"Houston is so diverse, which I find wonderful as a teacher," shares Chanelle Benz, adjunct professor at University of Houston and author of new short story collection, The Man Who Shot Out My Eye is Dead, from which she'll read at Brazos Bookstore on Jan. 19.
Her dazzling debut is also diverse, featuring 10 versatile and compelling short stories that span time periods and narrators. "The Diplomat's Daughter," which was featured in the literary quarterly Granta, is a compelling story about—you guessed it—the daughter of a diplomat, weaving the past with the present regarding her international volunteer assignment gone rogue. "West of the Known," which was featured in The American Reader, follows a young lady-turned-freshly minted outlaw, taking readers through the wild frontier of 19th-century Texas.
Before moving to the Bayou City three years ago, the author of British-Antiguan descent lived in various places around the country—from upstate New York, where she studied at Syracuse University under prolific short story master George Saunders (who will read from his new book, Lincoln in the Bardo, at Inprint's Reading Series on March 6) to Hattiesburg, Miss., and New Orleans, two cities Benz described as "truly being places out of time."
Her stint in the Big Easy helped inspire another short story in her collection, "The Peculiar Narrative." Told from the perspective of an African-American writer traveling from a Free State to a reading in Louisiana, or, from the poet's perspective, "The eighth circle of Hell," her presence—and newly discovered secret—are not received kindly.
All of Benz's stories encapsulate her remarkable and refreshing voice across a gamut of landscapes and characters. While this is her first collection, it won't be her last.
The Man Who Shot Out My Eye Is Dead (Ecco; $24.99) by Chanelle Benz
Benz will sign and discuss her new collection on Jan 19 at 7. Brazos Bookstore, 2421 Bissonnet St. 713-523-0701. brazosbookstore.com