US author Jessica Thummel, winner of last year’s Dundee International Book Prize, will return to the city next week to celebrate the launch of her debut novel.
Jessica’s winning entry, The Cure For Lonely, earned her £5000, a publishing deal with Freight Books and a week’s protected writing time in Scotland as part of the prize. As well as writing and exploring Dundee during her time in Scotland, Jessica will appear at Edinburgh International Book Festival to promote her book, which was published last month to critical acclaim.
The Cure For Lonely is the coming-of-age story of Sam Gavin, a transman who moves from Kansas to San Francisco in the summer of 1989. The novel’s protagonist was described by The List as “an unholy blend of Holden Caulfield and Scout Finch if they lived through the 1980s AIDS crisis”.
Although the action takes place nearly three decades ago, its subject matter could hardly be more topical given the Trans community’s ongoing campaign for recognition and equality, a drive dealt a blow last month by President Trump’s ban on Trans people serving in the US military.
“I’m always drawn into a story out of personal curiosity,” explained Jessica. “I started writing The Cure for Lonely because I wanted to understand what it meant to feel like a gender. I’ve never felt like a gender. And I wanted to know what that was like.
“I began the book in 2007. In the decade since, I have written, finished, and scrapped three entire drafts while trying to get the voice and story right. For a book that is about 70,000 words, I probably created a half-million words, hundreds and hundreds of pages, trying to find Sam and his story.
“It can feel like a lot of responsibility, creating a character. He had to be right. I had to really hear Sam as a human—not as any label or idea. He had to be real. It wasn’t so much that I was drawn to Sam, but that he came to me. And, of course, after he did, I couldn’t stop thinking about him.
“As well as writing, I’m really looking forward to exploring Dundee and I’m certainly looking forward to my event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, where I will read from and discuss The Cure for Lonely.”
Jessica and fellow author Tommy Wieringa will explore the meaning of 21st century identity, masculinity and sexuality in their novels during the event in Edinburgh. Entitled, ‘This Is A Man’s World’, it takes place at the Writers’ Retreat from 3.30-4.30pm on Sunday, 20th August. Tickets are available from https://www.edbookfest.co.uk/the-festival/whats-on/jessica-thummel-tommy-wieringa.
The Dundee International Book Prize is a collaboration between the University of Dundee, Freight Books and Dundee City Council's 'One City, Many Discoveries' campaign. Jessica will also meet with Lord Provost Ian Borthwick on Wednesday, 16th August.