Adroit’s Best of: Prose 2018

2018 has been a standout year for Adroit and our engagement with new prose and the authors who write it. This year, we featured over one hundred interviews and reviews in our issues and on our blog. Read on for a list of some of our favorite novels, short story and essay collections, memoirs, and books of non-fiction illuminated in those features. Endless thanks to the writers, presses, and publishers we worked with this year!


Alice Bolin Dead Girls (HarperCollins)

Today’s humans are addicted to stories, and we probably consume more of them than at any time in history. And these narratives help us to abstract and metabolize pain, like that of living in a violent, misogynist culture.

Read the full interview with Alice here.

Jamel Brinkley A Lucky Man (Graywolf Press)

To be a writer of color—to be a black writer—is to bear the burden of expectation. To be a black male writer of any era is to bear the burden of representing black masculinity. Throughout the nine stories, Brinkley writes refreshingly nuanced portraits of black men, which, more often than not, highlight their fragility, in many cases as the men attempt to highlight their virility.

Read the full review of A Lucky Man here. Read an interview with Jamel here.

Francisco Cantú The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border (Penguin Random House)

By prioritizing stories over statistics, Cantú allows his readers to develop their own relationship with the people on the other side. It is in fact this acknowledgement of migrants as humans that creates a basis for empathy, a means of solidarity that is paradoxically both universal and specific.

Read the full review of The Line Becomes a River here.

Alexander Chee How to Write an Autobiographical Novel (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

One thing I like about what’s happening with gender now is that we’re thinking about it more as a relationship to the self rather than a relationship to others, making self-identification more important first. A panoply of identities is making that possible. What makes me interested in say, queer liberation, is that it makes room for other people whether they are queer or not. It allows young children to feel the freedom of identifying as a boy but wearing hot pink shoes to school and butterfly wings.

Read the full interview with Alexander here.

Nicole Chung All You Can Ever Know (Catapult)

I didn’t write the book to be prescriptive in any way, and I’m not an expert; there are counselors and social workers who specialize in interracial adoption. But speaking as a lay person and as a parent: we have to have hard conversations about race. And I think it is important for kids to not grow up as the only one [person of color in their community] if there’s any way to avoid it.

Read the full interview with Nicole here.

Eve L. Ewing Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago’s South Side (University of Chicago Press)

Equal parts historical narration and intimate, journalist-style engagement with the people whose lives the closings affect, Ghosts in the Schoolyard closely builds upon recent work in critical race studies, revealing how ongoing histories and patterns of racism have intersected with, and impeded, both educational opportunities and civic power.

Read the full review of Ghosts in the Schoolyard here.

Roxane Gay, Ed. Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture (HarperCollins)

Gay describes the stories we tell ourselves as mechanisms for coping, or simply understanding trauma, even when coping hurts us as survivors. She describes the refrain she has often told herself, that her gang rape and the subsequent assaults and mistreatments were “not that bad,” and how, because of this refrain, “the surfaces of my empathy became calloused.” This feels important to read before spending time with the testimonies of the other contributors, as Gay asks readers to consider how rape culture and misogyny have limited our own sense of empathy for survivors of trauma.

Read the full review of Not That Bad here.

Rachel Heng Suicide Club (Henry Holt & Co.)

I was living in the U.K. when I wrote this book. It seemed natural at the time that it would be set in New York, and upon reflection I think it’s because I associate that kind of drastic inequality with the U.S. In many ways it’s because of the lack of social safety net, the fact that health insurance is so expensive.

Read the full interview with Rachel here.

Chelsea Hodson Tonight I’m Someone Else (Henry Holt & Co.)

I’m interested in the ambiguities of the self and one’s own weakness, especially as a woman. I think there’s this tendency to want to project or portray oneself as invincible and super strong at all times. I think that’s the reductive version of what I see on the internet sometimes and to me, something is only interesting when it has multiple dimensions. I’m really interested in this idea of portraying myself as I am, which is often full of sadness and absence and longing.

Read the full interview with Chelsea here.

Eleanor Kriseman The Blurry Years (Two Dollar Radio)

…as much as this book is not a memoir, or autobiographical, it is much easier for me to put myself in a position to feel as a daughter than as a mother, even though my life circumstances and relationship with my mom are nothing like Callie and Jeanie’s. What I tried to do—and I don’t know if it fully worked—is to craft her character in a way that would both explain her actions but not necessarily excuse them.

Read the full interview with Eleanor here.

Catherine Lacey Certain American States (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

American cities differ the most, to me, in their forms of loneliness and disturbance. In some places it’s the loneliness of car travel, in others, stringent societal norms create a feeling of solitude. In Montana a deep relationship with nature is a virtue. In Mississippi it’s seen as a marker of poverty—why would you go outside if you can afford to be inside? The main difference between people in Chicago and people in New York, as I see it, is that people in Chicago are comfortable being happy while people in New York distrust happiness.

Read the full interview with Catherine here.

Andrew Martin Early Work (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

I’m realizing slowly how conservative my own view of what fiction could be was a few years ago. I think you get a little bit hypnotized in student life to the idea of the well-crafted thing. Because it’s what you can control, and it’s real, and it’s good to know how to make a well-crafted thing. I don’t want to reject that. But my suspicion is that we could be doing more interesting work if we didn’t think we had to follow in the footsteps of a pretty narrow canon of American fiction from the mid- to late-20th century.

An interview with Andrew, from which the excerpt above was taken, will be featured in the next issue of Adroit in 2019!

Natalia Sylvester
Everyone Knows You Go Home (Little A)

One of the questions that was really driving this story for me was the understanding that when my parents left Peru, it was a choice that seemed impossible to make and one that required them to leave everything they knew and loved. Can we really call that a choice?

Read the full interview with Natalia here.

Azareen Van Der Vliet Oloomi Call Me Zebra (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

I think an interest with investigating exile and identity and the poetics of space is definitely going to continue to be a part of my work, and I’ve been writing essays, trying to produce narratives out of memories that feel both factual and fictional, and to consider what that means. What is the ethos of representation in auto-fiction? I’m also concerned with the recovery of space in a world where we spend so much of our time in virtual reality.

Read the full interview with Azareen here.

Elissa Washuta Starvation Mode (Future Tense Books)

I think Starvation Mode is really a book about the ways that hunger and romantic or sexual desire have gotten tangled up for me, about boys and men looking at my body and thinking it should be different, and that look is the thing I was devouring. But I’ve been single for years now. Now, if a man thinks my body should be different, he doesn’t get to touch it. My god, I’ve wasted so much of my life listening to broken men tell me to start running or eat Paleo because I needed to be “fit.” Speaking to other Native women about our shapes has helped—I’m never not going to have a thick waist (even at a size zero, with my ribs showing, I had belly fat) and I’m never not going to have a bony ass. This body is an inheritance.

Read the full interview with Elissa here.

Colin Winnette The Job of the Wasp (Soft Skull Press)

A book is its own world, complicated and clashing, and that world is (significantly) a work of the imagination (h/t: Patty Yumi Cottrell for this phrase). When writing, I try to let whatever happens happen, just to see what’s there, what’s possible. When revising, I try to look at the terms the novel is setting up for itself, the decisions I’ve made (consciously or unconsciously that are working together in a way that feels meaningful). I do my best to engage with those decisions when describing what a character is going through, thinking, feeling, saying. One of the ways a book comes to feel unique and true, and therefore alive, is by thoroughly and consistently engaging with its own terms.

Read the full interview with Colin here.

2019, here we come!



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