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2023 Winter Debuts from RJF Women Writers Temim Fruchter, Karen Outen & Debbie Urbanski



(l-r): Temim Fruchter (photo by Leah James), Karen Outen (photo by Shana W. Graham), Debbie Urbanski (photo by Harold Kyle)


Temim Fruchter (RJFWA ’20), City of Laughter (Grove Press, January 2024)


“A rich and riveting debut spanning four generations of Eastern European Jewish women bound by blood, half-hidden secrets, and the fantastical visitation of a shapeshifting stranger over the course of 100 years.


“An ambitious, delirious novel that tangles with queerness, spirituality, and generational silence, City of Laughter announces Temim Fruchter as a fresh and assured new literary voice. The tale of a young queer woman stuck in a thicket of generational secrets, the novel follows her back to her family’s origins, where ancestral clues begin to reveal a lineage both haunted and shaped by desire. Electric and sharply intimate, City of Laughter zigzags between our universe and a tapestry of real and invented Jewish folklore, asking how far we can travel from the stories that have raised us without leaving them behind.”



Karen Outen (RJFWA ’18) Dixon, Descending (Dutton, February 2024)


“It is a powerful, heart-wrenching debut novel about ambition, survival, and our responsibility toward one another.


“Dixon was once an Olympic-level runner. But he missed the team by two-tenths of a second, and ever since that pain decades ago, he hasn’t allowed a goal to consume him. But when his charming older brother, Nate, suggests that they attempt to be the first Black American men to summit Mount Everest, Dixon can’t refuse. The brothers are determined to prove something—to themselves and to each other. Dixon interrupts his orderly life as a school psychologist, leaving behind disapproving friends, family, and one particularly fragile student, Marcus. Once on the mountain, they are met with extreme weather conditions, oxygen deprivation, and precarious terrain. But as much as they’ve prepared for this, Mt. Everest is always fickle. And in one devastating moment, Dixon’s world is upended. Dixon returns home and attempts to resume his job, but things have shifted: for him and for the students he left behind when he chose Mt. Everest. Ultimately, Dixon must confront the truth of what happened on the mountain and come to terms with who can and cannot be saved. Dixon, Descending offers us a captivating, shattering portrait of the ways we’re reshaped by our decisions—and what it takes to angle ourselves, once again, toward hope.”



Debbie Urbanski (RJFWA ’19), After World (Simon & Schuster, December 2023)


A groundbreaking debut that follows the story of an Artificial Intelligence tasked with writing a novel—only for it to fall in love with the novel’s subject, Sen, the last human on Earth.


“Faced with uncontrolled and accelerating environmental collapse, humanity asks an artificial intelligence to find a solution. Its answer is simple: remove humans from the ecosystem. Sen Anon is assigned to be a witness for the Department of Transition, recording the changes in the environment as the world begins to rewild. Abandoned by her mother in a cabin somewhere in Upstate New York, Sen will observe the monumental ecological shift known as the Great Transition, the final step in Project Afterworld. Around her drones buzz, cameras watch, microphones listen, digitizing her every move. Privately she keeps a journal of her observations, which are then uploaded and saved, joining the rest of humanity on Maia, a new virtual home. Sen was seventeen years old when the Digital Human Archive Project (DHAP) was initiated. 12,000,203,891 humans have been archived so far. Only Sen remains. [storyworker] ad39-393a-7fbc’s assignment is to capture Sen’s life, and they set about doing this using the novels of the 21st century as a roadmap. As Sen struggles to persist in the face of impending death, [storyworker] ad39-393a-7fbc works to unfurl the tale of Sen’s whole life, offering up an increasingly intimate narrative, until they are confronted with a very human problem of their own.”


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