THERE ARE FIRST NOV­ELS AND THEN THERE ARE DE­BUTS

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight Debut Fiction - BY MICHELLE ANNE SCHINGLER

First nov­els, as we think of them, are more an ac­cre­tion of bursts of in­spi­ra­tion than they are a grand en­trance. Most of­ten, they’re not the books that au­thors will most want to be associated with later. They of­ten veer far afield of more prac­ticed work. As read­ers, we read­ily ex­cuse mis­takes in first nov­els, since they are sim­ply an author’s in­tro­duc­tory at­tempts. De­buts, though—de­buts are all about mak­ing a mem­o­rable en­trance, about stak­ing claim to hon­ored space in lit­er­ary cir­cles. They are the here I am! that won’t be ig­nored.

Think of the debu­tant balls of yore, where, af­ter what seems to be a life­time of prepa­ra­tion, new adults prance out in all of their fin­ery, pre­sent­ing them­selves to so­ci­ety with pomp, promis­ing per­sonal great­ness. Now, hold the ar­ti­fice (sorry, debs), trans­fer the care­ful ar­range­ments to the page, and wait in ex­pec­ta­tion for the de­frilled lit­er­ary equiv­a­lent: the first novel with flair. The un­for­get­table hello. The pages that daz­zle you with their orig­i­nal­ity and brav­ery and in­di­vid­u­al­ity, whose char­ac­ters and lines sear into you, leav­ing an im­pres­sion ever af­ter.

While we are ap­pre­cia­tive of the sea­soned au­thors whose names carry fa­mil­iar­ity and of whom we know what to ex­pect, what we love even more is the thrill of en­coun­ter­ing an author who ex­hibits true artistry. From is­sue to is­sue, and fea­ture to fea­ture, great de­but au­thors and their works wield a par­tic­u­lar kind of charm for us, a magic that we hold pre­cious.

In this de­but fic­tion spot­light, we have gath­ered the books of twenty such au­thors—writ­ers of un­com­mon skill, with ex­em­plary and awe­some per­spec­tives, whose en­trances war­rant spe­cial at­ten­tion. We have new takes on South­ern lit­er­ary tales, and rich, hu­man­iz­ing new ap­proaches to historical mo­ments. We have short story col­lec­tions burst­ing with bot­tled magic.

One novel takes a hy­brid form to ex­plore iden­tity and trans­for­ma­tion in a post-apoc­a­lyp­tic set­ting; an­other takes on the af­ter­math of Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina, peer­ing through one fam­ily’s ex­pe­ri­ences to ex­plore the fragility of hu­man de­fenses. These books em­body global in­sights; there are Inuit and Jor­da­nian sto­ries here, LGBTQ per­spec­tives, and more than one take on the end of the world.

No mat­ter how broadly rep­re­sen­ta­tive the sto­ries they hold, what binds all of these books to­gether is this: they are un­for­get­table. That they are de­but works is just a bonus—just a hint of other great sto­ries to come.

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