The first book from an immensely talented and promising young writer. Joffre, who is 27 years old, graduated with honors from Cornell University, where she won the M. H. Abrams Prize, the Arthur Lynn Andrews Prize for Fiction, and the George Harmon Coxe Award for Creative Writing. She earned her MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has studied under many renowned writers, including Lan Samantha Chang, Marilynne Robinson, Ayana Mathis, and Stephanie Vaughn.
There is tremendous early support for Night Beast, with blurbs forthcoming from Kelly Link, Alice Fulton, Anna Noyes, Kevin Wilson, Kevin Brockmeier, Benjamin Percy, Julie Orringer, and Ayana Mathis.
“Night Beast,” the title story of this collection, was selected by Kelly Link as winner of the 2016 Masters Review Fall Fiction Contest. “I’m Unarmed,” another story in the collection, was selected by Mary Gaitskill as the winner of the 2013 SLS Unified Literary Contest.
There is a huge appetite for this kind of fiction. Like Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link (sold 14,457 copies in paperback) and St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell (sold 42,984 copies in paperback), Night Beast is a gorgeously written, genre-bending debut collection that will appeal to readers of both literary and speculative fiction. Some stories are fully realist, while others incorporate surreal, science fictional, fairy tale, or noir elements. Night Beast will also appeal to readers of Alexandra Kleeman, Laura van den Berg, Ted Chiang, Shirley Jackson, and Angela Carter.
Provocative and timely, this is an uncommonly honest exploration of the lives of women—particularly queer women and mothers—examining lesbian and bisexual relationships, trauma and redemption, the meaning of family, and the darker side of humanity. Joffre’s characters are often haunted figures—some are haunted by their pasts, others are haunted by their own moral failings, and others by the people around them (or those in absentia). These are stories of doomed love and missed connections, trauma and redemption, and coming-of-age—and ageing—as an outsider. The collection is partially inspired by Nightwood by Djuna Barnes (“Night Beast” is the title that Barnes had originally considered using for her famous novel). The epigraph, which aptly describes the main thrust of the stories, comes from Nightwood: “‘I have been loved,’ she said, ‘by something strange, and it has forgotten me.’”
Like Difficult Women by Roxane Gay, Night Beast is populated by dazzlingly complex and morally dubious female characters, and Joffre’s examination of class struggles and sexuality call to mind the work of Jeanette Winterson. The stories are tender, heartbreaking, wry, and tough, but Joffre is also very funny, and her subtle, biting humor brings levity to the heavy subject matter, making the stories delightful and amusing to read.
Joffre is a Seattle-based writer who also works in publishing and has great connections with the region’s publishers and booksellers. She teaches writing and literature at the Hugo House and maintains strong connections with her networks at Iowa and Cornell. The Elliott Bay Book Company has already agreed to host a reading.
Joffre is a deceptively intricate writer; while the stories are accessible and easy to read, they are also cleverly layered; there are many hidden meanings and connections to discover, so the stories can be read again and again. In an interview with the Kenyon Review, Joffre described herself as writer: “Nowadays, I see myself as less of a sharpshooter and more like the lover who might smother you while you sleep.”
Stories in this collection have been published in The Kenyon Review, Mid-American Review, Juked, SmokeLong Quarterly, DIAGRAM, Hayden's Ferry Review, and the Masters Review.
Joffre is a prolific writer and has written enough stories to fill another, separate volume. A brand-new talent with a boundless imagination and a major writing career ahead, she is currently at work on her first novel.