Justin St. Germain

Our congratulations go out to Justin St. Germain, who last week took home the 2013 Nonfiction prize awarded by Barnes & Noble’s Discover Great New Writers program. Discover Great New Writers director Miwa Messer has praised Germain’s Son of a Gun for the “raw, relentless honesty and emotional resonance” of its recollection of his mother’s life and murder, in Tombstone, Arizona.  Writing in The New York Times, Alexandra Fuller called it a “spectacular memoir,” adding that “if the brilliance of Son of a Gun lies in its restraint, its importance lies in the generosity of the author’s insights.”

This week, St. Germain celebrates three memoirs with the harrowing power of his own, and a shared spirit of overcoming fear and mourning to tell stories of immense power and acutely unique viewpoints. Like Son of a Gun, these truths – stranger than fiction – make for riveting reading.

Demon Camp
By Jennifer Percy

“Jennifer Percy’s excellent first book is many things: the harrowing story of a few Afghan war veterans, an investigation into PTSD, an arresting portrait of a country haunted by its wars, 200 pages of some of the best prose you’ll ever read. But the most striking aspect of Demon Camp is Percy’s fearlessness. She spends weeks at a time living in trailers with war widows, riding with strange men through rural Georgia, attending cultish religious services, even allowing herself to be exorcised. Like the best participatory journalists — her deadpan voice at times reminds me of Didion — she identified a marginal American experience and threw herself into it without regard for her physical or emotional well-being. It’s an unsettling, unique, and compelling book.”

(Editor’s Note: Demon Camp is a Spring 2014 Discover Great New Writers Selection.)

Young Widower
By John Evans

Young Widower takes an event that seems inconceivable — Evans’s wife, Katie, died at the age of thirty in a bear attack in Romania — and turns it into a beautiful book, at once an act of witness, an elegy for a remarkable woman, and a penetrating examination of grief. He makes Katie seem so alive on the page that by the end, I felt like I was mourning along with him. I admire Evans’s ability to write about this content at all, much less to do it so incredibly well.”

Son of the Morning Star: Custer and the Little Bighorn
By Evan S. Connell

“Not only did Evan S. Connell write one of my all-time favorite novels, Mrs. Bridge, he also gave us this odd, episodic, endlessly fascinating chronicle of the Indian Wars, especially Custer and the 7th Cavalry. Connell did a staggering amount of research, and the book pays particular attention to the stories of Native Americans and minor characters in Custer’s command, ranging into lush descriptions of the frontier, analysis of military tactics, and all sorts of interesting anecdotes. It’s an alternative to the dominant narrative about Custer and the American frontier, the story of the people involved, not just the events.”