HITTING SHELVES #49: Motherest by Kristen Iskandrian

Motherest by Kristen Iskandrian comes out today! It’s a dark and moving coming-of-age novel in which Agnes, a college student in the 1990s grappling with a broken home and a seriously fucked-up campus life, writes letters to her mother, who has seemingly disappeared. We asked Kristen Iskandrian how she’s celebrating the book’s release.

I’m having a book launch on August 1, the day of publication, which feels like the precisely right exclamation point. My good friends and neighbors Chip Brantley and Elizabeth Hughey own and run an after-school creative writing center called Desert Island Supply Co., which is such a beautiful, unique space—a former apothecary, I think—very close to my house. They kindly offered to host, and I really can’t think of a better place to celebrate, to sort of ceremoniously let go of this thing that has been only mine for so long, and pass it into other people’s hands. I’ll give a reading, possibly answer some questions, sign some books, and then hopefully just hang out with family and friends and anyone else who wants to come say hi.

This is my first book, and two years ago, when I got my first book deal, I promised myself that I would enjoy the process—not always an easy feat for me, prone as I am to superstition and morose what-if’ing. So yes, celebrating seems vital to keeping that promise, and also in terms of what I believe about energy flow: so much quiet, introspective, solitary work, for so long—time for a big, social exhale. I’ll definitely be having a drink that day!

I’m also excited to go on a chill little book tour, which required some pretty impressive scheduling stunts. There will be readings in places that are special to me, with people whom I’ve long admired. The jury’s out about how or if book tours actually help book sales, but I think giving readings has a purpose beyond any quantifiable metric; that is, connection.

Finally: it’s worth saying that, to me, the real celebration is always doing the actual work of writing. Sitting down to write is the gift of my life, ever the goal and the triumph, even when I’m struggling to get the words right—probably especially then. Someone once asked me: which do you love more, writing or your children? Which is unanswerable, and akin to asking, which do you love more, being alive or your children? The best way I can think to honor the publication of my first book is to write another one.

Kristen Iskandrian‘s work has been published or is forthcoming in Tin HouseZyzzyvaCrazyhorseEPOCH, and Plougshares, among others. Her story “The Inheritors” was included in The O. Henry Prize Stories 2014 as a Juror Favorite. She was a juror for The O. Henry Prize Stories 2015 along with Tessa Hadley and Michael Parker. Born in Philadelphia, Kristen currently lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with her husband and two daughters.

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