and Other Stories

April Ayers Lawson

Published: 4 January 2018
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 192 pages
ISBN: 9781847085610


Set mostly in the American South, at the crossroads of a world both secular and devoutly Christian, April Ayers Lawson's stories evoke the inner lives of young women and men navigating sexual, emotional, and spiritual awakenings.

In 'The Negative Effects of Homeschooling', Conner, sixteen, accompanies his grieving mother to the funeral of her best friend Charlene, a woman who was once a man. In 'The Way You Must Play Always', Gretchen, a thirteen year old who looks even younger, heads into her weekly piano lesson in nervous anticipation of her next illicit meeting with her teacher's brother, Wesley. 'Vulnerability' charts the edgy attraction a promising young artist begins to feel for her art dealer. And in the title story, 'Virgin', Jake grapples with the growing chasm between him and his wife, Sheila, a woman who was still a virgin when they wed. At a cocktail party thrown by a wealthy donor to his hospital, he ponders the intertwining imperatives of marriage - sex and love, violation and trust, spirituality and desire - even as he finds himself succumbing to the temptations of his host.

Self-assured and sensual, this collection introduces the work of a young writer of unusual mastery.

About the author

Image of April Ayers Lawson

April Ayers Lawson is the recipient of the 2011 Plimpton Prize for Fiction, as well as a 2015 writing fellowship from The Corporation of Yaddo. 'Virgin' was also named a 2011 favourite short story of the year by Flavorwire Magazine and anthologized in The Unprofessionals: New American Writing from the Paris Review (Penguin 2016). Her fiction has appeared in the Norwegian version of Granta, Oxford American, Vice, ZYZZYVA Crazyhorse, and Five Chapters, among others. She has lectured in the Creative Writing Department at Emory University, and is the 2016-2017 Kenan Visiting Writer at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Virgin and Other Stories is her first book. More about the author


‘[A] finely observed debut... There is a touch of dark Southern gothic in Lawson's world, but it is lit by the sheer intelligence of her writing and her x-ray eye for the inner dynamics of relationships’ Phil Baker



‘[A] stirring debut collection... Throughout the collection's five stories, Lawson's meticulous prose contrasts with the chaotic lives of her characters... Her meaty stories unpeel her characters, stripping them down to their feelings... Lawson's precise and often beautiful prose applies to all her characters as they struggle to move on from their pasts’ Sarah Gilmartin

‘[An] assured collection [...] looking at frustration and desire, sexual awakening and confusion with a fresh eye and real insight... Throughout all the stories, disappointment and frustration are rife, the author painting a vivid and believable picture of sexual politics in the 21st century’ Doug Johnstone

‘A tremendous intelligence paradoxically amplified by being constrained by intense emotion; Lawson is a distinctive, and extraordinary, writer’ Rivka Galchen

‘April Ayers Lawson renders complete portraits of sexual relationships, from start to finish, in a way that is fully honest and brave and even occasionally shameless, in the highest sense. Fearless, bold, these stories are entertaining contemporary classics’ Amie Barrodale

‘Faltering marriages, uneasy connections to fundamentalist religious backgrounds, and the gray areas where powerful teenage sexuality meets adult desire in relationships that may or may not constitute abuse - these are among the recurrent subjects handled frankly yet with a delicate touch. Meaty, satisfying tales of a substance that suggests Lawson would make a fine novelist’

‘It's a testament to Lawson's achievement that what's memorable isn't her plunges into the strange, but the care with which she has drawn her characters’ Sylvie McNamara

‘It's difficult to write about desire in a way which feels wholly new, but that's something author April Ayers Lawson does repeatedly in her debut book... Lawson has a fascinating way of describing the separation between people's intentions and the outcomes of their unwieldy romantic and sexual yearnings. She does this through poignant imagery and layering complicated feelings between her characters... April Ayers Lawson gives such a lively and refreshing slant on the peculiar reality of people's relationships to each other that I found Virgin and Other Stories often surprising, enlightening and a pleasure to read’ Eric Anderson

‘Lawson's stories, at once forensic and mysterious, show how insistent our wants can be and how hard they are to understand’ Hannah Rothschild

‘Like all the best short story writers, April Ayers Lawson works to reverse your expectations from the moment you read the titles of her tales... It all plays out in an unsettling fashion, with a precise use of language that renders what remains unsaid worth the re-reading’ Claire Marie Healy

‘Studded with gems [...] the collection proves Lawson is a young writer to watch, with even its slightest pieces, containing killer lines’ Jude Cook

‘The five stories in Lawson's superb debut collection explore youth in extremis, through voices at once elegant in their phrasing and unrestrained in their emotion... The precision of Lawson's prose brilliantly contrasts with their messy inner lives of her characters. These are stories that dare to tread where they shouldn't, on uncertain ground that feels, in the hands of this talented young writer, remarkably concrete’

‘The stories in Virgin are sensual, and smart, and theologically informed - but what I find most captivating is the refined elegance of the prose itself. Like Virginia Woolf and Samantha Harvey, Lawson renders her fine, often painfully precise details in a lyric, near-transcendent voice. Virgin is an important, immersive work by a young writer on the cusp of what I predict will be a tidal wave career’ Jamie Quatro, author

‘This is a fantastic short story collection that I read all in one sitting... it just swept me away’ Rachel Janew

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