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

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies has received the Story Prize—the first book from a university press (or small press of any kind) to win this recognition as the year’s outstanding collection of short fiction. It has been named one of five finalists for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the first fiction category, and also (continuing its remarkable run of awards attention) advances from longlist to finalist status for the PEN/Faulkner Award. The book earns mentions in New York Magazine, the Rumpus, Pittsburgh Magazine, and the bulletin of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, and author Deesha Philyaw appears on the podcasts from Storybound, Read More, and Black and Published. Watch for the announcement of the LA Times winners on April 16 and the PEN/Faulkner winner on May 10.

Jim Lewis’s “continuously engaging” Ghosts of New York is reviewed in Booklist, which praises the author as “a master at painting developed characters captured in various moments in time.” Lewis will launch the novel—which is excerpted in Air/Light Magazine—at a free online event with Shakespeare & Co. on April 2. Harper’s magazine will cohost.

Volume editor Travis Stimeling and contributor Paige Zalman discuss The Opioid Epidemic and US Culture at 100 Days in Appalachia. The title is reviewed in the Southern Review of Books, where it’s praised for “bringing awareness to damaging stereotypes and further victimization of those caught in the opioid epidemic.”

Also at 100 Days in Appalachia, Eric Kerl reviews So Much to Be Angry About, praising author Shaun Slifer’s “insightful eye,” and calling the volume “a testament to the ingenuity of our social movements.”

Joshua Eyler, author of How Humans Learn, talks with the Chronicle of Higher Education about universities, grief, and the importance of mourning as a response to covid.Read More »

Midwinter roundup: Reviews, media attention, and author events

The screen deal bringing Deesha Philyaw’s The Secret Lives of Church Ladies to HBO Max is widely reported, with Deadline Hollywood, Poets and Writers, Kirkus, LitHub, Pittsburgh Current, and the Pittsburgh Post Gazette spreading the word. Kirkus reports the good news that Philyaw has been longlisted for the PEN/Faulkner Award, and her status as one of three finalists for the $20,000 Story Prize is noted in Publishers Weekly and LitHub. The author and her book also appear on the Black in Appalachia podcast, in Next City, and in the Boston Globe, where novelist Robert Jones, Jr., says: “This is the kind of book I needed at this moment.”

In the New York Times, Chuck Keeney and his book The Road to Blair Mountain are featured in “The Real Meaning of Hillbilly,” an op-ed piece by Abby Lee Hood.

Foreword Reviews has a pre-publication review of Ghosts of New York: “In Jim Lewis’s wondrous novel Ghosts of New York, encounters among strangers result in unexpected relationships and a montage that celebrates a city of manifold graces. . . A subtle, dexterous novel.”

Renée Nicholson’s “lyrical and fascinating” book Fierce and Delicate is anticipated in Buzzfeed‘s preview of “18 Books That Will Help You Better Understand Disability and Chronic Illness.” Nicholson talks with Shaun Slifer, author of our forthcoming So Much to Be Angry About, in the inaugural episode of the “Short Talks” series from the WVU Humanities Center.Read More »

New Year’s roundup: Reviews, media attention, and author events

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies continues to play a prominent role in end-of-year book coverage, earning mentions in the New York Times critics’ roundup of 2020 (“I keep loaning out copies of Deesha Philyaw’s The Secret Lives of Church Ladies and having to order replacements”) and on NPR’s Code Switch episode on the year in books. It lands on best-of-the-year lists from the Paris Review, Buzzfeed, Ms. Magazine, Electric Lit, the Undefeated, Writer’s Bone, Stacks, Religion News Service, Hour Detroit, and the Chicago Review of Books (which calls it “a new classic”), and is judged “charming and entertaining” in the Kenyon Review. Philyaw appears on WTAE television in Pittsburgh, in a PEN America Q&A, at the Rumpus, and in LitHub, where she’s interviewed by Mitchell Kaplan of Miami’s Books & Books. She is named literary Person of the Year by Pittsburgh City Paper.

In the first published review of Jim Lewis’s Ghosts of New York, Kirkus Reviews finds the novel “reads like a striking literary version of the movie My Dinner with Andre,” with writing that is “beautiful, crisp, and keen-eyed.”

Larry Thacker’s Working It off in Labor County is called “a rollicking portrayal of small-town Kentucky life,” in Publishers Weekly, which says it is “unified by strong narrative drive and well-crafted prose.”Read More »

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

While The Secret Lives of Church Ladies didn’t win the National Book Award (congratulations, Charles Yu!), its status as a finalist is reported in coverage of the November 18 awards ceremony from the New York Times, NBC, the Guardian, and elsewhere. Deesha Philyaw’s book lands on the cover of the best-of-2020 issue from Kirkus, and also makes the year-end best-of lists from the New York Public Library and the Chicago Public Library. It is reviewed in the Los Angeles Review of Books (“compelling”), the Observer (“stunning”), and the Charleston Gazette-Mail (“absolutely wonderful”), while Vox takes particular note of its publisher. “One of the reasons we cover the National Book Awards,” Vox says, is that the awards “recognize books like The Secret Lives of Church Ladies . . . a short story collection about Southern Black women from a debut author, published by a small university press.” Philyaw is interviewed on the podcasts from LitHub and Late Night with Seth Meyers.

Publishers Weekly and Pittsburgh Current run reported feature stories about Secret Lives, which also appears on a number of holiday gift guides, including those from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Essence, and the bookstores Malaprop’s (Asheville), City of Asylum (Pittsburgh), and Downbound Books (Cincinnati).

TIME magazine includes Appalachian Reckoning in a roundup of responses to Hillbilly Elegy keyed to the release of the film adaptation. Coeditor Meredith McCarroll talks with the podcast Appodlachia, and the book earns a mention in Los Angeles Magazine.

As part of its story “The Battle of Blair Mountain Was the Largest Labor Uprising in US History,” Teen Vogue profiles Charles B. Keeney, author of The Road to Blair Mountain. Keeney’s book is excerpted in 100 Days in Appalachia.

Read More »

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

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies has been named one of five finalists for the National Book Award in fiction, as reported in the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Public Radio, and elsewhere. The inclusion of a title from a smaller publisher is notable, with Vox reporting “we get the unusual sight of a small university press book in the fiction finals.”

Deesha Philyaw’s book is also covered in Vanity Fair (where it’s recommended by Roxane Gay) and public radio stations WESA in Pittsburgh and WYPR in Baltimore. It makes the Buzzfeed list “38 Great Books to Read This Fall,” and is called “an unforgettable look inside the hearts of Black women” in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Congratulations to author Deesha Philyaw!

Anthony Harkins and Meredith McCarroll’s Appalachian Reckoning is winner of the Walter and Lillian Lowenfels Criticism Award from the American Book Awards, as reported in LitHub and elsewhere. The release of the Hillbilly Elegy movie trailer sparks attention for our book in Columbus Alive and the Hill.

And rounding out awards news, the Wisconsin Library Association names Krista Eastman’s book The Painted Forest winner of their Outstanding Achievement Award.Read More »

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

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies receives two glowing endorsements from major newspapers. “These are stories about Black women that haven’t been told with this level of depth, wit, or insight before,” says Tony Norman in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “so it will not shock me if Oprah gets around to selecting it before the end of the year.” And in an equally enthusiastic review, Marion Winik writes for the Minneapolis Star Tribune: “In this year of constriction and pain, juicy goodness bursts from every page of Deesha Philyaw’s debut short story collection. . . . This collection marks the emergence of a bona fide literary treasure.”

Previously the recipient of a starred review in Kirkus, Philyaw’s book makes another appearance in the magazine as one of four “must-read” story collections highlighted in its fall preview issue. It is also recommended on the Kirkus podcast, and called “cheeky, insightful, and irresistible” in Ms. Magazine. The free weekly Pittsburgh City Paper has two pieces on Philyaw’s “incredibly moving” book, which is excerpted in Electric Lit.

Library Journal‘s list of “35 Standout Summer/Fall 2020 Debut Novels” includes Lana Austin’s Like Light, Like Music.

Radical Hope is lauded in AEJMC: “Startlingly succinct, yet resonant with raw emotion,” it is “required reading for those of us struggling to figure out how to adjust and balance our work this fall.” Author Kevin Gannon is featured in an Inside Higher Ed piece about faculty responses to the Jacob Blake shooting.Read More »

July roundup: Reviews, media attention, and author events

Deesha Philyaw’s The Secret Lives of Church Ladies is named to Library Journal‘s list “Black Voices Matter 2020” and called one of “12 Must-Read Books by Black Authors” in Amazon Book Review, which says: “The stories of these women and their friendships come alive, beating with tenderness and imperfection, and build upon one another to create a beautiful melody of female determination.”

Philyaw is profiled in a cover story in Pittsburgh Current, where her book is called “full of lived-in humanity, warmth, and compassion.” She’ll launch The Secret Lives of Church Ladies as part of the Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures series, cohosted with the Carnegie Library and White Whale Books, on September 3.

Foreword Reviews praises Joanna Eleftheriou’s “heartfelt and heartrending” This Way Back, saying “the essays entice every sense.”Read More »

June roundup: Reviews, media attention, and author events

In an impressive set of prepublication reviews, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies is called “triumphant” in Publishers Weekly and earns a starred review from Kirkus, which enthuses: “Tender, fierce, proudly black and beautiful, these stories will sneak inside you and take root.” Deesha Philyaw’s book is named one of “24 New and Forthcoming Books That Celebrate Black Lives” in Electric Lit, and the author appears in Pittsburgh City Paper.

Joanna Eleftheriou’s “winning and contemplative” This Way Back also receives a starred review from Kirkus. It’s called “intimate and a touch mournful, most powerfully so when the author writes about her sexuality.”

The Painted Forest is reviewed in Rain Taxi: “Gorgeously written and meticulously researched, it would be perfect for lovers of creative nonfiction—especially those with an affinity for nature writing and ecocriticism.”

USA Today recommends a book from every state, selecting Chuck Kinder’s Last Mountain Dancer—with its “local legends, family stories, [and] regional history”—for West Virginia.Read More »

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

WVU Press makes its first appearance on NPR’s Fresh Air (a significant publicity milestone!), where Nancy McKinley’s novel-in-stories St. Christopher on Pluto receives a favorable review. “Like the best comic fiction, it’s constructed out of insider social observations that sting as much as they amuse.”

A New York Times feature on contributing writers’ favorite restaurants quotes Candace Nelson on Fairmont’s Country Club Bakery, and mentions her WVU book The West Virginia Pepperoni Roll.

As the higher education community reflects on the past semester—and makes plans for the next—WVU’s books about teaching and learning continue to shape the conversation: 

  • In a major Los Angeles Review of Books essay on “Universities in the Age of COVID-19,” Ryan Boyd writes that Kevin Gannon’s Radical Hope “make[s] it clear what the stakes are, and which path we should sprint down, right now, if we want to live and maybe even thrive.” Gannon talks with Inside Higher Ed about grading during the pandemic, and appears on the Phoenix Thriving podcast.
  • Jessamyn Neuhaus, author of Geeky Pedagogy, writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the challenges that introverts face when engaging in remote teaching.
  • In Disability Studies Quarterly, Thomas Tobin and Kirsten Behling’s Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone earns praise for “sparking new ways of conceptualizing and creating inclusive access.”
  • And Joshua Eyler, author of How Humans Learn, joins editors and reporters from the Chronicle of Higher Education in a webinar on “Better Student Engagement during Covid-19.” The event is June 5, and registration is here.

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

With universities pivoting quickly to online instruction in response to public health concerns, a number of authors from our series Teaching and Learning in Higher Education are in the news:

  • Joshua Eyler, author of How Humans Learn, is part of an Inside Higher Ed roundtable on “The Shift to Remote Learning,” and he appears on the podcast Tea for Teaching to talk about how universities might plan for the fall semester.
  • Also in Inside Higher Ed, Cathy Davidson’s essay on student assessment during the pandemic cites work on going gradeless by Susan D. Blum, editor of our forthcoming Ungrading (a volume to which Davidson contributes). Blum’s work on the shift from grades is discussed, as well, in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
  • Thomas Tobin, coauthor of Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone, appears in the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed, and talks with the Lecture Breakers podcast.
  • The EdSurge series “Sustaining Higher Education in the Coronavirus Epidemic” includes a writeup of Derek Bruff’s Intentional Tech.
  • In Public Books, Kevin Gannon, author of Radical Hope, talks with historian Kevin Kruse about the role of public engagement at less prominent universities that are sometimes overlooked by traditional media. Gannon is also interviewed for the Teaching in Higher Ed and Tea for Teaching podcasts.

Pittsburgh City Paper‘s guide to supporting independent bookstores during the pandemic recommends Deesha Philyaw’s forthcoming The Secret Lives of Church Ladies.Read More »