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Steamboat Magazine

Dive Into Books for Literary Sojourn

06/20/2023 07:00AM ● By Jennie Lay
(Oscar Hokeah, author of Calling for a Blanket Dance. Photo by Dalton Perse.)

From Steamboat Magazine Home Edition 2023. 

Steamboat Springs’ insatiable book lust launched the inspiration for an author festival in the Yampa Valley three decades ago. The idea was to bring big-name writers together on a local stage for readers to absorb the impulses and inspirations that spawn their award-winning stories. It took root with the Bud Werner Library, growing a literary tradition that has become one of Steamboat’s most beloved fall events. The past 30 years have brought more than 150 notable authors into the community, including dozens of Booker, Pulitzer and National Book Award honorees, for the single-day event. The 2023 lineup of five writers and their exceptional books continues to raise the bar. 

Introducing a well-rounded Literary Sojourn reading list to tide you over from spring break through summer vacation, and get you psyched to meet the authors in person on Saturday September 9, 2023. 

How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water | By Angie Cruz

Cara is irresistible. She is a warm, unabashedly honest protagonist in this inventively structured story that is essentially an unemployment assistance interview. What emerges is alternatingly humorous and heartbreaking, revealed in the raw words of a Dominican woman who has long balanced heavy lifting and emotional work for family, friends and her rapidly gentrifying community. Cara’s story is an intimate unraveling of the long immigrant struggle in New York, and her multi-part confessional inside a bureaucratic office ultimately constructs a poignant portrait of America. 

Go deeper with Angie Cruz | Dominicana was a finalist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, a coming-of-age story about a Dominican teenage bride who immigrates to New York.

Calling for a Blanket Dance | By Oscar Hokeah

This is the tale of Ever Geimausaddle – one  boy/man’s lifetime revealed through time and a dozen different perspectives. It’s a debut novel by a Native American author who writes about what he knows, connecting the reader deeply with rural Oklahoma and intergenerational tendrils of Kiowa, Cherokee and Mexican identities across the landscape. Recirculating trials of family, poverty, generations of injustice and intoxication are integral to their long-embedded trauma. But ancestral culture sustains a meaningful lifeblood that regenerates a man and a community. Beauty wins.

You Have a Friend in 10A | By Maggie Shipstead

This collection of short stories is completely unpredictable – and deliciously literary. The tales are filled with tension and plots that are engrossing enough to have filled novels: newlyweds veer into a rural Romanian horror story; a man disappears while backcountry skiing and his lover searches for his body; a Hollywood actress attempts to escape a Scientology-like cult. The stories are complex and varied in their time stamps, settings and human situations. Shipstead spent over 10 years writing them, giving readers ample reason to slow down and savor their unfolding.

Go deeper with Maggie Shipstead | Great Circle was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, a finalist for the Women’s Prize, and our top Editor’s Pick in Steamboat Magazine last year – an epic globetrotting aviation adventure story.

Mecca | By Susan Straight

This novel is a genius work of warp and weft, weaving together a complicated and compassionate cultural fabric that embodies Southern California. Its golden thread is a breathing landscape of canyons, desert, suburbs and beaches stitched together by thrumming freeways we witness through the motorcycle miles of a highway patrolman. Each person, place and intersecting plot relays grit, whether there’s a wildfire, an immigration raid or an intimate family decision to be made. Brilliant observation and skilled poetic writing make this complex multiracial, multicultural, multilingual masterpiece an essential story of the modern West.

Go deeper with Susan Straight | Highwire Moon was a National Book Award finalist that mines the many trials of a young mother and daughter divided by deportation.

Good Night, Irene | | By Luis Alberto Urrea, Master of Ceremonies

Urrea steps out of the Latinx stories that have been a hallmark of his lofty writing career and dives into a World War II historical drama inspired by his mother’s Red Cross experience. On this journey across war-torn Europe, the Donut Dollies command military vehicles at the front line, providing sass, solace, coffee and donuts for troops heading in and out of battle. The women find friendship, heroism and love along with the horrors of war—and 50 years later they discover a satisfying twist of fate, too.

Go deeper with Luis Alberto Urrea | The Devil’s Highway is a true story of a harrowing journey that a group of men took to cross the Mexican border. It was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize


I Have Some Questions for You | By Rebecca Makkai

This novel is dark. And you can’t look away. That’s how any true-crime type story should feel, of course. But this is a deeper cut on an obsessive crowd-sourced investigation (think “Serial” and all the podcasts that came in its wake) into the brutal unsolved murder of a girl at an exclusive East Coast boarding school. Makkai’s fiction gives us a multilayered #MeToo take on a culture that has become numbed and enchanted by the details and consequences of violence. The narrators in this book are traveling 25 years down their memory holes, revisiting a traumatic teenage experience and questioning with weary adultishness the motives and relationships of their younger selves. The story is eerie and familiar, and deeply engrossing.

Romantic Comedy | By Curtis Sittenfeld

Not a spoiler: This book is funny. And there’s enough relationship angst to match any classic movie favorites in this genre. It’s a smart twist on falling for the wrong guy and being married to a job, set behind the scenes in the writers’ room of an SNL-esque television sketch comedy show. And yes, there are after parties, too. Sittenfeld’s observations on pop stars, power plays between witty creative minds, self-sabotage and falling in love are spot on. The whole story is fun, delightful, satisfying and insightful – a perfect companion for any 2023 vacation.

Learn more about Literary Sojourn and all the books by this year’s featured authors at Tickets for the September 9, 2023 event go on sale in June, 2023.