Exploring the art of prose


New Books: Fall 2019 Bonus Round

We’re so excited about all the books coming out this season from CRAFT contributors, we decided to do a new books bonus round to cover them! We’ve even got nonfiction to share! A click on any of the titles will take you to the publisher’s page for the book to order or pre-order.


Nancy Au, Spider Love Song and Other Stories

“Nancy Au writes about badass women, women born as damselfly nymphs in China who become grounded, wingless, in America, mothers and daughters and grandmothers who are sex, who are power, who are sarcastic beasts, who are us. Spider Love Song and Other Stories is a collection like no other. Read it and marvel.” —May-lee Chai

Nancy Au’s debut collection is rich with scents, sounds, imaginative leaps, and unexpected angles of vision. These seventeen stories present the challenges facing characters whose inner and outer lives often do not align, whose spirits attempt flight despite dashed hopes and lean circumstances. Marginalized by race, age, and sexuality, they endeavor to create new worlds that honor their identities and their Chinese heritage.

Au excels at inhabiting the minds and hearts of children and the elderly. In the title story, Sophie Chu dresses daily in her increasingly shabby elephant costume to ensure her missing parents recognize her upon their return. In “The Unfed,” a village elder seeks to revive, with her dimming magic, a mountain community struck by tragedy. “Louise” follows, with deceptive hilarity (involving a one-eyed duck), the nuanced give and take between May Zhou and Lai, dissimilar yet passionate partners considering parenthood. The volume also offers sparkling speculative work that taps into the strength of nature—fox spirits and fire beetles, swollen rivers and rippling clouds—to showcase the sometimes surreal transformations of Au’s protagonists.

Spider Love Song and Other Stories treads the fault line that forms between lovers, families, friends, cultures—exposing injuries and vulnerabilities, but also the strength and courage necessary to recast resentment and anger into wonder and power. Au’s lyrical style, humor, and tender attention to her characters’ fancies and failings make this powerful debut a delight to read. (From Acre Books | September 15)

Read Nancy’s craft essay “Unsayables and Invisibilities” now

Gabriel Brownstein, The Open Heart Club

“Surgery is a miracle. It’s easy to forget how radical it is for a doctor to cut into our bodies, make repairs, and close us up again. Life, too, is miraculous, and this is also easy to forget as we go about our daily lives. The Open Heart Club is a tribute to both. This is the story of one man’s life and Life itself. Meticulously researched and written with beauty and wonder, this is a story that will make you marvel at every beat of your own open heart.” —Tayari Jones

Born in 1966 with a congenital heart defect known as the tetralogy of Fallot, Gabriel Brownstein entered the world just as doctors were learning to operate on conditions like his. He received a life-saving surgery at five years old, and since then has ridden wave after wave of medical innovation, a series of interventions that have kept his heart beating.

The Open Heart Club is both a memoir of a life on the edge of medicine’s reach and a history of the remarkable people who have made such a life possible. It begins with the visionary anatomists of the seventeenth century, tells the stories of the doctors (all women) who invented pediatric cardiology, and includes the lives of patients and physicians struggling to understand the complexities of the human heart. In the tradition of Oliver Sacks’s A Leg to Stand On and Andrew Solomon’s The Noonday Demon, this is a far-reaching book full of eye-opening research and compassionate, riveting storytelling. (From Hachette | October 22)

Read Gabe’s craft essay “What Tells You” now

Paul Crenshaw, This We’ll Defend

“Crenshaw deeply investigates his time in the National Guard, including what led him there and its lingering effects. The lyricism and metaphor he draws from the relationships and routine of military life strike a truly haunting chord that I found both unflinchingly revealing and surprisingly relatable. An essential book for our moment.” —Jac Jemc

In June 1990, Paul Crenshaw shipped out for basic training for the National Guard. By August, Saddam Hussein had invaded Kuwait. Each day brought more news of mobilizing forces. For weeks, Crenshaw was told he was going to war, but after graduation, he went back home to Arkansas and watched CNN every night, lying about how much he wished he had been deployed.

Later, after Crenshaw had gotten out of the army, he began to question the reasons for the wars we fight. The essays here follow his time in the service, from Basic Training to weekend National Guard drills and the years after. Crenshaw moves from eager recruit to father worrying that his daughters might enlist. He watches the airplanes strike the Twin Towers and sees two new wars ignite out of the ashes of the old. He writes as a soldier who did not see combat but who wonders what constant combat might do to U.S. soldiers, how it affects them, and how the wars we fight affect us all. These essays reflect deeply on American culture and military life—how easily we buy into ideas of good versus bad, us versus them; how we see soldiers as heroes when more often than not they are young boys barely old enough to shave; how many return home broken while we only wave our flags instead of trying to fix them and the ideas that sent them to war. (From U of NC Press | September 16)

Read Paul’s short story “Ricochet” and his craft essay “This Story Would Make a Good Essay” now

Laura Furman, editor, The O. Henry Prize Stories 100th Anniversary Edition

The O. Henry Prize Stories 2019–continuing a century-long tradition of cutting-edge literary excellence–contains twenty prize-winning stories chosen from the thousands published in magazines over the previous year. The winning writers are an impressive mix of celebrated names and new, emerging voices. Their stories evoke lives both near and distant, in settings ranging from Jamaica, Houston, and Hawaii to a Turkish coal mine and a drought-ridden Northwestern farm, and feature an engaging array of characters, including Laotian refugees, a Colombian kidnap victim, an eccentric Irish schoolteacher, a woman haunted by a house that cleans itself, and a strangely long-lived rabbit. The uniformly breathtaking stories are accompanied by essays from the eminent jurors on their favorites, observations from the winning writers on what inspired them, and an extensive resource list of magazines. (From Anchor | September 10)

Included in this marvelous collection is CRAFT contributor Kenan Orhan’s “Soma,” from The Massachusetts Review
Read Kenan’s short stories “The Solution Woman” and “Mule Brigade,” second-place winner of the 2018 CRAFT Short Fiction Prize
“In the universe of Meg Pokrass’s fictions, planets are gloriously misaligned, stars and suns trail love and desperate sadness, black holes serve up dogs, spiders, cats, and galaxies explode everything we thought we knew about the human heart. It is an ever-expanding universe. No other like it.” —Pamela Painter
At the last count there were over 190 different breeds of dog in the world. Here we have 65 pedigree stories and only a handful have anything to do with dogs. Meg Pokrass’s sixth collection of flash fictions however represents best in class of the short literary form; miniature stories that will jump into your lap and let you stroke them, fierce stories that will frighten you, snarl and bare their teeth, stories that will whimper until you’ve taken them for a walk, stories that will leave a mess on your carpet. For those who don’t like dogs, there are love-struck cockroaches, six-foot spiders, blue-tongued skinks, Margaret Thatcher-like spouses, horny night bugs. Meg Pokrass’s stories are about the necessary animals sitting next to all of us. (From Pelekinesis | September 15)

Read Meg’s “I Married This,” originally published by The Center for Fiction, and included in The Dog Looks Happy Upside Down

Cathy Ulrich, Ghosts of You
“Ghosts of You, the eagerly anticipated compilation of Cathy Ulrich’s brilliantly original ‘Murdered Ladies’ stories, is by turns a haunted and haunting literary work. This book left me deeply moved, shaken, and forever changed. Read these stories, then seek out everything else Ulrich has written, for she is a writer of singular voice and vision and this is only the beginning.” —Kathy Fish
Cathy Ulrich’s Ghosts of You is a collection of stories from her Murdered Ladies series about seeking the lost and finding the person behind the sensationalism. It examines the tropes of mystery/crime storytelling in which the narrative always begins with the body of yet another murdered woman. They are mothers and daughters, teachers and students, lovers and wives, actresses and extras. They have been taken, but their stories still remain. This is how they set the plot in motion. (From Okay Donkey | October 15)


Read Cathy’s “Being the Murdered Extra,” which is included in this collection

Stay tuned for more books by friends of CRAFT coming in December, February, and March!