Writers of the Month

Writers of the Month — June

A monthly roundup of writers past and present that we just can’t read enough of.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Welcome to our monthly blog series in which we share some of our favorite writers, past and present. In Writers of the Month we feature those writers who we always return to and no matter how many times we read them they make us feel something new. The ones who, when they announce a new book or film or television series, we go straight to the preorder page or queue it up. The writers whose Instagram stories we always watch and whose tweets we always retweet. The writers who feel almost like a real friend.

This series is not meant to determine the Best Writer, but rather to highlight the writers each of us at the American Writers Museum are particularly fond of in a given month, a day, a moment. We hope to introduce you to writers you’re unfamiliar with or inspire you to revisit a writer you haven’t read in a while. Perhaps you’ll see your favorite writer on one of our lists!

Edited by Nate King


Photo of Reinaldo Arenas

Reinaldo Arenas

One of the best perks of this job is discovering and learning about important and influential writers that I, for whatever reason, did not know about. And almost always I devour their work because it is so compelling! Reinaldo Arenas is the most recent example of this. My coworker suggested we focus the next episode of Nation of Writers podcast on him and I’m so glad we did. His story is remarkable. He grew up poor in Cuba and originally sympathized with Fidel Castro’s revolution but quickly grew disillusioned. He spent time in some of the worst prisons in Cuba because he was openly gay and wrote works with anti-revolution sentiments. He smuggled his manuscripts out of Cuba and then fled himself to the United States where he eventually landed in New York City. Sadly, as he was dying of AIDS, Arenas committed suicide in 1990.

But all the while he wrote and wrote and wrote, which I find so impressive. Even though writing was a risk for him, it was also a matter of life and death. He needed to write to be alive because to him a life without writing was a death in its own way. I am reading his memoir Before Night Falls right now, which is a good place for anyone to start with Arenas. His writing, though it deals with lots of violence and brutality, is accessible and captivating. He’s not overly descriptive and doesn’t use flowery language, yet still produces magnificent imagery and magic when describing Cuba and the natural world. I can’t recommend him enough. The podcast episode airs June 30 and features two guests who knew Arenas personally: writer Ann Tashi Slater interviewed him and also translated one of his books, and Peter Johnson helped archive his manuscripts at Princeton University. Check out all of our podcasts and subscribe here so you never miss an episode!

—Nate, Content & Communications Coordinator


Photo of Octavia E. Butler

Octavia E. Butler

If I could recommend different aspects of Octavia Butler’s writing every single month, I absolutely would. However, her birthday is June 22 (she would have turned 74 this year), so June it is. Butler is a science fiction superstar, which if you look at past recommendations from me you’ll know that’s my jam. Her worlds are diverse and thought-out and fantastical in all the best ways. She knew how to write a slow burn, quick punchy action, hardcore science, and deep human emotion. Throughout her amazing lifetime, she won several Hugo and Nebula awards and was the first science fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship. If you’re looking for a book to start with, I’d recommend Kindred.

—Ari, Data Operations Coordinator


Photo of Saeed Jones

Saeed Jones

We hosted Saeed Jones for a public program in October 2019 while he was on tour for his memoir How We Fight for Our Lives, “the story of a young, black, gay man from the South as he fights to carve out a place for himself, within his family, within his country, within his own hopes, desires, and fears.” And ever since then I have been a huge fan of his work. The program was a fascinating discussion and his performance reading his work was impactful. You can also listen to it on AWM Author Talks podcast here. Plus, Saeed was gracious enough to speak with me prior to the event for a Q&A, which you can read here. I was incredibly anxious as I always am when I talk on the phone, but Saeed was so friendly and fun and honest that he calmed my nerves. So, I recommend any of his work. I also recommend you follow him on Twitter because he is hilarious and his dog Caesar is a whole vibe.

—Nate, Content & Communications Coordinator


Prince

My friend’s daughter has recently been really into Prince for some reason. Like, obsessed-level interest. So, as the summer kicks off and backyard hangs happen more often, Prince has largely been the soundtrack for us. And I’m not complaining. When she turned seven in May she requested a Prince dance party and I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s the most fun I’ve had in a while. Prince’s music is great summer/spring sounds: fun, uplifting, impossible to not move your body to. Yet his words also carry the weight of love, loss, grief, longing, hope and all the other feelings that are so real to me right now as we all try to reemerge from darkness and get to know ourselves again. Plus, I found this quote from an interview with Prince and it is just beautiful: “When I’m writing, some days the pen just goes. I’m not in charge and I’m almost listening outside of it. That’s when I realize that we all have to start looking at life as a gift. It’s like listening to a color and believing that these colors have soul mates and once you get them all together the painting is complete.”

—Nate, Content & Communications Coordinator


Rivers Solomon

I know I already recommended a science fiction writer this month, but Rivers Solomon is so cool! Faer* writing lives in that sweet spot of enjoyable science fiction based on just enough real-world science, and intense commentary on current social norms. I imagine being able to go back to faer books over and over and getting something a little different out of them each time, which to me signals a pretty good book. Solomon has also written a number of short stories, so if you’re not up for feeling all of the things with a full novel, you can still enjoy faer work. Any of faer novels are great, but I’d recommend starting with An Unkindness of Ghosts.

*Solomon uses fae/faer pronouns. For a quick guide on common pronouns, go here.

—Ari, Data Operations Coordinator

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