Last minute shoppers might want to consider some good books from any of the seven authors who were short-listed for the 2016 First Novel Prize from The Center for Fiction.

The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter by Kia Corthron follows two sets of brothers from World War II through the civil rights movement. One set begins as small-town Alabama teenagers, one brilliant, the older deaf and uneducated. The other pair, six and 12 when we meet them, are the gifted and artistic sons of a Pullman Porter in Maryland.

The Girls by Emma Cline picks up later in the turbulent sixties when teenage Evie gets drawn into the intrigue of a Manson-like cult.

In Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn, two sisters face the challenges that come with a new hotel that will change their small village in Jamaica and impact the girls’ lives. The older sister, Margot, forced into prostitution to survive, works desperately to save her little sister from the same fate.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi concerns two half-sisters in 18th century Ghana and their descendants. Unknown to each other, one sister, Effia, marries an Englishman and lives in a castle. The other, Esi, is captured, imprisoned in the castle dungeon, and shipped to America. Effia’s children become Gold Coast political leaders, while Esi’s descendants travel the course of American history from slavery through the 20th century.

In How I Became a North Korean by Krys Lee, three young people meet at the North Korean border with China. Danny, an American of Korean descent, goes to meet his missionary mother after being humiliated at school. Yongiu, from a prominent North Korean family, escapes to avoid prosecution. Jangmi, an impoverished smuggler, flees to protect her unborn child.

In We Love you, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge, the Freeman family is recruited to live an experiment that requires them to move to a small rural community and treat Charlie, a chimpanzee, as a member of their family. But all is not as it seems. Teenage Charlotte discovers the questionable past of the institute as her family suffers from its odd composition and racial isolation.

What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell, follows an American teacher in Bulgaria who becomes sexually involved with a young hustler in a relationship that becomes predatory on both sides. He grows to recognize the similarities between his own life and the griefs of the country he is in.

VALLEY WRITERS

Mike Graf’s book, Secrets of the Sequoias, about the adventures of his peripatetic Parker family in Sequoia and Kings Canyon, was released in November. Besides the giant trees, twins Morgan and James encounter bears, waterfalls, granite domes, caves, and Mt.
Whitney. Mike’s books are popular for their informative content as well as their fun adventures. He also often speaks at schools on a variety of topics.

Jaye C. Blakemore of Visalia has published a mystery/romance novel, Double Identity, involving identical twins and secret lives. The twins are separated at the age of three, following their parents’ divorce. Gillian is raised in the U.S. by her billionaire art collector father, Julianne, with her vintner mother in France. Jaye C., an avid traveler who has visited every U.S. state, began writing the novel in hotel rooms during her travels. Having been bitten by the writing bug, she is now working on two more books.

Bill DeCarteret has a book out on his years as a High Sierra packer. Mountains, Mules, and Memories is about Bill’s 25 years as the owner and operator of Mineral King Pack Station. His association with the Sierra and packing reaches back even farther. In 1945 he began packing near Huntington Lake for another outfit. Bill’s stories of caring for mules, horses, and people on mountain trails unfold with humor and insight.

SUBMIT YOUR STORIES

Glimmer Train calls itself “one of the most writer-friendly publications in print.” This includes first-time authors. Their statistics show that 63 percent of their first-place winning stories over the last two years were the authors’ first print publications. Go to: glimmertrainpressinc.submittable.com/submit.

THE LAST WORD

“Every gift that is given, even though it be small, is in reality great, if it is given with affection.” – Pindar (552 BC – 433 BC)