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2023 Fall Debuts from RJFWA Winners Alma García (’07) & Elisa Gonzalez (’20)

(l-r): Alma García (photo by Meryl Schenker Photography) and Elisa Gonzalez (photo by Simon Bahçeli)

Alma García (RJFWA ’07), All That Rises (Camino del Sol-The University of Arizona Press, October 2023)

All That Rises is a story of families and conflict in El Paso, Texas. In this novel, mysteries are unraveled, odd alliances are forged, and the boundaries between lives blur in destiny-changing ways—all in a place where the physical border between two countries is as palpable as it is porous, and the legacies of history are never far away. There are no easy solutions to the issues the characters face in this story, and their various realities—as undocumented workers, Border Patrol agents, the American supervisor of a Mexican factory employing an impoverished workforce—never play out against a black-and-white moral canvas. Instead, they are complex human beings with sometimes messy lives who struggle to create a place for themselves in a part of the world like no other, even as they are forced to confront the lives they have made.”

Alma García’s award-winning short fiction has appeared in Narrative Magazine and most recently in phoebe and the anthology Puro Chicanx Writers of the 21st Century. Originally from El Paso and later from Albuquerque, she now lives in Seattle, where she teaches fiction writing at Hugo House and is a manuscript consultant. All That Rises is her first novel.

Elisa Gonzalez (RJFWA ’20), Grand Tour (FSG, September 2023)

Grand Tour, the debut collection of poetry by Elisa Gonzalez, dramatizes the mind in motion as it grapples with something more than an event: she writes of a whole life, to transcendent effect. By the end, we feel we have been witness to a poet remaking herself.

Gonzalez’s poetry depicts the fullness of living. There are the small moments: ‘white wine greening in a glass,’ trumpet blossoms ‘panicking across the garden.’ Some poems adopt the oracular quality of a parable but invariably refuse a clear moral. The poet moves through elegy, romantic and sexual encounters, family history, and place―Cyprus, Puerto Rico, Poland, Ohio―all constellated in ‘a chaos of faraway.’ The collection is held together less by answers than by a persistent question: How do you reconcile a hatred for the world’s pain with a love for that same world, which is indivisible from its worst aspects? Gonzalez’s poems draw us nearer to our own aliveness, its fragility and sustaining questions. ‘Since I do love the world,’ she says, she keeps writing, inviting us to accompany her as she searches.”

Elisa Gonzalez is a poet, essayist, and fiction writer. Her work appears in The New Yorker, New York Times Magazine, The Paris Review, and elsewhere. A graduate of Yale University and the New York University M.F.A. program, she has received fellowships from the Norman Mailer Center, Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, Rolex Foundation, and the U.S. Fulbright Program. She is the recipient of a 2020 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award. Her debut poetry collection, Grand Tour (FSG), was published in September 2023. Her debut novel, The Awakenings, and her first nonfiction book, Strangers on Earth, are also forthcoming from FSG.



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