by Mollie Weisenfeld
The leaves are crisping, the air is cooling, and we turn our attention from the books we carried in our beach bags and on airplanes to distant vacations, to the reads that will keep us warm in the coming months, stacked up as insulation along drafty windowsills, their colorful jackets bright against the graying sky. Here are five fall debuts from Bloomers.
Juan José Millás was born in Valencia in 1946. His family moved to Madrid when he was 6 years old. He did not finish a degree at the Universidad Complutense, but studied philosophy and literature there for 3 years before leaving for an administrator job in Iberia. Millás began publishing in Spain in the early 1970s and became quite prolific—from adult novels to young adult fiction to newspaper articles. In 1990 he was awarded Spain’s highest literary prize, the Premio Nadal, and has earned other awards in the years since. He has a weekly column in the national newspaper El Pais where he discusses current events, a weekly timeslot on television where he discusses words and literature, and his constructing a glossary. His work has been translated into 23 languages to date. Millás has been married to his second wife, psychologist Isabel Menéndez, since 1987 and they have one child together.
From the Shadows is Millás’ first novel to be published in North America, by Bellvue Literary Press in August 2019, when he was 73 years old. It has been translated from the Spanish by Thomas Bunstead and Daniel Hahn and has received praise from the Wall Street Journal, was an Asymptote Book Club pick, and more. The novel is a surrealist tale of dark humor involving a man named Damián Lobo who has been laid off from his job. Hiding in a wardrobe after committing a petty theft, Lobo finds himself in the home of a family, whom he dedicates himself to serve as their invisible butler, becoming hopelessly tangled in their lives.
Veronica Raimo was born in Italy in 1978. She is a screenwriter, journalist, and novelist, with two books published in Italy, one in Germany, and contributes to Italian publications and to Rolling Stone. Raimo is also a translator from English to Italian, working on classics from F. Scott Fitzgerald, Octavia Butler, and others. She lives in Rome.
The Girl at the Door is Raimo’s first novel to be published in English, translated from the Italian by Stash Luczkiw and published in October 2019 by Grove Atlantic’s Black Cat imprint, when Raimo was 41. The novel has been praised by literary luminaries such as Jhumpa Lahiri as well as in international publications. The story centers on three people recently arrived to a utopian island: a philosophy professor, his girlfriend, and the six months’ pregnant former student who accuses him of rape. The commencement of an investigation by the utopia’s council upends of the community’s norms, and questions what each person desires from belonging to it. Though Raimo’s book falls into the recent spate of #MeToo fiction, she began writing it eight years ago and completed it in early 2017. The Girl at the Door is a deft and nuanced look at survivors who come forward, perpetrators who don’t necessarily realize what they’ve done, and those in the perpetrator’s life who must reckon with a person they thought they knew.
Ayşe Papatya Bucak was born in Istanbul in 1971 to an American mother and a Turkish father. The family emigrated to the US, to Haverton, PA when she was 4 years old and her brother was 6, and she consequently knew little about her Turkish culture and heritage, gathering most of her knowledge in crumbs from her father’s existence. Bucak (pronounced “Boo-jack”) graduated from Princeton with a BA in English in 1993, then enrolled in the Radcliffe Publishing Course that summer. From there she made the leap to publishing, working first at Anchor and then at Doubleday before returning to school. She earned her MFA from Arizona State University in Creating Writing in 1999, which enabled her to begin teaching over the next two decades at various universities. She has taught at Florida Atlantic University since 2003 and is now an Associate Professor of English. Bucak worked as the Director of the Creative Writing Program at the university for 3 years as well.
Bucak’s writing has long dealt, in the essay and short story format, with immigration, legacy, and more specifically being Turkish American—a mixed identity. One of her short stories, “The History of Girls” was awarded the PEN/O. Henry Prize in 2013. Another, “Iconography,” won a Pushcart Prize in 2014. Her debut collection of short stories, The Trojan War Museum and Other Stories, was published by WW Norton in August 2019 when Bucak was 48 years old. It took ten years to write and put together, and has received strong praise from NPR, LitHub, industry publications, and Oprah herself, landing on Oprah Magazine’s list of 10 books to read in August.
Read Andy Shi’s Q&A with Bucak here.
Gary Janetti was born in 1966 and grew up in Queens. He quickly became obsessed with theatre, particularly the Broadway musical Evita starring Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin. At age 19 he attended a summer acting program in England, where David Schwimmer (eventually of Friends fame) was also a student. Janetti became more successful for his TV writing and producing work than for his acting, working on shows such as Will & Grace and Family Guy. He lives in both Los Angeles and New York City with his husband, Brad Goreski. Janetti has since gained an 800,000-strong fan following on his Instagram, which consists primarily of funny memes about the British Royal Family, the most popular being the ones about Prince George.
Janetti’s first book, Do You Mind If I Cancel? (And Other Things That Still Annoy Me) was published by Macmillan’s imprint Flatiron Books, in October 2019, when Janetti was 52. He ranges through a series of humorous essays about coming of age, coming out, and his longing to be an internet-savvy, antisocial Millennial. The book has received praise from Kevin Kwan, author of Crazy Rich Asians, and others.
Mona Eltahawy was born in Port Said, Egypt, in 1967. Her family moved to the UK when she was 7 years old, then to Saudi Arabia when she was 15. She graduated from the University of Cairo with a BA, then earned a master’s in Mass Communication with a Journalism concentration. She worked as a news reporter throughout the 1990s, then moved to the US in 2000 and became a citizen 11 years later. She continues journalistic work and advocacy in the Muslim world, and was arrested while covering protests in Tahrir Square and violently assaulted—her left arm and right hand were both fractured. Describing herself as “a secular, radical, feminist Muslim,” she spearheaded the Mosque Me Too movement describing misogyny and abuse of women in Islam. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Miami Herald among other publications.
Eltahawy’s first book, Headscarves and Hymens, was published in 2015 when she was 48 years old. Her second, The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls, was published by Beacon Press in September 2019 when she was 52. Determined to destroy the patriarchy, Eltahawy teaches the seven sins women and girls must commit to defy their restrictions and overthrow the misogynistic system: be angry, be ambitious, be profane, be violent, be attention-seeking, be lustful, and be powerful. Her book has been praised by Gloria Steinem, Leta Hong Fincher, and Rebecca Solnit, among other leading feminist activists.
Mollie Weisenfeld is an Assistant Editor at Hachette Books. Her poetry has been published in Folio, Lilith, and Guildscript, and her children’s story was published in Ember: A Journal of Luminous Things. Visit her Facebook @MollieWeisenfeldAuthor for updates on her mocha addiction, worldwide quest for the perfect writing café, and attempts to write everything except the next Great American Novel. Also Twitter @TheMollieJean
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