Recent Literary Offerings from Mills Alumnae/i

Trauma, Tresses, & Truth: Untangling Our Hair Through Personal Narratives
By Lyzette Wanzer, MFA ’08

Black women are 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from school and/or work due to hair discrimination compared to their white counterparts. This type of othering and surveillance starts from an early age and continues throughout Black women’s lives. The CROWN Act— legislation meant to prohibit race-based hair discrimination— has still not been passed in 32 states across the nation. Through essays from Black and Afro Latina women in Trauma, Tresses, & Truth: Untangling Our Hair Through Personal Narratives (Lawrence Hill Books, 2022), Wanzer captures how and why the Black body continues to be misunderstood. Complemented by a reader discussion guide and a resource guide, this book is meant to start a conversation, build community, and empower women to love their natural hair. 

The Adventures of Blu Pigtails: The Invisible Germ Bug
By Justin Williams Cloud ’01

Written under the name J. Kymberly Cloud, this is a charming narrative that helps impact the habit of washing one’s hands onto young readers. The Adventures of Blu Pigtails: The Invisible Germ Bug (Fulton Books, 2022) is full of vibrant artwork that brings Blu’s story to life. Blu is a curious and energetic young girl who thinks she doesn’t have enough time to properly wash her hands before meals or after using the bathroom. Though she initially thinks of it as a waste of time, those around her remind her of the germs she may be carrying on her hands, and she realizes the value of proper personal hygiene. 

Mini Memoir: Long Story Short–A Journal
by Lisa Ingram, MA ’01

Known professionally as Lisa Nola, Ingram is the author behind the bestselling Listography series. Her newest offering, Mini Memoir: Long Story Short–A Journal (Chronicle Books, 2022), aims to help readers craft their own stories through guided practices. With 70 topics, the pages invite you to capture meaningful parts of your life through briefly written snapshots. Each topic starts with a list prompt to help spark ideas followed by a few questions for reflection, and then plenty of space to explore memories in more detail. From reflecting on best childhood friends and memorable trips to embarrassing moments and toughest experiences, this journal can be used as a tool for self-discovery to create a mini memoir that will keep stories alive for generations. 

Yerba Buena
By Nina LaCour, MFA ’06

In Yerba Buena (Flatiron Books, 2022), Sara Foster runs away from home at 16, leaving behind the girl she once was. Years later, in Los Angeles, she is a sought-after bartender, renowned as much for her cocktails as for her mystery. Across the city, Emilie Dubois is in a holding pattern, yearning for the beauty and community her Creole grandparents cultivated, but unable to commit. On a whim, she takes a job arranging flowers at the glamorous restaurant Yerba Buena. The morning Emilie and Sara first meet at Yerba Buena, their connection is immediate. But Sara’s old life soon catches up to her, upending everything she thought she wanted.

Les Beaux Châteaux
By Dorothy Mackevich Marks ’82

Inspired by a headline about French bakeries shuttering, Les Beaux Châteaux (DMM Press, 2022) is the story of a father and son who must learn a new way forward as traditional French life evolves. Following the death of his wife, Victor’s relationship with his adult son, JP, is fractured. Knowing JP can’t stay in France with his curmudgeonly father, Victor proposes a joint business venture: a New York storefront managed by JP, selling beautiful, traditional French artifacts he selects. JP seizes the opportunity to leave Victor and Paris, and Les Beaux Châteaux is born. But when unforeseen accidents and betrayals occur, can JP and Victor save their store, or will their partnership be shattered by greed? 

Maps and Tapes
By Adrienne Robillard, MFA ’01

In this memoir, Robillard interweaves lyrics written for her indie-rock bands between stories of first guitar lessons, young love, adventures in studying abroad, and gigging and touring with her bands. Her poignant prose paints a vivid portrait of the ways in which music soundtracked and shaped her teen and young adult years. The callouts of favorite bands, albums, and songs in Maps and Tapes (Legacy Isle Publishing, 2022) will make readers want to cue up their own nostalgic playlists—good and loud, to be felt in the bones, the way the best music and memories should. 

3rd & Orange
By Joshua Peralta, MA ’15

A novella composed of poetry and prose, Peralta’s debut book is set during 2003, when a young man arrives in Long Beach, California, to search for independence and his voice as a writer. In the midst of college and everyday struggles, he stumbles into a blissful but brief romance. 3rd & Orange is a work of nostalgic force full of clear but painfully belated insights, leading readers down alleys, through new apartments, and toward loss that slowly begins to feel like growth. (ZQ-287, 2022)

My Sweet Girl 
By Amanda Dissanayake Jayatissa ’09 

Amanda Jayatissa debuts with a dark psychological thriller, My Sweet Girl. Adopted as a young child from an orphanage in Sri Lanka by a wealthy American couple, 30-year-old Paloma Evans must unravel a suspenseful mystery that is strangely tied to her past, all while navigating the difficulties of cultural assimilation. (Berkley Books, 2021) 

The Confession of Copeland Cane 
By Keenan Norris, MFA ’05 

Recruited by the nearby private school even as he and his folks face eviction, Copeland is doing his damnedest to do right by himself, for himself. Yet the forces at play entrap him in a reality that chews up his past and obscures his future. Set in East Oakland in a very near future, The Confession of Copeland Cane introduces us to a prescient and contemporary voice, one that exposes the true dangers of coming of age in America: miseducation, overmedication, radiation, and incarceration. (Unnamed Press, 2021) 

By Isabel Strychacz ’17

Edward Scissorhands meets When the Moon Was Ours in this romantic novel about two teen sisters who fight to protect the mysterious stranger who literally fell from the stars and into their backyard. Both Delta Wilding and sister Bee must go to incredible lengths to protect their mystical visitor, Starling—but Delta’s growing feelings for him could prove the greatest risk of all. The author is also the daughter of two Mills English professors: Kathryn Reiss and Tom Strychacz! (Simon & Schuster, 2021) 

By Amanda Wheeler ’72 

In this novel, Aubrey Sampson leads a tranquil suburban life until her husband, Pastor Phillip Sampson, confesses that he fathered a son with a former church member. When Phillip’s alleged son, Donovan, sweeps into church, performing as if under demonic possession, Aubrey’s world descends into chaos. In the midst of her conflict, can Aubrey find justice for Phillip and reclaim her own life? (GW Publishing, 2021) 

Co-edited by Rina Faletti ’81 

This collection of essays centers on discourse about water and power in the modern era. The manuscript is organized into three emergent themes in water studies: agency of water, fluid identities, and cultural currencies. Contributions come from preeminent as well as emerging voices across the humanities, including history, art history, philosophy, and science and technology studies. (University of California Press, 2021) 

In My Mother’s Footsteps: A Palestinian Refugee Returns Home
By Mona Halaby, TCRED ’89

This tome tells the story of Halaby’s decision to move from California to Ramallah to teach conflict resolution for one year, and while she was there—in a place her mother left 59 years ago—she kept a journal of experiencing what she had only known through her mother’s memories. In My Mother’s Footsteps is a moving journey of a daughter discovering her roots and recovering her mother’s beloved past. It’s also an intimate and tender account of Palestinian daily life. (Thread Books, 2021) 

Borderline Fortune 
By Teresa K. Miller, MFA ’06 

This National Poetry Series-winning collection of poetry explores intangible family inheritance, set against the backdrop of our planetary legacy as humans. As glaciers melt and species go extinct, Miller asks what we owe one another and how we echo our ancestors’ grief and trauma. Professor of English Elmaz Abinader says this about the collection: “The poems in Borderline Fortune are so sharply crafted, they serve as the pick and axe that dig deep into the granite of the past and shape a world created from the knowledge and the mythology Miller has extracted.” (Penguin Books, 2021) 

Make Thrift Mend 
By Katrina Rodabaugh, MFA ’07 

Rodabaugh follows her bestselling book Mending Matters with a comprehensive guide to building (and keeping) a wardrobe that matters. Whether you want to repair your go-to jeans, refresh a favorite garment, alter or dye clothing you already have—this book has all the know-how you’ll need. Woven throughout are stories, essays, and a slow fashion call-to-action, encouraging readers to get involved or deepen their commitment to changing the destructive habit of overconsumption. (Abrams Books, 2021) 

New York City Blues: Postwar Portraits from Harlem to the Village and Beyond 
By Larry Simon, MA ’83 

A Brooklyn-born guitarist and composer, Simon interviewed for this book many of the leading jazz and blues artists with whom he has previously recorded and toured. New York City Blues offers a deep dive into the blues venues and performers in the city from the 1940s through the 1990s through the words of the performers themselves, plus the photographs of Robert Schaffer. (University Press of Mississippi, 2021) 

Woman Between Two Kingdoms: Dara Rasami and the Making of Modern Thailand
By Leslie Castro-Woodhouse ’90

Based on Castro-Woodhouse’s 2009 dissertation at UC Berkeley, this tome focuses on the life of one of the 153 wives of Siam’s King Chulalongkorn. Dara Rasami was a princess of Chiang Mai who was born in 1873 and took the traditions of her hometown with her to the Grand Palace in Bangkok in 1885. Thanks to the support of the Mellon Foundation, the book is available as a free download. (2021, Cornell University Press)

Salmon Croquettes
By Glodean Champion ’06

In this novel, the 1965 Watts Riots are the backdrop as Zayla Lucille McKinney begins wondering whether she’s actually a boy trapped in a girl’s body. Salmon Croquettes is a sensitive exploration of Zayla’s transition from childhood incomprehension to an acceptance of who she is and the truth of who her parents really are. (2021, Black Muse Publishing)

At the End of My Walk
By Claudia Cole Bluhm ’73

A Bay Area native, Bluhm thoughtfully shares her childhood experiences in this evocative collection of narrative poetry. One piece, titled “Liberty Street,” is named for the San Francisco street where she grew up; it’s already appeared in the anthology Fog and Light: San Francisco through the Eyes of the Poets Who Live Here. Other works detail her adolescence spent in the suburbs of Marin County. (2021, Blue Light Press)