“I have been (1) a competitive skateboarder, (2) a Nordstrom piano player, and (3) an expert in Wiffle ball aerodynamics, but not all at the same time.” – Jenn Stroud Rossmann
What are some of the titles in your current TBR pile?
My TBR pile contains some books I’m lucky to be the first to read, galleys I’ll get to review for Public Books in a feature called An engineer reads a novel; and some books for which I feel like the last party guest to arrive. In the first category, I’m thrilled to have an advance copy of Elizabeth McCracken’s 2019 novel Bowlaway – which had me at Elizabeth McCracken, and the fact that it’s about candlepin bowling just sweetened the deal. I do feel late to arrive at Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko and Leni Zumas’s Red Clocks. At some point I decided that letting the hype die down a little would help me come fresh to these novels, without the freight of Expectations of Greatness. Alas, life gets busy, and some of the books in my stack began life in the first category, and have now slid into the second: Tommy Orange’s There There, and Rachel Kushner’s The Mars Room, for example. R.O. Kwon’s The Incendiaries is a special case: it’s so extraordinary and she’s cast such magic spells with her language that as soon as I finished, I placed it back in the pile so I could read it again, and try to figure out how she did it.
What book are you currently reading?
As is pretty typical, I’m reading two books at the moment. Mohammed Hanif’s subversive, darkly funny Red Birds — I chose this to review based on an early description that was enticing, but which frankly did not do it justice. It’s wild and weird and funny about geopolitical catastrophe of war. For my book group, I’m reading Fortunata and Jacinta, Benito Perez Galdos’s classic novel. Alas, unlike one of my book group pals, I must read it in translation. My book group reads widely and so thoughtfully, I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from and with my friends. This particular novel is dense and long and takes its time getting started, with the kind of leisurely description of a world that contemporary authors are discouraged from indulging in. It’s not unpleasant, given the current state of the world and the pace of our lives, to be forced to slow down and look around at 1880s Madrid.
What do you hope to add to your TBR pile soon and why?
I cannot wait to read Nicole Chung’s memoir, All You Can Ever Know. Her experience as an adoptee with white parents is similar to the situation my main character Chad is in, although Chad’s just 14 and pretty confused, and I know from Nicole’s essays that she is erudite and thoughtful and sage, with real empathy for adoptees and parents. As I write this, Jill Lepore has a new book called These Truths that sounds wonderful in a typically Leporean way. I feel like I want to be Jill Lepore when I grow up; she just embodies this all-embracing curiosity and desire to understand and contextualize our history. (Let’s not concern ourselves with how much growing-up that would require of me in a relatively short time.) I’m also very much looking forward to Morgan Parker’s new collection Magical Negro. I love her poetry’s energy and candor, and the way she shows that life—especially, life as a black woman in America—is both beautiful and harrowing. Hearing her read “Now more than ever,” in 2017, I felt called to a kind of prayer.
Bonus: Which author do you want to see have a new book out soon?
I am eager to read anything by my good friend Nami Mun, who wrote a searing novel in stories, Miles from Nowhere that was so excellent I’m willing to wait. “Patience is a virtue,” as my mother reminded me once or twice (a day). Oh, and Danielle Evans, whose Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self is amazing; I hope she is working on another collection!
Jenn Stroud Rossmann is a fiction writer and an engineer. Her first novel, The Place You’re Supposed to Laugh, is forthcoming in Fall 2018 from 7.13 Books. She writes the essay series An Engineer Reads a Novel at Public Books. Stories have appeared recently in Cheap POP, JMWW Journal, Literary Orphans, Jellyfish Review, and failbetter, and have garnered multiple Pushcart nominations. Rossmann earned her BS and PhD at the University of California, Berkeley. She is a professor of mechanical engineering at Lafayette College, and previously taught at Harvey Mudd College. She throws right, bats left.