Hugely excited to be taking part in the Blog Tour today for the wonderful THE GARDEN OF LOST MEMORIES by RUBY HUMMINGBIRD. My thanks to the author, publisher and Sarah of https://twitter.com/BOTBSPublicity for letting me be part of the tour and putting it all together!
Just because you feel ordinary doesn’t mean you aren’t extraordinary to someone else. Sixty-two-year-old Elsie knows what she likes. Custard creams at four o’clock, jigsaw puzzles with a thousand pieces, her ivy-covered, lavender-scented garden.
Ten-year-old Billy would rather spend his Saturdays kicking a ball, or watching TV, or anything really, other than being babysat by his grumpy neighbour Elsie and being force fed custard creams.
If it was up to them, they’d have nothing to do with each other. Unfortunately, you can’t choose who you live next door to. But there is always more to people than meets the eye…
Elsie doesn’t know that Billy’s afraid to go to school now, or why his mother woke him up in the middle of the night with an urgent shake, bags already packed, ready to flee their home. Billy doesn’t know that the rusting red tin he finds buried in Elsie’s treasured garden is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode her carefully organised life. And that when he digs it up, he is unearthing a secret that has lain dormant for twenty-eight years…
This moving tale is for anyone who has ever felt the pang of loneliness, or worried that their broken heart might never be the same again. Fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, The Keeper of Lost Things and The Library of Lost and Found will fall head over heels for this life-affirming novel that shows us that if you’re willing to take a risk, happiness is only ever a heartbeat away.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ruby Hummingbird is a novelist based in the English countryside. She loves nothing more than writing uplifting and heartwarming fiction that gets her readers reaching for the tissues. When she isn’t storytelling, she can be found tending to her beloved sunflowers or sipping on hazelnut lattes. @HummingbirdRuby
Stick a garden in a book and I’m immediately interested! Throw in a wonderful character in the form of Elsie and the unlikeliest of friendships of forming, and I’m smitten!! I adored this book and really took these characters to my heart!
Elsie lives alone, is elderly and gets through each day with her routines, doing her best to avoid the ‘chit chat’ of neighbours or people she bumps into at the shops. She’s also prone to making judgements about people before knowing the real story, and she finds herself doing that with her new neighbours. 10 year old Billy lives with his mum next door and they’ve moved away from his Dad. He’s scared, frustrated and being bullied at school so he often lashes out at the wrong person and definitely isn’t a fan of being left in the care of Elsie when his mum has to go out to work. She seems strange to him, sees her talking to herself and would rather be anywhere else but there! But something magical happens when she gets him to help her in her beloved garden that has become a little too much for her to cope with. And this healing power of a garden was one thing that really connected with me. It gives you the chance to focus on something else in the world and it does Elsie and Billy the power of good, especially with the outside world causing them so much suffering.
When they uncover a tin buried in the garden, it leads to an extraordinary journey for the both of them and it was just so uplifting to see them heading out together to piece together the pieces of memories left behind in this tin. Elsie is reluctant to visit one place but Billy goes by himself and makes a new friend and he starts to believe in himself again and feel less angry at the world.
This is a story that pulls on the heartstrings and shines the spotlight on how important it is not to judge people on first impressions. I enjoyed watching the story of their pasts unfold, and how coming together helped them all move on. Wonderful!
‘So original, so beautifully done, and sinister and savage. I didn’t want it to end’ Chris Whitaker, author of Tall Oaks
When you’re confronted with a wolf, you have to think like a wolf…
Franck and Lise, a French couple in the film industry, rent a cottage in the quiet hills of the French Lot to get away from the stresses of modern life.
In this remote corner of the world, there is no phone signal. A mysterious dog emerges, looking for a new master. Ghosts of a dark past run wild in these hills, where a German lion tamer took refuge in the First World War…
Franck and Lise are confronted with nature at its most brutal. And they are about to discover that man and beast have more in common than they think.
This was a quietly unsettling story which worked so well over the dual timelines in which it is set. And if you think living in isolation in the hills of France would be a pleasant, relaxing experience, then think again!!
Set in 1917 and 2017, we follow stories that are very different in their context, but very similar in their outcome! Elements of fear are mixed with the reality of day to day life and it was an exhilarating mix as the two worlds mirrored each other with the noises of the animals in the hills echoing around.
In 2017, Lise and Franck rent a cabin high up in the hills. She’s recovering from illness and wants away from the stresses and strains of modern living. Franck is not so keen and the whole idea of being without a phone signal terrifies him! She immediately settles into the life of peace and tranquility, whereas it just sets Franck off on high alert – afraid of every noise he hears, or movement he sees. The only peace he finds is when he goes to a nearby village to be amongst people for supplies and a coffee, and to catch up on his phone messages as he’s stressed by work issues.
And back in 1917, it’s a newcomer to the hills that unsettles the locals, especially with the start of the War hitting them hard, and this unknown strange German in the hills, with his lions and tigers – can they trust him? Is it safer for them with him around? For their peace of mind they share an uneasy truce with him, and life carries on but there’s lots of fear around and they seek comfort in faith. They have so many questions about this Lion tamer in the hills – why is he there? how is he feeding his animals? – but the mayor seems to be on his side so they settle into trying their best to ignore him and getting on with their lives, but with strange things happening it’s not long before nerves are on edge. And when he gets close to one of the villagers you wonder how that will change the dynamics of the lives they’re all living.
With work pressure building for Franck, Lise seems totally at ease amongst nature and I enjoyed seeing how they both reacted to the environment they were living in. The story seemed to switch to a darker theme with Franck and his battle with his mind, and the introduction of a wild dog that shows up on their doorstep that seems to have a connection with Franck. The silence used to be deafening for Franck, but the more time he spends in his surroundings it seems to give him clarity about a few things going on his life and he knows he needs to act on that.
I enjoyed the unpredictability of the story and a few of the threads took me by surprise which was really clever and it appealed to my twisted mind in showing how irrational our minds can make us at times of stress and fear. The remote setting was perfect and added to the uneasy feeling that you get as a reader as you watch events unfold. An enjoyable and dark read!
A thought-provoking Medieval mystery you don’t want to miss! Perfect for fans of S D Sykes, L C Tyler, Karen Maitland and S J Parris.
Not every corpse put in a pit has died of the plague…
The Black Death is tearing through the country and those not yet afflicted are living in fear.
Martin Collyer wakes up in his family’s charcoaling hut in the Forest of Dean to find his father dead on the bed beside him, half-sewn into his shroud. As Martin’s most recent memory is of being given the last rites, he cannot account for why he is alive and why his father – whose body bears not a trace of the plague – is dead.
With no home to go to and set free from the life of virtual servitude that his father had planned for him, Martin sets off on a journey across England to seek salvation for his father’s unconfessed soul.
He befriends another traveller on the way. But the man – Hob Cleve – seems to be harbouring dark secrets of his own.
As more suspicious deaths occur, Martin is left wondering whether Hob can be trusted.
What is Hob hiding? Is Martin travelling with a killer?
And what really led to Martin’s miraculous recovery?
THE BLACK AND THE WHITEis a chilling historical mystery set during the Medieval plague era.
A timely read considering the world we find ourselves living in, and I was utterly absorbed by this historical tale, set during the Great Plague and following a man on a mission of discovery. Not easy when you are joined on your journey by a man who has completely different values and outlook on life.
Martin finds himself waking up alongside his dead father, while the plague ravages family and villages, and wonders why he’s been spared. He wakes up clutching a figure of Saint Cynryth, a figure his father idolised, and Martin sees this as a sign to seek salvation for his father and to spread the word of this Saint that may, or may not, have saved his own life.
Martin is a quirky character! He is utterly devoted to doing the right thing and playing by the rules, but is troubled by nightmares – during the day he’s lonely, by night he’s terrified by demons. As he travels from village to village on his way to Salster, where the shrine to the Saint is said to be, he is joined by Hob, who appears from nowhere to save him from being attacked.
Wary but glad of the company, they make an odd duo travelling along and I loved watching their different attitudes towards the ‘miracle’ – Hob is a cynical soul and is bemused by the hold that this Saint has over Martin! The way they challenge each other and their way of thinking was a fascinating part of the journey for me, and wondering if either of them really trust one another. There are also a number of strange goings on that happen along the way which were an added twist to try and unravel! It’s a story that plays on the emotions of the characters – Martin especially as he’s trying to find meaning amongst grieving for the loss of his family and finding himself alone.
It’s a slow burner of a story but that allows you to immerse yourself more in the characters and get to understand their state of mind, and I thought the ending was particularly bittersweet and unexpected!
An absolute delight to be taking part in the Blog Tour today to share my thoughts on LEMON DRIZZLE MONDAYS AT THE LITTLE DUCK POND CAFE by ROSIE GREEN. My thanks to the author, publisher and Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for putting the tour together and letting me be part of it all!
Lemon Drizzle Mondays at the Little Duck Pond Café
Molly Hooper has a secret. It haunts her dreams and casts a dark shadow over life with her gorgeous three-year-old daughter, Eva. Arriving in Sunnybrook has given her a glimpse of sunshine. The Little Duck Pond Cafe crew seem so welcoming and there’s even the chance of a new job. Baking delicious cakes has always taken Molly to a happy place, so the job – at the glorious Brambleberry Manor Cafe – might just be perfect for her. It would mean she and little Eva could finally put down some roots at last. But is Sunnybrook the sanctuary Molly is searching for? Or will the past come back to haunt her, wherever she hides?
Rosie has been scribbling stories ever since she was little. Back then, they were rip-roaring adventure tales with a young heroine in perilous danger of falling off a cliff or being tied up by ‘the baddies’. Thankfully, Rosie has moved on somewhat, and now much prefers to write romantic comedies that melt your heart and make you smile, with really not much perilous danger involved at all – unless you count the heroine losing her heart in love. Rosie’s series of novellas is centred around life in a village cafe. The latest, ‘A Winter Wedding at the Little Duck Pond Cafe’, is out now.
Rosie has also written a full-length, standalone book, ‘Snowflakes over Moondance Cottage’, out now.
I have adored this series from the start and this latest installment – #9! – didn’t disappoint!! Having so much time following the characters in Sunnybrook, this book was another welcome trip back to catch up with all the latest goings on and to hear the story of another inhabitant!
Molly gets her chance to share her story in Lemon Drizzle Mondays, and it’s another cracking story of friendship, overcoming problems and the power of kindness! Molly and her daughter, Eva – just the cutest little girl! – are having landlord issues and finding life a little tougher than normal. Starting a new job she doesn’t get off to the greatest starts when crossing paths with Matt, the local bookbinder, and she just wonders if her bad luck is going to continue! Her new job at Brambledown Manor Cafe starts off slowly, and they need to find ways to get new customers through the door. And that’s where kindness comes into action! It’s a novel way of attracting new people through the door and shows the power of community – and the power of offering cake as a reward!!
Once again, we get to reconnect with characters from previous Little Duck Pond Cafe installments, and it just feels like coming home again catching up with them all! Knowing what Molly has been through in the past, it really makes you feel for her and just want the best for her and little Eva.
It was just wonderful to escape into this world with this wonderful community and I’m already counting down the days until the next installment!! Highly recommended!!
This is a joyful, uplifting book for those of us who sometimes wake up and feel we’re not good enough. Spoiler alert: we are!
She’s hiding so much behind her big smile she’s forgotten who she is.
But Greta is about to discover that the key to being happy is…being you.
Greta Gale has played the part of the funny fat one her entire life, hiding her insecurities behind a big smile. But size doesn’t matter when you can laugh at yourself, right? Until Greta realises she’s the only one not laughing. And deep down, she’s not sure if she’ll ever laugh again.
But with her world feeling like it’s falling down around her, Greta is about to discover she’s stronger than she feels. And that sometimes the best moments in life come when it’s all gone a bit pear-shaped…
I adore Greta!! She is me! She is you! That woman who is smiley on the outside, pretending life is sweet and making fun of herself, but full of crippling doubts on the inside and wishing the pain would just go away. And what the author has done brilliantly in this book is use that connection to us always beating ourselves up that we’re not good enough, and we get what we deserve… when that’s not the case. We are worthy and we need to be true to ourselves to find that happy place we all deserve to live in.
Greta comes from a ‘thin’ family – that’s how she sees it as a woman of a fuller figure, and she seems to react well to the digs and ‘banter’ but beneath the smiles she’s hurting and she’s playing a dangerous game with her health. It’s only when things go too far that her family find out the severity of the situation and she’s forced to face up to how her life is spiralling out of control.
The saving grace in her life is her namesake, Dr Greta Gayle, a hugely successful American lifestyle guru, who she is obsessed with due to them sharing the same name. It’s the only thing they have in common, but she always seems to find inspiration from the Dr and her Instagram posts when she needs guidance.
While in rehab she is stripped away from her crutches in life, and that makes things begin to fall into place for her. Why has she been so afraid to be herself? What is she hiding from? It’s often at our lowest points that life becomes a little clearer and she is forced to make changes in her way of thinking thanks to a therapist and the others she meets while in there. She sees she’s not alone in feeling a failure, or useless, or out of place and that makes her feel a little more connected.
What follows is a trip to America with her beloved Uncle, and both of them find out a lot about themselves while over there and facing up to their pasts. He has lived his life with regrets too so thinks this is the perfect opportunity for both of them to live a little, and I loved their bond and how much they meant to one another. And I loved the nods to The Wizard of Oz throughout!! Read the book and you’ll find out more!
It’s so much easier to say ‘be yourself’ than actually go through with it, and this book perfectly demonstrates that struggle we all go through of trying to fit in, losing sight of who we are and the reliance of outside influences to get us through the day. In Greta, there’s a character who is funny, pretty, smart but yet she can only see her size, and following her on her often painful journey was uplifting, emotional and a delight to be part of! Highly recommended!!
Delighted to be able to share a guest post today from the lovely VICTORIA CORNWALL on publication day for DANIEL’S DAUGHTER! Go buy your copy now!! Links below!
Victoria Cornwall chats Cornish history and her new historical novel, Daniel’s Daughter
In each of the novels in my Cornish Tales series, I have tried to bring alive something of Cornwall, whether it is its smuggling history, the class divide on the grand estates, ancient traditions, myths and legends, or characters with the Cornish pragmatic sense of humour and wit. As a backdrop to each tale, I have used Cornwall’s unique landscape, whether it’s formed from nature’s beauty or its industrial past. In Daniel’s Daughter clay mining forms the backdrop to the events that play out and the hurdles the characters face as they strive for happiness.
Why clay I hear you ask? I must admit, clay would not inspire me to pick up an historical romance, so why should it for any other reader? Let me try to explain why I used this part of Cornwall’s history as a backdrop …
As a child growing up in Cornwall, I gave little thought to why one of our local cinemas was called White River. I also did not fully appreciate the history behind the triangular white hills and artificially bright turquoise lakes which I could see from my car window when I travelled to the south coast. They are all linked to the production of clay. It was only when I became an adult I discovered the significant role Cornwall played in the china clay industry … so significant that the clay produced was nicknamed ‘White Gold’. The industry expanded at an alarming rate and employed vast numbers of people. It would take a certain type of man to keep his business competitive in the cut-throat world that emerged. It would take a man like Talek Danning, the troubled hero in Daniel’s Daughter. However Talek’s world is a very different world to the one Grace Kellow, the heroine, grew up in, which is the untamed, natural beauty of Bodmin Moor. When Grace discovers the terrible family secret, she flees her home and finds herself in Talek’s world which is so alien to her. Each landscape reflects the main characters’ traits, one industrious, serious and cut-throat, the other wild, beautiful and open. These two opposite characters are brought together, and the story of their time together begins to unfold …
Today mid Cornwall is very different. Time has moved on and many of those peaks of clay spoil, nicknamed the Cornish Alps, have been camouflaged by re-sculpting and the growth of vegetation to attempt to blend the manmade hills into the landscape. However, if you look carefully you can still see them reaching for the sky, now silent witnesses to Cornwall’s industrial past.
Although this part of Cornwall’s history plays a significant role in the tale, Daniel’s Daughter is more about truth … discovering it, facing it, learning from it, accepting it. And it is also about the damage that can be done to trust and loyalty, when telling or hearing the truth becomes a problem.
Although there is still clay mining undertaken in Cornwall, it is now on a lesser scale. Today mid Cornwall is threaded with a network of paths, named the Clay Trails, where walkers, cyclists and horse riders can explore the manmade landscape, which now happily sits alongside the natural one (https://www.claytrails.co.uk/).
So if you ever find yourself in Cornwall, consider walking one of the many Clay Trail routes. I have walked some of them and it could be said that it is where Talek Danning’s character first made himself known to me. Did their characters live happily side by side as the two differing landscapes do today? You will just have to read Daniel’s Daughter to find out.
About the book:
Sometimes the truth is not easy to say and even harder to hear …
Grace Kellow is a young woman with a strong sense of who she is and where she comes from. As the daughter of a well-respected Cornish dairy owner Daniel Kellow, her existence in the village of Trehale is comfortable and peaceful.
But then handsome Talek Danning comes striding over Hel Tor, and soon after his arrival Grace is hit with a revelation that leaves her questioning her identity and her place in the Trehale community.In her hour of need, Talek and his sister Amelia offer Grace sanctuary but wherever Grace runs, her secret will follow …
About the author:
Victoria Cornwall grew up on a farm in Cornwall and can trace her Cornish roots as far back as the 18th century. It is this background and heritage which is the inspiration for her Cornish based novels.
Victoria is married and has two grown up children. She likes to read and write historical fiction with a strong background story, but at its heart is the unmistakable emotion, even pain, of loving someone.
She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.
From Top Left: Bhanu Kapil (poetry), Julia Cho (Drama), Yiyun Li (fiction), Maria Tumarkin (nonfiction)
From Bottom Left: Jonah Mixon-Webster (poetry), Aleshea Harris (drama), Namwali Serpell (fiction), Anne Boyer (nonfiction)
2020’s powerful, female-dominated line-up of Windham-Campbell Prize recipients unites a rich, international collection of writers whose challenging work explores pressing political and social themes across identity, culture and power. Now in their eighth year, the Prizes celebrate writers at every stage of their careers.
In poetry we recognise British-Indian poet Bhanu Kapil, known for exploring crucial questions of trauma, healing and immigration, and the incredible Jonah Mixon-Webster and his unflinching poetry tackling the public health crisis in his hometown of Flint, Michigan.
For drama we celebrate Julia Cho, the incredible talent behind The Aubergine, Aleshea Harris, whose unflinching works confront the wounds of misogyny and racism.
Our prizes for fiction have gone to the prolific Chinese-born author of The Vagrants, Yiyun Li and Zambian author Namwali Serpell who explores themes of identity and belonging.
And in nonfiction we award Australian writer Maria Tumarkin, whose works explore the lives of ordinary people with extraordinarily painful pasts, and Anne Boyer, author of the searingly honest exploration of cancer The Undying.
Mike Kelleher, Director of the Windham-Campbell Prizes said about this year’s recipients, “This is such an exciting group of prize recipients—so many utterly original voices from so many different places. Their work digs deeply into everything from the poisoned water crisis in present-day Flint, Michigan to the vicissitudes of the surveillance state in an Afro-Futurist Zambia. To read the work of these eight writers—seven of them women—is simply overwhelming.”
In 2020 the Windham-Campbell Prizes celebrate eight winners in four categories, each of whom will receive $165,000 USD and whose names will be officially revealed on 19th March at 7pm GMT/3pm EDT.
The Windham-Campbell Prizes are one of the richest literary prizes in the world, with $1.32 million USD given to eight authors every year writing in English from anywhere in the world. Nominees for the Prizes are considered by judges who remain anonymous before and after the prize announcement.
The Prizes were the brainchild of lifelong partners Donald Windham and Sandy M. Campbell. The couple were deeply involved in literary circles, collected books avidly and read voraciously. They also penned various works, such as novels, plays and short stories, amongst others. For years they had discussed the idea of creating an award to highlight literary achievement and provide writers with the opportunity to focus on their work independent of financial concerns. When Campbell passed away unexpectedly in 1988, Windham took on the responsibility for making this shared dream a reality. The first prizes were announced in 2013.
In September 2020, Yale University and the Beinecke Library will host a week-long festival of events to honour the winners.
About Windham-Campbell Prizes
Established in 2013 with a signiﬁcant gift from Donald Windham in memory of his partner of 40 years, Sandy Campbell, the Windham-Campbell Prizes are among the richest and most prestigious literary prizes on earth. The community, camaraderie, diversity, and inclusive nature of the Prizes honours the spirit of their lives.
Bhanu Kapil is a British writer of Indian origin who now lives between the United Kingdom and the United States. She is the author of a poetry blog, The Vortex of Formidable Sparkles, and six full-length poetry collections.Her most recent publication, Ban en Banlieue (2016), takes a mysterious being called Ban as its protagonist. “Ban,” Kapil tells us, is not an immigrant. She is not even a body, but a “bodily outline.” A passive-violent, beautiful-monstrous, familiar-strange, present-absence, “Ban” recalls but refuses to represent those individuals who are despised, displaced, or even “banned” by the neocolonialist nations in which they live. An earlier collection, Schizophrene (2011) likewise disrupts the familiar tropes of the diaspora story, arguing that “it is psychotic not to know when you are in a national space.” Of course, as Kapil shows us, national spaces are themselves a kind of mass psychosis, their border walls built not with bricks but with the bodies and minds of the marginalized. In all her work, Kapil’s primary interest is on these marginalized: those living on the bottom, along the edges, citizens of what she calls “the floor of the world.” Kapil taught for many years at Naropa University and Goddard College. In 2019, she was awarded the Judith E. Wilson Poetry Fellowship at the University of Cambridge. During this time, she completed her first full-length poetry collection to be published in the United Kingdom, How to Wash a Heart (2020).
Jonah Mixon-Webster (United States) is a poet and conceptual/sound artist from Flint, Michigan. His debut poetry collection, Stereo(TYPE) (2018), was awarded the 2017 Sawtooth Poetry Prize and the prestigious PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry in 2019. In his acceptance speech, Mixon-Webster declared that his first ambition as a poet is “to tell the truth about what is happening in Flint, Michigan.” An artful and powerful work of poetic activism, Stereo(TYPE) uses oral history, government documentation, photography, and found text to tell the story of the ongoing public health crisis in Mixon-Webster’s hometown. With driving lyricism, he invites us into a Flint devastated by economic and racialized violence: its businesses, homes, and streets battered, its population winnowed. Intimate and violent, provocative and tender, mythic and ritualistic, Stereo(TYPE) compels its readers to become witnesses to environmental and social evil, and in so doing, to choose between radical solidarity with Flint—or complicity with those who have enabled the government’s relentless predation and persecution of its people. “Resistance,” Mixon-Webster writes, is to “occupy a wound / with a mouth.” Mixon-Webster is co-leader of the PEN America Detroit Chapter and is a 2019-2020 Writing for Justice Fellow. He has earned degrees from Eastern Michigan University and is currently completing his doctoral degree in Creative Writing at Illinois State University.
Julia Cho (United States)a native of Los Angeles, is the author of nine plays. Subtle, intimate, and wildly intelligent, Cho’s work explores the power and frailty of human connection—between cultures, between individuals, between generations, between institutions. Her characters are full of feeling but never sentimental; her plots are simple but rich with implication, their submerged meanings arising gradually, line by line, scene by scene. In Aubergine (2016), food becomes an act of translation between a young man and his dying father. In Office Hour (2017), Cho imagines an array of possible resolutions—some moving, some terrifying—to the story of an angry creative writing student unable to communicate with his classmates or instructors. In The Language Archive (2010), a scholar of dead and dying languages must confront his inability to express himself, and his own existential loneliness, to his estranged wife. Alternately lyrical and sharp, rigorous and whimsical, Cho’s plays demand that we listen: to feeling, to language, to one another. An alumna of Amherst College, UC Berkeley, the Julliard School and New York University, Cho also writes for television and film. She has been a recipient of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize (2010), the Barrie and Bernice Stavis Playwright Award (2005), the Claire Tow Award for Emerging Playwrights, and a Lilly Award among many other honors.
Aleshea Harris (United States) is an American playwright, performer, and screenwriter. Her debut play Is God Is won the American Playwriting Foundation’s Relentless Award in 2016. Critic Jeffrey Fleishman has described Harris as “a playwright in fierce struggle with America.” Is God Is and its follow-up, What to Send Up When It Goes Down (2018), confront the physical and psychological wounds of misogyny and racism, respectively. In the latter play, which Harris calls a “play-pageant-ritual response to anti-blackness,” a character tells the audience: “I looked down and realized the joke was on me, literally, all over me and in me.” Calling upon fairy tales and the novels of Toni Morrison, Greek myth and police reports, Harris’s work centres black bodies, celebrating them in their full spectrum of beauty and complexity: Love, rage, delight, recollection, speculation, and defiance all have a place in her character’s lives. A two-time finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize (2020, 2018), a two-time MacDowell Fellow (2019, 2016), a winner of the Helen Merrill Award for Playwriting (2019) and a winner of the Obie Award for Playwriting (2018), Harris lives in Los Angeles and performs her work around the world.
Yiyun Li (United States) was born in Beijing, China and is the author of fournovels—the latest, Must I Go, is to be published in August 2020—two short story collections, and a memoir. Li started writing in English in her twenties, and from the beginning of her career her work has earned praise for its formal beauty, imaginative daring, and intense interest in both the small flames of ordinary lives and the sweeping fires of political and social change. Her first novel, The Vagrants (2007), paints a portrait of a provincial Chinese town at a moment of crisis, with a young woman about to be executed as a counter revolutionary. In recent years, she has continued to write about the complex and often difficult relationship between personal freedom and political agency. Kinder Than Solitude (2014) follows a group of friends after the Tiananmen Square protests; Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life (2017), an essay collection, is both an examination of the exterior forces that power Li’s writing—literary, personal, and political—and an interrogation of selfhood. In all her work, Li displays a piercing clarity of vision, and a committed, sometimes painful empathy for individuals and for the fragile bonds between them. A former fellow of the MacArthur (2010) and Whiting (2006) Foundations, among many other honours, Li is a Professor of Creative Writing at Princeton University. Her work has been translated into more than twenty languages.
Namwali Serpell (Zambia/United States) is a Zambian writer who lives and teaches in the United States. Her short story “The Sack” (2015) won the Caine Prize in African Fiction, and her first novel, The Old Drift, was published to global acclaim. Praised as “dazzling” by Salman Rushdie, short-listed for two L.A. Times Book Prizes, and long-listed for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize, The Old Drift was also named one of the 100 Notable Books of the Year by the New York Times, one of the 100 Must-Read Books of the Year by Time, and a book of the year by The Atlantic, BuzzFeed, and National Public Radio. The Old Drift tells the story of three families—with people of African, European, and Indian descent—living in Zambia over the course of two hundred years. Part historical adventure, part psychological realism, part futuristic thriller, and part magical realism, the novel is an audacious, lush, sprawling, and altogether brilliant celebration of the artifice of fiction. An associate professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley, Serpell is also the author of a book of literary criticism, Seven Modes of Uncertainty (2014), as well as a forthcoming essay collection, Stranger Faces (2020). She currently lives in San Francisco.
Maria Tumarkin (Australia) is a native of Kharkov, Ukraine and the author of four works of nonfiction: Axiomatic (2018), Otherland: A Journey with My Daughter(2016), Courage (2007), and Traumascapes: The Power and Fate of Places Transformed by Tragedy (2005). Tumarkin’s primary subject is the interrelatedness of past and present. For her, the continual presence of the past is generative as well as traumatic, each incursion a source of aesthetic, emotional, and ethical energy, an opportunity to imagine new ways of understanding collective and personal histories. In Axiomatic, for instance, Tumarkin uses a complex play of meditation, storytelling, and reportage to represent the lives of ordinary people with extraordinarily painful pasts. Her protagonists are asylum seekers, grieving parents, and holocaust survivors, and Tumarkin shows us how their pain both shapes them and is shaped by them; how, in a profound sense, their pain is them, just as it is now us, who have heard their stories. “As to us, me and you,” Tumarkin writes, “we are the broken vessel containing, spilling all over the place, those who came before us.” Tumarkin lives in Melbourne, Australia where she teaches creative writing.
Anne Boyer is an American essayist and poet. Her boundary-blurring body of work includes two books of nonfiction, a poetry collection, and several chapbooks. Most recently, her book The Undying: Pain, vulnerability, mortality, medicine, art, time, dreams, data, exhaustion, cancer, and art (2019) earned accolades for its formal inventiveness and searing prose. The story of Boyer’s experience with a highly aggressive form of triple-negative breast cancer, The Undying is not a traditional memoir but something altogether different and new; a fierce and funny experiment in cultural criticism and personal history, malediction and requiem. Here, as in her essay collection A Handbook of Disappointed Fate (2018), Boyer reveals herself to be a kind of intellectual knight-errant, a wanderer through territories difficult and diverse—cancer hoaxers, John Donne, Roman dream diarists, corporate greed—in search of an always elusive, often painful, but occasionally enchanting truth. Boyer’s honors include a Judith E. Wilson Fellowship from Cambridge University (2019-2018), a Cy Twombly Award for Poetry from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts (2018), and a Whiting Award (2018). She lives and works in Kansas City, Missouri.