11 Amazing Writers You Haven’t Heard Of Yet


Love The New Yorker but looking for something a little cooler, a little more youthful? Want thick, twisty fiction and high-brow commentary with an edge? Enter The American Reader , our new favorite journal of fiction, poetry, and literary criticism, which just launched this fall both in print and online. We highly recommend you check it out, and if you need a little incentive, Editor-in-Chief Uzoamaka Maduka and the other editors on her staff have picked a few of their favorite upcoming writers — both from the pages of The American Reader and elsewhere — that they think are about to hit the big time to share with you here. Check out their list after the jump, and (if you can bring yourself to share the wealth) add any burgeoning young geniuses you happen to know about in the comments.

Based on the strength of his debut collection, What We Were Doing and Where We Were Going , I think it’s fair to say that Damion Searls is one of the best writers of fiction working today. The collection — swift, meticulous, self-referential and comically clinical — is reminiscent of Flann O’Brien’s At Swim Two Birds. — Jac Mullen

At last month’s reading for the 2012 Whiting Award winners, I heard Alan Heathcock read from Volt , his debut collection of short stories about the tumultuous lives of one small, rural town. In moments of downtime, I still find my mind drifting back to his reading — not to any particular image or turn of phrase, but to the stunning range of emotions (compassion, grief, horror, warmth) Heathcock managed to pack into just a few pages. — Alyssa Loh

Julian Tepper’s writing is youthful, evocative, and unassuming. There is something deeply American in its DNA: a nostalgia, a grace, a simplicity…and yet, an ambition. Reading his debut novel, Balls , I thought often of F. Scott Fitzgerald, which sounds absurdly overblown, but I’m actually serious. — Uzoamaka Maduka

Aaron Lake Smith doesn’t have a forthcoming book (that I know of), but I have a gut feeling that’s about to change. He’s currently a Senior Editor at Vice, where you can read his incredible piece on the death of the American hobo. He is also the author of the ‘zine Big Hands , a collection of writing by many lengths preferable to most new American novels. If you’re looking for a writer with a deep-seated appreciation of broader America, with a hint of provincial rage, look no further. — Jonathon Kyle Sturgeon

Presca Ahn’s simple language quietly builds a structure of immense emotional complexity, conveying each of her character’s concerns with equal grace and generosity, brick by brick. Her prose treads so lightly at first that the reader is unaware of the investment they’ve made — until she introduces some fraught moment, some unpleasant snag. Her stories contain elements that are louder and surprising, but her greatest strength lies in her subtle first sketch of the story, slowly but surely outlined in darker ink and eventually colored in completely. She is currently working on a novel about occupied Korea. — Alma Vescovi

Sergeio Chejfec is an Argentine-Jewish novelist who currently lives in New York and teaches in the Creative Writing in Spanish Program at NYU. Though he published his first novel in 1990, he was only translated into English last year. My Two Worlds , available from Open Letters, has been aptly compared to W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn. The novel, which unfolds in real time over the course of the narrator’s walk through a Brazilian city is a striking and often uncanny meditation on memory, place, and the experience of the writer as flaneur in our contemporary world. I look forward to seeing more of his works translated into English. — Elianna Kan

Dean Young is not new or unknown; in fact, he’s established, and has a faithful, enthusiastic following. But that following is far smaller, and far more niche, than it should be. He is one of the best poets America has produced, and his 2008 collection, Primitive Mentor , is a masterpiece. — Uzoamaka Maduka

Emily Witt’s writing effortlessly blends the reportorial with the personal in a way that doesn’t recall new journalism but hints at something altogether new. Tantalizing and distressing facts — about online dating, for example — are met with crushing personal observations. Her forthcoming book about American women and their ideas about sex, from Faber & Faber, will certainly showcase this rare talent, especially if her recent writing for the London Review of Books is any indication. — Jonathon Kyle Sturgeon

Patrick Phillips is a poet from Atlanta, Georgia who now lives in New York. His poems are often deeply rooted in the Southern landscape of his childhood and are narrated in a refreshingly deliberate, understated tone. — Elianna Kan

Chanelle Benz is a new writer who has so far published very little but will soon be published everywhere, and we will all be better for it. Her first story, “West of the Known“, is a terrifically accomplished rendering of a strange brother-sister relationship in the old American West and a bank heist gone wrong. — Jac Mullen

I had the good fortune of coming upon Stephen Benatar’s Wish Her Safe at Home when I was rifling through Jac’s wonderful (and eerily thorough) fiction collection a couple of months ago. It is an enduring, gorgeous, disturbing — and almost completely unknown — work of contemporary fiction, and NYRB rightly considers it a classic. Here is evidence that the contemporary writer (Wish Her Safe at Home was first published in the early ’80s) can converse confidently with the old masters. There is a living, breathing woman in these pages, lovingly and uncompromisingly portrayed, delivered to the reader with utter grace and confidence of style. For some reason though, the author still works in total obscurity, peddling his self-published novels at bookshops in London, which is funny and sad because what? — Uzoamaka Maduka