Emerging Voices Recommend Fellowship Alumni: A Reading List
March 27, 2020
On the Emerging Voices Podcast this week, I spoke to 2009 EV Fellow Parnaz Foroutan about her new memoir Home is a Stranger, and how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting writers like Parnaz, who have books coming out right now. She made the case that marginalized writers—many of whom are also immigrants—may have wisdom to share about weathering a crisis, in light of the adverse circumstances they’ve already survived such as war, famine, genocide, discrimination, and a general lack of resources. Parnaz said reading stories from writers who have been through things requires a reckoning of the self that allows us to better understand the human experience. I think this is something we could all use right now.
The Emerging Voices Fellowship has been providing marginalized writers like Parnaz with the tools they need to launch professional careers since 1996. Here, a few of the 156 EV alumni recommend books by fellows, mentors, and Author Evening hosts. Learn more about Emerging Voices here.
Being a mixed writer is a gift. With no obligation to follow in the footsteps of any singular cultural identity, I am free to find inspiration in many diverse voices. As an African American Californian, no author has done more to reaffirm my own experience growing up hood-adjacent than Dana Johnson’s Elsewhere, California. As the son of a lesbian mother and myself a lifelong fringe-dweller, Michelle Tea’s queer confidence in Against Memoir is endlessly reassuring, mind-expanding, and hilarious. I am fortunate to have Chris L. Terry as my EV Mentor; his most recent book, Black Card, wrestles with the question of what it means to be Black with humor, nuance, and depth. Each author’s work reminds us that valuable personal transformation is often the result of uncommon challenges.
Damien Belliveau is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area and has spent over a decade telling stories in the world of reality television as an editor and director at Bunim-Murray Productions. The founder of The PartBlack Project, a Q&A photography series documenting ethnically-mixed people like himself, Damien is working on his first memoir.
Rachel M. Harper’s This Side of Providence tells the story of a family dealing with the trauma of addiction, poverty, and being torn apart. Each narrator, varying in age, carries a raw and authentic voice that immediately immersed me into their worldview where, through vulnerability, regardless of struggle, there are glimpses of hope.
Shannon Gatewood was born and raised in Chicago and currently resides in Los Angeles. She has a bachelor’s degree in sociology, has worked in both the nonprofit and corporate sectors, and currently works in franchise support for a math tutoring company. Shannon is writing her first novel, a story that follows a family of Black women after their father and husband dies suddenly of a heart attack.
M. Kiguwa graduated from the London School of Economics and Political Science with her master’s in media, communication, and development and has worked in the entertainment industry in the United States, Europe, and Africa for over 10 years. She is currently writing an adventure memoir spanning multiple generations.
the other house (The Accomplices) has become a meditation in an emergency for me. Written while reading a draft of Chiwan Choi’s The Yellow House, the text moves in conversation with addressing ghosts and memory. How loss and desire house themselves in the body. If you find yourself sitting in silence or pacing throughout your home, this book is both anchor and map.
Winner of The Marsh Hawk Press prize, Fretwork (Marsh Hawk Press) is a weaving narrative about adoption, family history, and emigration. These poems allow me to travel, whether it is through California in the ’30s or the West Indies and beyond, stitching together family and place, making me ask what both of them mean to me.
I wanted to suggest a book to look forward to on the horizon, something on the other side. original kink (forthcoming from Sibling Rivalry Press) is an exercise in un-making masculinity—Jubi steers the reader through an experience of his youth, where manhood and masculinity were equated not only with strength, but with violence. He challenges the reader to locate the joy in piecing together who they want to be in this here and now.
Dare Williams is a queer HIV-positive poet, artist, and activist native to Southern California. An alum of the John Ashbury Home School, Dare’s poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a finalist for Blood Orange Review’s inaugural contest judged by Jericho Brown. His work has been featured in Cultural Weekly, Bending Genres, THRUSH, and forthcoming in Exposition Review. He is currently working on his first poetry collection.
I believe difficult times like these give us a moment to reflect on how we perceive ourselves in this world. As a student, teacher, and writer of creative nonfiction, I am inspired by Angela Morales’s The Girls in My Town and Reyna Grande’s The Distance Between Us. I am drawn to these writers, and not just because they have backgrounds as educators. There is spirit and will in both of these writers’ works that overcomes challenges and pushes beyond boundaries. I read Morales not just because she was my EV mentor. There is an honest beauty in her words that bring me back to the realities I grew up in. In teaching Grande to reluctant readers, space began to open between my students and I to build trust. And, I think this is what we need now: contemplation and space for compassion.
Natalie Mislang Mann is an educator who holds a master of arts in humanities from San Francisco State University. Before being selected as a 2018 PEN America Emerging Voices fellow, she attended VONA/voices and Tin House Summer Workshops. Her writing has appeared in Angel City Review, The Rattling Wall, and the anthology Only Light Can Do That. Natalie is currently attending the Bennington Writing Seminars, while working on a memoir based on her experiences growing up in a multi-ethnic family in the San Fernando Valley.
Dealing in Dreams is Lilliam Rivera’s take-no-prisoners sophomore novel. And what a ride. Rivera makes a seamless transition from contemporary young adult fiction to sci-fi, featuring Latinx voices front and center. While bringing a strong critique on notions of classism and gender roles, Dealing in Dreams delivers high-intensity adventure and a bold protagonist who is unapologetic in her anger and ambitions. The theme of found family tempers some of the action violence, making this a gripping read teen audiences will savor.
Angela M. Sanchez is a Los Angeles native and UCLA alumna who has written and self-published two children’s books, Scruffy and the Egg and Scruffy and the Egg: Adventures on the Road about single parenthood and homelessness. She is currently working on her first young adult novel.
Jamie Schaffner (2011 EV) recommends Grace by Natashia Deón
From the first few pages until the end—and what an end—I was captivated by the pervasive and immediate danger for women and girls in the antebellum South. The writing is gorgeous, rendering Alabama, Georgia and the time period in such detail that I felt immersed into this landscape, this world. The novel is full of love, beauty, and humor.
Jaime Schaffner is an accountant and writer. Her work appears in the anthology Best Lesbian Romance, and she is completing her first novel, Get the Girl. Jamie lives in Los Angeles with her wife, Melissa, and cat, Buffy the rodent slayer.
Meet Behind Mars is a brilliant collection of short fiction that speaks to community, joy, and the nuance of how we see ourselves in each other, and in doing so, discover the truths of human experience. I have used “The Art of Heroine Worship” in many of my classes and consider it to be a contemporary classic on girlhood, race, beauty, and American life.
Stephanie Han is a writer, editor, and educator. Her debut short story collection, Swimming in Hong Kong (Willow Springs Books/distributed by University of Washington Press), won the Paterson Fiction prize, was shortlisted for the Asian Books Blog Award, and was the sole finalist for both the AWP Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction and the Spokane Prize. Individual stories won recognition from Nimrod International Literary Journal, Santa Fe Writers Project, and the South China Morning Post. Han is City University of Hong Kong’s first English literature PhD. She resides and teaches in Lahaina, Maui.