JoAnne Tompkins, author of What Comes After, had a career as a mediator and judicial officer before writing her debut book. In her first novel, she explores a familiar situation: an idyllic town turned upside down by a the shocking death of two teenage boys.
The book, however, is about more than the mystery. It’s about how the families can put their lives back together and how the town can trust again. It’s a meditation on optimism in the darkest of times.
Below, the author answers Debutiful‘s A Life of Books Questionnaire.
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The Elephant of Belfast, the debut novel from S. Kirk Walsh, was inspired by events that took place in Northern Ireland during World War II. Inspired by the true store of Denise Austin, the book follows twenty-year-old zookeeper Hettie Quin and three-year-old elephant Violet. The two share an immense bond and one night in 1941 when bombs start dropping, Hettie does everything she can to protect Violet.
Walsh writes with exquisite and tender prose throughout the book making Elephant an unforgettable read. Below, she answered the semi-regular “A Life of Books” questionnaire so readers can get to know her better.
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You may recognize the name Forsyth Harmon. If you do, you’re lucky enough to have read tremendous books that she has illustrated like the essay collection, Girlhood, by Melissa Febos.
Now Forsyth has her own illustrated novel out called Justine and it is exquisite. Set in 1999, the story follows Ali as she meets Justine in a life changing series of events. Justine takes Ali under her wings at a local store where the two start as coworkers and blossom into something more. Harmon’s work is intimate. It’s cozy in the way that you want a book to be but allows you to be uncomfortable with the realities of these young lives.
I wanted to know more about what makes Forsyth Harmon tick and asker her to fill out Debutiful’s A Life of Books questionnaire. Read her answers below.
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Jamie Figueroa‘s debut book, Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer, is a story filled with trauma and about breaking cycles. It’s about a family in a small Southwestern town where nothing seemed to go right for generations. While reading the trauma and difficult decisions these siblings make can be hard to digest, it’s one of the most beautifully written and important books to come out in 2021.
The author spent years writing it, allowing the book to be her compass through life as she slept on couches and found odd jobs that allowed her time and space to write this book. From rushing to get to college to taking years off in between to finish then finding a home at the Institute of American Indian Arts as an adult, Jamie Figueroa’s life has always needed time and space to figure things out.
I spoke with the author about her life, her debut, and what writers inspire her.
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Layla AlAmmar grew up in Kuwait where she found solace in books. Her childhood passion turned into a career. AlAmmar has an MSc in Creative Writing from the University of Edinburgh and is working on a PhD on the intersection of Arab women’s fiction and literary trauma theory.
Her book, Silence is a Sense, is her American debut, but she previously published The Pact We Made, which is available in many countries outside of America. She’s also has work published in Evening Standard, Quail Bell Magazine, Aesthetica Magazine, the St Andrews University Prose Journal, and in the collection Underground: Tales for London.
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In her debut novel, Cherie Jones tells a cautionary tale set mostly in Barbados. A grandmother uses a story about one-armed sister. Her granddaughter Lala listens to what happens to girls who disobey their mothers but the question is, does she absorb the story?
Years later, Lala is married to a petty burglar and their seemingly cozy lives are upended in a spiral of violence, crime, and deceit. What unfolds is, How The One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House, a devastating debut that is a must-read. Be warned though: you’ll want to finish this in one sitting. So block out a lot of time one you start this.
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Below, Cherie Jones answers the A Life of Books Questionnaire for Debutiful.
Betina González is an award-winning writer from Argentina, who has studied in El Paso and Pittsburgh, the latter of which she called home for nearly a decade. While her work has garnered her praise in South America, she had yet to publish a book in English. That is, until American Delirium.
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Lauren Oyler is 6’0. That may or may not be a lie, but it is in her Twitter bio. It also has nothing to do with her searing debut novel Fake Accounts other than the fact that no one can be sure who is and isn’t lying on the internet.
Her novel, set in the early days of the Trump Administration, follows an unnamed narrator who discovers her boyfriend is a prolific online conspiracy theorist. She flees to Berlin where she falls in her own pattern of lies and deception. The book, which takes place entirely in early 2016, is a reflection on the America we live in today. Not much has changed in the past four years. The lies are bigger, but they were always there. If the internet has done one thing, it’s just exposed us to the seedy underbelly that always existed. Fake Accounts also sheds a light on this world of lies, attention seeking, and distruction.
I chatted with Oyler the day before Biden’s Inauguration about the internet, lies, and why conspiracy theories are boring.
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