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New Pages Winter 2017

The latest in fiction, memoir, poetry, kid lit, and nonfiction from faculty and alums
December 5, 2017

Detail from cover of FEVERLAND

Detail from cover of FEVERLAND
Detail from the cover of Alex Lemon's memoir FEVERLAND
Cover of FATAL FLIP

M. E. Bakos (BA 1985)
Fatal Flip: A Home Renovator Mystery [fiction]
Cozycat Press
From the publisher: "Flipping houses can be fatal! When Katelyn finds a dead body in her first home renovation project, she seriously doubts her decision to 'follow her bliss.' After getting fired from her steady job, her plan to flip houses takes a hit when she becomes a suspect. After all, possession is nine points of the law, isn't it? Especially, when it's a dead body. To keep herself in pizza, peanut butter, good coffee, and her stray cat, Boots, in kitty chow she takes survival jobs as a wine sample hostess and market researcher. Meanwhile, Sheriff Don is kind of hunky, and her ex-husband, Eddy (it's complicated) is back in her life sleeping on her sofa. How's a girl supposed to solve dead body mysteries, make a living, and find love?"

Cover of CHIMES

Professor Emeritus Michael Dennis Browne 
Chimes: Selected Shorter Poems [poetry]
Nodin Press
From the publisher: "In this volume Michael Dennis Browne has gathered together short poems from every phase of his long career into chapters focusing on childhood, nature, private anxieties and irrationalities, extended family, and other themes variously spacious and personal. Some have the ring of nursery rhymes, others the melancholy lilt of an elegy, the blunt force of an occasional poem by Yeats, or the enigmatic resonance of a passage from scripture. There are times when a few phrases can conjure an indelible moment of experience, and perhaps an entire universe, though the reader must fill in the blanks. We meet up with such moments repeatedly in the pages of this compact and powerful collection."

Cover of THOUSANDS

Lightsey Darst (MFA 2004)
Thousands [poetry]
​Coffee House Press
From The Millions: "Imagine discovering someone's notebook, the pages covered margin-to-margin with desire, anxiety, and fear, all wound together through association. Thousands is a raw collection, where each poem bleeds into the next, as if we are reading one long threnody. The effect, admittedly, is sometimes dizzying, and readers will want to devote time to this book, but the work is returned with gifts. Darst blazes her own trail with poem-stories that begin in Minneapolis, Minn., in 2011 and end in Durham, NC, after 2014. The tension of a timeline opens so many themes: 'How do I make this world yield what I need to get from it?' 'How do you deal with the casual atrocity of the world?' Darst's poems are running monologues of wonder and worry; in one way, they are a document of a poet's struggle to give suffering context. 'Do you keep a journal / why / why not // Keep one now / keep me in it': Darst's intimacy here is masterful: whether it is love, lust, pregnancy, or words: 'The poem I can't write persists.'"

Cover of READING AS A COLLECTIVE ACTION

Nick Hengen-Fox (PhD 2011)
Reading as Collective Action: Texts as Tactics
University of Iowa Press
From Harry C. Boyte, senior scholar, Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship, Augsburg College: "In Reading as Collective Action, Nicholas Hengen Fox marvelously illustrates
 a 're-reading of reading' as public work—work in public, with publics,
 for public purposes. He takes leadership in the emerging democracy efforts around higher education, and, more broadly, adds to the repertoire of tactics for the emerging nonviolent civic life movement." From the publisher: "This book challenges dominant academic modes of reading. For adherents of the 'civic turn,' it suggests how we can create more politically effective forms of service learning and community engagement grounded in a commitment to tactical, grassroots actions. Whether you're a social worker or a student, a zine-maker, a librarian, a professor, or just a passionate reader with a desire to better your community, this book shows that when we read texts as tactics, 'that book changed my life' can become 'that book changed our lives.'"

Cover of AN UNKINDNESS OF MAGICIANS

Kat Howard (PhD 2009)
An Unkindness of Magicians [fiction]
Saga Press
From Kirkus Review: "Everyone in the Unseen World gets the message: another Turning has begun, which means all magical Houses must once again compete to become the head of New York's magical world. Old Houses, like House Prospero and House Merlin, the current ruler of the Unseen World, will try to get ahead—or stay on top. Grey, the disinherited son of House Prospero, expelled for 'pushing boundaries' with his magic, will attempt to found his own new House, as will his friend Laurent, who's hired a champion to fight for him—an outsider nobody knows. That outsider, Sydney, an unusually powerful magician, has big plans for this Turning. She aims to do nothing less than disrupt the fundamental ways the Unseen World works, exposing its secrets and punishing those responsible for the injustice at its heart. Meanwhile, Harper is desperately trying to get a glimpse inside the Unseen World and avenge her best friend's death. Strong characters and a captivating revenge plot make this a fun, absorbing read for those who like their magic, and their magicians, dark and twisty."

Cover of ORIGINS HAUNTINGS

Cheri Johnson (MFA 2005) Read an interview with Johnson
Origins: Urban Legends [children's nonfiction]
Full Tilt Press/Book Buddy Digital Media
From the publisher: "Origins: Urban Legends is a nonfiction series that features engaging information about strange and spooky legends. Each book focuses on one overarching subject, from superstitions to legendary creatures. Students will learn the history behind legends ranging from sasquatch to crop circles, and read about some of the best-known stories related to each legend. Featuring fun facts, asides, key words, and comprehension questions, Origins: Urban Legends is a high-interest low-level series that will both entertain and educate students as they separate fact from fiction in some of today's most prominent urban legends."

Cheri Johnson (MFA 2005)
Origins: Whodunnit [children's nonfiction]
Full Tilt Press/Book Buddy Digital Media
From the publisher: "
Origins: Whodunnit is a nonfiction series that presents the origins of different types of crimes, law enforcement groups, criminal organizations, and crime-fighting techniques. Each book features four distinct topics related to one overarching subject, from beat cops and the Secret Service, to fingerprinting and forensics. Each topic is presented in detail, and includes an informative timeline, fun facts, asides, key words, and comprehension questions. Origins: Whodunnit is a high-interest low-level series that will hold students' interest while they learn about the ever-changing nature of crime-related topics."

Cover of CAESAR'S LAST BREATH

Sam Kean (BA 2002)
Caesar’s Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us
Little Brown and Company
From The San Francisco Chronicle: "[T]he book brims with such fascinating tales of chemical history that it'll change the very way you think about breathing. The stuff we inhale, it turns out, is surprisingly complex. Our atmosphere contains a host of gases with their own origin stories and singular quirks: Oxygen is 'volatile, manic, a madman in most every chemical reaction,' while the noble gas argon is so unusually aloof—it reacts with hardly anything—that chemists eventually had to create a new column on the periodic table for it and its ilk. . . . Kean crams the book full of wild yarns told with humorously dramatic flair. Countries go to war over bird poop! Peasants attack balloons with pitchforks and scythes! There are vignettes sandwiched between chapters; even the endnotes are a revelation. The effect is oddly intimate, the way all good storytelling is—you feel like you're sharing moments of geeky amusement with a particularly hip chemistry teacher."

Cover of 111 Places in the Twin Cities You Must Not Miss

Elizabeth Foy Larsen (MFA 2002)
111 Places in the Twin Cities that You Must Not Miss
Emons Publishers
From the publisher: "When most people think of Minneapolis and St. Paul, they think of frigid winters and thousands of lakes. So most people who come explore the Twin Cities are in for a surprise. Bonded by the Mississippi River and studded with lakes, creeks, and waterfalls, this Midwestern destination is a place where nature meets the city with a flair unmatched by any other urban area in the United States. Visit the sites of St. Paul's nefarious mobster past or paddleboard down a hidden canal that looks like a Monet landscape. Take in a show at the Minneapolis theater where Prince played his first solo gig, ski on a lake decorated with ice luminaries, and sample lefse and lingonberries in a Norwegian market. Discover 111 places in the Twin Cities that will amaze and delight you, whether it's your first visit or fifteenth, or you are a native daughter or son who is lucky enough to call this land of sky-blue waters your home."

Cover of FEVERLAND

Alex Lemon (MFA 2004)
Feverland: A Memoir in Shards [memoir]
Milkweed Editions
From The Star Tribune: "
The questions and recurring themes in Feverland are familiar and resonant: the long-term effects of childhood abuse, the anxieties one feels as a new parent and the ways in which a serious medical condition can continue to affect a life long after it's been successfully treated. Each of these on its own might be a compelling subject for a book; in Lemon's telling, he intercuts them, jumping forward and backward in time, and surveying his life from various angles through shorter vignettes. The cumulative effect of these, each of which stands well as a self-contained unit, gives the reader a powerful sense of Lemon—how he sees himself and how he appears to others. He's also fond of strange digressions, including an unexpectedly positive dive into the minutiae of cockroaches' lives. . . . Lemon's memoir is moving, unpredictable and sometimes digressive—in that, too, it's a lot like life itself."

Cover of CANOEING WITH JOSE

Jon Lurie (MFA 2006)
Canoeing with José [memoir]
Milkweed Editions
From the publisher: "The first time journalist Jon Lurie meets José Perez, the smart, angry, fifteen-year-old Lakota-Puerto Rican draws blood. Five years later, both men are floundering. Lurie, now in his thirties, is newly divorced, depressed, and self-medicating. José is embedded in a haze of women and street feuds. Both lack a meaningful connection to their cultural roots: Lurie feels an absence of identity as the son of a Holocaust survivor who is reluctant to talk about her experience, and for José, communal history has been obliterated by centuries of oppression. After years of admiring the journey described in Eric Arnold Sevareid's 1935 classic account, Canoeing with the Cree, Lurie invites José to join him in retracing Sevareid's route and embarking on a mythic two thousand-mile paddle from Breckenridge, Minnesota, to the Hudson Bay. Faced with plagues of mosquitoes, extreme weather, suspicious law enforcement officers, tricky border crossings, and José's preference for Kanye West over the great outdoors, the journey becomes an odyssey of self-discovery."

Cover of NEVER COMING BACK

Alison McGhee (MA 1992)
Never Coming Back [fiction]
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
From Kirkus Review: "A luminous novel about a daughter who attempts to make peace with her mother, who's been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease; McGhee revisits characters from Shadow Baby (2000). Clara Winter, a preteen in the earlier book, is now in her early 30s, making a meager living writing eulogies or wedding tributes for $100 a pop. When she learns that her mother has been diagnosed with dementia, she moves from Florida back to the Adirondacks, where she grew up. . . . The author's gift for subtly poetic language and her believable dialogue make Clara's journey worth following. McGhee has an almost musical ability to repeat the themes of her novel with enough variation to keep them fresh. Fierce, complicated characters appear to grow out of the severe Adirondack landscape, and McGhee swerves away from sentimentality in addressing the relentlessly changing relationship at the novel's core."

Cover of PABLO AND BIRDY

Alison McGhee (MA 1992)
Pablo and Birdy [children's fiction]
Atheneum/Dlouhy
From Publishers Weekly: "Pablo was a baby when the 'winds of change' guided him to the island of Isla, an inflatable swimming pool as his raft and a protective, curiously colored bird by his side. As Pablo's 10th birthday approaches, his frustration over his lost history flares while Birdy remains flightless and silent. McGhee's tender tale of the search for home, belonging, and identity smoothly incorporates elements of magical realism and powerful allusions to the refugee experience. . . . Playful humor deftly counterbalances the emotional weight of this moving tale."