Paste’s Books editors are proud to announce the advent of the 50 States Project! Celebrating the geographic diversity of writers, the 50 States Project is a list series dedicated to featuring incredible authors from every state in the country. To kick off the series, we highlight 10 contemporary authors from Georgia who are contributing to the evolving landscape of Southern literature.
Christopher Bundy straddles lines just to show you how they hardly exist in the first place. His debut novel, Baby, You’re a Rich Man, is a lost-and-found-in-translation story about a restless white man living in Japan. Blending comedy, metaphysical inquiry and comic-book illustrations, the book testifies to Bundy’s originality and thirst for exploration in fiction. He’s the founding editor of New South, Georgia State University’s literary journal, and also teaches writing and literature courses at the Savannah College of Art and Design. —Mack Hayden
Amber Dermont presents a new take on the classic coming-of-age theme. Her 2012 debut novel The Starboard Sea employed her Cape Cod roots to tell the story of a sailboat-piloting, East Coast prep-schooler’s confrontations with literal and emotional storms during the 1980s. The tale drew acclaim from The New York Times, as did her follow-up short story collection Damage Control, which again delved into young people’s transformative adventures. Dermont is now penning a novel based on the real-life plane crash of 1962 that killed scores of Atlanta’s arts patrons. —John Ruch
With distinctive characters and bizarre, often desperate circumstances, John Holman’s stories portray powerful images of middle class African American life. His novel Luminous Mysteries so poignantly captures the complicated racial realities of the American South that the Georgia Center for the Book included the novel on their 2010 list of “25 Books All Georgians Should Read.” Adding to his pedigree, Holman’s work has also appeared in the The New Yorker, Oxford American and the Mississippi Review, among other prestigious literary journals. Holman has even garnered comparisons to John Steinbeck and Raymond Carver. —Jessica Gentile
Pick up an essay collection with a title like I Was a Fat Drunk Catholic School Insomniac, and it’s easy to think you know what you’re getting. But Jamie Iredell is full of surprises. Defying genre conventions and his own Bukowski-style roots, he writes books that are both brutally honest and self-knowing—and often with Atlanta’s regional flair. Check out his faux encyclopedia The Book of Freaks and Prose. Poems. A Novel, a semi-autobiographical tale of a ne’er-do-well’s journey from Reno to a stool at the Highlander, Atlanta’s heavy metal bar. —John Ruch
Joshilyn Jackson is no stranger to Southern gothic tales. Over the course of six novels, she’s explored flawed, often eccentric characters with family secrets and haunting pasts. Her latest tale, Someone Else’s Love Story, features a young protagonist who likens herself to the Virgin Mary after her son’s miraculous birth. Not only a successful writer (several of her books have appeared on The New York Times bestseller list) but a former actor as well, Jackson has also recorded the audiobooks of many of her novels. —Jessica Gentile
Occupied with the fragility of memory and the mysterious power of familial bonds, Sheri Joseph’s writing has garnered numerous awards. She has authored two novels, Stray and Where You Can Find Me, along with the story collection Bear Me Safely Over. Joseph serves as the fiction editor for Five Points literary journal and teaches in the creative writing program at Georgia State University. —Mack Hayden
Paste’s own books editor, Charles McNair, once called Thomas Mullen an “underappreciated fiction writer in the Atlanta area…who may one day be one of our very best, a major figure in the making before our very eyes.” Mullen’s first novel, a historical tale set during the 1918 influenza epidemic titled The Last Town on Earth, earned Best Debut Novel honors from USA Today. If Mullen’s follow-ups haven’t made him a household name yet, perhaps it’s because they so delightfully avoid categorization. The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers depicts immortal bank-robbers, and The Revisionists is a political thriller featuring a time-traveler. —John Ruch
Josh Russell’s debut novel, Yellow Jack, established him as both a talented wordsmith and a latter-day scion of the American South. The novel follows the exploits of the former teenaged apprentice to L.J.M. Daguerre, inventor of the daguerreotype, as he travels through antebellum New Orleans, partaking in sexual adventures and warily contemplating the threat of yellow fever. Russell has since gone on to publish several more novels, the hilarious A True History of the Captivation, Transport to Strange Lands, & Deliverance of Hannah Guttentag being the most recent. —Shane Danaher
A novelist thrice over, Susan Rebecca White uses her hometown of Atlanta as her muse. According to Vanity Fair, her writing “epitomizes Southern living,” which, at this point in history, means rendering exacting portraits of the shifting values that comprise the South’s social climate. White established her tropes with 2009’s Bound South, switching between the perspectives of three women in order to discuss Georgia’s evolving mores. A Soft Place to Land and A Place at the Table soon followed, each raking in its fair share of notoriety and acclaim. —Shane Danaher
Though his home is in Atlanta, Anthony C. Winkler’s heart remains in Jamaica, where he was born in 1942 and where his novels repeatedly return to share the island nation’s exuberant culture and brutal history. With a penchant for writing surreal humor, Winkler penned his breakthrough novels The Painted Canoe, about a Jamaican fisherman lost at sea, and The Lunatic, where a village madman becomes a tourist’s boy toy, in the 1980s. His latest book, last year’s The Family Mansion, follows an English nobleman’s immigration to the slave-worked cane fields of Jamaica. “Winkler may be the best novelist you’ve never heard of,” Atlanta Magazine wrote last year. Time to get to know him. —John Ruch
Want to nominate an author for a future list? Email firstname.lastname@example.org! The only criteria are that the author must be a contemporary writer and must live in the United States.