Wordplay 2021 Debut(ish) Titles

Wordplay Banner 2020 Virtual


See some new faces in the Wordplay 2021 lineup? This year’s festival features several debut and up-and-coming authors who we’re so excited to share with you. To guide you as you explore these less-familiar faces, we’ve connected each new author with several books in similar styles that you might have encountered before. 

In a “Like that? Try this!” style, we present our 2021 debut and rising authors: 



Book cover for Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour

Mateo Askaripour: Black Buck

Mateo Askaripour’s novel Black Buck reveals a young man given a shot at stardom as the lone Black salesman at a mysterious, cult-like, and wildly successful startup where nothing is as it seems. This quick-paced, satirical novel has a similar dark comic energy and fast pace to novels like Sorry to Bother You by Boots Riley, Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort, Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender, or Slay by Brittany Morris. 




Book cover for Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge

Kaitlyn Greenridge - Libertie

Inspired by the life of one of the first Black female doctors in the United States and rich with historical detail, Kaitlyn Greenridge’s new and immersive novel seeks to help us understand our present through a deep, moving, and lyrical dive into our complicated past. This work will resonate with readers who enjoyed the masterful storytelling and enchanting feelings of magic in I Hold a Wolf by the Ears by Laura van den Berg, Luster by Raven Leilani, The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson, and Watch Over Me by Nina LaCour. 



Book cover The Renunciations by Donika Kelly

Donika Kelly - The Renunciations

Donika Kelly’s poetry collection The Renunciations is a book about resilience, survival, and the shifting sense of self in the face of trauma. Moving between a childhood marked by love and abuse and the breaking marriage of that adult child, Kelly charts memory and body as landscapes to be traversed and tended. The themes of trauma, intimacy, and vulnerability echo works like The Office of Historical Connections by Danielle Evans, Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor, White Magic by Elissa Washuta, and The Magical Language of Others by E.J. Koh. 




Book Cover for The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

Namina Forna - The Gilded Ones

One of the most anticipated fantasy novels of 2021, The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna portrays the journey of self-discovery when sixteen-year-old Deka trains for the fight of her life, only to learn that things are not always as they seem—including herself. Forna’s immersive feminist tale builds upon the dark fantasy undertones of works like Forest of Souls by Lori Lee, Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust, Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, and Black Panther by Ta-Nehishi Coates.   




Book Cover for The Ones We're Meant to Find by Joan He

Joan He - The Ones We’re Meant to Find

The Ones We’re Meant to Find is a sci-fi fantasy with mind-blowing twists, ready to burst onto the YA scene. The novel explores the struggles of Cee, who awoke on an abandoned island three years ago and is now marooned with only a rickety house, an old android, and a single memory: she has a sister, and Cee needs to find her. This work will excite and mystify readers of other suspenseful and mysterious YA tales like We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, The Silence of Bones by June Hur, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, and The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey. 



Book cover for Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia

Gabriela Garcia - Of Women and Salt

In a sweeping, masterful debut about a daughter’s fateful choice, Gabriela Garcia’s Of Women and Salt depicts a mother motivated by her own past and a family legacy that begins in Cuba before either of them were born. The novel is a kaleidoscopic portrait of betrayals—from personal and political, self-inflicted and those done by others—that have shaped the lives of these extraordinary women. This complex story would appeal to readers who enjoyed the raw explorations of generational trauma and human connection in works like The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris, We Run the Tides by Vendela Vida, Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenridge, and All Adults Here by Emma Straub.