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First Looks, December 2012: BBC International Short Story Award and The Twelve Tribes of Hattie

Hello again, FWR friends. Welcome to the latest installment of our “First Looks” series, which highlights soon-to-be released books that have piqued my interest as a reader-who-writes. We publish “First Looks” here on the FWR blog around the 15th of each month, and as always, I’d love to hear your comments and your recommendations of forthcoming titles. Please drop me a line anytime: erika(at)fictionwritersreview(dot)com, and thanks in advance.

I don’t recall when or where I first heard about Ayana Mathis’s debut novel, but it was well before Oprah anointed it as her latest book-club pick. Kirkus is describing it as a collection of linked stories, though I won’t know which label seems best until I read the book for myself. But I remember that the description of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, which Knopf had planned to publish in mid-January but released early after Oprah’s announcement, as a story of the Great Migration, appealed to the historian in me. The prepub reviews are filled with stars and praise. One example: “Mathis writes with blazing insight into the complexities of sexuality, marriage, family relationships, backbone, fraudulence, and racism in a molten novel of lives racked with suffering yet suffused with beauty,” says Booklist‘s Donna Seaman.

Next up: Here at FWR, we are especially proud of Mirsolav Penkov for winning the BBC Short Story Award. So it’s wonderful to see that Penkov’s story–along with those of the shortlisted writers–will soon be available in anthology form: The BBC International Short Story Award 2012 will be released here in the U.S. in early January. (Also included in this volume: a story by Deborah Levy, who was short-listed for this year’s Man Booker Prize.)

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Erika Dreifus

Erika Dreifus lives and writes in New York City, where she is a communications director at The City University of New York (CUNY). One of her favorite job responsibilities is maintenance of the Creative Writing at CUNY website. Erika’s first book of fiction, a short story collection titled Quiet Americans, was recently published (January 2011) by Last Light Studio Books. Her book’s publication finally motivated Erika to launcha website that attempts to organize her varied literary activities and interests, which, in addition to working on her own prose, poetry, and book reviews include maintaining two blogs, a newsletter, and a Twitter feed through which she shares writerly news and resources. Three books of fiction Erika was quick to place on her “favorites” shelf when she joined Goodreads are Ludwig Lewisohn’s The Island Within, Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and Romain Gary’s La vie devant soi, which Gary published as “Emile Ajar” and which has been translated as “Momo” and The Life Before Us (”Madame Rosa”).

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