Content Tagged ‘Lookout Books’

What We’re Reading: Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month

At the close of this semester, students in the Lookout Books publishing practicum collaborated on a list of books that inspired them and their work throughout the term. To celebrate the final week of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage month, we’re in turn sharing their recommendations with you. Once you’ve immersed yourself in these beautiful titles, we hope you’ll also read up on ways to stop the rise in hate against Asian American Pacific Islander communities.

Content warning: Please be advised that several book notes below include references to depression and suicide.


Soft Science by Franny ChoiWhen I found Franny Choi’s sonnet series “Chatroulette” in BOAAT, I knew I had to read more of her work. In Soft Science (Alice James Books, 2019), her second poetry collection, there are cyborgs and androids, cephalopods and moon phases. These tender, violent poems explore how humans build community and identity, and search for love in the fluid and intersecting worlds of the natural and digital, the human and machine. Soft Science is essential reading for those interested in how human bodies and consciousness are affected by technology, and this collection is especially compelling now, amidst the backdrop of the pandemic and ongoing Zoom fatigue. Dianne Seuss calls Soft Science, “a crucial book for our time—perhaps the book for our time,” and I couldn’t agree more.

Lindsay Lake

Order Soft Science here.


Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life by Yiyun LiI was first drawn to Yiyun Li’s memoir Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life (Random House, 2017) because of its lyrical title but soon found myself copying quotes from its pages into my journal, struck by Li’s ability to capture inchoate feelings in beautiful, unsentimental prose. During a period of suicidal depression, Li contemplates what it means to live, using the letters and private writings of her favorite writers as guides. While this book doesn’t offer easy answers, I found a great sense of relief in reading the work of a writer who doesn’t pretend to know the way forward but continues anyway. Moving seamlessly among different writers and moments in her life, Li speaks to the reader like a close friend, creating a connection that is difficult to forget.

Luca Rhatigan

Order Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life here.


The Corpse Walker by Liao YiwuThe Corpse Walker (Anchor Books, 2009),written by Liao Yiwu and translated by Wen Huang, is similar to Studs Terkel’s Working in that it collects interviews Yiwu conducted over many years (and several prison sentences) with those at the bottom of Chinese society. The result is an exploration of the effects of historical and systematic upheaval on its most marginalized members. The book surveys how lives, traditions, cultures, and beliefs bend to fit the status quo, and what happens when they don’t. The Corpse Walker was an engaging read for me because it frames History (capital-H) from the perspective of people whose voices might not otherwise have been heard. It’s also a miracle that this book was published at all. As a pro-democracy poet, Yiwu’s movements were highly scrutinized—he was blacklisted and imprisoned after writing a poem in protest of the Tiananmen Square massacre—and had to smuggle the manuscript out of China piece by piece.

Vasili Moschouris

Order The Corpse Walker here.


Ghost Of by Diana Khoi NguyenGhost Of (Omnidawn, 2018) is a compelling, gut-punching collection of elegiac poetry. In this haunting book that explores a family in the aftermath of a brother’s suicide, the powerful form accrues through photographs—out of which the brother has cut himself before leaving them behind. Diana Khoi Nguyen’s voice is tender, raw, and vulnerable, guiding readers through a wave of emotions.

—Ryleigh Wann

Order Ghost Of here.


Chemistry by Weike WangIn Chemistry (Vintage, 2018), Weike Wang balances complexities of the human experience in such a lovely way, often contrasting science and proverbs. She uses images such as a dog barking at a fan to reveal emotion or internal conflict. “If she had cried, she has not done so in front of me,” Wang writes. “She has done so in the shower where it is hard to tell.” The unnamed narrator of Wang’s novel feels pressured to succeed by her family, about whom she has negative feelings. When she talks to her therapist about her mother collapsing after the death of her grandfather, though, the narrator says that she can’t fail her mother because she wants her mother to be happy. Illustrating complex relationships with loved ones, including these murky areas of human connection, is one of many areas in which Wang excels.

—Katherine O’Hara

Order Chemistry here.


Pizza Girl by Jean Kyoung FrazierWhat first drew me to Jean Kyoung Frazier’s Pizza Girl (Doubleday, 2020) was its cover, which prominently features a vibrant, almost grotesque cartoon that seems stolen from a stoner’s fever dream. When I learned that the novel centers an eighteen-year-old, pregnant, queer, Korean-American slacker who’s bucking responsibility by delivering pizzas in Los Angeles, I found myself even more excited. Talk about intersectional heft. According to an interview with Electric Lit, Frazier wanted to interrogate the notion that “aimlessly fucking around is a specifically male thing.”

—Daniel Grear

Order Pizza Girl here.


The Vegetarian by Han KangI stumbled upon The Vegetarian (Hogarth Press, 2016) by Han Kang in my quest for something darkly feminine. I adore books that center female rebellion, which this novel, originally published in Korean and later translated into English by Deborah Smith, does vibrantly. After a violent and disturbing dream, Yeong-hye refuses to eat any animal products. Her husband is incredulous to find his once docile wife cleaning the refrigerator of all meat. As Yeong-hye’s dreams become more violent, she retreats further into herself, away from friends and family. She’s increasingly desperate for those around her to understand what she’s experiencing, while those around her try to contain what they interpret as madness. The Vegetarian is as much a book about the toxic model and expectations of a “perfect wife” as it is about mental health and the desolation that can surround it.

Cheyenne Faircloth

Order The Vegetarian here.

 

Thank you to Lookout staffer Cheyenne Faircloth for compiling this list.

New Books on the Block

UNCW alum Holly Bader opens indie Papercut Books in downtown Wilmington

Last week, Wilmington’s newest independent bookstore opened its doors on Market Street. You’ll recognize Papercut Books from the lush fern out front and the small shelf of books marked FREE. Offering a selection to the community at no cost is one of just a few ways Papercut Books owner Holly Bader hopes to give back to Wilmington, where she’s lived her whole life, something she notes is “somewhat rare these days.”

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Support Indie Bookstores and Students: Free Virtual Backgrounds

Cheyenne Faircloth using the virtual background from McNally Jackson Noho
UNCW student Cheyenne Faircloth tests a virtual background from McNally Jackson Noho

If you’re like us, you’ve probably found yourself video conferencing a lot lately—with everyone from grandparents to colleagues to students. At UNC Wilmington, home to Lookout Books, we’ve been gathering in virtual classrooms for the past five weeks now, and as both publishers and teachers of publishing arts, we’ve become increasingly aware of privacy concerns when we virtually invite others into our homes. Maybe joining your latest meeting from a faraway beach or outer space elicited a much-needed chuckle (we hope so!), but for us and for many of our students, background images can be more than a joke or a momentary vacation. They can offer an essential layer of privacy and help maintain confidentiality around disparities in living situations.

We also know we’re not alone in missing the community that bookstores provide—being able to step inside and immediately surround ourselves with books and fellow book lovers. So we reached out to some beloved indie shops that graciously came through with these beautiful, inspiring (free!) backgrounds, available in high-resolution by clicking the thumbnail images below. Whether the next few weeks and months find you virtually attending or teaching classes, joining a book-club conversation, chatting with Grandma, or sitting through your hundredth Zoom meeting, we hope that these images will lift your spirits.

Pub Lab team testing virtual backgrounds during a meeting
Faculty and staff of the UNCW Publishing Laboratory meet using virtual backgrounds from Vroman’s, Main Street Books, Books Are Magic, and Brazos.

Until we’re able to gather again for readings, book clubs, and of course shopping, please visit these bookstores’ respective websites for ways to help sustain them through this difficult time. Many indies continue to host virtual story time for kids, readings, and book launches. They fill orders from behind closed storefronts and work twice as hard for a fraction of the income. They’re serving their communities—those of us who know just how essential books are. We recommend purchasing books from them online or curbside (if they’re offering that option), buying a gift card, or making a donation.


Books Are Magic

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Opened in 2017 by Emma Straub and Michael Fusco-Straub, Books Are Magic is home to new releases and beloved classics, hidey-holes for children and books to read in them, gumballs filled with poetry, events almost every night of the week and story times on the weekends, and yes, plenty of magic. Haven’t managed to take a selfie in front of their iconic mural? Here’s your chance! Thanks to Michael Chin for this photo.


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Brazos Bookstore

Brazos Bookstore opened in 1974 to encourage the growth and development of the Houston literary scene. It continues to be a hub for creative and engaged readers in Houston and is now owned by a group of twenty-seven Houstonians who purchased the bookstore when the original owner retired. Many thanks to the Brazos team for this photo.


Driftless Books & Music

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Driftless Books & Music has called Wisconsin’s Viroqua Tobacco Warehouse home since 2009, stocking their shelves over the years with half a million rare, antiquated, used, and new books purchased from the inventories of a warehouse and seven bookstores in five different states. Also boasting collections of records, sheet music, art, and a wall of iconic beer cans; Driftless hosts local and regional bands, poetry jams, author readings, and other events in their community performance space. Later this month, Driftless will host Bookstock: Two Days of Peace, Indie Bookstores, and Music, a series of streamed performances by musicians in indie bookstores across the country. Thanks to owner Eddy Nix for this photo.


Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews

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Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews is a bookstore and Spanish-style chocolatería owned and operated by Chapel Hill locals Miranda and Jaime Sanchez, who wholeheartedly believe that the communal experience is cultivated by the sharing of food, drink, culture, and story. At their shop in the heart of downtown, patrons can browse books while enjoying craft brews, a glass of wine, or churros and a cup of chocolate. During quarantine, Epilogue has been working with other local retailers to ship goodie boxes that include chocolate, coffee, and artwork. “We’re been sending those boxes all the way to California and Washington with little notes,” Jaime said in an interview with NBC. “The love for one another has no borders. Through this experience, we’ve seen that the sense of community goes beyond all that. . . . I’ve never felt the community let us go at it ourselves, which we’re so grateful for.” Thanks to Mason Hamberlin, beloved alum of UNCW’s publishing program, for connecting us and supplying this photo by Miranda Sanchez.

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Seven (+1) Questions for Cameron Dezen Hammon

Today in Seven Questions, we talk to Cameron Dezen Hammon, whose debut memoir This Is My Body: A Memoir of Romantic and Religious Obsession was recently released by Lookout Books. Kirkus calls it “a generous and unflinchingly brave memoir about faith, feminism, and freedom,” and the Millions adds, “Hammon explores motherhood, her relationship with her husband, her infidelity, and her growing sense of her own feminism. Her strikingly contemporary reflections about her treatment in conservative churches . . . make her story a salient one for this particular moment, in the wake of the #MeToo Movement.” 

Hammon’s writing appears in The Kiss anthology from W. W. Norton, Catapult, Ecotone, the Houston Chronicle, the Literary Review, NYLON, and elsewhere; and her essay “Infirmary Music” was noted in The Best American Essays 2017. She earned an MFA in creative writing from Seattle Pacific University and is currently a writer-in-residence for Writers in the Schools in Houston.

Why was it important to publish this book now? How do you hope This Is My Body will enrich the conversation, especially around #metoo and #churchtoo?

I think women who have experienced sexual assault and harassment in a church context are hungry for stories that speak directly to their experience. There’s something particularly egregious about someone using spiritual authority to harm, and we need to talk about this.

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The Future of Publishing: Nicola DeRobertis-Theye

In our newest series, The Future of Publishing, we’re reintroducing alumni of UNCW’s publishing program, including former Ecotone and Lookout staffers, who have gone on to careers in the industry. We continue our series with a profile of W.W. Norton’s Nicola DeRobertis-Theye.



Fiction editor of Ecotone while in the MFA program at UNCW, Nicola DeRobertis-Theye currently serves as the subsidiary rights manager for W.W. Norton and formerly worked as a foreign rights agent for Trident Media Group.

“On the foreign side, which is most of what I handle at Norton, we’re trying to place the translation rights to our books with foreign publishers,” she says. “It is a match-making process, knowing editors’ and houses’ tastes, and who can do well with what kind of book.”

“I’ve had really gleeful meetings at the book fairs in Frankfurt and London, where you get to celebrate in person this thing that has crossed borders and found readers,” she says. “It’s a similar process with the other rights, but knowing the book, knowing the ecosystem, that’s what it comes down to, and I do find that it takes both imagination and knowledge.”

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The Future of Publishing: Meg Reid of Hub City Press

In our newest series, The Future of Publishing, we’re excited to reintroduce alumni of UNCW’s publishing program, including former Ecotone and Lookout staffers, who have gone on to careers in the industry. To help celebrate the launch of Lookout’s redesigned website, we begin with a profile of Hub City’s Meg Reid.


Reid designed the cover to Trespass: Ecotone Essayists Beyond the Boundaries of Place, Identity, and Feminism

Lookout Books is more than a haven for books that matter; it’s a teaching press under the auspices of the Publishing Laboratory at UNCW, making it also a haven for apprentice editors and publishers. The imprint and its sister magazine, Ecotone, offer students hands-on opportunities to gain experience in editing, marketing, publicity, design, and everything in between. Meg Reid, Director of Hub City Press in Spartanburg, South Carolina, was among the first class of students to support the work of the newly founded imprint.

The Lookout publishing practicum, taught by publisher Emily Smith, “completely prepared her for working for a small press,” Reid says, “which involves balancing a lot of plates and wearing a lot of hats.” While working for the press, she drafted grants, planned author readings and book tours, and wrote design briefs for artists.

“I always liked that we were called on to talk about the books in public often. I learned how to summarize a book, while communicating its important themes and resonances—a skill I use often now, pitching reps and booksellers,” Reid notes.

As part of her graduate work in writing and publishing, Reid enrolled in the Lookout practicum class multiple semesters and helped publish three titles: Edith Pearlman’s Binocular Vision, Steve Almond’s God Bless America, and John Rybicki’s When All the World Is Old. She found it exhilarating to help build the imprint. “Edith’s book was a strike of lightning—we were brand new and suddenly in a national spotlight. I still regularly gift people Binocular Vision—to my mind, it’s the gold standard of short story collections.”

As director of Hub City Press, where she has worked since 2013, Reid now publishes between five to seven books a year in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. She oversees the publishing program and helps realize Hub City’s mission to find and advocate for extraordinary voices from the American south.

“I always liked that we were called on to talk about the books in public often. I learned how to summarize a book, while communicating its important themes and resonances—a skill I use often now, pitching reps and booksellers,” Reid notes.

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Honey from the Lion: A Companion Soundscape

As the holidays approach, so does the time to curl up with beautiful and necessary books like Honey from the Lion, Matthew Neil Null’s debut novel from Lookout Books. The book, about a rebellion at a logging company in the West Virginia Alleghenies, is both lyrical and suspenseful, an elegy to the ecological devastation and human tragedy behind the Gilded Age.

Our solstice gift to you is an annotated soundscape for the book, expertly produced by folklorist, writer, media producer, and Ecotone contributor Emily Hilliard. Listen to the sounds of crows, trains, and fiddles and imagine yourself right into the world of Honey from the Lion.

0:00 Environmental sounds: Crows, great blue herons, steam trains, crosscut saw, axes.

An overture to situate us in place aurally.

1:22 “On Johnny Mitchell’s Train” by Jerry Byrne, recorded by George Gershon Korson at Buck Run, Pennsylvania, 1946. Song from the 1902 Anthracite miner strike. Via the Library of Congress.

The 1902 strike by the United Mine Workers of America in the anthracite coal fields of eastern Pennsylvania was supported by nearly 80 percent of miners in the area, and it would have been fresh in the minds of the timber companies and loggers represented in Honey from the Lion. The character Judge Randolph is said to have studied the strike, fearing the power of unions: “There’s always a copperhead in the woodpile.”

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Julie Barer Busts Eight Myths about Literary Agents

—Compiled by Lookout intern Caroline Orth from Julie Barer’s UNCW Writers’ Week presentation

Congratulations to Xhenet Aliu, University of North Carolina Wilmington MFA ’07 on her novel, Brass, published this month by Random House. We were fortunate that her agent, Julie Barer, was among the literary luminaries at UNCW’s 2017 Writers’ Week.

A founding partner of The Book Group, Barer first worked as a bookseller at Shakespeare & Co. in New York before joining Sanford J. Greenburger Associates and later starting her own agency. At The Book Group, she represents Nicole Denis-Benn, Celeste Ng, and UNCW alumni Garrard Conley and Xhenet Aliu, among other clients. Her authors have been finalists for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics’ Circle Award, and have won of the PEN/Hemingway Award, the Kirkus Prize, and many other accolades.

“I think there’s a mystique about what agents do,” Barer began. “My son still thinks I’m a secret agent.” While recounting how she pitched and sold The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, a novel set on Mount Olympia, Barer helped dispel five myths for the audience about the role of a literary agent in the publishing landscape.

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News Roundup

2Qeno0hFriends, writing can be such a lonely business! The computer knows not the sound of your beating heart, and yet perhaps you spend more time with it than any other beloved. Writers being experts on the topic, and thank goodness, there’s no shortage of great books about loneliness. In this week’s roundup, a few other perspectives on togetherness and connection.

First, a peek behind-the-scenes at Lookout’s teaching-press model, where students and faculty work together to bring books they love into the world. “I imagine that at a bigger press, you would be in one department focusing on a specific aspect of publishing. But because we are a small press with a small number of interns, we get the chance to see and experience it all,” says first-year student Marissa Flanagan. Collaboration and creativity in the name of literature!

And of course when a manuscript finds the right home, it’s a connection worth celebrating. Ecotone poet Melissa Range’s second collection, Scriptorium, was one of this year’s National Poetry Series competition winners. Not only was Range’s collection selected by the incredible Tracy K. Smith, but it will be published next fall by Beacon Press.

Lookout author Steve Almond offers some perspective on getting social through social media in an article for Cogniscenti of WBUR Boston: “The essential work [writers] do is solitary. It consists of weaving words into sentences and sentences into narratives that help us see the world more truthfully—the world around us and within us.” While writers are often pleased to reach out to broader readerships through social media, Almond urges writers never to forget their ultimate purpose: to write!

In short: Be lonely! But not all the time. We hope your week is filled with togetherness and apartness in perfect measure.

 

Publication Day!

Today Lookout Books releases its debut novel, Honey from the Lion by Matthew Neill Null. We could not be more excited to bring this book to an audience of readers. Lyrical, suspenseful, tender, gritty, this book tells the story of a group of timber wolves at the turn of the century in the West Virginia Alleghenies who, complicit in profound environmental devastation, attempt to wrest control of their own fate.

Matt is a writer to pay attention to (his book of short stories is forthcoming from Sarabande too), and here—in his own words—is the story behind this unforgettable book.

Nullcover3Dwebsite

Honey from the Lion reclaims a vanished past—a history of daily toil and desire. It is a book of dreams, of the drifter and the clerk, of the washerwoman and the panther. I wanted to write America’s shadow story—the characters popular history crops from the frame. My home state of West Virginia has produced no great men, in the old sense of that phrase, no presidents, but hundreds of thousands have lived and died there, a rich human pageant. This novel is my bid to give them back their stories.

My dad had a good buddy on Fenwick Mountain named Brown. He was a mine foreman from Richwood, one of the boomtowns on which the novel’s Helena is based, in Nicholas County, where I was born. One summer day when I was eight or nine years old, Brown took us to visit a friend of his, an ex–coal miner. The friend was hunched over and shuffled as he walked—he lived off a disability check. After a long round of talk, he led us to what he called his museum, a cramped room in the attic of his farmhouse. Tables overflowed with shellacked hornets’ nests, shed antlers, obsolete hand tools, arrowheads and pestles, the skulls of bobcats, and stone-hard clutches of burrs from the American chestnut, gone a hundred years. But most impressive to me: on the backside of his mountain, the remains from a logging camp. He had picked his way down there and raked the earth to find what was left. He placed a spent pineknot in my palm, no bigger than a hand grenade, and explained how the loggers lit their way of a night, using the pitch as a torch. He had found their bottle dump and its wonders, like the three-sided blue bottles that once contained arsenic, bringing up visions of poisonings, of jealousies and fist fights in high mountain camps, far from the law. Last he led us to the garage, where he kept antiquated logging tools: drag chains, harnesses, the crosscut saw the loggers called the misery whip. After we’d waved good-bye to his friend, Brown spoke of the man’s loneliness. I looked back through the window of the truck, where I sat on the bench seat between Brown and my dad. He had gone back inside. Like that man, the keeper of those things, a novelist desires objects, textures, physicality. A novelist reconstructs vanished lives.

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