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Fall books: Southern Nevada authors have new releases this season

There are a lot of literary events in the fall, so it makes sense that so many local authors are releasing books this season.


Ahmed Naji's Rotten Evidence has already been published elsewhere, but it's getting its first American release on Oct. 17, the same day he does a signing and reading at Writer's Block in downtown Las Vegas. It's the novelist-journalist's account of serving 10 months in an Egyptian jail for writing something a judge deemed offensive. He is now an MFA student at UNLV.

In the book, Naji details his court case, his initial adjustment to incarceration and how he learned to navigate the various bureaucracies of imprisonment. He also learned a great deal about his fellow inmates and the power of writing (which he maintained with a journal). He tells the story of seeing one such inmate sobbing after finishing a run-of-the-mill romance novel.

"He was like, 'This novel is amazing,'" said Naji. "'I am here because when I look at the cover, I remember passages from it [and] I start to cry.' And I was shocked — like, how come a book, a novel — whatever the topic of the book — could reach out and fix such a guy, and make him cry, and [he] ends up in a prison toilet at two a.m. at night? And it was a couple of days after this incident that I said I needed to figure out what is the hidden power in this art, what is the hidden power in literature and writing, and how come sometimes words could reach people and squeeze their hearts and change them from inside out?"


Local food writer Kim Foster's first-ever published book, The Meth Lunches: Food and Longing in an American City, came out Oct. 10. In it, Foster explores the various way poverty and addiction affects people's eating habits and practices, from her middle-class Downtown neighborhood to the downtrodden areas of Boulder Highway.

She'll read from the book on Oct. 12 at the Writer's Block and appear at the Las Vegas Book Festival on Oct. 21.

She focuses on this intersection because people forget the various logistics of food when they focus on the beauty and sensorial aspects of it. "I really wanted to explore food that wasn't Instagrammable and beautiful," said Foster. "And I really wanted to look at the way that people shop for their food and cook their own food. And what I found out is that people who are in the lower economic socioeconomic classes often don't even have an opportunity to choose their own foods. So this very, very basic thing that you and I take for granted — which is that I could leave here and go to the grocery store and buy, you know, whatever food I want for my family, or my kids can call me up and say, pick up this or whatever — a lot of people can't do that. It's a very, very simple thing. ... There needs to be more investigation into how food translates in people's lives in a different way."


Jarret Keene, an assistant professor of English at UNLV, recently published a novel called Hammer of the Dogs, set in a post-apocalyptic Las Vegas. It tells the story of Lash, a 21-year-old woman who is trying to save her peers and Las Vegas from forces that use technology in nefarious ways.

He'll be discussing not only his own book and genre fiction in general at next week's Las Vegas Book Festival — and on Nov. 4 at Barnes & Noble — but also the latest edition of the Las Vegas Writes writing collection on October 19 at Clark County Library.

Hammer demonstrates Keene's passion for 1980s sci-fi storytelling and fantasy films, and genre fiction in general. He's edited multiple collections of sci-fi and crime fiction, and he believes these less-mainstream narratives are less recognized, especially in academia.

"It's increasingly likely you'll encounter some science fiction or crime fiction at the university, but there's still pushback," said Keene. "And I think that's unfortunate. I think we need to do more to embrace popular culture genre writing in English departments around the country, including horror, romance, and westerns. I mean, these are art forms like any other. I don't think we need to always focus on domestic realism or, you know, wild postmodernism. I think there are other things to discuss. I think there's some really terrific writing in so-called genre fiction. And I think it's our responsibility as professors to bring this into the classroom and inspire [students] to read. Why deny the pleasurable aspects of fiction?"

Las Vegas Book Festival on Oct. 21, 2023
Events at Writer's Block

Guests: Kim Foster, food writer and author, The Meth Lunches; Ahmed Naji, City of Asylum Fellow, UNLV and author, Rotten Evidence; Jarret Keene, assistant professor of English, UNLV and author, Hammer of the Dogs

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Mike has been a producer for State of Nevada since 2019. He produces — and occasionally hosts — segments covering entertainment, gaming & tourism, sports, health, Nevada’s marijuana industry, and other areas of Nevada life.
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