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11 authors to watch in 2019

Chanelle Benz, author of ‘The Man Who Shot Out My Eye is Dead’. CREDIT: Christine Jean Chambers
Chanelle Benz, author of the short story collection “The Man Who Shot Out My Eye is Dead.” Her first novel is due out in June.
(Christine Jean Chambers)

The last year was a great one for literature, and from early signs, 2019 could actually be even better. There’s no shortage of anticipated books coming out over the next several months, from debut authors and from those who already have a few books under their belt. Here are 11 authors who look all but certain to have a great 2019, presented with links to samples of their writing:

Chanelle Benz: Memphis-based author Benz made her literary debut in 2017 with the short story collection “The Man Who Shot Out My Eye Is Dead.” (She talked with The Times about the book that year.) Her first novel, “The Gone Dead,” due for a June release, has the potential to bring her gritty, audacious and often violent fiction to a wider audience. You can read her short story “The Mourners” at Electric Literature.

Richard Chiem: Authors including Dennis Cooper and Kate Zambreno have praised Seattle author Chiem for his deeply original short fiction, some of which was collected in the 2017 book “You Private Person.” Berkeley-based Soft Skull Press will publish his debut novel, “King of Joy,” about a troubled young woman dealing with a great loss, in March. You can read an excerpt from his novel at Pacifica Review.

Juliet Escoria: The San Diego-raised Escoria stunned critics with her 2014 short story collection, “Black Cloud,” and has been getting even more literary buzz for “Juliet the Maniac,” a dark coming-of-age novel that’s set to be published by indie press Melville House in May. For a taste of her brash fiction, you can check out her story “The Other Kind of Magic” at Vol. 1 Brooklyn.

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Marlon James: The Jamaican novelist is already well known to literary observers; his 2014 novel, “A Brief History of Seven Killings,” won the prestigious Man Booker Prize. February will see the release of his next novel, “Black Leopard, Red Wolf,” the first volume in a fantasy trilogy that he describes as an “African ‘Game of Thrones.’ ” To get a feeling for his bravura writing, you can read an excerpt from “Seven Killings” at Literary Hub.

Yiyun Li: Born and raised in Beijing, Li made her literary debut in 2005 with the critically acclaimed short story collection “A Thousand Years of Good Prayers.” Random House will publish her highly anticipated novel “Where Reasons End,” about a mother whose child commits suicide, in February. If you’re unfamiliar with her work, read her gorgeous, heartbreaking story “When We Were Happy We Had Other Names” at the New Yorker.

Valeria Luiselli: The Mexican author’s novel “The Story of My Teeth” and long essay “Tell Me How It Ends” were both finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her next book, a family road-trip novel called “Lost Children Archive,” tackles the issue of immigration, and has garnered praise from authors such as Tommy Orange and Max Porter. You can read her short story “Shakespeare, New Mexico” at Guernica Magazine.

Chigozie Obioma: Critics couldn’t say enough good things about the Nigerian author’s debut novel, “The Fishermen,” which was a finalist for the 2015 Man Booker Prize. His second book, “An Orchestra of Minorities,” which follows a poultry farmer who falls in love with a wealthy woman, has gotten ecstatic pre-publication reviews. Check out an excerpt from “The Fishermen” at The Punch Magazine.

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Morgan Parker: Los Angeles poet Parker became a literary sensation with her second collection, “There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé,” which was released to admiring reviews in 2017. Her next collection, “Magical Negro,” will be published by indie press Tin House in February, with her debut young adult novel “Who Put This Song On?” following later in 2019. You can read her poem “Magical Negro#607: Gladys Knight on the 200th Episode of The Jeffersons” at Electric Literature.

Maurice Carlos Ruffin: One of the most anticipated debut novels of 2019 is “We Cast a Shadow,” a dystopian satire about a man who considers getting a “demelanization” for his biracial son to spare him from the violence that faces African Americans. It’s the debut book from New Orleans author Ruffin, whose story “Beg Borrow Steal” you can read at the Kenyon Review.

Rion Amilcar Scott: The Maryland author stunned critics with his 2016 short story collection, “Insurrections,” which won the PEN American Robert W. Bingham Award for Debut Fiction. His follow-up, “The World Doesn’t Require You,” comes out in August, and has the potential to make Scott the breakout fiction writer of the year. His short story “Boxing Day” is available to read at Catapult magazine.

Ocean Vuong: Ho Chi Minh City native Vuong captured the imagination of the poetry community with his acclaimed collection “Night Sky with Exit Wounds,” which took home the prestigious T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry. In June, Penguin Press will publish his highly anticipated debut novel, “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous.” You can read his poem “Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong” at the New Yorker.


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