Literary Summer, Part 1: Five Fiction Books to Read

Now that summer has finally arrived, you may be looking for a good beach read, vacation favorite, or simply another title to add to your to-read list. UMass Press sponsors the Juniper Literary Prize for Fiction and Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction. Here are five UMass Press publications to enjoy a literary summer:

My Escapee by Corinna Vallianatosmy escapee

Our 2012 Grace Paley Prize winner, Valliantos’s My Escapee, provides an intimate look into the lives of women: their thoughts, their hopes and dreams, and the stresses of friends and family. The characters find themselves stuck “in-between” – in between loyalties and confusing identities. This stunning debut will bring a whirlwind of emotions to the reader, from sadness to glee.

“I always thought she was beautiful. The process of her aging was better known to me than it would have been to a husband, and I was sympathetic to it.”

gunEveryone Here Has a Gun by Lucas Southworth

Anton Chekhov famously noted that if a story introduces a gun in the first act, that gun must go off by the third. However, in Southworth’s Everyone Here Has a Gun, they are rarely fired – instead, the guns serve as the catalyst for tension and extreme emotions. As the 2013 winner of the Grace Paley Prize, the intricate narratives of fantasy and reality describe our own search for comfort and stability in a world that is ultimately too violent and incomprehensible.

“The blackness is a kind of deadly mirror; it has the cleanest glass, the clearest.” 

A History of Hands by Rod Val Moorehistory of hands

The winner of 2014 Juniper Prize for Fiction, Moore’s A History of Hands is a powerful and thrilling novel that takes place in Depression-era California. Verge, an awkward young man still suffering from the effects of a childhood poisoning, finds himself paralyzed and unable to afford a doctor’s visit. As luck would have it, a mysterious physician moves in with Verge to heal him free of charge. In its exploration of the ambiguities of health and freedom, A History of Hands presents an extraordinary read

“And they appear as if in a kind of real life, larger than real life perhaps, and all of this in a blighted year, a blighted era.” 

 

 

 

Bewildered by Carla Panciera

Our 2014 winner of the Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction, Panciera’s Bewildered  takes us through ten short stories to ask one question: can you live any way forever? While the characters vary in gender, age, marital status, and even narrative style, they all evoke the reader’s empathy as stories of unfulfilled dreams, the desire to belong, and the fear of what comes next unfold on each page.

 “This is a world of secret-sharers, a noisy world full of unimaginable silence.”

 

 

 

9781625341372Desert Sonorous by Sean Bernard

As the newly proclaimed “bard of the desert,” Sean Bernard takes us on a journey through the American Southwest in the Juniper Prize winning Desert Sonorous. Set in his hometown of Tucson, Bernard blends realism and experimentation for a portrait of the modern era. These vivid characters, from undercover aliens to cross-country athletes, handle contemporary issues as part of a quest for life’s deeper meanings.

 “I am from a place that is dry, he thought, and there is so little you take what you can and make it matter.”

 

 

Emily Esten is an Editorial Intern at UMass Press. She is a junior History/Digital Humanities major at UMass Amherst. 

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