Saturday, June 4, 2022

Six titles by women writing worlds in crisis

Erin Swan was born in Manhattan and lived there for ten years until her family moved upstate, where she started writing stories and poems. She used her early adulthood to travel, write children’s books, and work for a literary agency before going to teach English in India and Thailand. Swan earned her MA from Teacher’s College at Columbia University and began teaching in New York’s public school system in 2008.

[ Q&A with Erin Swan; The Page 69 Test: Walk the Vanished Earth]

While teaching full-time, Swan attended the MFA program at the New School and graduated with a degree in fiction. Her work has been published in various journals, including Portland Review, Atticus Review, The South Carolina Review, and Inkwell Journal, and her stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.

Walk the Vanished Earth is Swan's first novel.

At Lit Hub she tagged "six standout books by fellow women writers, books I believe are must-reads for those seeking to explore this current juncture in history, as we challenge our past and question what our future will bring." One title on the list:
Meredith Westgate, The Shimmering State

Meredith Westgate’s debut novel is set in the land of dreams known as Los Angeles. Amid the organic fast-food stands, movie-star hopefuls, and wildfires burning in the Hollywood hills, two young transplants attempt to find their way. Sophie is a talented ballet dancer who pays the rent waitressing at an upscale restaurant. Sensitive and optimistic, she envisions a promising future for herself. Lucien is a more broken character, a photographer still grieving his artist mother even as he cares for his grandmother, who is bedridden with Alzheimer’s.

The speculative element in this novel is a drug: Memoroxin—Mem, for short—a luminescent pill intended to assist dementia patients by feeding their own memories back to them. Mem quickly floods the recreational drug market, in high demand from those seeking to escape their own realities via the memories, and identities, of others. At the beginning of the novel, Sophie and Lucien meet at a rehab center for people whose lives have been upended by Mem. As Westgate investigates their present realities and tangled memories, she charts what has brought them to this moment. How has this land of dreams failed these two young people, she asks, and what more might be possible if they can find their way out of it?
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue