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Night at the Fiestas: November 2015 Additional Conversation

additional-conversation-NOV-2015

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Night at the Fiestas

Night at the Fiestas: Stories

By Kristen Valdez Quade
Published by WW Norton
ISBN-13: 978-0393242980
WW Norton Publishers
In Night at the Fiestas, the astounding and highly acclaimed debut collection by award-winning author Kirstin Valdez Quade, readers traverse vast, myriad, and sometimes interconnected worlds, often in a single story. Quade’s characters move through disillusionment, hope, confusion, despair, change, and yearning. They confront and wrestle with boundaries, with belonging and alienation. Quietude is interrupted by quick violence, innocence by sexual knowledge, and certainties with slow and disorienting realizations. Even the physical landscape of New Mexico, where the stories are set, is a living being, a character with which other characters interact.

Quade has already been recognized as an important author to watch—publishing stories in The New Yorker and garnering prestigious awards like the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35, as well as the 2013 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award and the 2013 Narrative Prize. She is a recent Wallace Stegner and Truman Capote Fellow at Stanford University, has taught creative writing at Stanford as a Jones Lecturer, and is currently the Nicholas Delbanco Visiting Professor at the University of Michigan. She has received esteemed fellowships from Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony, as well as a grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation, and her work has appeared in some of the world’s most sought-out publications—not only The New Yorker, but also Narrative, The Best American Short Stories 2013, and The O. Henry Prize Stories 2014—publications that showcase the greatest talents of our time.

Quade’s characters are rich and complex—among them a drunk who faithfully hears confessions, a grandfather with a history of violence who gently and lovingly raises his grandchild, a young girl who is generous with her friendship while also unrelenting about the “fact” that her friend will not join her in Heaven.

In the title story, Night at the Fiestas, a girl encounters a man who, with one word, introduces her to a world of sexual violence that both repels and thrills her, taking away some of her innocence. By the end of the story, the girl has taken something of her own from the man, and in Quade’s able hands this thing both evens the score and cements the girl’s loss of innocence. In Jubilee, two young women grow up together, but in very different worlds—one the daughter of a farm worker, the other the daughter of the farm’s wealthy owner. They attend the same prestigious university and move in and out of each other’s worlds, trying, it seems, to reach one another but running up against boundaries both within and without themselves.

Quade’s stories are serious and funny, dark and light, constricted and vast. Her writing is lush and mutable, meriting multiple reads. She joins the tradition of people writing about New Mexico and the West—masters like Annie Proulx, Antonya Nelson, and Pam Houston—with a voice completely her own. In the collection’s final story, a girl describes the buildings of her town, saying, The exposed mud bricks dissolve a little more each time it rains. Quade’s work is like this—boundaries between the reader and the many worlds of Night at the Fiestas dissolving a little more each time the reader visits them. This is an exciting and important debut collection from an astonishing young talent fast becoming established as someone with clear staying power.

About the Author:

kirstin-valdez-quade

Kristin Valdez Quade

Kirstin Valdez Quade’s fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, The Best American Short Stories, and elsewhere. A recipient of the 2014 National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 award, she was a Stegner Fellow and Jones Lecturer at Stanford University and teaches writing as the Nicholas Delbanco Visiting Professor at the University of Michigan.

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