Here are some must-reads for me in 2015. Yes, they’re all books by Pacific Northwest women I know and admire. Lucky me. Lucky you if you decide to read these books, too.

The Ghosts Who Travel With Me, Ooligan Press, by Allison Green

Smitten as a young adolescent with Richard Brautigan’s Trout Fishing in America, Allison Green explores her fascination with the book, the author, and the Sixties as she take us on a literary pilgrimage to the Idaho towns Brautigan visited, the streams he fished, and the woods he camped in during the summer of 1967. It’s a pilgrimage that leads her to reflect on her family history, her own identity as a lesbian and a writer, and the meaning of place.

I’m lucky to be in a writing group with Allison and it’s been a pleasure to see this book develop. You can follow all the pre-publication updates on the Ooligan Press website. Get a preview of the beautiful prose in Allison’s book by reading her blog.

The Robot Scientist’s Daughter, Mayapple Press, by Jeannine Hall Gailey

I loved and wrote about Jeannine Hall Gailey’s previous book Unexplained Fevers in which the damsel in distress and the princess in peril shun the male rescuer to find their own path to escape, redemption, or solitude. Now I’m eager to read her fourth book of poetry The Robot Scientist’s Daughter. Here’s part of the tantalizing description on the Mayapple Press page:

“Mining her experience growing up in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the writer allows the stories of the creation of the first atomic bomb, the unintended consequences of scientific discovery, and building nests for birds in the crooks of maple trees to weave together a reality at once terrifying and beautiful.”

Critic, Stephen Burt says these are “pellucid and memorable poems, in which Jeannine Hall Gailey becomes a storyteller, a creator, a rebel, an educator, and a heroine of her own.” Aside from noting that pellucid is one of my favorite words, I’ll add that Jeannine is a woman who is smart, funny, and brave in her poetry and her life.

Language Arts, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, by Stephanie Kallos

Stephanie Kallos, author of the highly praised and bestselling Broken for You, offers up her third novel Language Arts to her fans with this engaging storyline:

Despite his belief in the potential for language arts to expand one’s connection to the world, a high school teacher Charles Marlow is nevertheless disconnected from his own family. How he finds his way to re-engage with them—“with the help of an ambitious art student, an Italian-speaking nun, and the memory of a boy in a white suit”—promises an interesting read.

Maria Semple (Where’d You Go, Bernadette?) calls the book “deeply felt, utterly absorbing and full of wit.”

landscape / heartbreak, Two Sylvias Press, by Michelle Peñaloza

I met Michelle Peñaloza in the summer of 2012 on the Long Walk, a public art project that involved a group of fifty people, many of them artists and most of them strangers to each other, on a four-day walk from Golden Gardens in Ballard to Snoqualmie Falls. As one of the featured artists on the walk, Michelle led a poetry workshop and also started the walkers off each day by reading a poem.

Following the Long Walk, Michelle embarked on a personal project that literally explored landscape, movement, memory, and heartbreak. She invited people to take her on walks from Seattle’s Hugo House to specific places in the city where they’d had their hearts broken. She wrote poems in response to those walking conversations, which have been collected by Two Sylvias Press in a chapbook along with maps to create a “literary cartography of heartbreak.”

The Daughter’s Almanac, Backwaters Press, by Katharine Whitcomb

Katharine Whitcomb won the 2014 Backwaters Prize for The Daughter’s Almanac which came with a cash award of $1,000.00 and publication. Patricia Smith, the 2014 Backwaters Prize Judge, has this to say about The Daughter’s Almanac:

“With unflinching stanzas threaded through with grief’s relentless lyric, The Daughter’s Almanac is a masterwork, a deftly-crafted illustration of the myriad ways beauty collides with pain. Succinct and utterly memorable, these poems take hold of the heart and tug it toward an insistent light. We are washed alive in that light. We are changed by it.”

I heard Katharine read a few poems from this collection last May and wrote about their impact on me. I couldn’t agree more with Patricia Smith’s words.

I’ll be ordering these books directly from the publisher or from one of my local independent bookstores. I invite you to do the same. Happy reading!

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