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Colleen Dunn Bates celebrates 10 years of Prospect Park Books

Looking for a small press that focuses on authors outside the mainstream? Look no further than Prospect Park Books, based in Pasadena, California. Celebrating their 10th anniversary this year, Prospect Park Books’ founder, publisher, and editor Colleen Dunn Bates writes about her experience and doles out some sound wisdom for Literary Hub in a post published November 8th.

The long game aspect of the business frustrated Bates, but has given her a new understanding of publishing and patience, especially the accompanying learning curve: “It takes years to build a backlist, to find and build relationships with talented authors, designers, and staff, and to learn how to make budgets and forecast sales with at least a shred of realism.” However, the love of books and authors drives Prospect Park to keep publishing truly remarkable books.

“We never would have had our #1 bestseller, the debut novel Helen of Pasadena, if I hadn’t said, impetuously, passionately, and (at the time) foolishly, ‘What the hell, let’s go for it!'” Helen of Pasadena follows a wife and mother from (you guessed it) Pasadena whose life changes when her cheating husband gets killed by a parade float. Prospect Park has also fostered a relationship with author Michelle Brafman. author of Bertrand Court and Washing the DeadBertrand Court gives a close-up view of life in a suburban cul-de-sac, while Washing the Dead  deals with a woman confronting her family’s past after her mother’s death. Says the Washington City Paper about Bertrand Court: “Subtle and convincing… Brafman’s book works best in the way these characters interconnect from story to story, maintaining the reader’s interest as a novel should.”

Prospect Park publishes fiction as well as gift and cookbooks; Little Flower Baking  is a perfect example of one of their excellent cookbooks, a baking cookbook that won the Southern California Independent Bookseller Award for Best Nonfiction and has Leite’s Culinaria raving about the plum crumble pie, “a mutant combo in the best possible way.” This is a great gift for the holidays!lfbaking_cover_small

What final piece of advice does Bates give about the small press world? “Every book is our baby, every author is our family member, and there will never be enough hours or dollars to do everything possible to make it succeed. But we try anyway. Because we cannot imagine doing anything else.”

Indeed.

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Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

September 15 through October 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month, a time for celebrating the culture, lives, and achievements of Hispanic people all across the Americas. The month begins on September 15 in honor of the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua; Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence shortly after, on September 16 and 18. Though Hispanic people make up nearly twenty percent of the United States population, Hispanic authors continue to be ridiculously and frustratingly underrepresented in literature (this study in the Baltimore Sun says that less than one percent of all children’s books are written by Hispanic authors). It’s a statistic that becomes even more infuriating when you realize that Hispanic authors have produced some of the biggest books in the last ten years (Junot Diaz, anyone?). To counteract this inequality, we’ve compiled a list of titles by Hispanic authors from the United States to Central and South America: authors who represent the strength, resistance, and incredible contributions of Hispanic people everywhere, in genres from poetry, to literary fiction, to sci-fi, and more.

Beyond the Wall: New Selected beyond-the-wallPoems by Régis Bonvicino (Green Integer, November 2016) This is poetry at its most crucial and political, poetry that won’t let you off the hook even after you’re done reading. Beyond the Wall is the first English translation of Bonvicino’s work from 2002 to the present. Bonvicino has worn basically every hat you can wear in the literary world, from poet to translator, editor, and literary critic. His experience shows: in his poetry, he nimbly jumps between the stunning imagery of nature and the harsh realities of industrialization in urban environments. There’s a pulse to these words, a driving force that pushes you to constantly think about what you’re reading and why. Bonvicino challenges you to examine the massive role that colonialism played in developing what we think of as poetry.

Blood of the Dawn by Claudia Salazar Jiménez (Deep Vellum Publishing, Novemblood-of-the-dawnber 2016) Three Peruvian women brave the brutal and bloody military insurgence of the Shining Path guerillas in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The insurgence was the beginning of twenty years known in Peruvian history as the “state of fear.” In Blood of the Dawn, Jiménez rewrites the conflict through these women’s voices, marking how the personal can become political and vice versa. Jiménez’s prose is clear-cut and doesn’t sugarcoat the realities of the insurgence and the effects it had on the people of Peru. When this debut novel was first published in Spanish, Jiménez received the 2014 Americas Narrative Prize. Read it, and you’ll see why.

chronicle-of-a-murdered-houseChronicle of a Murdered House by Lúcio Cardoso (Open Letter Books, August 2016) is juicy familial drama at its best, rich with gossiped stories of adultery, incest, madness, and decadence. The first  English translation of Cardoso’s iconic Brazilian novel (originally published in Portuguese in the 1930s), follows the legacy of a once-proud family that blames its downfall on the marriage of its youngest son to a vibrant, rebellious, passionate woman named Nina. Cardoso’s writing is far from a fluff piece, however, meandering between plot-based narrative and deep philosophical questions in the driven-yet-pensive way that only literary fiction can. As Cardoso follows the family over the years, he hops between narrative devices from letters to diaries to confessions that will keep you reeled in until the very end.

I’ll Sell You a Dog by Juan Pablo Villalobos (And Other Stories, August 2016) followill-sell-you-a-dos an elderly man named Teo as he attempts to fend off boredom and cockroaches in a retirement home —all with a beer in hand. In his heyday, Teo was known all throughout Mexico City for his dog meat tacos, which he called “Gringo Dogs,” but that was before he lost his girlfriend to Diego Rivera and had his dreams crushed by his hypochondriac mother. Now, Teo is stuck trying to fill his days by antagonizing the literary salon that meets downstairs, flirting with the revolutionary greengrocer next door, and reading critical theory to telemarketers. When I’ll Sell You a Dog isn’t making you laugh out loud at Teo’s ridiculous antics, it’s “full of affection for art and artists” according to NPR. The novel is full of people who are die-hard believers, and it’s impossible not to root for characters who are so unapologetically passionate about their work.

the-revolutionaries-try-againThe Revolutionaries Try Again by Mauro Javier Cardenas (Coffee House Press, September 2016) tells the story of three childhood friends who reunite to transform Ecuador, and then discover that revolution isn’t as easy as it might seem. It’s political, yes (full of election turmoil, history of the Ecuadorian pro-austerity movement, and subversive radio plays), but to say it’s only a political novel would be to undercut the complexity of Cardenas’s writing. In The Revolutionaries Try Again, Cardenas explores the many facets of friendships, the things we leave unsaid, and all of the ways nostalgia acts as a fun house mirror on our memories. Cardenas’s writing crackles with wit and pop culture references (from ABBA to The Exorcist) – there’s a reason Harper’s magazine called The Revolutionaries Try Again a “high-octane, high-modernist debut.”

San Juan Noir, edited and introduced by Mayra Santos-Febres (Akashic Boosan-juan-noirks, October 2016) is an anthology of noir fiction by some of Puerto Rico’s best and brightest authors. Noir is nothing without atmosphere, and the setting here becomes a character of its own. The authors of San Juan Noir dig deep into the city, cracking open the (largely white, American) mythos of, as editor Santos-Febres says in the introduction, “sandy beaches, casinos, luxury hotels, relaxation, and never-ending pleasure—a place that satisfies all senses and appetites.” The stories within San Juan Noir stare right into the face of colonialism as they examine the gaps between the city’s rich and its poor, its residents and its constant flow of tourists, its colorful exterior and its gritty underbelly. This is noir with a bite, noir that enthralls with its dark tales even as it challenges the reader—do better, do better, do better.

transmigration-of-bodiesThe Transmigration of Bodies by Yuri Herrera (And Other Stories, August 2016) is a response to the violence in contemporary Mexico. A plague has come to an unnamed city, spreading death and destruction everywhere. Two rival crime families take advantage of the emptied streets to reopen a decades-old feud, but when the situation escalates beyond control, they call in the only person who can rebroker the peace: the Redeemer. Both families have kidnapped the children of the other, and the Redeemer must venture out into the disease-ridden streets to negotiate the return of the bodies they hold hostage. This definitely isn’t one of the lighter books you’ll read, but Herrera’s short, poetic prose “goes straight for the soul,” according to NPR, and is impossible to ignore. The Transmigration of Bodies pays homage to literary greats from Roberto Bolaño to Raymond Chandler and Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as it honors all of the bodies that violent crime has touched.

Wicked Weeds by Pedro Cabiya (Mandel Vilar Press, October 2016) is not your avewicked-weedsrage zombie novel. From The Walking Dead to iZombie, you may be groaning at the thought of even more zombie narratives. But Wicked Weeds is different. Instead of a traditional, chronological narrative, the book comes together in scrapbook form, compiled by fictional doctor Isadore Bellamy as she tries to make sense of a brutal accident caused by her (zombie) boss. The book is made up of confessions from our zombie protagonist, transcripts of police interrogations, and segments of prose. Wicked Weeds incorporates all the best parts of sci-fi, experimental fiction, traditional horror, and Caribbean literature to create what Kirkus Reviews called “a culturally resonant tale of zombie woe.”

zero-sum-gameA Zero-Sum Game by Eduardo Rabasa (Deep Vellum Publishing, November 2016) is a biting political and consumerist satire—definitely a timely and relevant pick for this fall. A Zero-Sum Game follows the high-stakes election for the presidency of a residents’ committee, where a powerful stranger threatens to use his influence to shake up the process. Rabasa uses the charged atmosphere to crack dry, wry jokes that manage to lend sympathy to both sides: those in power, who find themselves caught between empowerment and selling out, and those outside of it, who find themselves wanting to be part of a revolution. It’s complex, intense, and would be heavy were the book not so charmingly funny. VERDICT: Add to your pre-election reading list.

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Bookslinger Update: “Arboretum”

The Bookslinger app has been updated with a new story!

This week’s story is from Greetings from Below by David Philip Mullins, published by Sarabande Books. What would have become of Nick Adams if he’d been born along the ragged edges of a new American city, one with more churches per capita than any other, and twice the suicide rate? Meet Nick Danze, the main character of David Philip Mullins’s vital debut collection, Greetings from Below. The opening story finds fourteen-year-old Nick and his pal Kilburg sitting in the Las Vegas desert, drinking whiskey from Kilburg’s fake leg. It’s the first of many shocks in Nick’s sexual education, which begins with a kiss from Kilburg he calls “practice.” In later stories, Nick hires a call girl, visits a swingers’ club on Christmas Eve, obsesses over obese middle-aged women, and meets the love of his life, Annie, only he’s not sure he loves her and he’s compulsively unfaithful. Ashamed of his behavior, he stubbornly repeats it. And lurking behind it all is Vegas, with its gilded casinos, neon-tinted suburbs, and dingy, outer-ring strip clubs. In Nick’s wounded honesty and queasy self-consciousness, Mullins awakens us to the perverse power of alienation and shame.

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Bookslinger Update: “Our Big Game”

The Bookslinger app has been updated with a new story!

This week’s story is from The Immanence of God in the Tropics by George Rosen, published by Leapfrog Press. These are stories of unexpected encounters far from home, told with a vivid sense of place. A white man with more wives than money becomes Africa’s least-competent thief, two Americans contemplate love’s costs and possibilities in Mexico’s mountains, a seasick missionary bumps into God on the equator. George Rosen’s characters seek, and sometimes find, a reality in which “everywhere, there is something remarkable.”

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Bookslinger Update: “Love Right on the Yesterday”

The Bookslinger app has been updated with a new story!

This week’s story is from Tomo by Wendy Nelson Tokunaga, published by Stone Bridge Press. This aptly named fiction anthology—tomo means “friend” in Japanese—is a true labor of friendship to benefit teens in Japan whose lives were upended by the violent earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011. Authors from Japan and around the world have contributed works of fiction set in or related to Japan. Young adult English-language readers will be able to connect with their Japanese counterparts through stories of contemporary Japanese teens, ninja andyokai teens, folklore teens, mixed-heritage teens, and non-Japanese teens who call Japan home. Tales of friendship, mystery, love, ghosts, magic, science fiction, and history will propel readers to Japan past and present and to Japanese universes abroad.

Edited and with a foreword by Holly Thompson, Tomo contributing authors include Naoko Awa, Deni Bechard, Jennifer Fumiko Cahill, Liza Dalby, Megumi Fujino, Andrew Fukuda, Alan Gratz, Katrina Toshiko Grigg-Saito, Suzanne Kamata, Sachiko Kashiwaba, Kelly Luce, Shogo Oketani and Leza Lowitz, Ryusuke Saito, Graham Salisbury, Fumio Takano, and Wendy Tokunaga, among others.

Through understanding comes compassion and the desire to help; portions of the proceeds of Tomo will be donated to ongoing relief efforts for teens in Japan.

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Bookslinger Update: “Tickets on Time”

The Bookslinger app has been updated with a new story!

This week’s story is from The Man Who Walked Through Walls by Marcel Aymé, published by Pushkin Press. Marcel Aymé’s most celebrated tale provides the title of this collection of ten short stories. The excellent Monsieur Dutilleul is able to penetrate walls, but never exploits his gift until his tyrannical boss drives him to desperate measures. How will the unassuming clerk adjust to a glamorous life of crime?

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Bookslinger Update: “Paints and Papers”

The Bookslinger app has been updated with a new story!

This week’s story is from Innocent Party by Aimee Parkison, published by BOA Editions, Ltd. In this collection, Kurt Vonnegut Fiction Prize–winner Aimee Parkison’s characters struggle to understand what happens when the innocent party becomes the guilty party. With magical realist flair, secrets are aired with dirty laundry, but the stains never come clean. Carol Anshaw writes, “Aimee Parkison offers a distinct new voice to contemporary fiction. Her seductive stories explore childhood as a realm of sorrows, and reveal the afflictions of adults who emerge from this private geography.”

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