Domenica Ruta

When Domenica Ruta sent her first Guest Books contribution our way last June, it was a collection of memoirs she was touting. “Until very recently,” wrote Ruta, “memoirs were not something I reached for when I was hungry for a good read. Before I set out to write one myself, I could count the number of memoirs I’d read on one hand, and most of those books had been assigned reading in college. Personal narratives are now a big part of my literary diet.”

This week the newly crowned Discover Great New Writers finalist (for her stark and powerful coming-of-age autobiography, With or Without You) continues to find personal narrative in new places: a novel of the Iraq War, reportage of daily life in North Korea, and the poetry of an American divorce. In each Ruta finds the open-hearted candor of her own work, and tender, lyrical views of real world dangers and dramas.

The Yellow Birds
By Kevin Powers

The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers is a gorgeous, haunting evocation of a war that no one, not even those inside it, seems to understand. With lyrical beauty and brutal precision, Powers takes us from the deserts of Iraq to the countryside of rural Virginia, both the psychological landscape of a young man who cannot escape the consequences of the war he fought. Shifting elegantly between nightmare of active combat to the anxiety dream of life back home, Powers demonstrates with poetic grace the grip this international war on one young man’s life. There is a certain mastery that only poets can achieve in fiction, and Kevin Powers has done just that.”

Nothing to Envy
By Barbara Demick

“I knew very little about North Korea until I read an excerpt of a book by Barbara Demick, and became desperate to know everything I could. Her book Nothing To Envy chronicles the lives of six ordinary people living in an Orwellian nightmare. With startling, cinematic clarity and riveting, deeply personal drama, this book reads like a dystopian novel, except every word of it is true. An important, eye-opening book that is also a beautiful, fascinating read.”

Stag’s Leap
By Sharon Olds

“Sharon Olds has been a fixture of American poetry since her first book was published over thirty years ago but she remains as vital and astounding as ever. Her latest collection, Stag’s Leap, is the devastating chronicle of the abrupt end to her long marriage. At once confessional and universal, Olds maps what she thought was the familiar territory of love, sex, and family and mines heartbreaking, existential truths that hurt to behold. The result is a meditation of life and all its ineluctable endings that will change your views forever.”