As part of The Colorado Sun’s literature section — SunLit — we’re featuring staff picks from book stores across the state. >> Click here for more SunLit

This week’s bookstore: BookBar, 4280 Tennyson St., Denver | @BookBarDenver on Twitter, Instagram

My Heart is a Chainsaw

By Stephen Graham Jones
Gallery/Saga Press
Published Aug. 31, 2021

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From the publisher: In her quickly gentrifying rural lake town Jade sees recent events only her encyclopedic knowledge of horror films could have prepared her for in this latest novel from the Jordan Peele of horror literature, New York Times bestselling author Stephen Graham Jones.

Shirley Jackson meets Friday the 13th in My Heart Is a Chainsaw, written by the author of The Only Good Indians Stephen Graham Jones, called “a literary master” by National Book Award winner Tananarive Due and “one of our most talented living writers” by Tommy Orange.

On the surface is a story of murder in small-town America. But beneath is its beating heart: a biting critique of American colonialism, Indigenous displacement, and gentrification, and a heartbreaking portrait of a broken young girl who uses horror movies to cope with the horror of her own life.

From Becky LeJeune, BookBar assistant buyer:  “Slashers have never been more fun! If horror is your jam, you are going to love My Heart is a Chainsaw! An absolute must-read for genre fans!”

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A Dream of a Woman

By Casey Plett
Arsenal Pulp Press
$18.95 (paperback)
Published Sept. 12, 2021

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From the Publisher: Award-winning novelist Casey Plett (Little Fish) returns with a poignant suite of stories that center transgender women.

Casey Plett’s 2018 novel Little Fish won a Lambda Literary Award, the Firecracker Award for Fiction, and the Amazon First Novel Award. Her latest work, A Dream of a Woman, is her first book of short stories since her seminal 2014 collection A Safe Girl to Love. Centering transgender women seeking stable, adult lives, A Dream of a Woman finds quiet truths in prairie high-rises and New York warehouses, in freezing Canadian winters and drizzly Oregon days.

From Moira Brownwolfe, Bookbartender: “A Dream of a Woman is my book of the year. Casey continues her trend of writing relatable trans characters that will leave you wanting to read more of their lives, in between drying your eyes.”

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Beautiful Country

By Qian Julie Wang
Published Sept. 7, 2021

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In Chinese, the word for America, Mei Guo, translates directly to “beautiful country.” Yet when 7-year-old Qian arrives in New York City in 1994 full of curiosity, she is overwhelmed by crushing fear and scarcity. In China, Qian’s parents were professors; in America, her family is “illegal” and it will require all the determination and small joys they can muster to survive.

In Chinatown, Qian’s parents labor in sweatshops. Instead of laughing at her jokes, they fight constantly, taking out the stress of their new life on one another. Shunned by her classmates and teachers for her limited English, Qian takes refuge in the library and masters the language through books, coming to think of The Berenstain Bears as her first American friends. And where there is delight to be found, Qian relishes it: her first bite of gloriously greasy pizza, weekly “shopping days,” when Qian finds small treasures in the trash lining Brooklyn’s streets, and a magical Christmas visit to Rockefeller Center—confirmation that the New York City she saw in movies does exist after all.

Inhabiting her childhood perspective with exquisite lyric clarity and unforgettable charm and strength, Qian Julie Wang has penned an essential American story about a family fracturing under the weight of invisibility, and a girl coming of age in the shadows, who never stops seeking the light.

From Bess Maher, BookBar event liaison: “This truly beautiful memoir documents the early life of the author, from leaving China at seven years old to living in New York City as an undocumented immigrant. Her family met with brutally low wages and hunger, and in this memoir she shares the ways in which they survived—and, in some ways, thrived.”

This byline is used for articles and guides written collaboratively by The Colorado Sun reporters, editors and producers.