27 small press books to support a less corporate reading ecosystem
April 14, 2024 8:20 PM   Subscribe

In the wake of SPD shutting down (previously), here is a books roundup focusing this time on recent releases from small presses.

And Yet Held by T. De Los Reyes (Bull City Press, 6 Feb 2024): Knowing it takes a certain amount of gumption and surrender to lean towards vulnerability, this book is meant to be held by someone who is looking for poems about love and discovers it is also poems about the self—and in that discovering recognizes, "Finally, I am found." (Amazon)

black has every right to be angry: poems by Ashley Elizabeth (Alternating Current Press, 7 Nov 2023): This poetry collection tells stories for those who can’t. Those who are scared. Those who are silenced. Those who need an extra push. (Amazon)

The Book Censor’s Library by Bothayna Al-Essa, translated from the Arabic by Sawad Hussain and Ranya Abdelrahman (Restless Books, 30 Apr 2024): A perilous and fantastical satire of banned books, secret archives, and the looming eye of an all-powerful government. (Amazon, Bookshop)

Chicano Frankenstein by Daniel A. Olivas (Forest Avenue Press, 5 Mar 2024): A modern retelling of the Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley classic that addresses issues of belonging and assimilation. (Amazon, Bookshop)

The Children of the Dead by 2004 Nobel laureate Elfriede Jelinek, translated by Gitta Honegger (Yale UP, 12 Mar 2024): The Alpenrose is a mountain resort nestled in Austria’s scenic landscape among historic churches and castles. It is a vacation idyll that attracts tourists from all over Europe. It is also a mass burial site. Amid the snow-topped peaks and panoramic vistas, ghosts haunt the forest: Edgar Gstranz, a young skier who died in a car crash; Gudrun Bichler, a philosophy student who committed suicide in her bathtub; and Karin Frenzel, a widow who (perhaps) died in a bus accident. As the three slip in and out of the hotel, engaging unsuspecting tourists and seeking a way to return to life, the soil begins to crack under their feet as the dead of the Holocaust awaken: zombies determined to exact their revenge. (Amazon, Bookshop)

The Children of This Madness by Gemini Wahhaj (7.13 Books, 5 Dec 2023): In The Children of this Madness, Gemini Wahhaj pens a complex tale of modern Bengalis, one that illuminates the recent histories not only of Bangladesh, but America and Iraq. Told in multiple voices over successive eras, this is the story of Nasir Uddin and his daughter Beena, and the intersection of their distant, vastly different lives. As the US war in Iraq plays out a world away, and Beena struggles to belong to Houston’s tony Bengali American community—many of whom serve the same corporate masters she sees destroying Iraq—recently widowed engineering professor Nasir Uddin journeys to America not only to see Beena and her new husband but the many former students who make up the immigrant community Beena has come to view with ambivalence. (Amazon, Bookshop, Indiebound)

Colorful Palate: A Flavorful Journey Through a Mixed American Experience by Raj Tawney (Empire State Editions/Fordham Press, 3 Oct 2023): Raj Tawney shares his coming-of-age memoir as a young man born into an Indian, Puerto Rican, and Italian-American family, his struggles with understanding his own identity, and the mouthwatering flavors of the melting pot from within his own childhood kitchen. (Amazon, Bookshop, Indiebound)

The Day of the Door by Laurel Hightower (Ghoulish, 23 Apr 2024): Once there were four Lasco siblings banded together against a world that failed to protect them. But on a hellish night that marked the end of their childhood, eldest brother Shawn died violently after being dragged behind closed doors. Though the official finding was accidental death, Nathan Lasco knows better, and has never forgiven their mother, Stella. Now two decades later, Stella promises to finally reveal the truth of what happened on The Day of the Door. Accompanied by a paranormal investigative team, the Lasco family comes together one final time, but no one is prepared for the revelations waiting for them on the third floor. (Amazon, Bookshop)

Dressing the Saints by Aracelis González Asendorf (Black Lawrence Press, 26 Jan 2024): Set in the lushness of Cuba and Florida, and spanning decades, the stories chronicle lives left behind and new ones forged with struggle, melancholy, and hope. Old loves are reencountered, enemies confronted, family secrets are revealed, and women fight for agency. Memory, what can't be forgotten and what is elusively fading away with the passage of time, is ever-present in the stories of people fiercely confronting fate with grace and compassion. (Amazon)

Everyday Something Has Tried to Kill Me And Has Failed: Notes From Periracial America by Kim McLarin (Ig Publishing, 14 Nov 2023): With accumulated wisdom and sharp-eyed clarity, Everyday Something Has Tried to Kill Me And Has Failed addresses the joys and hardships of being an older Black woman in contemporary, "periracial" America. Award-winning author Kim McLarin utilizes deeply personal experiences to illuminate the pain and power of aging, Blackness and feminism, in the process capturing the endless cycle of progress and backlash that has long shaped race and gender. (Amazon, Bookshop)

Flight of the Wild Swan by Melissa Pritchard (Bellevue Literary Press, 12 Mar 2024): Sweeping yet intimate, Flight of the Wild Swan tells the story of Florence Nightingale, a brilliant, trailblazing woman whose humanity has been obscured beneath the iconic weight of legend. From adolescence, Nightingale was determined to fulfill her life’s calling to serve the sick and suffering. Overcoming Victorian hierarchies, familial expectations, patriarchal resistance, and her own illness, she used her hard-won acclaim as a battlefield nurse to bring the profession out of its shadowy, disreputable status and elevate nursing to a skilled practice and compassionate art. (Amazon, Bookshop)

Holy Food: How Cults, Communes, and Religious Movements Influenced What We Eat: An American History by Christina Ward (Feral House, 26 Sep 2023): Independent food historian Christina Ward’s Holy Food explores the influence of mainstream to fringe religious beliefs on modern American food culture. Author Christina Ward unravels the numerous ways religious beliefs intersect with politics and economics and, of course, food to tell a different story of America. It’s the story of true believers and charlatans, of idealists and visionaries, and of the everyday people who followed them--often at their peril. (Amazon, Bookshop)

The Inhumans and Other Stories: A Selection of Bengali Science Fiction edited and translated by Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay (MIT Press, 12 Mar 2024): The first English translation of a cult science fiction favorite by Hemendra Kumar Roy, one of the giants of early Bangla literature, and other sf stories from the colonial period in India. (Amazon, Bookshop)

The Last Bird of Paradise by Clifford Garstang (Black Rose Writing, 22 Feb 2024): Two women, nearly a century apart, seek to rebuild their lives when they reluctantly leave their homelands. Arriving in Singapore, they find romance in a tropical paradise, but also find they haven’t left behind the dangers that caused them to flee. (Amazon, Bookshop)

Lojman by Ebru Ojen, translated by Aron Aji and Selin Gökçesu (City Lights, 15 Aug 2023): Lojman tells, on its surface, the domestic tale of a Kurdish family living in a small village on a desolate plateau at the foot of the snow-capped mountains of Turkey’s Van province. Virtually every aspect of the family’s life is dictated by the government, from their exile to the country’s remote, easternmost region to their sequestration in the grim “teacher’s lodging”–or lojman–to which they’re assigned. When Selma’s husband walks out one day, he leaves in his wake a storm of resentment between his young children and a mother reluctant to parent them. (Amazon, Bookshop)

Love the World Or Get Killed Trying by Alvina Chamberland (Noemi Press, 15 Mar 2024): Through playful poetic prose, sharp social commentary and self-deprecating gallows humor Love the World or Get Killed Trying dives into the mind of Alvina, a trans woman on the eve of turning 30. The reader is invited to follow her journey through the breathtaking wilderness of Iceland and busy city boulevards of Berlin and Paris as she probes questions of eternity, sexuality, longing, death, love, and how hard it is to remain soft when you’re a ceaseless target of straight men’s secret lust and open disgust. Reaching its climax through an urgent wildfire scream-of-consciousness, cry-of-love-manifesto, Love the World or Get Killed Trying is a raw and vulnerable work of magical brutalist autofiction. (Amazon)

Man’s World by Charlotte Haldane (MIT Press, 12 Mar 2024): A new edition of a 1926 novel. In the not-too-distant future, England’s population quality and quantity are under scientific control: Only those deemed the fittest are permitted to procreate. Women are groomed to be "vocational mothers"—or else sterilized and put to other uses. Written by an author married to one of the world’s most prominent eugenics advocates, this ambivalent adventure anticipates both Brave New World and The Handmaid’s Tale. When a young woman rebels against her conditioning, can she break free? (Amazon, Bookshop)

The Queen of Steeplechase Park by David Ciminello (Forest Avenue Press, 7 May 2024): The absolutely, positively, practically, almost-true story of infamous burlesque queen and magic meatball maker Belladonna Marie Donato. (Amazon, Bookshop)

The Rain Artist by Claire Rudy Foster (Moonstruck Books, 24 Feb 2024): Book One in the Clepsydra Series. In a future where rain is a luxury enjoyed exclusively by the ultra-rich, the world’s only umbrella-maker is framed for the high-profile murder of the quadrillionaire patriarch who controls the earth’s last natural resources. (Amazon, Bookshop)

Rotten Evidence: Reading and Writing in an Egyptian Prison by Ahmed Naji, translated from the Arabic by Katharine Halls (McSweeney’s, 17 Oct 2023): In February 2016, Ahmed Naji was sentenced to two years in prison for “violating public decency,” after an excerpt of his novel Using Life reportedly caused a reader to experience heart palpitations. Naji ultimately served ten months of that sentence, in a group cellblock in Cairo’s Tora Prison. Rotten Evidence is a chronicle of those months. (Amazon, Bookshop)

Roxy and Coco by Terese Svoboda (West Virginia University Press, 1 Feb 2024): Sisters Roxy and Coco are two glamorous harpies—mythical bird women—attempting to outrun extinction and fix the planet by preventing child abuse, one child at a time. When Roxy is suddenly attracted to her human supervisor at a social work agency a hundred years too early, Coco is very suspicious. Luring Roxy with his scent, Tim is also on the payroll of a fake conservationist intent on her less-than-legal collection. Coco swoops in to vet Tim, but Interpol is hot on her trail for a series of curious homicides. (Surveillance has a very hard time convincing his boss of what he’s monitoring.) (Amazon, Bookshop)

The Stricken by Morgan Shamy (CamCat Books, 5 Mar 2024): Every day in Clara’s world, a dark cloud descends upon her town. The storm comes like clockwork, erasing everyone’s memories. Everyone except Clara. But after Clara’s father mysteriously disappears, things change. (Amazon, Bookshop)

This House by Sian Northey, translated from Welsh by Susan Walton (3TimesRebel Press, 21 March 2024): Anna has lived alone for decades. She is cocooned by, and marooned in, an isolated cottage called Nant yr Aur in the Welsh mountains. The arrival of Siôn, a young man who seems strangely at home in the house, leads to an unpicking of Anna’s past. (Amazon)

The Three Lives of St Ciarán by Inés Gregori Labarta (Blackwater, 20 Apr 2024): A young girl, un-dead and un-alive, brought to the shores of Iberia and nurtured to become the saviour of Madrid. A crippled boy drowning in the waters of Loughmichnois, called to preserve the secrets of a civilisation. A nun who instigates the bombing of Neo Dublin to reset a futureless people and start afresh. Times of darkness, worlds seemingly beyond salvation, people who have never known joy. What do they have in common? Three entirely different versions of Saint Ciarán to restore hope, faith, and brightness for humankind. (Amazon)

Upcountry: A Novel by Chin-Sun Lee (Unnamed Press, 7 Nov 2023): A middle-class ex-Manhattanite, a cash-strapped single mother, and a young member of an obscure religious “sect,” become entangled in a Catskills town. (Amazon, Bookshop)

Women Twice Removed by Christina Lloyd (Sixteen Rivers Press, 2 Apr 2024): Christina Lloyd’s poetry, in Women Twice Removed, is intense and tautly eloquent. The poems are prominently tethered to Lloyd’s grandmother, Esperanza, whose name means "hope," and who journeyed from Spain to the Philippines and on to California. Life, it is said, begins with a stumble, and so here begins the life of these arresting poems, which delve into what Christina and her grandmother experienced along the way. (Amazon)

Zulaikha by Niloufar-Lily Soltani (Inanna Publications, 9 Nov 2023): In the winter of 2007, returning home from visiting her son in Amsterdam, Zulaikha accidentally runs into Kia, a family friend she hasn’t seen for many years. Kia’s father has passed away and he is flying home to attend his funeral. In a shocking twist, Zulaikha suspects that Kia may have had information about Zulaikha’s missing brother, Hessam, who disappeared shortly following the murder of their mutual friend, Abbass, during the Iran–Iraq War. When the flight is suddenly cancelled, Zulaikha is taken into custody and questioned about her relationship with Kia by the European airport security. A day later, in Tehran, the Iranian authorities have their own agenda for intimidating her. A tense thriller explores the impacts of war and oppression through a sprawling, tender, imperfect love story, scored with the notes of the Arabic and Persian music and poetry that grace so many Middle Eastern lives. (Amazon.ca)

*Note: I looked for all of these at Bookshop but in some cases they don’t appear to be available, presumably because they haven’t yet secured new distribution with SPD closing a few weeks ago.
posted by joannemerriam (5 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
What a treasure-trove.
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 10:23 PM on April 14 [1 favorite]

Good stuff, thanks for these.

Support the small presses and independent booksellers.

A few ones to mention:
Better World Books (New Releases)
Haymarket Books (browse by Recent)
McNally Robinson (Newest books) Located in Canada, ships to most places.
Powell's (New Arrivals)
posted by Hardcore Poser at 10:29 PM on April 14 [3 favorites]

Littlepuss Press, “a feminist press run by two trans women, Cat Fitzpatrick and Casey Plett”. Their most recent release is Girlfriends by Emily Zhou (17 Oct 2023), and their next will be Log Off: Why Posting and Politics (Almost) Never Mix by Katherine Cross (4 Jun 2024).
posted by Strutter Cane - United Planets Stilt Patrol at 1:30 AM on April 15 [2 favorites]

This list is amazing, thank you!
posted by carrioncomfort at 5:27 AM on April 15 [1 favorite]

I should mention, this is only scratching the surface. My list of small presses (from when I actively ran my own press, so a few years out of date) is about 350+ presses (probably 50-100 are no longer active). I hope to go through that list more thoroughly once I've finished my international move at the end of this month and do another roundup that is even bigger. These are just books I had seen some buzz about.
posted by joannemerriam at 8:10 AM on April 15 [2 favorites]

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