inexplicable double murder, a fatal car accident, a long illness, and a conscripted solider killed in action. Piece by piece, each essay explores the death a loved one in a collage of vignettes: the loss, the aftermath, the funerals, and the rituals used to say goodbye to the body. As the investigation deepens, Davis lines up other forms of death—capital punishment and murder; medically-assisted suicide and “natural” death from disease; military conscription and “freak accident”—to see what comes to the surface.
Girl Country: Stories by Jacqueline Vogtman Dzanc Books, May 2023
Girl Country: Stories by Jacqueline Vogtman is Winner of the Dzanc Shorty Story Collection Prize with stories that feature a near-future farmer battling environmental crises who takes in a mysterious girl he finds on the roadside. A bus driver navigates through treacherous weather and memories of her tragic past as she races to save children from the end of the world. A woman keeps giving birth to children from different time periods. And a woman struggles with her young daughter mysteriously transforming into something wild and unruly, confronting themes of motherhood and family. Girl Country ranges from medieval Belgium to the near future of the American Midwest, populated by mothers and monsters, mermaids and milkmaids, nuns and bus drivers—women in every walk of life, but particularly working-class women, navigating the intersection of the mundane and the magical.
The Middle Daughter by Chika Unigwe Dzanc Books, April 2023
When seventeen-year-old Nani loses her older sister and then her father in quick succession, her world spins off its axis. Isolated and misunderstood by her grieving mother and sister, she’s drawn to an itinerant preacher, a handsome self-proclaimed man of God who offers her a new place to belong. All too soon, Nani finds herself estranged from her family, tethered to her abusive husband by children she loves but cannot fully comprehend. She must find the courage to break free and wrestle her life back—without losing what she loves most.
Winner of the Dzanc Prize for Fiction, Blair Austin’s debut Dioramas tells of a city far in the future, in a society that has come through a great upheaval. Retired lecturer Wiggins moves from window to window in a museum, intricately describing each scene. Whales gliding above a shipwreck and a lost cup and saucer. An animatronic forest twenty stories tall. Urban wolves in the light of an apartment building. A line of mosquitoes in uniforms and regalia honored as heroes of the last great war. Bit by bit, Wiggins unspools the secrets of his world—the conflict that brought it to the brink, and the great thinker, Michaux, who led the diorama revolution, himself now preserved under glass. In this hybrid novel—part essay, part prose poem, part travel narrative—Blair Austin brings readers to witness our own vanishing world, what we preserve and at what cost.
Only and Ever This by J. A. Tyler Dzanc Books, February 2023
In J. A. Tyler’s newest novel, Only and Ever This, a mother clings to twin sons, desperate to keep them from becoming their father, a pirate forever sailing away. In this rain-soaked township, she will attempt to mummify them, piece by piece, to stop them from growing up, a hope founded in magic and immortality. Meanwhile, their father obsesses the seas with his own belief in ever-lasting life, learning too late that his heart belongs on shore.
Nina Shope’s Asylum is an entrancing, fictionized story of French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot and his patient Augustine. In the novel — as in real life — Charcot puts Augustine’s “hysteria” on display in public demonstrations. Through his touch, Augustine’s body convulses and contorts in sexual poses in front of a crowd. The novel vacillates between both characters’ perspectives in a twisted dichotomy of torture and desire. Charcot resists his attraction to Augustine and obtrusively attempts to quantify her illness through hundreds of photographs and measurements: “My body broken down into strange sets of numbers until I barely recognize myself. Everything measured—the time it takes me to raise my arm, the angle of my eye, the number of steps until I find myself at your side.” Shope deftly uses second person POV to show Augustine’s conflicting feelings for Charcot: “I remember years when I could not tell you from me, when you sat inside me as surely as my bones, wearing me from the inside out…There was no part of me not filled by you. Infiltrated as a body is by disease.” Asylum will compel readers to discover Augustine’s fate and learn more about the people who inspired this darkly compelling novel.
Reviewer bio: Stephanie Katz is a librarian, writer, and editor. She runs 805 Lit + Art and is the author of Libraries Publish: How to Start a Magazine, Small Press, Blog, and More (Libraries Unlimited, ABC-CLIO, 2021). She writes about creative library publishing at literarylibraries.org and lives on an island in Florida.