Note: I have this up on my VictoriaWaddle.com blog, but am adding here because several of the books recommended below would be great for teen reads and in high school libraries.
As shut down orders were put in place to stem the coronavirus contagion, many of us became cheerleaders for our best-loved local businesses. Once we step back out into public life, we want to continue to enjoy our favorite foods, receive services from our favorite salons, and buy from our favorite shops. We need to support our much-loved local literary scene in the same way, not only by buying from our favorite bookstores, but by buying titles published by local publishers, including those written by local authors.
Support Local Authors in Online Venues
Just months ago, we were still celebrating our local authors in public venues. In February alone, I was able to attend several: the monthly “First Sundays” poetry open mic at Ironbark Ciderworks in Claremont; a wonderful reading by IE poets Romaine Washington and Eric Devaughnn at the Riverside Public (Main), sponsored by the Inlandia Institute; and the Writers’ Week Conference at UCR, where I spent a day listening to talks by and interviews of local authors. At each of these events, I was able to purchase books and literary journals.
Though we can’t go to see and hear our local publishers and authors, we can still attend online events and order from websites. Under “Books” on the Inlandia website, you can find book titles by Inland authors, including those published by the institute.
Support Local Presses Online
Going directly to the websites of local presses is a good way to discover new writers. Los Nietos Press publishes work that helps us understand “the lives and history of the people who make up the diverse community of Southern California.” One of their most recent titles, Behind the Red Curtain by Hong-My Basrai, is a memoir about the author’s escape from Communist Vietnam.
At past events, I’d purchased books published by Pelekinesis Press including Unfortunately, Thanks for Everything, a collection of poems by T. Anders Carson; MASS: A Sniper, a Father, and a Priest by Jo Scott Coe, which probes the psychological sources of the 1966 University of Texas, Austin clock tower shootings; California Continuum, Volume 1: Migrations and Amalgamations byGrant Hier and John Brantingham, a collection of very short fiction and nonfiction on California history dating back through prehistory; and My Bariatric Year, Part I by Tim Hatch. I enjoyed poetry, nonfiction and fiction alike, so I looked for a few new titles that I could order from Cellar Door Books in Riverside and have delivered to my home.
Local Press Book Recommendations : Calls for Submissions
Happily, I was able to meet a few reading goals by ordering Pelekinesis books: to read more female authors and try genres that I usually neglect. Calls for Submissions by Selena Chambers is a horror story collection that warps time and crosses decades.
I enjoyed the references to Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, as well as stories squarely in the monster tradition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
“Of Parallel and Parcel” is written from the point of view of Edgar Allan Poe’s child bride, Virginia. “The Şehrazatın Diyoraması Tour,” set in the Ottoman Empire, has at its center a Victorian automaton. One of my favorite stories in the collection, it gives a nod to “Frankenstein,” but also reminds me of “The Invention of Morel” by Argentinian writer A. Bioy Casares. Also favorites are “Dr. Lambshead’s Dark Room” with its “jars of mood;” “Descartar” with its “glass of crushed pain;” and “The Last Session” with its strange lesson in letting go. “Dive in Me” about Florida teens who decide to explore the ‘Suicide Sinks’ (vast sinkholes connected by underwater caves) is worth the price of the book. I’m planning on using “Calls for Submissions” as my next pick for the family book club, certain that we will all enjoy it. (We are all adults.)
Local Press Recommendations: The Dog Seated Next to Me
The Dog Seated Next to Me by Meg Pokrass is a collection of flash fiction. My sweet old retriever had just crossed the rainbow bridge when I read it, and I was hoping that some stories would feature dogs. There is plenty of irony (in three very short paragraphs, the story “Curse” turns the beloved Longfellow poem “The Children’s Hour” upside down). There is a dose of the absurd. And there are dogs. Dogs, cats, otters, bunnies, rats, and even spiders. I enjoyed the language of the book, the original metaphors and sensory appeal. However, my favorite aspect of The Dog Seated Next to Me is that it invites the reader to consider the ways that the landscape alters when animals enter.
Just as we have committed to saving our local businesses and workers during this period of isolation, may of us have promised ourselves to explore new things. By reading books published by local presses and written by local authors, we can do both. Why not order something recommended above from your local bookstore?