Rebecca Gayle Howell is the author
of Render /An Apocalypse (a finalist for ForeWord’s Book
of the Year) and the translator of Amal al-Jubouri's verse memoir of the Iraq
War, Hagar Before the Occupation/Hagar After the Occupation (a
finalist for Three Percent's Best Translated Book Award). Among Howell’s honors
are fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Mass., the
Carson McCullers Center, and the Kentucky Arts Council, as well as a Pushcart
Prize; since 2014, she has edited poetry for the Oxford American.
Howell’s latest book, American Purgatory, was selected by Don Share for The Sexton Prize; Eyewear Publishing released the book to both the United Kingdom and the United States in early 2017. Howell is from Kentucky, where she is still the James Still Writer-in-Residence at the Hindman Settlement School (Hindman, Ky.).
American Purgatory is a story of the working class, a dystopia set in a near-future United States marked by severe drought, herbicidal warfare, and a totalitarian climate of poverty. This purgatory is populated by those who believe if that they work hard enough, they will be set free. Against this backdrop, three unlikely characters begin a journey that will take them away from work, belief, and even each other, until the protagonist uncovers the truth about this place and the people in it—a truth that indeed sets her free. Equal parts Dante and Cormac McCarthy, American Purgatory is a coming-of-age for capitalism written in the decade of tea-party terror.