woo - love love - book jacketThe best part about being a temp was what Judy Lee had decided to do an hour ago: leave for lunch and never come back. She counted the number of the daily Far Side calendar sheets pinned on the gray wall of her cubicle, twenty-five in all. She rose from her chair and plucked away her favorite, the one where the fat boy with glasses was pushing with all his might to open the door. The joke was that the kid trying to enter the building, Midvale School for the Gifted, wasn’t smart enough to follow the sign on the door that read pull. At some point in her life, she’d owned a shirt with the same cartoon, the silk screen in full color unlike this grayscale image. She’d bought it because she felt sorry for him. She’d done stupid things like that all her life, and she wasn’t even a genius, not even close.

The Lower Quarter cover art hi res (2)Elizam smiled at the congratulatory email on his screen. It had been his first real job for the Lost Art Register, the first investigative work that had gone beyond a basic due-diligence search to ensure that some painting about to go on auction had not been reported stolen. This had been his first recovery job, and it had been successful. It had been Eli who had recognized the hand of amateurs, who had flown to Kansas City and suspected at first glance two security guards taking a cigarette break outside the art-storage facility from which the small Henry Moores had gone missing. It had been Eli who had followed them for three days, who had got the cops—that old enemy—to the right place at the right time: the moment the thieves met up with their loser local fence, statues stupidly in hand.

Cover_BenchereInWonderland“Take it then,” the partners told him. “We obviously overestimated your grasp of the situation. You clearly don’t get it. Do you honestly think you can sell your work without our firm behind you? Do you think anyone else will – what’s the word you used? – bite? Go ahead then.”

Revelator CoverAnd often there were those who peddled wares not for the flesh but for the eternal soul as prescribed by the Almighty, for in the progress of this new nation all faiths seemed possible, and all manifestations of the Creator seemed true. Now there were those who gathered in the forests and bathed in the rivers, and so many playing children were unwittingly greeted by the pale, liberated flesh of the godly— oh, to be a lad before those wilting and corpulence, to feel the breath quicken as a sagged woman coos from the brush, or a flaccid man pleads for a roll in the needles and leaves. Oh, to believe with deepest faith that in another’s flesh one finds the Almighty’s light! And there were those who would not murder nor eat the flesh of animals, supping upon only what they found growing from the land. And there were those who uncovered the flesh of men buried, and these were seen wandering with burlap sacks and crowbars and sniffing at the soil. And there were those who lived twelve or more within the same house and worked no jobs, choosing rather to till the soil and raise livestock, to feast upon the bounty of their labor. And here the men slept in rooms across from the women, but no sex frolicked with the other, for to fornicate was considered the foulest sin. And now pregnant women were excommunicated and sent to live amongst the sinners of the land while the implanter of the seed was but reprimanded, for “a man’s lusts are the deepest of all nature’s transgressions” and it was well know that “the female encourages and lures the male.” And some called for an end to priests, for one man should not stand as gatekeeper to another man’s salvation. 

DeancoverNext day I went over to Aunt Oleta’s and she gave me the biggest dressing down you ever heard even though I hand-picked a bunch of wildflowers for her. She was wound tighter than Dick’s hatband that day, but she was glad to see me and made me eat a leftover salmon patty with a side of macaroni and cheese after she fixed my face up with a big Ace bandage. A tree branch or something had scratched my face worse than a wildcat. I thought it made me look tough, but she insisted on making me look like a dork with a big bandage on my face. She said I looked plumb wild, and she made me strip down naked right there in the kitchen, which I didn’t want to do because of the tattoo Rusty had given me. I tried to turn away from her so she wouldn’t see and she near about had a conniption fit! She licked her fingers and tried to rub it off but it wouldn’t come off. She gave me a mean look and let go of my arm and just pointed to the bathroom in silence. I took a bath with Clarence peeking in and pestering me not to use all his Mr. Bubble the whole time. Aunt Oleta threatened to burn my clothes, but instead, she hauled them off to the laundry room.

MarvelandaWonder1-509x800The boy was still asleep at seven. The grandfather went downstairs, buttered some toast, ate, then puttered off into the field to check on the corn. It was just past his knees now, the leaves a keen, rich green. He squatted there among the rows, poking his fingers deep into the soil, cupping some of it in his palm, taking in the pleasant corruptness of the dirt.

He came inside, started a pot of coffee, and saw the feed store calendar with a red X marking the date. It was the boy’s birthday. The grandfather stared at the X solemnly, went upstairs, got dressed, opened the boy’s bedroom door and saw him snoring facedown on the pillow, then decided to let him sleep.

LostCanyon1-136x200The picture opened on Gwen’s computer, revealing a lake framed by pine trees, a backdrop of snow-covered peaks. A small stream flowed from the lake and when she looked very close, Gwen could almost see the water moving, the clouds drifting over the mountains. She imagined herself in the scene—the warm sun on her skin, the smell of pine—and felt her breathing slow, her shoulders ease. Just for a moment she forgot where she was—in a dingy building on 103rd Street in Watts.

9781501106781Chapter 1

The First Letter


Every night I wake from dreaming. Memory squeezing the trigger of my heart and blood surging through my veins.

The dreams go into a journal. Cold sweat on my skin, adrenaline in my blood, I illuminate my cement room with the 40-watt bulb hanging overhead and, huddled under blankets, flip open my notebook and spill ink across the feint-ruled page. Capturing the ephemera of dreams, before they fade from memory.

I dream of teenage girls, parading the Ox Demons and Snake Ghosts around the running tracks behind our school. I dream of the tall dunce hats on our former teachers’ ink-smeared heads, the placards around their necks. Down with Headteacher Yang! Down with Black Gangster Zhao! I dream of Teacher Wu obeying our orders to slap Headteacher Yang, to the riotous cheers of the mob.

51T6EkMTIlL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_The people on the hill liked to say that God’s smile was the sun shining down on them. In the late afternoon, before scarlet ibis bloodied the sunset, light flooded the stained glass windows of Bird Hill Church of God in Christ, illuminating the renderings of black saints from Jesus to Absalom Jones. When there wasn’t prayer meeting, choir rehearsal, Bible study, or Girl Guides, the church was empty except for its caretaker, Mr. Jeremiah. It was his job to chase the children away from the cemetery that sloped down behind the church, his responsibility to shoo them from their perches on graves that dotted the backside of the hill the area was named for. Despite his best intentions, Mr. Jeremiah’s noontime and midnight devotionals at the rum shop brought on long slumbers when children found freedom to do as they liked among the dead.

9780525427421On the last day of August in 1970, and a month shy of her fourteenth birthday, Jory’s father drove his two daughters out to an abandoned house and left them there.

The trip had not taken long. Her father piloted the car with resolute determination toward the very edge of town. He drove past the railroad tracks and the fish hatchery and the rodeo grounds, past the sugar beet factory and the slaughterhouse and the meatpacking plant; all the while Jory stared out the window in a silent fury. Next to her in the Buick’s backseat, Grace was practically unconscious. She lay slumped over with her head resting accidentally on Jory’s shoulder, her drool dampening the upper portion of Jory’s T-shirt. Jory gave her sister a shove and then turned toward the window. Black Cat Lane and Chicken Dinner Road and Floating Feather rolled past—long, twisty lanes sided with fields of sugar beets and alfalfa and corn. Jory watched a lone mallard drop and skid like a bomber onto an irrigation ditch while three goats perched king of the hill–style on a salvaged roof a farmer had put out for them. Her father continued on past several vast silagey-smelling feedlots, and then the fields grew even larger and the scenery more sparse and the houses less frequent, and finally he turned down a narrow unpaved lane that Jory had never seen before. Then he stopped the car and opened the door. Jory refused to look up at the strange house where she and her sister were now to live. She sat in the backseat with her hands between her knees until her father pulled her forcibly out of the car and set her on her feet in the dirt.

Paris He Said_coverAs Jayne made final preparations to leave New York for Paris during the first few days of June, a heat wave turned the sky ashen with trapped pollution and unshed rain. The people she passed on the street seemed more short-tempered than usual, and no one met her gaze other than schoolchildren who glanced up at her with innocent apathy. For a long time she had assumed that poverty or loneliness, or both, would force her to flee the city, but instead she had met an older man who invited her to trade Manhattan for his home in Paris. She said yes with little hesitation.

LB_lThe parts truck rattles and buzzes around us, screaming from years of abuse it has taken from drivers like Spanky. My father would shit himself if he really knew what kind of idiots worked in his parts department. We’re barreling down 219 with a stack of bed liners in back bouncing frantically under strained bungee cords. Spanky fiddles with the radio until he settles on a station, and the clatter of a loosened door panel is replaced by the shrill voice of a hip-hop deejay. After a moment, he has the wheel with his knee so he can work a glass bowl and lighter with his hands. My foot gravitates to an imaginary brake pedal the more we gain on the car in front of us.

“Shit’s fucked up, dude, you know?” This is less like a question when it seeps with a plume of smoke from Spanky’s chapped lips. I don’t respond because that’s what he says, no matter the context. He could be standing at the scene of a horrific accident, blood-drenched bodies and twisted metal, or he could just be walking out of church after a long, soul-quenching service, and in either case, he would probably give that look and say the same thing—Shit’s fucked up, dude, you know? Now he’s telling me another story about a young Canadian girl and what I’ve been missing all my life. I’m trying not to listen, actually, as he competes with the thumping and barking of the radio.

All This Life_FINALSara’s adding more hot water to her bath. She does this with her big toe, moving the dial so the scalding reinforcements pour into the tub. First, her lower legs feel the temperature crank and the sensation slowly moves up her small body, the water working toward her head.

Confession of the Lioness book coverThe night before, the order had been issued in our house: The women would remain shut away, far from those who would be arriving. Once again, we were excluded, kept apart, extinguished.

The following morning, I got down to the household chores. I wanted to give my mother a rest, for she had been lying, ever since the early morning, at the entrance to the yard. At one point I lay down next to her, determined to share with her some of the burden of one who feels the weight of her soul. She took no notice of me at first. Then she mumbled between gritted teeth:

This village killed your sister. It killed me. Now it’s never going to kill anyone again.

Paper Man cover finalThe other pedestrians had been prepared. They popped open their parasols, which had been conveniently stowed inside their bags, strapped to their belt buckles, or in their hands. Strangely, everyone had the same style: a short, wooden handle with black fabric for the canopy. A few men loosely tented newspapers over their heads and dashed for cover. A stocky woman lowered the hood of her stroller and tightened the blankets around a baby. The only parts of the baby that could be seen were its hands, in motion like little pincers. Small nomadic groups of hooded people were headed in all directions—he had no sense which way led to the best place for shelter. Some hid indoors; some huddled beside a bus stop with a small overhang only large enough to cover a bench that could seat three. He stepped into the crosswalk and tried to duck under other people’s umbrellas. Underneath them, the stiff faces of the owners glared at him, recoiled, and hurried on.