This past year, it has been a balm for all of us at Lookout to continue working behind the scenes to bring you vital and timely upcoming releases. While we’ve been at it, we’ve also kept an eye on the work of our peers, who like us believe that small, independent publishers are an essential part of building platforms for new writers and pushing traditional boundaries in publishing.
We asked seven members of the Lookout team to select a book they’re most looking forward to in 2021, including the below highly anticipated titles from our friends at Copper Canyon, Graywolf, Hub City, and Milkweed to name a few.
Preorders are especially important for debut authors and indie books, so please contact your favorite local bookstore to reserve copies, or head to the Bookshop links below. Either way, you’ll help support independent publishing and bookselling!
HOMES by Moheb Soliman is about a complicated relationship with place, belonging, and borders. In this poetry collection, out from Coffee House Press in June 2021, Soliman depicts his road trip along the coasts of the Great Lakes region as he grapples with his immigrant origins, complicated colonial histories of land occupation and ownership, and environmental degradation due to climate change. The ambitious range and depth of his inquiries, and the book’s postmodern poetic, ensure a rewarding read.
I can’t wait to read Fake Accounts by Lauren Oyler from Catapult! Described by the publisher as a novel that “challenges the way current conversations about the self and community, delusions and gaslighting, and fiction and reality play out in the internet age,” it seems like the perfect read at a moment like ours. Set at the time of Trump’s inauguration in 2017 and involving his conspiracy–theorist accomplices, it’s coming out via Catapult on February 2, 2021, right as Trump will exit office. In other words, the timing couldn’t be better to allow its political excavations to guide our reflections on the ways that Trump’s version of governance and national narrativizing hinged on his use of social media. It also might get us wondering what role the Internet will play in Biden’s America.
I’m looking forward to reading Erin Belieu’s forthcoming poetry collection, Come-Hither Honeycomb, from Copper Canyon. I read “In the Red Dress I Wear to Your Funeral,” published in her book Black Box (2006) last spring. Even months later, that poem visits me still, and I’m excited to experience more of her writing and worldview. Belieu is also a co-founder of the VIDA count, a non-profit dedicated to creating visibility around gender imbalances and the lack of diversity in the literary landscape, an effort I deeply admire and respect as a woman in publishing.
I’m excited to read Jakob Guanzon’s debut novel, Abundance, out from Graywolf in March 2021. The story, which focuses on a father-son duo evicted from their trailer and living on a last pocketful of dollars, is billed as a biting commentary on the consumerism and consumption that defines so much of life in the U.S. I’m really interested in the unique structure of the book, organized by the amount of cash in the main character’s pocket, and how the characters navigate “inequities and anxieties around work, debt, addiction, incarceration, and health care in America today.”
When I met Anjali Enjeti at a writers’ colony in the summer of 2016, she was working on multiple book projects, including perhaps the novel that would become The Parted Earth, but I knew her name as a journalist and reviewer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Washington Post, among others. Her warm, wise presence matched her prose, and I came to relish our nightly porch dates with a handful of other writers. We gathered to toast the day’s pages, and as often, to lament the challenges of finding the right book publisher for them, a decade-long process Anjali would chronicle in the Atlantic. So nothing makes me happier than the news that, in May, Hub City will publish her debut novel, The Parted Earth, which uncovers a family mystery rooted in the 1947 Partition of India and how it shapes the life of a descendant in present-day Atlanta. (Its gorgeous cover design is the work of former Lookout staffer and current Hub City director Meg Reid.) As Anjali wrote, “It’s wild to submit five books for eleven years before getting a single book contract, then getting two with spring ’21 releases.” That’s right: she also has an essay collection forthcoming from the University of Georgia Press; and I cannot wait to read both of these books!
—Emily Louise Smith
I’m excited about Little Bird by Peruvian writer Claudia Ulloa Donoso, translated from the Spanish (Pajarito) by Lily Meyer. It’s out in July 2021 from Dallas indie publisher Deep Vellum. I was fascinated by the translator’s short note about the author in Electric Literature: “Ulloa Donoso’s blog is important to her writing life. She moved to northern Norway for graduate school and started to write a blog about her insomnia — or someone’s, since she’s never called it nonfiction. In Pajarito, she mixes blog entries with short stories, and gives readers no way to tell them apart. Most of the book could be fiction, memoir, or both. There may be no way to tell which stories in Pajarito are fiction, but there’s also no need. Each one has the immediacy of a diary entry and the floating nausea of a sleepless night.”
I’m looking forward to Kazim Ali’s Northern Light: Power, Land, and the Memory of Water from Milkweed. Ali’s book grapples with place, ecosystem, “home,” and how sometimes home is not an identifiable place. Through Ali’s memories of living near the Nelson River in Canada, he discusses the survivance of a community and concerns of exploitation and colonialism. I’m fact-checking an excerpt forthcoming in Ecotone magazine, and from that selection alone, I’ve already learned so much regarding this community and place I had not known of before.
Thank you to Lookout staffer Evan Seay for compiling this list.