Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer

5 Books by D.C. Writers To Watch For in 2021

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Claire Handscombe


Claire Handscombe moved from Europe to DC in 2012, ostensibly to study for an MFA in Creative Writing, but actually – let’s be honest – because of an obsession with The West Wing. She is the author of Unscripted, a novel about a young woman with a celebrity crush and a determined plan, and the editor of Walk With Us: How The West Wing Changed Our Lives. She also hosts the Brit Lit Podcast, a fortnightly show of news and views from British books and publishing. Blog: the Brit Lit Blog. Twitter: @BookishClaire

Washington, D.C. is a great place to live if you’re an avid reader. We’ve got the Library of Congress, lots of great independent bookshops, and a city brimming with talented writers. Here are five of the latest or upcoming books by D.C. writers.

The Hive by Melissa Scholes Young (Keylight Books; June 8, 2021)

Originally from Hanibal, Missouri, Melissa Scholes Young is an Associate Professor in Literature at American University, where she teaches in the Creative Writing program. Her debut, Flood, came out in 2017, and she is following up with The Hive this year, just in time for the cicadas. The Hive tells the story of a family which unravels after the patriarch dies, leaving the insect extermination business not to any of his four daughters, but rather to a distant cousin. It’s an intriguing premise, and a timely one, since bugs will be on all Washingtonians’ minds this summer.

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Elizabeth Acevedo writes moving, innovative novels in verse intended for a teen audience but enjoyed by many adults. In 2019, her book The Poet X won a host of awards in the US and abroad, including the UK’s prestigious Carnegie Medal. Clap When You Land is longlisted for the same award this year. In this novel, two teenage girls are stricken when the plane carrying their father to the Dominican Republic goes down — but the girls don’t know about each other. Their father, unbenownst to them, had two families. And now, on top of their grief, they have this new reality to navigate.

A Special Place for Women by Laura Hankin (Berkley; May 11, 2021)

Laura Hankin came to D.C. last spring to be with her boyfriend while they waited out the few weeks the pandemic would last. More than a year later, the pandemic is still here, but on the plus side, so is she! Her debut Happy and You Know It came out last year and was chosen as a Book of the Month pick. Her second book, A Special Place for Women, is making waves already, with Paramount Television Studios acquiring the TV rights and Samantha Bee on the list of executive producers. In the book, a young journalist has the audacity to infiltrate a secret, women’s only club, unaware of what she is risking by doing so.

Courting Mr. Lincoln by Louis Bayard

Louis Bayard grew up in Northern Virginia, was once a Congressional staffer, and is now known as an acclaimed author of historical fiction. His latest, Courting Mr. Lincoln, came out early in 2020, received a starred review from Kirkus, and was a Washington Post bestseller. It tells the story of Mary Todd’s romance with Abraham Lincoln and her reckoning with his intense friendship with his roommate, Joshua Speed, who helped make him into the man he was.

A Woman of Intelligence by Karin Tanabe (St. Martin’s Press, July 20, 2021)

Having grown up in D.C., Karin Tanabe’s prolific novel writing career has spanned a wide variety of themes and locations, from art theft to a Politico-inspired news room and World War II Japan. Her upcoming book, A Woman of Intelligence, has received the coveted starred review from Publishers Weekly, who called it “layered and engrossing”. In its pages, we read about an accomplished young woman who works as a translator at the newly formed United Nations in the 1940s — until she is drafted by the FBI and sent on a mission to inform on a man from her past who has become a Soviet spy. A smart thriller with heart, and, if I know Karin’s writing (and I do!), likely some simmering sexual tension, too.