Swimming on Highway N, Mary Troy (Moon City Press, 2016): Troy is best known for her short stories; this is her second novel. (The first was Beauties, which won the USA Book Award.) Like Daniel Woodrell, Troy focuses on the hardscrabble communities of the Ozarks, examining how addiction and poverty echo through generations. Eventually, though, Troy uproots her characters—including the heroine, sixty-something Madeline—and sends them on a road trip across the country as a war deserter and his girlfriend attempt to escape to Canada. Along the way, using lyricism and humor, Troy does justice to a region and demographic often willfully snubbed by literary fiction writers.
Ferguson’s Fault Lines: The Race Quake That Rocked a Nation, Kimberly Jade Norwood (American Bar Association Press, 2016): St. Louis—as well as the rest of the nation—is still sorting through the impact and implications of Ferguson. In a sea of documentaries, books, plays, art, and think pieces, Washington University law professor Kimberly Norwood’s anthology stands out; there’s no doubt that it’ll be referenced for years to come. Though the writers assembled here are lawyers and academics, it’s lively reading for the concerned citizen. The 13 essays touch on the history of white flight in St. Louis; analyze how racial biases play out in courtrooms and newspapers; and detail cases handled by St. Louis’ own Arch City Defenders. Contributors also delve into economics, public health, gentrification, activism, and electoral politics. All in all, this is a rigorous and absolutely crucial collection for any St. Louis resident who yearns to understand these issues—which are still very much in play two years later.