Books We Loved in 2014

Five names to remember: Benjamin Parzybok, Cecilia M. Fernandez, Rebecca Cook, Chanel Brenner, and Katia D. Ulysse.

The staff of Sliver of Stone is delighted to recommend Benjamin Parzybok‘s new novel, SHERWOOD NATION (Small Beer Press, 2014).

In drought-stricken Portland, Oregon, a Robin Hood-esque water thief is caught on camera redistributing an illegal truckload of water to those in need. Nicknamed Maid Marian—real name: Renee, a twenty-something barista and eternal part-time college student—she is an instant folk hero. Renee rides her swelling popularity and the public’s disgust at how the city has abandoned its people, raises an army . . . and secedes a quarter of the city.

Even as Maid Marian and her compatriots build their community one neighbor at a time, they are making powerful enemies amongst the city government and the National Guard. Sherwood is an idealistic dream too soon caught in a brutal fight for survival.

Sherwood Nation is the story of the rise and fall of a micronation within a city. It is a love story, a war story, a grand social experiment, a treatise on hacking and remaking government, on freedom and necessity, on individualism and community.

“The real human element architected into each chapter, and Benjamin’s attention to the darkly comic things that give life texture, make for a gripping read. The author beautifully contrasts the dramatic subject matter with his wit, his sharp, ironic observations.” (M.J. Fievre)


Benjamin Parzybok is the author of the novels Couch and Sherwood Nation. He has been the creator/co-creator of many other projects, including Gumball Poetry (literary journal published in capsule machines), The Black Magic Insurance Agency (city-wide, one night alternate reality game), and Project Hamad (an effort to free a Guantanamo inmate and shed light on Habeas Corpus). He lives in Portland with the artist Laura Moulton and their two kids. He blogs at His twitter handle is @sparkwatson.


We also think you’ll enjoy LEAVING LITTLE HAVANA: A Memoir of Miami’s Cuban Ghetto, by Cecilia Fernandez.

Revolution uprooted six-year-old Cecilia from her comfortable middle-class Cuban home and dropped her into the low-income Miami neighborhood of Little Havana. Her philandering father all but abandoned his family to focus on his mistress and rebuilding his career, chasing the American promise of wealth and freedom from the past. Her mother spiraled into madness trying to hold the family together and get him back. Neglected and trapped, Cecilia rebelled against her conservative heritage and embraced the 1960s counter-culture, seeking love and attention anywhere she could get it. And just maybe a place of her own in America. But immigrant children either thrive or self-destruct in a new land. How will Cecilia beat the odds? While most memoirs by Cuban-Americans revolve around childhood scenes in Cuba and explore the experiences of a young man, Leaving Little Havana is the first refugee memoir to focus on a Cuban girl growing up in America, rising above the obstacles and clearing a path to her dream.


Cecilia M. Fernandez is an independent journalist and college instructor with a passion for literature. Her work has appeared in Latina Magazine, Accent Miami, Upstairs at the Duroc: the Paris Workshop Journal, Vista Magazine, and Le Siècle de George Sand.


Congratulations to Rebecca Cook for the release of CLICK (New Rivers Press, 2014),  an erotic, evocative, and lyrical psychological thriller.

In CLICK, Ronnie wrestles with madness after the death of her husband and twin sons. She struggles to disentangle fantasy from reality, to know where memories end and dreams begin. There’s a bird, a husband in her ear, twos and fours all over. Everyone thinks she’s getting better, that she’s taking her medicine, that she’s listening to them, but they can’t see inside her. She lives a double life, the inside, the outside, moving through a past and present full of voices, afternoons filled with flying and running and waking dreams. But then she meets George, a little slant of light, and maybe she can learn to save herself.

Rebecca Cook’s essay, “Romance,” appeared in Issue 5 of Sliver of Stone.


Rebecca Cook writes poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. She was a 2009 Bread Loaf Scholar and her essay, “Flame,” published by Southeast Review (2012) was chosen as a notable essay for the 2013 Best American Essays. She has two books of poems: The Terrible Baby, a chapbook published by Dancing Girl Press in 2006, and I Will Not Give Over, a full-length collection published by Aldrich press in 2013.


Kudos to Chanel Brenner for the release of VANILLA MILK: A Memoir Told in Poems (Silver Birch Press, 2014).

Brenner’s poems are written snapshots forming an elegiac album, depicting how a traumatic loss alters relationships, love, family ,and parenting. Characterized by unsparing honesty, clarity, and restraint, the poems explore the limits inherent in “recovering” from the grief of losing a child and the need to continue experiencing joy. Chanel’s piece, “My Poetic Obsession,” appeared in Issue 7 of Sliver of Stone.
Chanel Brenner’s poems have appeared in The Coachella Review, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Foliate Oak, and other publications. She was awarded first prize for her poetry in a contest from The Write Place At the Write Time.

Katia D. Ulysse’s debut, DRIFTING, a collection of fictional stories, invites readers into the private lives of marginalized families in her native Haiti. The collection begins with The Least of These—the tale of a childless couple seeking to adopt a child of their own and finding themselves in the midst of a devastating earthquake. Other stories create an interwoven narrative in which two best friends leave Haiti at different times, but hope to reconnect in the United States. The stories follow the girls’ lives through several decades in the US. Their stories are part tragedy and part comedy. In the end, we learn how their search for each other ends. Another story involves a Florida-based predatory schoolteacher who threates students with deportation if expose him. In “Paper Boats,” we meet the unforgettable Monsieur Boursicault whose chain of funeral parlors makes him the wealthiest man in Haiti. This daring work of fiction is a departure from the standard narrative of political unrest. Ulysse’s characters are everyday people whose hopes for distant success are constantly challenged—but never totally swayed—by the harsh realities accompanying the immigrant’s journey.


KATIA D. ULYSSE writings have been published in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including the Caribbean Writer, The Butterfly’s Way, Mozayik—a pioneer anthology in Haitian Creole, and Haiti Noir. Her first children’s book, Fabiola Can Count, was published in 2013. Drifting is her first book of fiction.


  1. So glad to be included here!


  1. […] Veronica Noechel, Mary Beth O’Connor, David Sullivan, Savannah Thorne, and Jonathan Travelstead. New publications by Channel Brenner, Rebecca Cook, Benjamin Parzybock, and Katia D. Ulysse. Welcome, Hector Duarter […]

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