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Desiderata: Our Favorite Debuts of 2012
Matthew Dickman (Poetry Editor): The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin. This book is full of mystery, knowledge, and beauty as well as masterful storytelling. The images in the book feel like they were written by a poet, the landscape designed by a painter, and the plot conjured by a novelist who not only sees the world but understands it.
Rob Spillman (Editor of Tin House): Christopher Beha’s What Happened to Sophie Wilder. What I look for in a debut is not promise, but execution. Beha delivers in his first novel. The writing is confident and beautiful, while the big questions he asks about faith and love are profound and timeless.
Emma Komlos-Hrobsky (Editorial Assistant, Tin House Magazine): Having Been an Accomplice by Laura Cronk. I love, love, love this collection. I feel the same awe for the voice behind these poems that I had for my older cousins growing up–how could someone be so cool, know so much, and still want to talk to me? Cronk’s writing is smart but unguarded, ready to let you in and crack open both your and the speaker’s inner lives.
Cheston Knapp (Tennis Player): Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins. I’m a man who likes a deal, so I’m going to run with a two-fer here. One of my favorite debuts can also pass as one of my favorite short story collections: Battleborn. Get it. Read it. The emotional range of these stories is impressive and impressively wide. Subtle, seductive, simple, and severe.
Meg Storey (Editor, Books): No One Is Here Except All of Us by Ramona Ausubel. Set in a remote Jewish Romanian village on the eve of World War II, Ausubel’s debut novel explores the power of storytelling and how it can affect memory and history. When a stranger who has experienced the devastation happening throughout Europe washes up on the village shore, she convinces the villagers to start life over, to pretend the world has been born anew. Their willingness to rediscover and reexperience life and the fantastical quality that adds to Ausubel’s already magical realist prose makes the reader ask, If enough people were to reimagine the world, would it, in fact, change? As the stranger says, “When there is nothing left to do, and there is nowhere else to go, the world begins again.”
Nanci McCloskey (Director of Publicity): A Sense of Direction: Pilgrimage for the Restless and the Hopeful by Gideon Lewis-Kraus. I love this funny and thought-provoking memoir about looking for meaning and purpose in a world where it seems too easy to ignore the deeper questions. He expresses his anxieties so honestly and articulately, I couldn’t help feeling at points that he was speaking for me.