Winner of The John Simmons Short Fiction Award, The Woods explores the lives of people in a small Vermont college town and its surrounding areas—a place at the edge of the bucolic, where the land begins to shift into something untamed. In the tradition of Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge and Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, these stories follow people who carry private griefs but search for contentment. As they try to make sense of their worlds, grappling with problems—worried about their careers, their marriages, their children, their ambitions—they also sift through the happiness they have, and often find deep solace in the landscape.
Memorandum from the Iowa Cloud Appreciation Society Fiction by Joseph G. Peterson University of Iowa Press, November 2022
When his girlfriend, Rosemary, asks about his life, Jim Moore, a successful salesman whose territory covers the entire continental United States and parts of Canada, doesn’t think there is anything to say and so he tells her “nothing happened,” or maybe he doesn’t know how to put it all into words or maybe he doesn’t want to. Stuck in an airport because of blizzard conditions, and packed into a crowded terminal with other travelers, Moore has come to believe that his life is not worth reporting about because it has largely been a life lived without incident. However, chance encounters with a yoga instructor, a man traveling to bury his mother, and an enigmatic woodsman reawaken long dormant emotions about his father’s suicide and cause Jim to newly reflect on his own life and on a memorandum that he later discovered in his deceased father’s papers, which lists all the names of the clouds, and which Jim now, from time to time, recants as if it were his own private kaddish to memorialize his lost father.
Butcher’s Work: True Crime Tales of American Murder and Madness Nonfiction by Harold Schechter University of Iowa Press, November 2022
In Butcher’s Work, Harold Schechter explores the story of a Civil War veteran who perpetrated one of the most ghastly mass slaughters in the annals of U.S. crime. A nineteenth-century female serial killer whose victims included three husbands and six of her own children. A Gilded Age “Bluebeard” who did away with as many as fifty wives throughout the country. A decorated World War I hero who orchestrated a murder that stunned Jazz Age America. While other infamous homicides from the same eras—the Lizzie Borden slayings, for example, or the “thrill killing” committed by Leopold and Loeb—have entered into our cultural mythology, these four equally sensational crimes have largely faded from public memory. A quartet of gripping historical true-crime narratives, Butcher’s Work restores these once-notorious cases to vivid, dramatic life. Harold Schechter is professor emeritus at Queens College, CUNY. Among his more than forty books are a series of historical true-crime narratives about America’s most infamous serial killers, including Hell’s Princess. He is married to the poet, Kimiko Hahn.
Douglas Bauer’s newest work, The Beckoning World, is set in the first quarter of the twentieth century and follows Earl Dunham, whose weeks are comprised of six days mining coal followed by Sundays playing baseball. Then, one day, a major-league scout happens on a game, signs Earl, and he begins a life he had no idea he could even dream. But dreams sometimes suffer from a lovely abundance, and in Earl’s case, her name is Emily Marchand. They fall quickly and deeply in love, but with that love comes heartbreaking complications. The Beckoning World gathers a cast of characters that include Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, a huge-hearted Pullman steward offering aphoristic wisdom, and countless others, not least of which is the 1918 Spanish flu taking vivid spectral form. At the center is a relentless love that Earl and Emily are defenseless against, allied as they are “in this business of their hearts.” Douglas Bauer has written several books, including Prairie City, Iowa: Three Seasons at Home (Iowa, 2008). He teaches writing at Bennington College and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The Six-Minute Memoir: Fifty-Five Short Essays on Life Memoir by Mary Helen Stefaniak A Bur Oak Book University of Iowa Press, October 2022
Culled from two decades’ worth of Mary Helen Stefaniak’s “Alive and Well” column in the Iowa Source, each essay invites readers into the ordinary life of a woman “with a family and friends and a job . . . and a series of cats and a history living in one old house after another at the turn of the twenty-first century in the middle of the Middle West.” One great aunt presides over nineteen acres of pecan grove profitably strewn with junk. A borrowed hammer rings with the sound of immortality. Famous poets pipe up where you least expect them. Living and dying are found to be two sides of the same remarkable coin. Writing prompts at the end of the book invite readers to search their own lives for such moments—the kind that could be forgotten but instead are turned, by the gift of perspective and perfectly chosen detail, into treasure. The Six-Minute Memoir encourages people to tell their own stories even if they think they don’t have the kind of story that belongs in a memoir.
Fandom, the Next Generation is the first collection of essays to offer a close study of fan generations, which are defined not only by fans’ ages but by their entry point into a canon or via their personal politics. Editors Bridget Kies and Megan Connor selected contributors to further the conversation about how generational fandom is influenced by and, in turn, influences technologies, industry practices, and social and political changes. As reboot culture continues, as franchises continue expanding over time, and as new technologies enable easier access to older media, Fandom, the Next Generation offers a necessary investigation into transgenerational fandoms and intergenerational fan relationships.
The Plea: The True Story of Young Wesley Elkins and his Struggle for Redemption American History / True Crime by Patricia L. Bryan and Thomas Wolf University of Iowa Press, July 2022
On a moonlit night in 1889, Iowa farmer John Elkins and his young wife, Hattie, were brutally murdered in their bed. Eight days later, their son, eleven-year-old Wesley Elkins, was arrested and charged with murder. The community reeled with shock by both the gruesome details of the homicides and the knowledge of the accused perpetrator—a small, quiet boy weighing just seventy-five pounds. Accessible and fast-moving, The Plea delivers a complete, complex, and nuanced narrative of this horrific crime, while shedding light on the legal, social, and political environment of Iowa and the country in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Bryan and Wolf also coauthored of Midnight Assassin: A Murder in America’s Heartland (Iowa, 2007). Both reside in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
These Dark Skies: Reckoning with Identity, Violence, and Power from Abroad Essays by Arianne Zwartjes University of Iowa Press, June 2022
In These Dark Skies, Arianne Zwartjes interweaves the experience of living in the southern Netherlands—with her wife, who is Russian—and the unfolding of both the refugee crisis across Europe and the uptick in terrorist acts in France, Greece, Austria, Germany, and the Balkans. She probes her own subjectivity, as a white American, as a queer woman in a transcultural marriage, as a writer, and as a witness. The essays investigate and meditate on a broad array of related topics, including drone strikes, tear gas, and military intervention; the sugar trade, the Dutch blackface celebration of Zwarte Piet, and constructions of whiteness in Europe and the U.S.; and visual arts of Russian avant-garde painters, an Iraqi choreographer living in Belgium, and German choreographer Pina Bausch.
All Is Leaf: Essays and Transformations by John T. Price draws inspiration and urgency from the storied Goethe Oak tree at Buchenwald concentration camp—and from the leaf as a symbol of all change, growth, and renewal—and explores a multitude of dramatic transformations, in his life and in the fragile world beyond: “the how of the organism—that keeps your humanity alive.” Price employs an array of forms and voices, whether penning a break-up letter to America or a literary rock-n-roll road song dedicated to prairie scientists, or giving pregame pep talks to his son’s losing football team. Here, too, are moving portrayals of his father’s last effort as a small-town lawyer to defend the rights of abused women, and his own efforts as a writing teacher to honor the personal stories of his students.
The Illusion of Simple by Charles Forrest Jones begins in a dry Kansas riverbed where a troop of young girls finds a human hand. This discovery leads Billy Spire, the tough and broken sheriff of Ewing County, to investigate and confront the depths of his community and of himself: the racism, the dying economy, the lies and truths of friendship, grievances of the past and present, and even his own injured marriage. But like any town where people still breathe, there is also love and hope and the possibility of redemption. To flyover folks, Ewing County appears nothing more than a handful of empty streets amid crop circles and the meandering, depleted Arkansas River. But the truth of this place—the interwoven lives and stories—is anything but simple. Charles Forrest Jones is former director of the Kansas University Public Management Center and believes that “public policy is rooted in the human condition, there is a place for the articulate, compelling, even beautiful.”