by Mollie Weisenfeld
A new crop of Bloomers for your new year reading lists…
Minna Salami was born in Finland in 1978 to a Nigerian father and Finnish mother. She spent her childhood in Nigeria before attending university in Sweden. Salami graduated from Lund University with a degree in Political Science, then earned her master’s in gender studies with a focus on Black feminism from the University of London. She holds an honorary fellowship in writing from the Hong Kong Baptist University.
Salami began her career in business marketing and founded the award-winning blog MsAfropolitan in 2010 to spotlight the African feminist lens. Her work has been published in The Guardian, Al Jazeera, the BBC, and CNN. Her first book, Sensuous Knowledge: A Black Feminist Approach for Everyone is an essay collection that centers Blackness, Africa, and womanhood. It will be published by Amistad in March 2020, when she is 42 years old.
Héctor Tobar is a journalist and writer who was born in Los Angeles, California in 1963. The son of Guatemalan immigrants, his work often explores the relationships between Latin America and the United States. During his extensive and ongoing journalism career, he has written for The New Yorker, LA Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times. In 1992 he was part of the LAT team covering the Los Angeles riots, and the reporting was awarded a 1993 Pulitzer Prize.
Tobar has an MFA from UC Irvine in Creative Writing and crafts both fiction and nonfiction. His first nonfiction book, Translation Nation: Defining a New American Identity in the Spanish-Speaking United States was published by Riverhead Books in 2005, when he was 42 years old. His second work of nonfiction was Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free, which was the only authorized telling of the miners’ plight—they chose to contract collectively with Tobar so that no one would profit more than another. The book became the film The 33 starring Antonio Banderas.
Tobar’s next work is a hybrid novel titled The Last Great Road Bum and will be published in June 2020 by MCD x FSG. It depicts the life of Joe Sanderson, who was born in Urbana, Illinois and traveled from there to Jamaica to Vietnam to Nigeria and to El Salvador. He died fighting with guerillas in Central America. Tobar has based the work on Sanderson’s papers.
Carola Saavedra was born in Santiago, Chile in 1973 but moved to Brazil when she was 3 years old. She graduated from Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro with a journalism degree, and has lived in Spain, France, and Germany. In Germany she earned her master’s degree in communications. Saavedra now lives in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Saavedra writes in fiction in Portuguese and has published a short story collection and two novels. She won the Rachel de Queiroz Award for Best Young Author for her second novel, Paisagem com dromedário (Landscape with Dromedary). Her first novel to be translated into English—by Daniel Hahn—was published by Riverhead Books in January 2020. Called Blue Flowers, the story follows a recently divorced man named Marcos, who begins to receive letters from “A.,” a woman who believes she is writing to her ex-lover, the former occupant of his apartment. Saavedra was 47 years old at the time of publication.
Mikki Kendall was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1976. She holds degrees in history and writing from University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign and DePaul University. She worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs until 2013, when she left to pursue writing full time. Her essays and cultural critiques have appeared The Guardian, Essence, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, NBC News, Bustle and other outlets. She won the Best Food Essay award from the Association of Food Journalists in 2017.
Kendall’s first book was Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists: a graphic novel-style guide of figures and events in the fight for women’s rights, spanning from ancient times to modern day. Ten Speed Press published the guide in 2019, when she was 43 years old. Her second book is forthcoming from Viking in February 2020. Hood Feminism: Notes From the Women a Movement Forgot is an essay collection critiquing the modern feminism movement.
Mieko Kawakami was born in Osaka, Japan in 1976. She worked as a hostess in a bar and then as a clerk in a bookstore before embarking on a career as a singer-songwriter. She released three albums before retiring from music in 2006 in order to focus on her writing. She built up a blog starting in 2003, initially to promote her music. It became wildly popular for its original, freewheeling style of prose. At its peak, her blog received over 200,000 hits per day. Her writing and audience were noticed by Japanese publishers and some of her blog posts became her first book.
In 2008, Kawakami was awarded the Akutagawa Award: Japan’s most prestigious award for a new writer. She utilizes Osaka’s distinctive dialect and writes about Japanese Everywomen, exploring sexuality, mortality, and life in a patriarchal society. Her novels and short stories continue to garner awards and notice in Japan, and Haruki Murakami has called her his favorite young novelist. Between 2015 – 2017, Kawakami undertook a series of interviews with Murakami, which were then published in Japan in 2017.
Kawakami’s first novel to be published in English will be released under the title Breasts and Eggs, by Europe Editions in April 2020. She will be 44 years old at the time of her English debut. Breasts and Eggs features a mother-daughter pair who travel to visit the mother’s sister. The mother intends to have plastic surgery done on her breasts, which droop with age. Her daughter will only communicate with her via writing.
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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