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Break Away Books

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If You Need Me I’ll Be Over There

Dave Madden

After the Plains queered him, Dave Madden decided to return the favor. This outstanding collection of short stories tells the tale of a different kind of difference—one not set in the glittering lights of New York or Los Angeles, but in the grand and wide American Midwest. For Madden’s characters, their queerness is part of the environment, like the soil, the sky, and the supermarket: an HIV-positive chemist uses football to connect with his brothers; a 17-year-old girl tussles with a cartoon cobra to avoid thinking about the mother who abandoned her; and a hotel concierge starts attending Mass even though his partner was molested by a priest. In seeking out the ordinary struggles of extraordinary people trying to figure out their place within families and communities, Madden masterfully explores what it means to be an outsider always looking in.

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The Last Studebaker

A Novel

Robin Hemley

In 1963, when Lois Kulwicki's father loses his job at Studebaker along with hundreds of other workers, he acts as if he has just been promoted. He buys a new car (the only non-Studebaker he's ever purchased) and takes his family on vacation. On the way home, Mom dumps Dad at a Stuckey's, and that's the last they see of him.

Thirty years later, Lois has a family of her own, as fractured as her childhood family. Divorced but still living with her ex, she decides to move out with her two daughters and start over but then a stranger named Henry enters their lives. Out of this ersatz family, Lois tries to recover something of what she lost, beginning with a search for her abandoned father. The Last Studebaker is a warmly comic tale of lives changed forever, after the last Studebaker rolled off of the assembly line.

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Leave the Dogs at Home

A Memoir

Claire S. Arbogast

Claire and Jim were friends, lovers, and sometimes enemies for 27 years. In order to get health insurance, they finally married, calling their anniversary the "It Means Absolutely Nothing" day. Then Jim was diagnosed with cancer. With ever-decreasing odds of survival, punctuated by arcs of false hope, Jim's deteriorating health altered their well-established independence as they became caregiver and patient, sharing intimacy as close as their own breaths. A year and a half into their marriage, Jim died from lung/brain cancer. Sustained by good dogs and gardening through the two years of madness that followed, Claire soldiered through home repairs, career disaster, genealogy quests, and "dating for seniors" trying to build a better life on the debris of her old one.Leave the Dogs at Home maps and plays with the stages of grief. Delightfully confessional, it challenges persistent, yet outdated, societal norms about relationships, and finds relief in whimsy, pop culture, and renewed spirituality.

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Looking After Minidoka

An American Memoir

Neil Nakadate

During World War II, 110,000 Japanese Americans were removed from their homes and incarcerated by the U.S. government. In Looking After Minidoka the "internment camp" years become a prism for understanding three generations of Japanese American life, from immigration to the end of the twentieth century. Nakadate blends history, poetry, rescued memory, and family stories in an American narrative of hope and disappointment, language and education, employment and social standing, prejudice and pain, communal values and personal dreams.

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My Life as a Silent Movie

A Novel

Jesse Lee Kercheval

After losing her husband and daughter in an auto accident, 42-year-old Emma flies to Paris, discovers she has a twin brother whose existence she had not known about, and learns that her birth parents weren't the Americans who raised her, but a White Russian film star of the 1920s and a French Stalinist. A story about identity and the shaping function of art, My Life as a Silent Movie presents a vividly rendered world and poses provocative questions on the relationship of art to life.

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Reply All

Stories

Robin Hemley

Reply All, the third collection of award-winning and widely anthologized short stories by Robin Hemley, takes a humorous, edgy, and frank look at the human art of deception and self-deception. A father accepts, without question, the many duplicate saint relics that appear in front of his cave everyday; a translator tricks Magellan by falsely translating a local chief's words of welcome; an apple salesman a long way from home thinks he's fallen in love; a search committee believes in its own nobility by hiring a minority writer; a cheating couple broadcast their affair to an entire listserv; a talk show host interviews the dead and hopes to learn their secrets. The ways in which humans fool themselves are infinite, and while these stories illustrate this sad fact in sometimes excruciating detail, the aim is not to skewer the misdirected, but to commiserate with them and blush in recognition.

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Sightings

Stories

B. J. Hollars

B. J. Hollars’s debut short story collection offers ten thematically linked tales, all of which are out to subvert conventional notions of the midwestern coming-of-age story. The stories feature an assemblage of Bigfoot believers, Civil War reenactors, misidentified Eskimos, and grief-stricken clowns, among other outcasts incapable of finding a place in their worlds. In these marvelous stories, we can join a family on a very 21st-century trip along the Oregon Trail, watch as a boy builds a brother from a vacuum cleaner, follow a sandlot baseball team as it struggles to overcome an invasion by its Native American neighbors, and experience how a high school basketball squad takes to Sasquatch roaming its court. This genre-bending collection charts a bizarre pathway through the thickets of life on the road to adulthood. Pushing the limits of realism, these stories capture the peculiar rites of passage of growing up midwestern.

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The Swan

A Novel

Jim Cohee

Ten-year-old Aaron Cooper has witnessed the death of his younger sister, Pookie, and the trauma has left him unwilling to speak. Aaron copes with life's challenges by disappearing into his own imagination, envisioning being captain of the Kon Tiki, driving his sled in the snowy Klondike, and tiger hunting in India. He is guarded by secret friends like deposed Hungarian Count Blurtz Shemshoian and Blurtz's wonder dog, Nipper, who protect him from the creature from the Black Lagoon-who hides in Aaron's closet at night. The tales he constructs for himself, the real life stories he is witness to, and his mother's desperate efforts to bring her son back from the brink, all come to a head at an emotional family dinner. Set in Indianapolis in 1957, The Swan is a fictional memoir about enduring love and the weighty nature of mortality.

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This Is Only a Test

B.J. Hollars

On April 27, 2011, just days after learning of their pregnancy, B. J. Hollars, his wife, and their future son endured the onslaught of an EF-4 tornado. There, while huddled in a bathtub in their Alabama home, mortality flashed before their eyes. With the last of his computer battery, Hollars began recounting the experience, and would continue to do so in the following years, writing his way out of one disaster only to find himself caught up in another. Tornadoes, drownings, and nuclear catastrophes force him to acknowledge the inexplicable, while he attempts to overcome his greatest fear—the impossibility of protecting his newborn son from the world’s cruelties. Hollars creates a constellation of grief, tapping into the rarely acknowledged intersection between fatherhood and fear, sacrifice and safety, and the humbling effect of losing control of our lives.

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The Tribal Knot

A Memoir of Family, Community, and a Century of Change

Rebecca McClanahan

Are we responsible for, and to, those forces that have formed us—our families, friends, and communities? Where do we leave off and others begin? In The Tribal Knot, Rebecca McClanahan looks for answers in the history of her family. Poring over letters, artifacts, and documents that span more than a century, she discovers a tribe of hardscrabble Midwest farmers, hunters, trappers, and laborers struggling to hold tight to the ties that bind them, through poverty, war, political upheavals, illness and accident, filicide and suicide, economic depressions, personal crises, and global disasters. Like the practitioners of Victorian "hair art" who wove strands of family members' hair into a single design, McClanahan braids her ancestors' stories into a single intimate narrative of her search to understand herself and her place in the family's complex past.

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