National Small Press Month may have passed us by several months ago, but my love for independent publishers is a year-round obsession. It's no secret that there's a diversity problem within the mainstream book world. White editors select white writers who write about white experiences. But small presses, who often put out just a small, highly curated selection of titles annually, can be relied on, year after year, to give a boost to underrepresented voices. So check out these anticipated indie press releases for 2018 — or at least, the second half of it, anyway — and prepare to be blown away by the storytelling chops of your new favorite authors (trust me).
The power of independent presses, free of the corporate publishing world's sales model, can be seen even from the list below, dominated by writers of color, by women, by translated works. For many of the writers (though certainly not all — we've got some seasoned literary darlings putting out great works this year), these are debut works. For others, this is their first opportunity to work with translators and bring their stories to an English-speaking audience. There are stories of transracial adoption, of the deadly, crushing power of womanhood, of the Chinese diaspora and the birth of Liberia. There are memoirs and short story collections and full-length novels. And there's something magic in each of these titles, a spark of passion that reminds us why we read in the first place: to learn, to connect, to grow and to listen.
'The Reservoir Tapes' by Jon McGregor (Aug. 7; Catapult)
When a teenaged girl goes missing, an entire village sets upon itself in a desperate attempt to find Becky Shaw. A companion piece to the 2017 novel Reservoir 13, The Reservoir Tapes returns with a deeper dive into the individual stories and memories of Becky's left-behind village.
'Pretty Things' by Virginie Despentes & translated by Emma Ramadan (Aug. 14; The Feminist Press at CUNY)
A twisted, urgent, painful story of performance and femininity, Despentes' Pretty Things circles around sisters Claudine and Pauline, known for their beauty (Claudine) and their ugliness (Pauline). But in combining their talents - Claudine's face and Pauline's voice — to become singularly famous, the sisters quickly learn that womanhood, in our contemporary society, delivers a venomous bite.
'Praise Song for the Butterflies' by Bernice L. McFadden (Aug. 28; Akashic)
Abeo Kata's comfortable life as a West African child is violently cut short when, at nine years old, she is sacrificed to a shrine as atonement for her father's sins. After 15 years, she is finally rescued - battered, bruised and faced with the seemingly insurmountable task of rejoining a world (and a family) that left her behind.
'After the Winter' by Guadalupe Nettel & translated by Rosalind Harvey (Sept. 4; Coffee House Press)
A meditative book on love and loss, and the inevitability of the two, After the Winter weaves its way through New York City, Paris and Havana, exploring how we are drawn, inexplicably, to seek out homes in one another.
'She Would Be King' by Wayétu Moore (Sept. 11; Graywolf Press)
A sparkling web of historical fiction and magical realism, Moore's debut novel reimagines the birth of Liberia, a West African country colonized in the mid-1800s by former American slaves, through the eyes of three characters, whose gifts — a mix of personal strength and magic — tether them to one another in the city of Monrovia.
'The Deeper the Water The Uglier the Fish' by Katya Apekina (Sept. 18; Two Dollar Radio)
When 16-year-old Edie and 14-year-old Mae are shipped off to their estranged father in New York, a rift begins to grow. Edie remains fiercely dedicated to the mother they left behind in Louisiana, hospitalized after a suicide attempt, while Mae, free from the physical comparisons to her mother for the first time, grows increasingly attached to their father. A story about love and ownership, connection and obsession, this debut novel dives deep into family dynamics.
'The Taiga Syndrome' by Cristina Rivera Garza & translated by Suzanne Jill Levine and Aviva Kana (Oct. 1; Dorothy, a publishing project)
A twisted, morally ambiguous story haunted by the legacy of fairy tales like Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel & Gretel, The Taiga Syndrome follow the unnamed Ex-Detective as she trudges deep into a classic premise: embarking on a trip into the woods, in search of something — or someone.
'All You Can Ever Know' by Nicole Chung (Oct. 2; Catapult)
A debut memoir from The Toast legend Nicole Chung, All You Can Never Know charts Chung's story as a baby born prematurely to a Korean couple newly-arrived in the United States. Adopted by a white family, Chung spent her formative years in rural Oregon, being told her own origin story as a neatly-packaged myth. But as an adult, Chung becomes curious about the reality of her history and what it means to really, truly belong.
'Training School for Negro Girls' by Camille Acker (Oct. 9; The Feminist Press at CUNY)
A love letter to Washington, D.C. and those who live there,Training School for Negro Girls hits all the good and bad and ugly and painful and searingly beautiful points of love head-on, and tackles the struggle of loving a whole city. Gentrification, displacement, and loss all ring out in this debut collection of short stories.
'Useful Phrases for Immigrants' by May-lee Chai (Oct. 23; Blair)
May-lee Chai's collection of short stories, which cross China, the Chinese diaspora and, eventually, the larger world, cut deep into the evolution of families, of generational gaps and the ways in which we carry certain traditions on our backs and leave others behind.
'The Lonesome Body Builder' by Yukiko Motoya (Nov. 6; Soft Skull Press)
A female body builder makes massive changes to her body, without her husband ever noticing. A store clerk waits and waits for a customer to come out of a dressing room, until they begin to wonder whether the customer is even human. In 11 short stories, Yukiko Motoya pulls back the curtain from everyday lives, to reveal that beneath the most mundane lies a world bizarre and alien.