Wave If You Can See Me

The running theme through the collection Wave as If You Can See Me is the progression of illnesses resulting in the death of the poet’s husband, fiction writer Scott Ely, from the effects of Agent Orange in Vietnam. Interspersed with these poems are her own explorations—in part distraction from the pain of watching her husband’s decline, in part a long-held desire—into painting.


Here, Susan Ludvigson considers the loss of a husband against intricate, often dreamlike landscapes where cockatiels multiply magically in their cages, remembered foreign cities become ominous and strange, and the deceased unfolds into the present, tangible and real. These plainspoken poems conceal enormous complexities of emotion and thought—mournful, hopeful, present to the inevitability of loss and the fact of time. I have long admired Susan Ludvigson’s poetry, and this is her most moving book yet, one I know I’ll return to gladly.—Kevin Prufer, author of In A Beautiful Country

At the beginning of Susan Ludvigson’s sparkling collection, she writes of the spirit, “I want it to gleam / no matter how much / pain infuses it.” These poems have a luminosity that comes only through experience of both suffering and joy. Throughout this book, deeply moving poems about the illness and death of the poet’s husband are interspersed with others that contemplate the interconnectedness of all things—whales, music, stars, and even her husband “drinking Faulkner’s bourbon” somewhere “in the airless beyond.” These are poems that shine with feeling and intelligence, “like stars burning through the debris of history, / like love burning through the dark of loss.”—Patricia Hooper,author of Separate Flights

A graphic design of 5 birds and the sky with black text that reads Wave if You Can See Me Poems by Susan Ludvigson.

Susan Ludvigson

Publication Date: October 13, 2020

Genre/Imprint: Poetry, Red Hen Press

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ISBN: 978-1-59709-863-2

High Skies

High Skies recounts the collision of devastating weather, Cold War suspicion, tense race relations, and the unintended consequences of good intentions in a small West Texas town in the 1950s, changing the futures of the families there and altering their perceptions of America. At the center of this perfect storm is Raymond “Flyboy” Seaker, a respected military veteran, now the vice principal of a school in which Troy, who tells the story, and his disabled friend Stevie will have their lives upended forever. Through a combination of his own well-meaning ambitions and the political maneuverings of others, Flyboy and the families he serves come to grasp the meaning of community and of individual fortitude. Written with a vivid economy recalling Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams and painting as indelible a portrait of small town life as Larry McMurtry’s The Last Picture ShowHigh Skies is a perfectly distilled American epic.


“Tracy Daugherty’s characters have a stubborn, wonderful realness to them, the sign of a writer absolutely alert to the complex world around us.”—Andrea Barrett, winner of the National Book Award

“Daugherty’s writing is deeply rooted in time and place and the historical events that color the characters’ lives. The effect of this is not nostalgia but a perspective on the relationship between the private and the public, the personal and the political. His characters are wholly realized, the writing as clean as sheets on a summer line.”—Robert Boswell, PEN West Award finalist

Two men walking in a desert, one using crutches, who’s shadows join in the center and turns into one man’s giant shadow with white script that reads High Skies by Tracy Daugherty.

Tracy Daugherty ( Author Website )

Publication Date: October 6, 2020

Genre/Imprint: Fiction, Red Hen Press

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ISBN: 978-1-59709-445-0

In the Key of New York City

Our lives are sublets anyway, and too quickly gone at that.

In this lively and deeply affecting memoir, Rebecca McClanahan tracks the heartbeat of New York as only a stunned newcomer can: in overheard conversations on park benches, songs and cries sifted through apartment walls, and in encounters with street people dispensing unexpected wisdom. Having uprooted their settled lives in North Carolina to pursue a long-held dream of living in Manhattan, she and her husband struggle to find jobs, forge friendships, and create a home in a city of strangers. The 9/11 attacks and a serious cancer surgery complicate their story, merging the public with the private, the present with the past, to shape a journey richer than either could have imagined.


“How brilliantly Rebecca McClanahan marries New York to the country of her life and imagination, thus recreating the city. One lives with her in this beautifully-wrought memoir as one lives in a New York apartment—hearing the neighbors breathe, inhaling the tense air, scanning the prairies of the streets, and greeting the mysteries of strangers as though no one has ever seen such things before. ‘Play each scene as if it were new,’ she quotes her teachers, who she says are dead. Yet their words live here. It’s no easy feat to make New York new. This writer does it wondrously.”
—Roger Rosenblatt, New York Times–bestselling author of Making Toast and The Boy Detective: A New York Childhood

“This book—by turns witty, thought-provoking, and moving—invites the reader to reflect on urban life in contemporary America. A keen observer of much that often passes unnoticed, this writer inspires us to reconsider the meaning of the insignificant events and circumstances of our own lives.”
—Kathleen Norris, New York Times–bestselling author of Dakota: A Spiritual Geography and The Cloister Walk

“The 9/11 essays in Rebecca McClanahan’s In the Key of New York City are wondrous, evoking the rich vibrancy of life in the city even as horrific events shadow the horizon. McClanahan, one of the finest practitioners of the creative essay in America today, daringly weaves the city and its creatures into a memorable and resilient testament: the world was changed, but New York endures.”
—David H. Lynn, Former Editor, the Kenyon Review

A black background with white script that reads In the Key of New York City a memoir in essays by Rebecca McClanahan.

Rebecca McClanahan ( Author Website )

Publication Date: September 1, 2020

Genre/Imprint: Memoir, Red Hen Press

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ISBN: 978-1-59709-850-2

We Need to Talk: A Memoir About Wealth

When Jennifer Risher joined Microsoft in 1991, she met her husband, and with him became an extra-lucky beneficiary of the dot-com boom. By their early thirties, they had tens of millions of dollars. Today, there are millions of people like her. Jennifer’s thought-provoking, personal story includes the voices of others in her demographic and explores the hidden impact of wealth on identity, relationships, and sense of place in the world. At a time when income inequality is a huge problem, our country’s economic system is broken, and money is still a taboo subject even among those closest to us, this engaging, introspective memoir is essential reading: a catalyst for conversation that demystifies wealth and inspires us to connect.


“An enlightening, deeply personal story written with introspection and grace, We Need to Talk explores how financial success impacts friendships, children, charity, and family. You need to read this book.” —Scott Cook, Co-founder of Intuit and member of the Giving Pledge

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Jennifer Risher ( Author Website )

Publication Date: September 15, 2020

Genre/Imprint: Memoir, Xeno Books

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ISBN: 978-1-93909-646-3

Unseen City

Unseen City is a multi-generational portrait of New York and the unexpected connections between a lonely Brooklyn librarian, a widower returning to his roots, and a ghost still lingering in a home that was once part of an activist-founded farming settlement.

In a city teeming with stories, how do lost souls find one another? It’s a question Meg Rhys doesn’t think she’s asking. Meg is a self-identified spinster librarian, satisfied with living with her cat, stacks of books, and her dead sister’s ghost in her New York City apartment. Then she becomes obsessed with an intriguing library patron and the haunted house he’s trying to research. The house has its own story to tell too, of love and war, of racism’s fallout and the ghost story that is gentrification, and of Brooklyn before it was Brooklyn. What follows is an exploration of what home is, how we live with loss, who belongs in the city and to whom the city belongs, and the possibilities and power of love.

GOLD MEDAL in the 2021 Independent Publisher Book Awards in Literary Fiction


“Gripping, moving, and vital, Unseen City asks how human life might defy its lifespan—in the throes of love, the conviction of belief, and each person’s mark upon a city that will survive them. For two days, I laughed at Amy Shearn’s wry humor and gasped at her gorgeous sentences; I couldn’t put this brilliant book down until its perfect final line (and I’m haunted still—which is appropriate, I suppose)!”—Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, bestselling author of June and Bittersweet

“Atmospheric, poignant, well-observed, and sneakily funny, Amy Shearn’s Unseen City is one from the heart, an absorbing read for all those who love Brooklyn, great writing, and the human spirit.”—Kevin Baker, bestselling author of The Big Crowd and America the Ingenious

​“If Amy Shearn’s fiction is as much fun to write as it is to read, that’s welcome news because it’s impossible to read her novels without wanting more, more, more. In true Shearn style, Unseen City is whip-smart, hilarious, and also deeply touching, and this story about mismatched New Yorkers finding common ground in a city they’ve decided—come hell or higher rent—to adore, will delight and charm you long after the last page.”—Courtney Maum, author of I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You and Touch and founder of the learning collaborative, The Cabins.

“In Unseen City Amy Shearn has written a sad and funny and profound book. This is a novel about grief and human connection, about today and yesterday. And it is damn hard to put down.”—Darin Strauss, bestselling author of Half a Life and More Than It Hurts You

“I wish I had written this book. I wish I could publish this book tomorrow. It’s smart, funny, and gorgeously written. I am in awe.”—Julia Fierro, author of The Gypsy Moth Summer and Cutting Teeth, and director of the Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop

Unseen City is a bold take on the way that history binds us and how our stories are woven into and overlap in the very interstices of the city. It is an entrancing story of falling in and out of love and grief with a city, a person, a home.”—Naomi Jackson, award-winning author of The Star Side of Bird Hill

A graphic design of the front of a city building more than three stories high with open windows and people standing inside and white script that reads Unseen City a novel by Amy Shearn.

Amy Shearn ( Author Website )

Publication Date: September 29, 2020

Genre/Imprint: Fiction, Red Hen Press

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ISBN: 978-1-59709-367-5

The Horse Who Bears Me Away

In the first section of The Horse Who Bears Me Away, “The Fall,” an assortment of characters descend inwardly to the point of personal despair. In the second section, “Anywhere but Omaha,” they begin, with difficulty, to see more clearly who and what they are and to climb their way out of the nadir. In the final section, “Mutation,” the characters embark on a path to transformation—an awakening into a new way of seeing and existing in a world that is constantly testing the validity of their identities. This collection of poems, Peterson’s seventh, challenges readers to consciously embrace the dark side of their American psyche and to reach past it to a new way of being at peace with both the known and the unknown, which is called freedom.


Jim Peterson’s poems arise from that place where the world we know touches against the world we have always suspected might be there. In this place, we hear the wind “lisping her two or three words / of prolonged astonishment.” A dream becomes “the body of a forest.” I have been a follower of Jim Peterson’s work for almost four decades and have rarely read a poem of his that did not surprise me. The poems in The Horse Who Bears Me Away are no exception. In flights of lyric glory and narratives that gallop heedlessly forward, these poems offer the delight of “knowing who we are and who we’ll never be.” Here are new delights. Draw close and savor them.—Al Maginnes, author of The Next Place 

This is the work of a mature poet who has risen to new heights. There’s heartbreaking beauty in these words—and in the feelings and insights behind them. On page after page, Jim Peterson grabs the treacherous, turning world by the throat and forces out its secrets. If you want to know what poetry can do for the spirit, read this book. Then read it again, and be even more thankful.—Clint McCown, author of The Dictionary of Unspellable Noises

The poems in Jim Peterson’s The Horse Who Bears Me Away live and breathe within the world of flesh, through bodies that discover and rediscover themselves in strange and miraculous ways. Voices, too, animate these pages—the voices of laid-off laborers, hobos, crows, cougars, slash pines, wind “voicing its concern,” mockingbirds, lost and dying friends, and waitresses in places where “hands know their roles by heart.” From the stunning prologue, where the speaker merges with the body and spirit of a horse, to the epilogue, in which a dream strips him bare “as if fresh from creation,” Peterson invites us, his lucky readers, “to ease into these hands and feet, / pulling this body on like an old coat / that was made for you.”—Rebecca McClanahan, author of In the Key of New York City

A charcoal sketch of the face of a horse with black text that reads The Horse Who Bears Me Away poems by Jim Peterson.

Jim Peterson

Publication Date: September 22, 2020

Genre/Imprint: Poetry, Red Hen Press

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ISBN: 978-1-59709-411-5

Pretzel, Houdini, & Olive: Essays on the Dogs of My Life

Told from the perspective of a self-identified “crazy dog lady,” these eleven interconnected essays follow one woman’s relations with five different dogs. Together, they travel over terrain spanning her husband’s battle with cancer, his death, her grieving process, and her rejoining the living as her dogs lead her forward from the other end of their leashes. Alongside her personal story, she considers such cultural issues as Americans’ unhealthy relationships with the natural world, ageism across species, Third World poverty and First World privilege, hoarding, and the meaning of happiness. This is not a sentimental “who-rescued-whom?” book about the healing power of animals. Instead, it explores one representative human’s relationships with dogs, with all their joys but also their frustrations, neuroses, and downright craziness.


Woven through these evocative memoir essays are the dogs of grief and joy—and of Kolkata. Street dogs and spirit dogs. Rescue dogs that we hope might rescue us. Dogs of myth and history. Daily dogs whose fur we can touch. After the loss of her partner, Rajiv, Debby Thompson found herself unprepared for what she calls “the animal part of loss,” the way “skin cries” for contact. In these stories—gritty, visionary, and heartbreaking—are the dogs of this world, the dogs of life, the dogs of now and of now-let’s-go!—Veronica Patterson, author of Sudden White Fan

In an intoxicating mix of myth and story, natural history, science, and memoir, Thompson cooks up a masterful exploration of the human bond with dogs. Rolling in the wake of unspeakable grief after the loss of her partner to cancer, she turns to one of the other constants in her life—the love of a good dog or a dumb dog or, really, almost any dog because the operative word there is “love,” that unconditional wet-nosed bodily kind of love that sustains us and gets Thompson out of bed every morning, the love that keeps her mind moving and keeps her alive as she writes her way out of the deep holes left by loss. Required reading for anyone who has lost someone and loved a dog—which is nearly everyone.—Steven Church, author of I’m Just Getting to the Disturbing Part: On Work, Fear, and Fatherhood

A blue cover with three dogs in the middle and white script at the bottom that reads Pretzel Houdini and Olive essays of the dogs of my life by Deborah Thompson.

Deborah Thompson

Publication Date: September 15, 2020

Genre/Imprint: Memoir, Red Hen Press

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ISBN: 978-1-59709-856-4

Animal Wife

Animal Wife is composed of fifteen stories unified by girls and women seeking liberation from family responsibilities, from societal expectations, from their own minds. They address the complexities of transitioning from innocence to experience and take on the anxiety of motherhood. The majority of the stories are set in an off-kilter version of our world, where the fantastical can exist side by side with—and reveal the absurdities of—the mundane. They often include monsters, mothers, and monstrous mothers.


“From the first sentence Animal Wife grabbed me and never let go. Sensual and intelligent, with gorgeous prose, it made me dizzy with its exploration and illumination of the inner and outer lives of girls and women.”—Ann HoodNew York Times bestselling author

“In this sparkling debut collection, Ehrlich draws on the dark undersides of fairytales to portray the growth, strangeness, and ferocity of childhood with haunting beauty. Each story takes us deeper into the rabbit hole: with mythical monsters and Ovidian transformations, girls discover their own strength and darkness. As the women in these stories cast about for freedom, they become dangerous beings themselves; Ehrlich reminds us how thin the line is between violence and desire. She is a master observer of the magic and mystery that lurk at the edge of our lives. This collection is the arrival of a startling and undeniable new talent in the world of genre-breaking fiction.”—Blair Hurley, author of The Devoted

“The stories in Lara Ehrlich’s Animal Wife are gorgeous and heartbreaking. They glide into each other, refract, and expand outward again, echoing seasons and change and longing. They cause astonishment and wonder. They ask: what does it mean to be in a body? What do we ever know about girlhood? It is a complex and rewarding read.”—Kristen Arnett, author of Felt in the Jaw and Mostly Dead Things

” Lara Ehrlich is a master stylist of the surreal, the fabulist, and the fantastic. I loved each of these whimsical, magical stories that centered around girls and women and their transformations (whether that be into women, mothers, or animals). I was particularly intrigued by the way Lara beautifully portrays the inner struggle between wildness and domesticity, the surreal elements of each story lending a mythical complexity to these conflicts. Really lovely and thought-provoking. Perfect for fans of Aimee Bender, Karen Russell, and Angela Carter. Also, if you’re a language-lover and (like me) find yourself highlighting gorgeous prose, this collection is full of lines like this: “In none of her lives will she be be brilliant or famous or content. Her mediocrity will hound her through a kaleidoscope of futures.” I deeply enjoyed every story (and sentence) and find myself still thinking about them and the ideas they raise days after. “—Joy Baglio, founder of Pioneer Valley Writer’s Workshop

A vintage graphic of a woman in a yellow apron with a wolf merged with her and black script that reads Animal Wife stories by Lara Ehrlich.

Lara Ehrlich ( Author Website )

Publication Date: September 8, 2020

Genre/Imprint: Red Hen Press, Short Stories

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ISBN: 978-1-59709-884-7


At the heart of Joshua Rivkin’s debut collection Suitor is a profound wrestling with desire, history, and the big questions of how we make and perform a self in the world. In conversation with the confessional tradition, Suitor begins with a sequence of poems about a mother’s boyfriends and lovers, and how these relationships inform the speaker’s own understanding about eros and masculinity. At the center of the book is a lyric essay, “The Haber Problem,” that moves beyond the self and personal history to retell the story of the scientist Fritz Haber. Later sequences and poems reflect on the past with erotic directness, longing, and lyric intensity. With grace and honesty, the poems of Suitor ask what it means to be a suitor in the fullest sense—to follow, to pursue, to chase the inexplicable hunger at the heart of desire.


For opulence of imagination and spareness of language, for musical savvy and analytical rigor, for a frankness that is both tender and unnerving in its nakedness, Joshua Rivkin’s Suitor is one of the best books of poetry, let alone first books, that I’ve read in a very long time. His prose meditation about his father and the moral culpability of the scientist, his lyrics about sex as a blueprint of the psyche, and his nuanced understanding of how children and parents create the story under the story of our civilization, is mature, formally masterful, and refreshingly free of moralizing cant, blame, or the desire to shame. Best of all, for all its tough-minded skepticism, it’s a book replete with an undeluded hopefulness.—Tom Sleigh, author of House of Fact, House of Ruin and The Land Between Two Rivers: Writing in an Age of Refugees

In Suitor, Joshua Rivkin’s field of vision is lyrically sweeping, moving through a mother’s series of boyfriends, to the pursuit of revisitations with a father known ‘best by departures and arrivals,’ to revisionist history, the speaker’s own suitors—as well as the speaker as suitor, a word which comes ‘from the Latin secutor, to follow.’ Here is a tenderly quiet and rigorous study on human behavior in familial, historical, and domestic spaces—of the body, the house, of intimacy and legacy. Like a tinkerer with a delicate touch, Rivkin attempts to untangle the knots of a kite unspooled—’a kite / caught in a tree high above ground / and there’s no way to bring it down / without breaking it or the branches.’ Yet what is ruptured in these poems is also a site of connection: of rendering what is lost over time and regained in memory as a bridge between the self and the world around him; Rivkin’s presence and awareness are tremendous gifts. He does not ‘tal[k] around anything,’ rather, he moves and bears witness across time, in and though bodies, tender moments of love, lust, and disappointment. The ‘past is not forgotten’ and the ‘story doesn’t change,’ but Rivkin’s sightline is always honest, seeking, and true. His is an astonishing debut.—Diana Khoi Nguyen, author of Ghost Of and Finalist for the National Book Award

In this dreamlike, lifelike gem of a book, Joshua Rivkin opens us to our deepest humanity, which is to say our deepest desire and fallibility and want. Suitor is a book of so many selves, all wanting . . . what? Connection may be one word for it, but, it seems to me, the mystery of what we truly wish for is the beating heart and restless soul of this book. With critical rigor and rigorous heart, Joshua Rivkin holds the mirror to the whole burning trouble of what we’re willing to do to call the thing we most want ours. Sometimes the answer is nothing. Sometimes the answer is burn the world down. This book is a secret and a marvel. I think it’s what we mean by confession, if we’re really honest with ourselves. Which, this book seems to remind us, we so rarely are.”—Gabrielle Calvocoressi, author of Rocket Fantastic and The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart

A graphic design of two wolves bighting each other whose necks turn into rope and black script that reads Suitor poems by Joshua Rivkin.

Joshua Rivkin ( Author Website )

Publication Date: September 1, 2020

Genre/Imprint: Poetry, Red Hen Press

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ISBN: 9781597098588

Sugar, Smoke, Song

Sugar, Smoke, Song is a collection of nine linked stories set in the Bronx, California, India, and Brazil. Following the secrets and passions of young women, these stories and their narrators cross genres and rules to arrive at unforeseen lives. A subway rider remembers enacting the gods with her estranged twin, a concert usher discovers her tango-dancing boyfriend’s lover, and a literacy worker confesses the gambles she and others have lost through the bluesy singers she admires. Told through semi-experimental play with nonlinear plots, plural narrators, and hybrid prose, these stories embody the experiences of Asian American women carrying histories both unseen and cyclically lived.


Sugar, Smoke, Song: The fire and guts of this material made a helix with the poetics and heart of the story. I was left breathless several times. This writer is on the cusp of inventing a signature language meant for telling this particular story.” —Lidia Yuknavitch

An orange background with an image of a girl with brown hair and white script that reads Sugar, Smoke, Song a novel by Reema Rajbanshi.

Reema Rajbanshi

Publication Date: August 25, 2020

Genre/Imprint: Red Hen Press, Short Stories

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ISBN: 978-1-59709-891-5

Summer of the Cicadas

Summer of the Cicadas is about a West Virginian town where a brood of Magicicadas emerges for the first time in seventeen years. The cicadas damage crops and trees, and swarm locals. Jessica, a former cop whose entire family was killed in a car crash two years earlier, is deputized during the crisis. Throughout the book, Jessica must deal with her feelings for her sister’s best friend, Natasha, who is a town council member. After Fish and Wildlife removes the swarm, Jessica must also confront the two-year anniversary of her family’s death, Natasha’s budding romance with a local editor, as well as a sudden but devastating loss that changes everything.


Chelsea Catherine is a bright, raw, original new voice in American fiction. Her prose is electric. And Summer of Cicadas was a novel I couldn’t put down.—Thomas Christopher Greene, author of The Perfect Liar

Many authors are good at writing about the body. Few authors excel at writing the body of the world, the way it moves through everyone: cicadas owning us, making us restless, flirtatious, fearful even; shadows hiding our shadows; the defeating pines; the teasing sun. Chelsea Catherine creates a natural world as real as her characters. But it’s not about her deft ability at description or setting; it’s about her deep understanding of how everything moves as one—people, moods, moments, manifestations—and the modern Romance (with a capital R) of it all.—Erica Dawson, author of When Rap Spoke Straight to God

A graphic design of a cicada insect in the center and red script that reads Summer of Cicadas a novel by Chelsea Catherine.

Chelsea Catherine ( Author Website )

Publication Date: August 18, 2020

Genre/Imprint: Fiction, Quill

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ISBN: 978-1-59709-483-2

Open the Dark

Marie Tozier’s Open the Dark is an exquisite collection of poems depicting a generational tapestry woven with the shared ebb and flow of land and sea and time. Loving hands, dyed sweet with raspberries and lingonberries, pass ancestral knowledge—of the hunt for seal and crab to pressing ironless, ruler-straight seams—from grandmother to mother, mother to daughter. This is a collection that beckons, like a mother’s warm embrace, into the vibrant scent and taste of Inupiaq Alaska.


“A sure sense of emplacement might be one of the most elusive and valuable qualities a poet can embody. Marie Tozier’s first book of poems clearly is emplaced in family, community, geography, history, and the seasonality of animals and plants in Western Alaska. An echo of Lorine Niedecker’s limpid trust in the truths of the physical world and the rage and sorrow of Layli Long Soldier’s work against the harm of cultural silencing rings through Open the Dark. Trust this direct, clear voice. Open yourself.”—Elizabeth Bradfield, author of Toward Antarctica

“Open the Dark is a book of understated lyric power. The traditional narratives of love and loss, which give us the lyric, are here taking place in a setting and among a people only recently making their way into the American canon. The low landscape of the north, with its arduously gathered gifts of subsistence, birds egg, berries, seals and mammals, the preciousness of sweetness, the implacable demand to labor, add an acute dimension to our usual scenes of love and family. Tozier’s naturally gifted lyric voice, soft-spoken, as is her tradition, conveys unforgettably a culture of steep intergenerational knowledge and honor, as well as its swift losses.”—Linda McCarriston, author of Talking Soft Dutch and Little River: New and Selected Poems

A coffee and tea stained brown background with brown text on top that reads Open The Dark poems by Marie Tozier.

Marie Tozier

Publication Date: August 11, 2020

Genre/Imprint: Boreal Books, Poetry

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ISBN: 978-1-59709-920-2

Beyond Repair: Living in a Fractured State

After recovering from a head-on collision and its attendant trauma, the author struggles to reconnect to a world in the throes of a form of cultural PTSD.

In 2011, my family was in a major car accident. We were hit head-on by a man in the throes of a heart attack. It took three years to recover from our injuries, and a couple more to deal with the aftereffects of trauma. When I finally returned to the world—as father and husband, friend and brother, writer and citizen—it became clear that our society was in its own traumatized state—reeling from the string of police shootings of unarmed African Americans, stunned by yet one more mass shooting. The people around me were displaying all the signs of PTSD—jumpiness, irritability, numbness—and, concordantly, my interactions out in daily life were becoming more dysfunctional, at times downright hostile. Us against them. Red vs. blue. Black vs. white. Rich vs. poor. That we were living in a progressive town inside a conservative county in the Mountain South only made things more volatile. I decided that if we were all living in a fractured society no longer recognizable, then it was up to me to re-engage in it. I would enter into encounters with people as conscious as possible of the potential divides and misunderstandings between us. I started with my neighborhood and town, then moved out into the counties around us, then traveled further out into the country. My goal: to connect.


Beyond Repair: Encounters in a Fractured World is a portrait of community in traumatized times. Sebastian Matthews documents dislocation, both psychic and physical, in these tightly crafted nonfiction vignettes. Whether the speaker is on the sidelines at his child’s soccer game, seeking help from the credit card fraud hotline, or in the elevator with a confused Alzheimer’s sufferer, Matthews enacts the difficulty and necessity of compassion. With wryly insightful observations, Beyond Repair brings us closer with every sentence to the deep repairing we need.—Beth Ann Fennelly, author of Heating & Cooling

In Beyond Repair, poet and memoirist Sebastian Matthews brings an epic consciousness to bear on the grudges and griefs, the tribalism and follies, that warp our politics from the historical to the mundane. Maybe it was the near-death experience from a car accident combined with his abundance of integrity that makes Matthews keenly attuned to inequalities and his place within the machinery of American culture. Maybe he’s just a guy who’s had enough of the nonsense. In this collection of lyric micro-essays, Matthews shares his perspective of those interactions—the microaggressions that Claudia Rankine exposed in her groundbreaking book Citizen, and this necessary and healing work reveals that to “check your privilege” is, after all, to practice a simple set of values we teach our children all the time: be kind and respectful of one another, be thankful for your good fortune, stand up for fairness. Why should it be so controversial to ask adults to do the same?—Gregory Pardlo, author of Air Traffic

“Beautifully written and timely, Beyond Repair weaves together personal and national traumas in a way that resonated particularly with me as a writer in North Carolina wrestling with race in the Trump era.”—David Graham, The Atlantic

An intro from Sebastian Matthews

Three images at the center, one of a pedestrian road sign, a second one of people in a museum, and a third of pedestrian signs printed on the road, with script that reads Beyond Repair Living in a Fractured State a memoir in essays by Sebastian Matthews.

Sebastian Matthews ( Author Website )

Publication Date: August 25, 2020

Genre/Imprint: Non-Fiction, Red Hen Press

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ISBN: 978-1-59709-436-8