From a family saga steeped in the culture of Barbados to a political drama set in Spain’s Basque Country, this season’s premier fiction debuts are as diverse in their settings as they are in their approaches to narrative form. Challenging genre at every turn, these books—one a historical satire, another a fable-like critique of consumer culture—present a literary moment in which the erosion of boundaries, both national and literary, have created new storytelling possibilities.
For seven years, Elisabeth Egan worked as the books editor at Self magazine; having finished a brief stint at Amazon Publishing, she now holds a similar position at Glamour. But with A Window Opens (Simon & Schuster, Aug.), her debut novel, she’s finally adding her own contribution to the galley pile.
After writing fiction for a decade and being rejected by 60 agents, Galm, 44, is finally publishing her first novel, Into the Valley (Soho Press), this August, after it was pulled from the slush pile.
When Lauren Holmes, the author of Barbara the Slut (Riverhead, Aug.), first told her friend, the literary agent Duvall Osteen, that she was writing a book, Osteen was “terrified.”
By the time Naomi Jackson, a 34-year-old writer from Brooklyn, began studying at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop in 2011, she’d already made significant headway on the novel that eventually became The Star Side of Bird Hill (Penguin Press).
Alexandra Kleeman learned a very important lesson when she was in the early stages of writing her debut novel, You Too Can Have a Body like Mine (Harper, Aug.): back up your work.
Two separate, dramatic events in the early 1980s became even more sensationalized when John Hinckley Jr., who attempted an assassination of Ronald Reagan, and Leslie deVeau, a socialite who murdered her 10-year-old daughter, became lovers in the same psychiatric hospital. Kleine’s debut novel, Calf (Counterpoint/Soft Skull, Oct.), presents a fictionalized version of these events.
Christian Kracht’s novel Imperium (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, July) is unlike anything you've ever read: set in 1902, it follows August Engelhardt (based on a real-life figure), a Teutonic explorer who sets out for the South Seas to create a coconut-based utopia.
Epic in scope, Beauty Is a Wound (New Directions, Sept.) takes on dark episodes in Indonesia’s history—including the anticommunist killings that took place there in the mid-1960s—while dealing playfully with the country’s traditional folklore and myths, many of which revolve around the undead.
Julia Pierpont, the author of Among the Ten Thousand Things (Random House, July), not only grew up in New York City--with an undergraduate degree from Barnard College and an M.F.A. from NYU--she’s never managed to leave. “I got really close to getting my driver’s license once,” she says. “It didn’t happen.”
Writers have long debated the sociopolitical usefulness of fiction, but few may be as qualified to weigh in on the issue as Gabriel Urza, the author of All That Followed (Holt, Aug.), who served as a public defender in Reno, Nev., where he grew up, for five years.
Daniel Lefferts is a writer living in New York City.