Mixed Company: Stories, Jenny Shank ’98 (Texas Review Press). Shank’s evolving hometown of Denver provides the setting for her short fiction collection that explores “the sparks that fly when disparate people connect with each other.” As the city gentrifies, residents from different racial and economic backgrounds encounter one another, igniting tensions and altering perceptions. An essayist, satirist and author of the 2011 novel The Ringer, Shank received the George Garrett Fiction Prize for Mixed Company.
The Boundaries of Their Dwelling, Blake Sanz ’01MFA (University of Iowa Press). This story collection, the winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Award, follows characters between Mexico and the American South as they navigate culture shock and the tragicomic events in their personal lives. The book’s second part ponders the separation of a Mexican father and the son he leaves behind in Louisiana as their years unfold on both sides of the border. With “pitch-perfect details and lucid prose,” Iowa award judge Brandon Taylor says, Sanz has produced “a riotous collection of stories that together capture the tumult of what it means to be alive.”
Dare to Know, James Kennedy ’95 (Quirk Books). The firm that gives Kennedy’s sci-fi novel its title can predict people’s deaths to the second. In despair after a divorce and estranged from his sons, the narrator, an employee of the company, violates its ultimate rule and looks into his own death, only to discover that it already happened. To confirm whether it’s true, he has to travel across the country to find the woman he lost, confronting his past choices and the dark truth of his employer.
The New Existence, Michael Collins ’87, ’91M.A. (University of Iowa Press). Helen Price, wrestling with death, leaves a complicated inheritance to her own son, and to the son of her former boss. In a tale told from moving cars, the two men are propelled toward revelations that change their understanding of the past. Norman Price, a gay playwright, and Nate Feldman, a Vietnam draft dodger living in Canada, face crises old and new in Collins’ eighth novel.
You Sexy Thing, Cat Rambo ’89 (Tor Books). On a space station at the edge of the known universe, the wars of conquest over, Admiral Niko Larson and the remaining mercenaries from the Grand Military of the Hive Mind have opened a restaurant. Their peaceful life doesn’t last. Forced to flee, they discover that the ship they board to escape is a sentient machine that’s as resistant to their plans as their enemies are.