Happy Like This

Happy Like This (Iowa Short Fiction Award) by [Ashley Wurzbacher]

THE BOOK: Happy Like This.


THE AUTHOR: Ashley Wurzbacher.

THE PUBLISHER: University of Iowa Press (Iowa Short Fiction Award Series).

SUMMARY: The characters in Happy Like This are smart girls and professional women—social scientists, linguists, speech therapists, plant physiologists, dancers—who search for happiness in roles and relationships that are often unscripted or unconventional. In the midst of their ambivalence about marriage, monogamy, and motherhood and their struggles to accept and love their bodies, they look to other women for solidarity, stability, and validation. Sometimes they find it; sometimes they don’t. Spanning a wide range of distinct perspectives, voices, styles, and settings, the ten shimmering stories in Happy Like This offer deeply felt, often humorous meditations on the complexity of choice and the ambiguity of happiness deliberately shape my work into a cohesive collection with those concerns at heart.

THE BACK STORY: I worked on this collection gradually over a period of ten years. I didn’t start out with a clear “idea”; initially, I didn’t even see the individual stories I was writing as part of a book. Over the years, though, I began to notice how many of my stories had to do with girls and women who feel deeply ambivalent about the societal and familial roles into which they’ve been cast, who are looking for ways to live genuinely and happily in a world that’s always trying to shove them into various boxes, and who bond in meaningful and unexpected ways with other women. Once I became conscious of the way I kept returning to the same core set of concerns, I was able to deliberately shape my work into a cohesive collection with those concerns at its heart.


Ashley WurzbacherWHY THIS TITLE?: I’ll quote what I said in an interview I did with Vulture last fall: “Many of my characters feel uncertain what they’re ‘supposed’ to be doing with themselves and their lives; they feel burdened by the weight of their choices, and their uncertainty drives them toward other women who seem to have figured things out and found some form of happiness. They fall in a kind of love with each other. They try to understand and respect both other women’s choices and their own, and sometimes they succeed and sometimes they fail in that effort. Perhaps what matters is that they bother to make the effort at all.” (Read more at https://www.vulture.com/2019/09/news-2019-national-book-foundation-5-under-35.html)
WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? You’ll enjoy this book if you love short stories and complicated women with interesting, sometimes unsettling thoughts and feelings.

Wurzbacher…deploys her encyclopedic command of various ideas, regions, professions and lexicons with the authority of seasoned masters like Adam Johnson. This is a writer at the top of her game; but hopefully she’s only just getting started. –The New York Times.

I love these dark, lyrical, sinewy stories about women’s relationships with their bodies and with each other. It’s the sort of theme that could feel irritably well-trod, but that’s not the case here at all; these stories surprised me at every turn. And the writing is so gorgeous!”– Carmen Maria Machado, judge, 2019 Iowa Short Fiction Award.

Happy Like This is an intelligent and moving glimpse into the lives of women searching for happiness. Each story pulses with electric writing, often humorous, but always full of authenticity and compassion. I can’t wait for people to read this book.” -Brandon Hobson, author, Where the Dead Sit Talking,

Wurzbacher’s incisive, polychromatic story collection centers on the dizzying complexities of female friendships: how they fray and mend over time and are often imbued with the intensity of love affairs.” –Oprah Magazine.

AUTHOR PROFILE: Originally from northwestern Pennsylvania, I currently live in Birmingham, Alabama and teach creative writing at the University of Montevallo. I’m a dog person.
SAMPLE CHAPTER: You can read one of the stories from the collection, “Fake Mermaid,” in the Kenyon Review Online at https://kenyonreview.org/kr-online-issue/2019-mayjune/selections/ashley-wurzbacher-342846/
WHERE ELSE TO BUY IThttps://bookshop.org/
PRICE: $17.00
CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Visit Ashley’s website (with contact form): https://ashleywurzbacher.com/

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Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

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