The state of Cincinnati’s literary scene has long been strong (if often underappreciated by the populace at large). More evidence of our rich literary landscape surfaced earlier this year when a pair of local residents had their novels published on the same day, culminating in a joint event at Joseph-Beth Booksellers on Jan. 8.
Marjorie Celona’s Y and Leah Stewart’s The History of Us are more than just novels by writers who happen to be female; they’re sensitive, psychologically complex works that deal the nature of identity in ways both singular and incisive. Each book features an addictive narrative driven more by compellingly rendered characters than grandiose plot pyrotechnics. Each is also a humane, often humorous account of the ways in which family is both essential and a pain in the ass. And, as such, each has rightly garnered strong reviews and far-reaching attention from a variety of publications and readers.
Celona and Stewart might have landed in the Queen City via different routes, but each found their way here for one overriding reason: to take part in the University of Cincinnati’s well-regarded creative writing program (Stewart as a professor; Celona as a Ph.D. student). It should then come as no surprise that they both live in Northside, the eclectic neighborhood where CityBeat recently met with each author to discuss the outsize role literature plays in their lives.