The Lookout Books team is thrilled to introduce our next book, We Show What We Have Learned, a debut story collection from author Clare Beams. As imaginative and compelling as they are emotionally complex, these nine exquisitely unsettling stories blend the fantastic, the historic, and the literary to capture the true strangeness of what it means to be human.
Already some of our favorite writers are loving the book. Caitlin Horrocks says, “Clare Beams is a magician, and each of these stories is a muscular, artful haunting.” Change-Rae Lee says, “In gorgeous prose that thrills, instructs, and thoroughly inspires, Clare Beams obliterates the ‘dividing line between possibilities and impossibilities,’ showing how our passions can rule with reality-bending magic.”
From bewildering assemblies in school auditoriums to the murky waters of a Depression-era health resort, Beams’s landscapes are tinged with otherworldliness, and her characters’ desires stretch the limits of reality to delight, surprise, and provoke: Ingénues at a boarding school bind themselves to their headmaster’s vision of perfection; a nineteenth-century landscape architect embarks on his first major project, but finds the terrain of class and power intractable; a bride glimpses her husband’s past when she wears his World War II parachute as a gown; and a teacher comes undone in front of her astonished fifth graders.
Four of these nine stories take place in schools. “I began to see the common themes and threads that tie these stories together,” Clare said. “Their concern with the shaping of selves has a lot to do with my time in the classroom.” These are complex characters, and their vulnerabilities are made manifest in all their messy beauty. From the mercurial space between girlhood and adulthood to a matriarch coming to terms with her legacy, these stories show us women grappling with power and legacy, prompting Joyce Carol Oates to call Clare “a female/feminist voice for the twenty-first century.”
This gorgeous cover, designed by Lookout publisher and art director Emily Smith, features art from Andrea Wan. We think it’s the perfect complement to Clare’s rare and capacious imagination. Find more of Andrea’s work on her website.
We can’t wait to share the full collection with you on October 25. These stories appear in Ecotone, One Story, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading and are forthcoming in the Common and online at the Kenyon Review this summer. In the meantime, we hope you’ll head to Clare’s brand-new website designed by the Lookout student staff, where you can read more about her and pre-order a copy of the book. And like her Facebook page and follow her @clarebeams on Twitter, too!
Going to AWP this week? We’ll be taking pre-orders at table 919 at the bookfair and giving out these beautiful bookmarks.
We’re so excited to welcome Clare to the Lookout family!