If I Had Two Wings, Randall Kenan
Just a few short weeks before his death, Randall Kenan published If I Had Two Wings, a collection of 10 short stories that bring a heavenly mysticism to the wooded enclaves of North Carolina, or at least some version of it—Kenan sets his characters in a fictional town called Tims Creek, a place where ordinary lives are graced by the divine in all its forms. One is Billy Idol, another a boar hog. Kenan offers enough of each character to draw the reader close and comfortable, only to move on to another miracle and another slice of salvation.
Owls of the Eastern Ice, Jonathan C. Slaght
When men are sent on quests, it's usually not for owls. But that is the all-consuming task of field scientist Jonathan C. Slaght, whose only interest is one singular creature, the Blakiston's fish owl. By any measure, it is a bird worth tracking, if you are into that sort of thing: It is the largest of its species, yellow-eyed and notoriously elusive, sending Slaght on a yearslong journey through far-east Russia. "Backlit by the hazy gray of a winter sky, it seemed almost too big and too comical to be a real bird," Slaght writes. "As if someone had hastily glued fistfuls of feathers to a yearling bear, then propped the dazed beast in the tree."
Guillotine, Eduardo C. Corral
Eduardo C. Corral's second collection of poems follows Slow Lightning, and it shares his debut's skillful blending of language, culture and memory. Lines move from Spanish to English as they see fit, illuminating the ways in which violence takes hold in the lives of undocumented immigrants, Border Patrol agents and ill-timed lovers. Each poem exists as its own small story, using Corral's gift for imaginative prose to establish an intimacy between writer and reader in only a handful of words.
The Helios Disaster, Linda Boström Knausgård
"I am born of a father," Knausgård writes in her novel The Helios Disaster. "I split his head." And from there begins the magical realism and distinctly Scandanavian sense of mythology that color this retelling of the myth of Athena. Knausgård writes from the perspective of her young protagonist, Anna, a girl who burns too bright in her need for belonging and in turn belongs to no one. Seven years after its original release in Swedish, the novel has been translated into English by Rachel Willson-Broyles.
Apple (Skin to the Core), Eric Gansworth
In Apple, Eric Gansworth tells his own story in his own words, resisting the narratives that have been projected onto Native communities for generations. "Apple" is the derogatory term for someone who is "red on the outside, white on the inside," a slur Gansworth dismantles in clean, sharp prose. While the book is marketed toward a young adult audience, it has been widely acclaimed by all ages, with a universal weight that will resonate with all who appreciate memoir in verse.