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Fall into a good book with these UAA alumni authors

by Matt Jardin  |   

Pour yourself a mug of your favorite warm beverage and get comfortable, because here are three new books from UAA alumni authors to add to your reading queue.

Matt Caprioli
B.A. English and Psychology ’15
Latest release: One Headlight

One Headlight book cover
(Photo courtesy of Matt Caprioli)

As winter nears, Alaskans are preparing their vehicles to handle the next few months of driving through the snow and dark. This familiar scenario takes center stage in Matt Caprioli’s debut book One Headlight. The framing device for the memoir sees a teenaged Caprioli and his late mother, Abby, along their daily morning winter drive through Lazy Mountain to Anchorage in a rickety Mustang with no passenger window, no snow tires and only one headlight.

The origin of One Headlight, specifically the visual of the Mustang and the focus on Capriloi’s love-hate relationship with Alaska after moving from California at age 13, dates back to 2013 as an essay he wrote to apply to M.F.A. writing programs. But the heart of the memoir, covering his escape to Manhattan to pursue writing to his return to Alaska to care for his mother when she fell ill, wasn’t something Caprioli was ready to confront until after Abby’s passing in 2017. 

Matt Caprioli
(Photo courtesy of Matt Caprioli)

“I wrote this for my mother, to honor her, to be with her in the afterlife and to feel at peace with who she was and how I acted,” said Caprioli. “I wrote this not thinking it would find a publisher, so it was a gift to relive the memories of my mother and to forgive her and also forgive myself.”

Written in under four months, Caprioli not only took comfort in writing about his mother but also from reading her journals, which provided context and clarity regarding her side of their shared memories. Additionally, he wrote the first draft entirely by hand in red pen, which was a practice both his mother and grandmother, Victoria, shared.

Even though Caprioli originally intended to write One Headlight as a way to process his own emotions, he hopes his memoir can also help others either mourn a loss or gain a newfound appreciation for what they still have.

“I want [readers] to cry and laugh and then call their mom or motherly figure,” said Caprioli. “I hope those who have lost someone important can gain some recognition and validity to their emotions. Grief is something that is not talked about in an ordinary way. Some people sweep grief under the rug, and I hope this memoir lets people feel like they can own their own grief.”

Sandra Lynne Reed
B.A. English '74
Latest release: The Drive in '65

The Drive in 65 book cover
(Photo courtesy of Sandra Lynne Reed)

Spending the summer road-tripping across the country with family may seem like a fantasy relegated to the pre-pandemic world. Sandra Lynne Reed writes about one such adventure in her first book, The Drive in ’65, recollecting the time her mother, aunt and grandmother packed up Reed, her siblings and her cousins — eight people in a nine-passenger van — to embark on a 14-week road trip from Alaska across the United States.

Taken long before social media or smart devices were around to document such a trip, Reed pieced together The Drive in ’65 by referencing the dozens of journals, letters and postcards written by her family throughout the trip.

During the writing process, Reed realized that The Drive in ’65 also had the potential to be much more than a family album and something akin to a historical record. News of the Vietnam War and civil rights movement pervaded the background of their trip and became unavoidable, even in what the family documented at the time.

Sandra Lynne Reed
(Photo courtesy of Sandra Lynne Reed)

“This was initially going to be a project for the family,” said Reed. “But as I wrote, the story became bigger to include historical context for what was going on in the country at that time. I also gained an appreciation for the challenges my mom and aunt took on with that trip as women in their 30s. Women's place was very different at that time in history.”

Originally supposed to be written by her mother and aunt, Reed took on the task of completing the book after her mother developed macular degeneration and her aunt was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. With the work they started generations ago now complete, she hopes the book will inspire other families to embark on their own adventures.

“I hope [readers] are encouraged to follow a dream,” said Reed. “This was the kind of adventure my mom and aunt dreamed up. All us kids had been born in Alaska and had very little experience outside of the state. They wanted to show us what the rest of the country was like and that there was more to the world than just the little piece of it we knew in Alaska.”

Ian Kirkpatrick
B.A. Theatre '13
Latest release: Bleed More, Bodymore

Bleed More Bodymore book cover
(Photo courtesy of Ian Kirkpatrick)

Halloween approaches, making now the perfect time to dive into satirical horror Bleed More, Bodymore, the second published novel from Ian Kirkpatrick. For the lifelong horror aficionado, the genre is at its most compelling when it allows for the creative exploration of common human issues.

“One of my favorite genres is horror because you can get so surprising with it,” said Kirkpatrick. “Especially if you get to the weird, absurdist, surrealist kind, you can really start looking at more complex themes like how much regret fuels the anger in our lives and how it passes down and creates intergenerational trauma.”

Part supernatural thriller and part murder mystery, Bleed More, Bodymore follows a Baltimore mechanic as she tries to prove her best friend’s innocence of abandoning a corpse in the trunk of a car. Her search leads her to Baltimore’s Leakin Park — rumored to be an infamous burial ground for murder victims — and from there, a ghost town hiding beneath the city itself.

Ian Kirkpatrick
(Photo courtesy of Ian Kirkpatrick)

The entirety of Bleed More, Bodymore was born out of a Latin phrase that Kirkpatrick couldn’t stop thinking about: caedis silvis, which loosly translates to murder in the woods. The rest of the idea came together as Kirkpatrick was watching YouTube videos exploring abandoned locales, one of which featuring Leakin Park. With all the pieces in place, the first draft of the book took just under four months to complete, which was a welcome change after the 10 years it took for her to write her first novel, Dead End Drive.

Even though Bleed More, Bodymore approaches complex themes under an aesthetic that squeamish readers might resist, Kirkpatrick notes that the novel was written to be as fun to read as it is frightening.

“I hope [readers] see the different ways that trauma can manifest in the development of people and just how being kinder can change somebody's life,” said Kirkpatrick. “Also, I hope they just go on a fun adventure and they like the raven that eats hearts because he's pretty fun.”

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