Late spring roundup: Reviews, media attention, and author events

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies makes its national television debut when it’s recommended on the Kelly Clarkson Show from NBC. Secret Lives is also included in a Mother’s Day feature from Electric Lit, which notes: “When this collection blazed onto the scene in 2020, it won every award possible, putting West Virginia University Press on the map.” Nearly three years after publication, the big book from a small press continues to drive national conversations. Congrats to author Deesha Philyaw!

Forbes magazine celebrates “20 Must-Read Asian American Authored Books For AAPI Month,” including Another Appalachia: “This book lives beautifully in the gray area of trying to navigate a divisive environment while growing up queer and Asian American.” Neema Avashia’s book receives additional attention in Well Read, the 19th News, and all over Book Riot, where it’s part of “An Alphabet of Queer Books“; recommended as a nonfiction accompaniment for those who liked Barbara Kingsolver’s Demon Copperhead; cited (along with The Secret Lives of Church Ladies) as an example of the future of Appalachian literature; and discussed among three Appalachian memoirs worth a visit. Avashia will appear at Pittsburgh’s City of Asylum in June.

In North Carolina, the Ocracoke Observer profiles Kelley Shinn and her book The Wounds That Bind Us, previewing the title’s June launch event at Ocracoke’s Books to Be Red bookstore.

The In-Betweens is named one of the best books of 2023 (so far) by Style Caster and included on the Jewish Book Council’s reading list for Jewish American Heritage Month as a book that “highlights and speaks to the American Jewish experience throughout history.” On July 11, author Davon Loeb will appear as part of the Maven online event series from American Jewish University; register free at their site.

Kristine Langley Mahler’s Curing Season is lauded in Good Life Review as a book that “pushes boundaries on what a memoir and an essay collection can look like.”

Congratulations to Jason Kapcala, whose novel Hungry Town won a silver medal IPPY for Best Regional Fiction, Great Lakes.

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“I taught myself these things in the city, waiting for the day when I would finally abandon it”: An excerpt from Erik Reece’s Clear Creek

Clear Creek: Toward a Natural Philosophy is the newest book by Erik Reece, professor of English at the University of Kentucky and author of An American Gospel and Lost Mountain. Described by Amy Leach as “full of starry, grassy, fiery ideas,” Clear Creek will be published August 1 in WVU Press’s series In Place.

During the summer that I turned forty-five—middle-age by any conceivable standard—I moved to the woods and, with the woman I planned to marry, set up house on a ridge side covered in hickories, buckeyes, and chinquapin oaks—a slope that dropped off over a sheer rock wall, then opened up onto Clear Creek, a beautiful body of water where, along its banks, a small wedding party (bride, groom, preacher, photographer, and witness) could be squeezed onto one large platform of white limestone. The officiant was the pastor of a progressive church started right after the Civil War by the abolitionist minister John Fee. The photographer, Morris, was a friend from graduate school (we had once performed a disastrous scene from Hamlet in front of our Shakespeare seminar, a scene in which I, as Polonius, forgot my lines) and the witness was his wife, Anissa, who had baked an apple-caramel pound cake for the occasion. Melissa wore hiking boots beneath her wedding dress—her twin sister’s second grievance of the day, the first being that she wasn’t invited. After a ten-minute ceremony in which the minister riffed on the theme of our marriage to each other and to this land, we all hiked back up to the house to drink champagne, eat cake, and sign the marriage license. Since Melissa and I weren’t members of our officiant’s church, or of any church, I slipped him an envelope containing a few large bills. My life had just taken, I could plainly see, a serious turn in the right direction.

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Mid-spring roundup: Reviews, media attention, and author events

Kirkus has the first published review of Kelley Shinn’s “harrowing” The Wounds That Bind Us: “Readers may not want to follow in [Shinn’s] footsteps, but they will never be bored with her as a companion.” The author will be joined by Jaki Shelton Green, North Carolina’s poet laureate, for a launch event on June 1 in Ocracoke, NC.

Neema Avashia’s Another Appalachia is named a finalist for the Weatherford Award in Appalachian studies, joining the long list of recent winners and finalists from WVU Press. Avashia is interviewed in Barrelhouse, and her “stunning” book is recommended alongside William H. Turner’s The Harlan Renaissance in Book Riot‘s piece “Eight Books about Appalachian True Stories.” Avashia will be a featured speaker at the West Virginia Book Festival, as reported in the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Also appearing in Book Riot is Deesha Philyaw’s “phenomenal” The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, which is included in the feature “The Best Books We Read, January–March, 2023.” Philyaw will appear with Tyriek White at Square Books in Oxford, MS, on May 16.

NPR’s reporting on the movement to “go gradeless” quotes Susan D. Blum, and mentions her book with WVU Press, Ungrading: Why Rating Students Undermines Learning (and What to Do Instead). Also participating in coverage of the ungrading movement is WVU Press author Joshua Eyler, who’s quoted in Inside Higher Ed.

In other higher education news, Kelly Hogan and Viji Sathy, coauthors of Inclusive Teaching, appear in the Chronicle of Higher Education with their essay “How Can ‘Inclusion’ Be a Bad Word?” And Inside Higher Ed quotes current and future WVU Press authors Thomas Tobin, Karen Costa, and Elizabeth Norell in an article on active learning.

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“Tenacity and persistence are requirements in writing”: Kelley Shinn talks with Kristine Langley Mahler

Kelley Shinn’s The Wounds That Bind Us—the improbable true story of an orphan at birth who loses her legs, becomes an avid off-road racer and, as a single mother, attempts to drive around the globe in a Land Rover—will be published by West Virginia University Press on June 1. Here Shinn talks with Kristine Langley Mahler, author of Curing Season, also published by WVU Press.

Mahler: Could you talk about the importance of disability representation in literature and also the pressures that might come along with it?

Shinn: I’m a nonfiction writer, so representing the fullest scope of a human experience is an obvious goal. If what the reader reads is true about how a character thinks, reacts, is propelled through a situation, then there is an opportunity for connection.

I read The Color Purple when I was twelve. I have no obvious similarities with the protagonist, Celie, who is a traumatized slave in the American south. However, her drive and tenacity and hope under such cruel conditions were riveting to me as an adolescent. I felt her heart within my own. I thought then that if I ever had a daughter, I would name her after the brave, vulnerable, and triumphant Celie; now, decades later, my daughter, Celie, is part of the heartbeat of my debut, The Wounds that Bind Us.

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Early spring roundup: Reviews, media attention, and author events

In Book Riot, Kendra Winchester holds up West Virginia University Press as one of the “wonderful university and indie presses” that “provide a place for a lot of books big publishing doesn’t want to take a risk on.” Her piece (subtitled “supporting small presses supports communities”) quotes WVU Press staff alongside publishing professionals from Feminist Press and Hub City Press. Thanks, Kendra!

Neema Avashia’s Another Appalachia is named a finalist for the Lambda Literary “Lammies” Award, with winners to be announced June 9 in New York. Avashia’s book is judged “astute and beautifully crafted” in the Southern Literary Review. She talks with the Read Appalachia podcast.

In Other Lifetimes All I’ve Lost Comes Back to Me is praised as “a deep and howling portrait of longing and loneliness” in the Boston Globe and “brilliantly aching and haunting” in Lilith. Author Courtney Sender appears in Slate with an essay on family, citizenship, and the difficult history of Jews in Europe.

At the website for the Today Show, Jessica George, author of the latest “Read with Jenna” pick, recommends Deesha Philyaw’s The Secret Lives of Church Ladies. “I think short stories are notoriously difficult to write because you have so much to pack into such a small word count, but I think Deesha did this effortlessly.” Philyaw also makes another (!) appearance in the New York Times, where she talks with Gina Cherelus for the “Third Wheel” column.

Davon Loeb’s The In-Betweens is positively reviewed in Library Journal, which finds it “ideal for those interested in descriptive, insightful stories about what it is like to not quite fit in anywhere.” The book also earns a mention in Vol. 1 Brooklyn.Read More »

“A societal petri dish to create mental health challenges”: Read an excerpt from Improving Learning and Mental Health in the College Classroom, a new book in our higher education series

We’re pleased to share an excerpt from Improving Learning and Mental Health in the College Classroom, a new book by Robert Eaton, Steven V. Hunsaker, and Bonnie Moon. The latest title in West Virginia’s series Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, edited by James Lang and Michelle Miller, it ships now when ordered from our site.

If a group of malicious social scientists were designing a societal petri dish to create mental health challenges, they would be hard pressed to come up with anything more effective than the US higher education system. For starters, consider the timing: students traditionally embark on their college experience during the very period in life when most mental health challenges initially manifest themselves, with nearly 75 percent of lifelong mental health challenges emerging by the midtwenties.

On top of that, many college students leave home and their established networks of support, often for the first time. Such disruption might unsettle the most emotionally seasoned among us, let alone eighteen-year-olds. “The college years are a period of often intense anxiety about belonging: Do I fit in?” observes Paul Tough in The Years That Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us. “Can people like me feel at home here?”Read More »

AWP 2023 sale: Save 30% on fiction and creative nonfiction

To celebrate the annual meeting of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, all of West Virginia University Press’s new and recent works of fiction, literary nonfiction, and poetry are 30% off with free shipping through April 30, 2023. This discount applies to paperback and electronic editions.

Our exhibit at the AWP meeting will feature display copies for perusal, with all sales handled online at our website. Just use code WVUPAWP2023 at checkout. This sale is open to all, regardless of whether you’re attending the conference.

Discounted titles are:Read More »

“I definitely aim to expand and test the boundaries of the love story”: An interview with Courtney Sender

Courtney Sender’s braided story collection In Other Lifetimes All I’ve Lost Comes Back to Medescribed as “fierce” by Danielle Evans, “a stunner” by Deesha Philyaw, and a book that “upends . . . what it means to tell a love story” by Alice McDermottis available now. Sender talked with Vesto PR for the blog.

When did you start writing the stories in this book?

I am a structuralist at heart—or at least, my instinct is to look at structure second only to voice—so I wanted to create a collection that reads like individual stories at first and like a novel by the end.

So this is a braided collection that becomes one story by the final word. Characters recur and offer refractions against each other. One set of characters shows one outcome when a lost lover comes back, and another set shows a very different outcome.

Most of all I view the book as existing in three parts: “In other lifetimes,” which is the longing and the recourse to magic and the spiritual; “All I’ve lost,” which is that deep loneliness that I know so well from being single throughout my twenties; “Comes back to me,” which is the longed-for thing. And the question is whether, after all those longing and loss, the longed-for thing is even what we want or can accept anymore.

The stories have changed so much as I’ve shaped them into a unit for a book project. To me, they all feel new in the terms of the words on the page. That’s a testament to the work and vision of my editor, Sarah Munroe, who helped me think about the relationships of one story to another. I went through and matched last lines to first lines, and created an emotional arc from story to story by drawing a thread from one to the next.Read More »

Appalachian studies sale, 2023 edition! Save 30% on new and recent titles

It’s that time of year: All of West Virginia University Press’s new and recent books about Appalachia are 30% off with free shipping through April 30, 2023. This discount applies to paperback and electronic editions (and, in the case of African American Workers and the Appalachian Coal Industry, jacketed cloth). West Virginia’s sale is open to all. Just order at our website using discount code APPALACHIAN30—and enjoy!

Discounted titles are:Read More »

Late winter roundup: Reviews, media attention, and author events

The rollout for The In-Betweens receives wide coverage, in USA Today (where it’s a book of the week), the Philadelphia Inquirer (“gorgeously told”), and the Chicago Review of Books (“utterly captivating and resonant”). Davon Loeb and his book also appear in BOMBLibrary Journal‘s Book Pulse, the Rumpus, Electric Lit, Reckon Review, the Offing, Debutiful, the Southern Review of Books, and the Substack from writer and editor Rachel León. Loeb’s launch tour comes to Barnes & Noble in Marlton, NJ, on February 25.

Neema Avashia’s “captivating” Another Appalachia is praised for its “nuance and hard-won pride” in a review at Pittsburgh Quarterly, and the audiobook edition earns an equally enthusiastic rave in AudioFile. Avashia will appear on April 13 at Marshall University, where her book has been selected as a campus read.

In the newsletter from 100 Days in Appalachia, Skylar Baker-Jordan reviews William H. Turner’s The Harlan Renaissance, predicting the book “will become a cornerstone of Appalachian literature and of Appalachian studies, influencing writers, researchers, and everyday people for years to come.”

James Lang and Michelle Miller, coeditors of WVU’s series Teaching and Learning in Higher Educationtake to the Chronicle of Higher Education with “Don’t Write Like a Robot,” an essay about authorship and artificial intelligence. Miller also appears on the Learner Engagement Activated podcast.Read More »