Indie Press Books from the Start of the Pandemic
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30 Indie Press Books You Might Have Missed from the Start of the Pandemic

"30 Indie Press Books You Might Have Missed from the Start of the Pandemic" by Mara Franzen is a book listicle of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry books published in Spring 2020. Presses include Milkweed, Split/Lip Press, Bull City Press, and more.

“30 Indie Press Books You Might Have Missed from the Start of the Pandemic”

Curated by Mara Franzen

Shining a light on these awesome indie press books from Spring 2020

Do you remember when things were just starting to get cancelled because of the pandemic?

It was sheer chaos.

Hand sanitizer and masks everywhere and nowhere.

New guidelines put into place.

We worked from home and Zoomed our friends and waited for things to go back to “normal.” So many amazing things were cancelled in our effort to flatten the curve.

That brings us to books.

Author and publisher book tours were forced to go virtual, and they didn’t have the same outlets to spread the word about their book as usual. Bookstores and libraries weren’t stocking new books, and announcements about them were getting lost in the waves of restriction information and around-the-clock news. It didn’t matter that these authors had been dreaming of their first event for years, or that their book had to compete with a global pandemic for air time.

Those books still came out.

Instead of letting them slide by, I think it’s time to give those books the spotlight. If you’re in the mood to support authors and publishers who released books in March, April, and May 2020, I’ve got the list for you.

Without further ado, here’s “30 Indie Press Books You Might Have Missed from the Start of the Pandemic.”

#1. When the Whales Leave

by Yuri Rytkheu (author), Ilona Yazhbin Chavasse (translator)

When the Whales Leave by Yuri Rytkheu and Ilona Yazhbin Chavasse for indie press books

Released in March 2020

Publisher: Milkweed Editions

Genre: Folk Tales & Mythology / Native & Aboriginal Fiction

About the Book:

Nau cannot remember a time when she was not one with the world around her: with the fast breeze, the green grass, the high clouds, and the endless blue sky above the Shingled Spit. But her greatest joy is to visit the sea, where whales gather every morning to gaily spout rainbows.

Then, one day, she finds a man in the mist where a whale should be: Reu, who has taken human form out of his Great Love for her. Together these first humans become parents to two whales, and then to mankind. Even after Reu dies, Nau continues on, sharing her story of brotherhood between the two species. But as these origins grow more distant, the old woman’s tales are subsumed into myth―and her descendants turn increasingly bent on parading their dominance over the natural world.

#2. Alligator & Other Stories

by Dima Alzayat

Released in May 2020

Publisher: Two Dollar Radio

Genre: Short story collection / Family Life

About the Book:

The award-winning stories in Dima Alzayat’s collection, Alligator and Other Stories, are luminous and tender, whether dealing with a woman preforming burial rites for her brother in “Ghusl,” or the great-aunt struggling to explain cultural identity to her niece in “Once We Were Syrians.”

Alzayat’s stories are rich and relatable, chronicling a sense of displacement through everyday scenarios. There is the intern in pre-#MeToo Hollywood of “Only Those Who Struggle Succeed,” the New York City children on the lookout for a place to play on the heels of Etan Patz’s kidnapping in “Disappearance,” or the “dangerous” women of “The Daughters of Manāt” who struggle to assert their independence.

The title story, “Alligator,” is a masterpiece of historical reconstruction and intergenerational trauma, told in an epistolary format through social media posts, newspaper clippings, and testimonials, that starts with the true story of the lynching of a Syrian immigrant couple by law officers in small-town Florida. Placed in a wider context of U.S. racial violence, the extrajudicial deaths, and what happens to the couple’s children and their children’s children in the years after, challenges the demands of American assimilation and its limits.

Alligator and Other Stories is haunting, spellbinding, and unforgettable, while marking Dima Alzayat’s arrival as a tremendously gifted new talent.

#3. Ship of Fates

by Caitlin Chung

Released in April 2020

Publisher: Lanternfish Press

Genre: Asian American / Magic Realism / Myth & Legend

About the Book:

In the gridlocked harbor of San Francisco’s Barbary Coast, a ship hung with red paper lanterns draws crowds eager to gamble and drink. Aboard this red-lit ship, the fates of two young women will be altered irrevocably and tied forever to that of an ancient lighthouse keeper who longs to be free. Set against the backdrop of Gold Rush-era San Francisco’s Chinese immigrant community, Ship of Fates is a coming-of-age fairy tale that stretches across generations.

#4. Velocities

by Kathe Koja

Released in April 2020

Publisher: Meerkat Press

Genre: Dark Fantasy / Short Story Collection

About the Book:

From the award-winning author of The Cipher and Buddha Boy, comes Velocities, Kathe Koja’s second electrifying collection of short fiction. Thirteen stories, two never before published, all flying at the speed of strange.

“Reading Velocities is a literary dégustation of dark fiction with speculative elements, rich narrative full of text that’s cunning, loaded with sentiment. You want to go back to a story, and you do, to recapture the moment, and you find it, still there, waiting, just for you. You can’t speak to this astounding collection without lingering on its author. Read Koja like you’re nibbling truffles, each bite a road to metamorphosis.” — Eugen Bacon, Aurealis Magazine

#5. The Book of Anna

by Carmen Boullosa (Author), Samantha Schnee (Translator)

Released in April 2020

Publisher: Coffeehouse Press

Genre: Historical Fiction / Russian Revolution

About the Book:

Saint Petersburg, 1905. Behind the gates of the Karenin Palace, Sergei, son of Anna Karenina, meets Tolstoy in his dreams and finds reminders of his mother everywhere: the vivid portrait that the tsar intends to acquire and the opium-infused manuscripts Anna wrote just before her death, which open a trapdoor to a wild feminist fairy tale.

Across the city, Clementine, an anarchist seamstress, and Father Gapon, the charismatic leader of the proletariat, plan protests that embroil the downstairs members of the Karenin household in their plots and tip the country ever closer to revolution. Boullosa tells a polyphonic and subversive tale of the Russian revolution through the lens of Tolstoy’s most beloved work.

#6. Heartland Calamitous

by Michael Credico

Released in March 2020

Publisher: Autumn House Press

Genre: Short Story Collection / Midwest

About the Book:

Emerging from deep in America’s hinterland, Michael Credico’s flash fiction portrays an absurdist, exaggerated, and bizarre vision of the Midwest known as the heartland. The stories are clipped views into a land filled with slippery confusion and chaos, mythical creatures, zombies, comic violence, shapeshifters, and startling quantities of fish.

The characters of Heartland Calamitous are trying to sort out where, who, and what they are and how to fit into their communities and families. Environmental destruction, aging, ailing parents, apathy, and depression weigh on the residents of the heartland, and they can’t help but fall under the delusion that if they could just be somewhere or someone or something else, everything would be better. This is a leftover land, dazed and dizzy, where bodies melt into Ziplock bags and making do becomes a lifestyle.

The stories of Heartland Calamitous, often only two or three pages long, reveal a dismal state in which longing slips into passive acceptance, speaking to the particular Midwestern feeling of being stuck. They slip from humor to grief to the grotesque, forming a picture of an all-to-close dystopian quagmire. With this collection, Credico spins a new American fable, a modern-day mythology of the absurd and deformed born of a non-place between destinations.

#7. That Hair

by Djaimilia Pereira de Almeida (author), Eric M. B. Becker (Translator)

That Hair from Tin House Books in indie press book lists from start of pandemic

Released in March 2020

Publisher: Tin House

Genre: Autobiographical Fiction / Culture & Identity

About the Book:

That Hair is a family album of sorts that touches upon the universal subjects of racism, feminism, colonialism, immigration, identity and memory.

“The story of my curly hair,” says Mila, the narrator of Djaimilia Pereira de Almeida’s autobiographically inspired tragicomedy, “intersects with the story of at least two countries and, by extension, the underlying story of the relations among several continents: a geopolitics.” Mila is the Luanda-born daughter of a black Angolan mother and a white Portuguese father. She arrives in Lisbon at the tender age of three, and feels like an outsider from the jump. Through the lens of young Mila’s indomitably curly hair, her story interweaves memories of childhood and adolescence, family lore spanning four generations, and present-day reflections on the internal and external tensions of a European and African identity.

In layered and luscious prose, That Hair enriches and deepens a global conversation, challenging in necessary ways our understanding of racism, feminism, and the double inheritance of colonialism, not yet fifty years removed from Angola’s independence. It’s the story of coming of age as a black woman in a nation at the edge of Europe that is also rapidly changing, of being considered an outsider in one’s own country, and the impossibility of “returning” to a homeland one doesn’t in fact know.

#8. Don’t You Know I Love You

by Laura Bogart

Released in March 2020

Publisher: Dzanc Books

Genre: Family Life / LGBTQ+

About the Book:

The last place Angelina Moltisanti ever wants to go is home. She barely escaped life under the roof, and the thumb, of her violent but charismatic father, Jack. Yet home is exactly where she ends up after an SUV plows into her car just weeks after she graduates from college, fracturing her wrist and her hopes to start a career as an artist.

Angelina finds herself smothered in a plaster cast, in Jack’s obsessive urge to get her a giant accident settlement, in her mother Marie’s desperation to have a second chance, and in her own stifled creativity – until she meets Janet, another young artist who inspires her to push herself into making the dynamic, unsettling work that tells the story of her scars, inside and out. But excavating this damage, as relations with her father become increasingly tense, will push Angelina into making a hard choice: will she embrace her father’s all-consuming and empowering rage, or find another kind of strength?

#9. Whiteout Conditions

by Tariq Shah

Released in March 2020

Publisher: Two Dollar Radio

Genre: Friendship / Grief

About the Book:

Ant is back in Chicago for a funeral, and he typically enjoys funerals. Since most of his family has passed away, he finds himself attracted to their endearing qualities: the hyperbolic language, the stoner altar boy, seeing friends in suits for the first time. That is, until the tragic death of Ray — Ant’s childhood friend, Vince’s teenage cousin. Ray was the younger third-wheel that Ant and Vince were stuck babysitting while in high school, and his sudden death makes national news.

In the depths of a brutal Midwest winter, Ant rides with Vince through the falling snow to Ray’s funeral, an event that has been accruing a sense of consequence. With a poet’s sensibility, Shah navigates the murky responsibilities of adulthood, grief, toxic masculinity, and the tragedy of revenge in this haunting Midwestern noir.

“Like a poetic venture through the stubborn feelings of men, this short debut novel from Tariq Shah takes an uncomfortable look at loss, grief, and the lengths people go to avoid feeling pain.” – Jaylynn Korrell, Independent Book Review

#10. The Royal Abduls

by Ramiza Shamoun Koya

Released in May 2020

Publisher: Forest Avenue Press

Genre: Culture & Identity / Indian-American

About the Book:

Ramiza Shamoun Koya reveals the devastating cost of anti-Muslim sentiment in The Royal Abduls, her debut novel about a secular Indian-America family. Evolutionary biologist Amina Abdul accepts a post-doc in Washington, DC, choosing her career studying hybrid zones over a faltering West Coast romance. Her brother and sister-in-law welcome her to the city, but their marriage is crumbling, and they soon rely on her to keep their son company.

Omar, hungry to understand his roots, fakes an Indian accent, invents a royal past, and peppers his aunt with questions about their cultural heritage. When he brings an ornamental knife to school, his expulsion triggers a downward spiral for his family, even as Amina struggles to find her own place in an America now at war with people who look like her. With The Royal Abduls, Koya ignites the canon of post-9/11 literature with a deft portrait of second-generation American identity.

#11. The Invention of Love

by Sara Schaff

The Invention of Love by Sara Schaff from Split Lip Press in indie press book list

Released in May 2020

Publisher: Split/Lip Press

Genre: Women’s Fiction / Short Stories

About the Book:

What is love if not an invention—not just human instinct but artful construction?

The women who people The Invention of Love, Sara Schaff’s second story collection, long to conceive of themselves as artists, as lovers, as good sisters and daughters—while contending with financial insecurity and the reality of twenty-first century womanhood. A college student finds her voice as an artist through a tiny lie. A woman grieves her mother’s death by shopping for houses she can’t afford and will never live in. Against the backdrop of the 2016 election, a copywriter contends with misogyny in the workplace by using that very misogyny against her incompetent male boss. Nostalgic for the women they were or might have been—or still might yet become—their stories illuminate the moments where everything changes—even when what changes is how we must see our futures.

#12. Treasure of the Blue Whale

by Steven Mayfield

Released in April 2020

Publisher: Regal House Publishing

Genre: Historical Fiction

About the Book:

In this whimsical, often funny, Depression-era tale, young Connor O’Halloran decides to share a treasure he’s discovered on an isolated stretch of Northern California beach. Almost overnight, his sleepy seaside village is comically transformed into a bastion of consumerism, home to a commode with a jeweled seat cover, a pair of genuinely fake rare documents, a mail-order bride, and an organ-grinder’s monkey named Mr. Sprinkles.

But when it turns out that the treasure is not real, Connor must conspire with Miss Lizzie Fryberg and a handful of town leaders he’s dubbed The Ambergrisians to save their friends and neighbors from financial ruin.

Along the way, he discovers other treasures in the sometimes languid, sometimes exciting days of that long-ago season. He is rich and then he isn’t. He learns to sail a boat and about sex. He meets a real actor. He sneaks into villainous Cyrus Dinkle’s house and steals his letter opener. He almost goes to jail. He loves Fiona Littleleaf. He finds a father. And best of all, he and little brother, Alex, reclaim their mother from the darkness of mental illness.

#13. The OK End of Funny Town

by Mark Polanzak

Released in May 2020

Publisher: BOA Editions

Genre: Absurdist / Magical Realism / Short Stories

About the Book:

A fastidious pet robot with a knack for knitting. A soporific giant pitching camp in the middle of a city. A mysterious mime whose upcoming performance has the whole town on edge.

The stories in Mark Polanzak’s BOA Short Fiction Prize-winning The OK End of Funny Town stitch fantastic situations into the drab fabric of everyday life. Polanzak delights in stretching every boundary he encounters, from the new focus on practical learning at the New Community School, to the ever-changing tastes of diners in search of the next big trend in local cuisine.

Wondrous yet familiar, The OK End of Funny Town excavates the layers between our collective obsession with passing fads and our secret yearning for lasting connection.

“Polanzak’s collection is rich and packed with visionary tales that are sure to entertain speculative fiction readers.” Booklist

#14. The Last Summer of Ada Bloom

by Martine Murray

Released in April 2020

Publisher: Tin House

Genre: Family Life Fiction

About the Book:

A big-hearted story of a family filled with secrets, and the ways they grow up―and apart―over the course of a single, life-altering summer.

In a small country town during one long, hot summer, the Bloom family is beginning to unravel. Martha is straining against the confines of her life, lost in regret for what might have been, when an old flame shows up. In turn, her husband Mike becomes frustrated with his increasingly distant wife. Marital secrets, new and long-hidden, start to surface―with devastating effect. And while teenagers Tilly and Ben are about to step out into the world, nine-year-old Ada is holding onto a childhood that might soon be lost to her.

When Ada discovers an abandoned well beneath a rusting windmill, she is drawn to its darkness and danger. And when she witnesses a shocking and confusing event, the well’s foreboding looms large in her mind―a driving force, pushing the family to the brink of tragedy. For each family member, it’s a summer of searching―in books and trees, at parties, in relationships new and old―for the answer to one of life’s most difficult questions: how to grow up?

The Last Summer of Ada Bloom is an honest and tender accounting of what it means to come of age as a teen, or as an adult. With a keen eye for summer’s languor and danger, and a sharp ear for the wonder, doubt, and longing in each of her characters’ voices, Martine Murray has written a beguiling story about the fragility of family relationships, about the secrets we keep, the power they hold to shape our lives, and about the power of love to somehow hold it all together.

#15. The Heart Keeps Faulty Time

by Siân Griffiths

Released in April 2020

Publisher: Bull City Press

Genre: Literary / Short Stories

About the Book:

Clown parents parse their disappointment in their non-clown son and their fears for his future in a nuclear-armed world. A clockwork girl discovers a discarded and disemboweled female body. Aliens, mermaids, and dragons call to us.

In ten short stories brimming with captivating imagery, Siân Griffiths, author of BORROWED HORSES, spins the familiar on its heels. Unorthodox and lyric, witty and heart-felt, THE HEART KEEPS FAULTY TIME bears witness to the struggle to reconcile our visions of ourselves with the reality of our circumstances.

#16. Yours, Jean

by Lee Martin

Released in May 2020

Publisher: Dzanc Books

Genre: Historical Fiction / Small Town

About the Book:

“When she refused me,” Charlie says at his trial. “Well, I had that gun. What else was I to do?”

Lawrenceville, Illinois, 1952: Jean De Belle, the new high school librarian, is eager to begin the next phase of her young life after breaking off her engagement to Charlie Camplain. She has no way of knowing that in a few short hours, Charlie will arrive at the school, intent on convincing her to take back his ring.
What happens next will reverberate through the lives of everyone who crossed paths with Charlie and Jean: the hotel clerk who called him a cab, the high school boy who became his getaway driver, and the English teacher who was Jean’s landlady, her confidant, and perhaps more.

Based on a true crime and ideal for readers of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers and Elizabeth Strout’s beloved Anything Is Possible, Pulitzer Prize finalist Lee Martin’s Yours, Jean is a powerful novel about small town manners and the loneliness that drives people to do things they never imagined.

#17. Cockfight

by María Fernanda Ampuero (author), Frances Riddle (translator)

Released in May 2020

Publisher: Feminist Press

Genre: Short Stories / Feminist

About the Book:

“Ampuero’s literary voice is tough and beautiful at once: her stories are exquisite and dangerous objects.” —Yuri Herrera, author of Signs Preceding the End of the World

In lucid and compelling prose, Ampuero sheds light on the hidden aspects of the home: the grotesque realities of family, coming of age, religion, and class struggle. A family’s maids witness a horrible cycle of abuse, a girl is auctioned off by a gang of criminals, and two sisters find themselves at the mercy of their spiteful brother. With violence masquerading as love, characters spend their lives trapped reenacting their past traumas.

Heralding a brutal and singular new voice, Cockfight explores the power of the home to both create and destroy those within it.

#18. Edie on the Green Screen

by Beth Lisick

Released in March 2020

Publisher: 7.13 Books

Genre: Contemporary Literary

About the Book:

 In late ’90s San Francisco, Edie Wunderlich was the It girl, on the covers of the city’s alt-weeklies, repping the freak party scene on the eve of the first dot-com boom. Fast-forward twenty years, and Edie hasn’t changed, but San Francisco has. Still a bartender in the Mission, Edie now serves a seemingly never-ending stream of tech bros while the punk rock parties of the millennium’s end are long gone.

When her mother dies, leaving her Silicon Valley home to Edie, she finds herself mourning her loss in the heart of the Bay Area’s tech monoculture, and embarks on a last-ditch quest to hold on to her rebel heart. New York Times bestseller Beth Lisick’s first novel EDIE ON THE GREEN SCREEN chronicles Silicon Valley’s rapidly changing culture with biting observational humor, an insider’s wisdom, and disarming pathos, while asking, “What comes after It?”

#19. Home Is a Stranger

by Parnaz Foroutan

Released in March 2020

Publisher: Amberjack Publishing

Genre: Travel Memoir

Publication Month: March 2020

About the Book:

New travel nonfiction from a break-out novelist and recipient of a PEN Emerging Voice fellowship that speaks to the immigrant and female experiences of America and Iran 

Unmoored by the death of her father and disenchanted by the American Dream, Parnaz Foroutan leaves Los Angeles for Iran, nineteen years after her family fled the religious police state brought in by the Islamic Theocracy.  

From the moment Parnaz steps off the plane in Tehran, she contends with a world she only partially understands. Struggling with her own identity in a culture that feels both foreign and familiar, she tries to find a place for herself between the American girl she is and the woman she hopes to become.  

Written with the same literary grace and passion as her fiction, Home Is a Stranger is a memoir about the meaning of desire, the transcendence of boundaries, and the journey to find home.

#20. My Morningless Mornings

by Stefany Anne Golberg

Released in March 2020

Publisher: Unnamed Press

Genre: Memoir / Insomnia

About the Book:

Have you had a reason to avoid the morning? To wish you didn’t have to wake up and face your life?

For Stefany Anne Golberg, the morning itself became a possibility she could no longer tolerate, and at age fourteen she erased it all together.

In a ranch house in a Vegas suburb, Golberg’s peculiar brand of insomnia lives alongside an ailing father, a professor on permanent leave from the local university. Her mother has moved out, her older brother has gone to college, and she is alone with the night, resisting the fundamental unit by which we measure our lives: the next day itself. Startling, poignant, and harrowing, Golberg’s voice is informed by an eclectic range of interests, from Bruegel to Jung, Loren Eiseley to Marina Tsvetaeva.

Equal parts coming-of-age memoir, art history, and philosophical inquiry, My Morningless Mornings is a young person’s reckoning with consciousness.

#21. Golden Beauty Boss

by Cheryl Woodruff-Brooks

Released in March 2020

Publisher: Sunbury Press

Genre: Biography / Black Business

About the Book:

The first biography of Madame Sara Spencer Washington, founder of Apex News & Hair Company

In 1911, a Virginia entrepreneur moved to Atlantic City and started selling cosmetics door-to-door. She styled hair in her basement while striving to grow her business into an empire. Soon, she was opening her own manufacturing company, producing hundreds of products and hiring 45,000 sales agents all over the world.

She also opened beauty schools in twelve states and was honored at the New York World’s Trade Fair in 1939 as one of the “Most Distinguished Businesswomen.” She continued to expand Apex internationally, doing business in Haiti and South Africa, leading to her acquiring millionaire status in the 1940s.

Cheryl Woodruff-Brooks, author of Chicken Bone Beach, takes you through the history of Apex from its inception until its dissolution after Sara’s death in 1953, sharing details of her life as she faced racial discrimination and undertook new roles as civic leader and philanthropist.

#22. On Lighthouses

by Jazmina Barrera (author), Christina Macsweeney (translator)

Released in May 2020

Publisher: Two Lines Press

Genre: Memoir / Literary

About the Book:

Far from home, in the confines of a dim New York apartment where the oppressive skyscrapers further isolate her, Jazmina Barrera offers a tour of her lighthouses―those structures whose message is “first and foremost, that human beings are here.”Starting with Robert Louis Stevenson’s grandfather, an engineer charged with illuminating the Scottish coastline, On Lighthouses artfully examines lighthouses from the Spanish to the Oregon coasts and those in the works of Virginia Woolf, Edgar Allan Poe, Ingmar Bergman, and many others.

In trying to “collect” lighthouses by obsessively describing them, Barrera begins to question the nature of writing, collecting, and how, by staring so intently at one thing we are only trying to avoid others. Equal parts personal memoir and literary history, On Lighthouses takes the reader on a desperate flight from raging sea to cold stone―from a hopeless isolation to a meaningful one―concluding at last in a place of peace: the home of a selfless, guiding light.

#23. Officer Clemmons

by Dr. Francois S. Clemmons

Officer Clemmons

Released in May 2020

Publisher: Catapult

Genre: Memoir / TV & Film

About the Book:

When he created the role of Officer Clemmons on the award-winning television series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, François Clemmons made history as the first African American actor to have a recurring role on a children’s program. A new, wide world opened for Clemmons–but one that also required him to make painful personal choices and sacrifices.

Officer Clemmons details Clemmons’s incredible life story, beginning with his early years in Alabama and Ohio, marked by family trauma and loss, through his studies as a music major at Oberlin College, where Clemmons began to investigate and embrace his homosexuality, to a chance encounter with Fred Rogers that changed the whole course of both men’s lives, leading to a deep, spiritual friendship and mentorship spanning nearly forty years.

From New York to Russia, Berlin to California, Grammy Award winner Clemmons has performed for audiences around the world and remains a beloved figure. Evocative and intimate, and buoyed by its author’s own vivacious, inimitable energy, Officer Clemmons chronicles a historical and enlightening life and career of a man who has brought joy to millions of adults and children, across generations and borders.

#24. Dyke (geology)

by Sabrina Imbler

Released in March 2020

Publisher: Black Lawrence Press

Genre: Literary / LGBTQ+ Studies

About the Book:

Through intertwined threads of autofiction, lyric science writing, and the tale of a newly queer Hawaiian volcano, Sabrina Imbler delivers a coming out story on a geological time scale. This is a small book that tackles large, wholly human questions–what it means to live and date under white supremacy, to never know if one is loved or fetishized, how to navigate fierce desires and tectonic heartbreak through the rise and eventual eruption of a first queer love.

“When two galaxies stray too near each other, the attraction between them can be so strong that the galaxies latch on and never let go. Sometimes the pull triggers head-on wrecks between stars–galactic collisions–throwing bodies out of orbit, seamlessly into space. Sometimes the attraction only creates a giant black hole, making something whole into a kind of missing.”

#25. Brand New Spacesuit

by John Gallaher

Released in April 2020

Publisher: BOA Editions

About the Book:

In Brand New Spacesuit, John Gallaher writes with honesty, humor, and tenderness about what fades and what remains. These poems offer snapshots of the poet’s memories of his adoption and childhood, his father’s heart attacks, his mother’s progressing Alzheimer’s disease and stroke, raising his own children, and his reflections on the complex mysteries of the universe within everyday moments. With exquisite attention to detail, Gallaher captures the losses, anxieties, and possibilities that come with caring for one another.

#26. How the Water Holds Me

by Tariq Luthun

Released in April 2020

Publisher: Bull City Press

About the Book:

Middle Eastern Studies. Both a reckoning and a reclamation, HOW THE WATER HOLDS ME surveys movements through diaspora, dissecting displacement, mortality, responsibility, and masculinity. With deft narrative and rich imagery, Tariq Luthun’s collection of poems makes space for everyone, from Gaza to Detroit, asking us to reassess the notion of belonging, and to do something meaningful with these revelations. HOW THE WATER HOLDS ME invites each of us to explore what it means to seek–and share–refuge.

#27. Report from the Sea of Moisture

by Stuart Jay Silverman

Released in May 2020

Publisher: Atmosphere Press

About the Book:

I think of poetry as a creative art, not primarily a form of expression, which reeks too much of pathos, the self-aggrandizing narcissism of our fearful times. Of course, the subjective enters into every poem ever composed. A sentient and thoughtful being does the creating. When the poem gets away from the purely confessional, it has a chance to expand its poet’s experiential horizons and, in consequence, that of the empathetic reader.

The result is what I call a subsistent reality, in effect, an extension of the possible world whether naturalistic, surrealistic, or fantastic. It links to the plastic arts of painting and sculpture, and, perhaps, to architecture and music, by providing altered perspectives. new realities, or quasi-realities for the immensely complex mind which is the essential person.

#28. With a Difference

by Nick Gregorio & Frances Daulerio

Released in May 2020

Publisher: Trident

About the Book:

Cowritten by poet Francis Daulerio and fiction writer Nick Gregorio, With a Difference is inspired in part by Rancid and NoFX’s 2002 BYO cover split album. Gregorio has adapted ten of Daulerio’s poems into stories, and Daulerio has turned ten of Gregorio’s stories into poems. Like a vinyl record, the book must be flipped over to read both “sides.”

#29. Year of the Dog

by Deborah Paradez

Released in April 2020

Publisher: BOA Editions

About the Book:

In the tradition of women as the unsung keepers of history, Deborah Paredez’s second poetry collection tells her story as a Latina daughter of the Vietnam War.

The title refers to the year 1970―the “year of the Metal Dog” in the lunar calendar―which was the year of the author’s birth, the year her father prepared to deploy to Vietnam along with many other Mexican-American immigrant soldiers, and a year of tremendous upheaval across the United States. Images from iconic photographs and her father’s snapshots are incorporated, fragmented, scrutinized, and reconstructed throughout the collection as Paredez recalls untold stories from a war that changed her family and the nation.

In poems and lamentations that evoke Hecuba, the mythic figure so consumed by grief over the atrocities of war that she was transformed into a howling dog, and La Llorona, the weeping woman in Mexican folklore who haunts the riverbanks in mourning and threatens to disturb the complicity of those living in the present, Paredez recontextualizes the historical moments of the Vietnam era, from the arrest of Angela Davis to the haunting image of Mary Ann Vecchio at the Kent State Massacre, never forgetting the outcry and outrage that women’s voices have carried across time.

#30. The Life of the Party Is Harder to Find Until You’re the Last One Around

by Adrian Sobol

Released in April 2020

Publisher: Malarkey Books

About the Book:

Equal parts funny and devastating, Adrian Sobol’s debut dares us to have a good time through our own despair. Written under the influence of immense Catholic guilt, The Life of the Party is Harder to Find Until You’re the Last One Around is a roadmap of longing, regret, and all kinds of venial sins. These poems, blurring the line between the absurd and mundane, explore the ways poetry can never solve our problems, only make them prettier. They remind us “we have a right to be tired / bored.” When you’re a disaster, at least you can take comfort knowing “every trainwreck is […] sincere.”

Thanks for checking out these great books published during the start of the pandemic! I hope this list helps illuminate all of those authors & publishers whose events and publications fell through the cracks. Happy reading!

About the Curator

Mara Franzen is a Chicago-based creative who loves to write about anything nerd related. From books to movies to tabletop gaming, Mara’s probably written about it. Aside from writing, Mara also talks about gaming on her TikTok(@CollegeOfLoreDropout) and reads more books than is probably good for her. She also has a dog named Fig who doesn’t really understand the concept of writing, but loves to sit and listen to the click clack of the keyboard. She can be found on all social media by searching Mara Franzen.

Thank you for reading “30 Indie Press Books You Might Have Missed from the Start of the Pandemic” by Mara Franzen! If you liked what you read, please spend some more time with us at the links below.

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