2020 has been a memorable year in many ways. We have, all of us, been through a great deal of change and struggle, both personal and global. What hasn’t changed, however, is the consistency with which our community has put forth stunning new material out into the world. Stories about loss, politics, motherhood, witches, self-discovery, connection, anti-racism, togetherness, and hope. Inspired by the year-end book lists from places like NPR and The New York Times, we’ve decided to pull together our own list, with a twist. What follows is a compendium of books (and a trivia game!) created by Lesley MFA alums and mentors, all published in 2020. Think of this as a gift guide for the readers in your life — and a way to support fellow Lesley writers. Maybe you’ll even find something you want to read yourself… So buy these incredible works for your family, for your friends, for yourself (you deserve it!), and we at Cambridge Common Writers will continue to celebrate our very wonderful community in the New Year.

The Talk: Conversations about Race, Love & Truth — “TEN”

Tracey Baptiste
Writing for Young People, MFA Writing Faculty

“This star-studded collection of #ownvoices authors calls readers in for necessary reminders in service of everyday actions that we must pursue to cultivate real change.” – Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Through contributors’ personal experiences with systemic issues, readers will recognize the necessity of having open dialogue with loved ones. A compelling call to action.” – Publishers Weekly, starred review

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The Chains of Desire: Book 3 of the Stains of Time series

E. Christopher Clark
Fiction, June 2005

Boston, Massachusetts, 1990. Music is the one sure thing twelve-year-old Robin Gates has in her life. Though she’s disgusted by the looks she gets from grown male patrons, playing guitar and singing in her mother’s strange bar provides a path to her envisioned future. Until she reads a newspaper from 2006 that contains her obituary…

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Voices Amidst the Virus: Poets Respond to the Pandemic

Eileen Cleary (Poetry, June 2016) & Christine Jones (Poetry, January 2016)

Voices Amidst the Virus: Poets Respond to the Pandemic is a breathing documentary. It is as much a book about hope as it is of despair, a peek through the blinds, both into and out of every contributor’s window.

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Steven Cramer
Poetry, MFA Writing Faculty

“This is a marvelous book by a poet in top form.” – Kevin Prufer

“In his sixth collection of poetry… Listen, Cramer tries to distill a ‘bedlam of thought.’ He is, by turns, matter of fact, nailing the sometimes-funny sometimes-sad absurdity of the world. . . [a]nd warmly sensual.” – Nina McLaughlin, The Boston Globe

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Sybelia Drive

Karin Cecile Davidson
Fiction, June 2009

“In this brilliantly structured, morally complex novel, Karin Cecile Davidson explores the lives of two girls who have lost their fathers to Vietnam, and of the people around them. I love how well Davidson knows her fierce characters, and how close to the edge she writes. Sybelia Drive is a stunning debut.” – Margot Livesey, author of The Boy in the Field

“A lush portrait of friendship and family.” – Aimee Bender, author of The Butterfly Lampshade

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“Poems as Pilgrims” available in Far Villages: Welcome Essays for New and Beginner Poets

Robbie Gamble
Poetry/Nonfiction, January 2017

“The special pen, or sliver of eavesdropping, or the book that will change your life; the night table or bus ride where scraps of writings happen-these are just a few of the magical elements the practitioners gathered in this inspiring anthology call on to sing and to guide new poets inside the mysteries of poem-making. The marketplace of publishing beckons and glitters, but these poet-essayists remind us that the best feeling in the world is finding oneself in the middle of writing a poem. Humor, sharp prosodic strategies and prompts, advice about submitting, and some very cool personal anecdotes, alongside several daunting and stark accounts, hallmark every section of this anthology. There’s wisdom and guidance in every essay. Far Villages is invaluable for beginners, to be sure, but also for poets teaching new writers, poets in-between poems, and poets who’ve been writing a while and are thirsty to refresh. This smart and unusually various academic and personal text serves as revivifying reminder that the welcome itself sustains new American writing.” – Judith Vollmer

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An Embarrassment of Witches

Sophie Goldstein
Graphic Novel & Comics, MFA Writing Faculty

“This affable coming-of-age fantasy… add[s] a touch of magic to familiar human comedy.” – Publishers Weekly

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Every Body Looking

Candice Iloh
Writing for Young People, June 2017

“This is a story about the sometimes toxic and heavy expectations set on the backs of first-generation children, the pressures woven into the family dynamic, culturally and socially. About childhood secrets with sharp teeth. And ultimately, about a liberation that taunts every young person.” – Jason Reynolds, New York Times Bestselling Author of Long Way Down

Check out our feature on Candice!

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Girl Without a Shirt

Christine Jones
Poetry, January 2016

“Christine Jones’s debut collection introduces an emerging writer of immense promise. The poems often examine the small movements of our dailiness through both a personal and a political lens (this is a poet who understands the two modes of being are inseparable,) and do so with a wonderful musicality, great precision in language, and with images that stop your heart with their vivid lyric tenderness throughout. This is a terrific book that will move many readers.” – Erin Belieu

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Designing Wonder: Leading Transformative Experiences in VR

Caitlin Krause
Poetry, June 2007

“Once again Caitlin Krause is out ahead of the pack. If you are looking for a living resource to help get you on the right track creating meaningful events and content in VR (or anywhere for that matter!) this is the place to start.” – Rev. Jeremy D. Nickel, Founder of EvolVR

“Caitlin Krause’s latest book, Designing Wonder, is revolutionary, changing not just our way of thinking but methodology in educational VR/AR/XR experiences.” – Lorelle VanFossen, Founder of Educators in VR

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Jennifer LeBlanc
Poetry, June 2012

“As its title attests, the lucid secrecies that underlie Jennifer LeBlanc’s Descent stem from the Eleusinian Mysteries, initiation rites enacting one of the earliest recorded vegetation myths. Everywhere in LeBlanc’s finely etched poetry, the speakers feel the chill tug of the underworld, even as they respond to the cycle of the seasons and the metaphors for birth, death, and renewal that the turning earth provokes. Formally adroit (there’s a sonnet crown, four variations on the ghazal, a pantoum, a sestina, and some intricate prosodic inventions of the poet’s own), LeBlanc’s symmetries honor recurrence. And yet, readers will find no “irritable reaching after fact and reason” from this poet, who states her manner and matter with disarming candor—’no need to be rational’—as well as with a sly irony tinged with rue: ‘Hades is clever.’ – Steven Cramer, author of Goodbye to the Orchard and Clangings

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Belabored: A Vindication of the Rights of Pregnant Women

Lyz Lenz
Fiction, June 2011

“In Belabored, Lyz Lenz burrows inside our culture’s myths and fantasies about motherhood, mining her own deeply personal experiences to reveal a far uglier and more complex truth. Lenz is that smart, acid-tongued friend who entertains you with jaw-dropping stories while daring you to think more deeply. Belabored is riveting, riotous, and bracingly honest.” – Pamela Colloff, senior reporter at ProPublica and staff writer at the New York Times Magazine

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My Captain America: A Granddaughter’s Memoir of a Legendary Comic Book Artist

Megan Margulies
Nonfiction, June 2008

“A tender and heart-aching account of coming-of-age, and of aging, and of a vanishing New York City, as well as a much-needed corrective to myths concerning the origins of some of our most iconographic pieces of 20th-century popular culture. Thank you, Megan Margulies, for getting it all so right.” – Jonathan Lethem

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Sawa Trivia

Thato R. Mwosa
Writing for Stage and Screen, June 2017

Sawa Trivia is a fast-paced, exciting, African pop-culture card game that is guaranteed to keep one on the edge of their seat. Imagine learning while having fun. It is great for game nights and social gatherings. Sawa Trivia celebrates the diversity of the African continent and the contributions of African people. It inspires, empowers, and entertains. It honors Africa’s heroes and acknowledges some uncomfortable truths about Africa.

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Conspiracy: Nixon, Watergate, and Democracy’s Defenders

Patty Pearson
Writing for Young People, June 2015

“A skillful and meticulous telling of the Watergate Drama.” – Author Steve Sheinkin

“This rousing, accessible historical narrative offers opportune cautionary lessons about voting, civic involvement, and the importance of a free press.” – Publishers Weekly

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Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You

Jason Reynolds
Writing for Young People, MFA Writing Faculty

“At times funny, at times somber but always packed with relevant information that is at once thoughtful and spot-on, Stamped is the book I wish I had as a young person and am so grateful my own children have now.” – Jacqueline Woodson, bestselling and National Book Award-winning author of Brown Girl Dreaming

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When My Body Was A Clinched Fist

Enzo Silon Surin
Poetry, 2012

When My Body Was A Clinched Fist emerges as a significant marker in the reimagining of African American culture. Enzo Silon Surin’s poetry brings an honest lyricism to the body of work by people of African descent that began in the eighteenth century in a country that struggles to realize its ideals. His delicate unveiling of hurt and courage are the American story in miniature. A young boy from Haiti leaves the dangers of home to confront the unknown dangers of a new home. Surin is the poet as warrior priest, his work the prophet’s homily redefining what it means to become and be an American.” – Afaa M. Weaver, author of Spirit Boxing

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Did we miss you? If you published a novel, short story collection, poetry collection, or were involved in an anthology or a performance that can be purchased or viewed, please reach out to us at lesleycambridgecommon@gmail.com so we can add you to this list!

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