You are browsing the search results for "rockaway"



Rockaway Beach, 2001. Sarah, a painter from southern California, retreats to this eccentric, eclectic beach town in the far reaches of Queens with the hopes of rediscovering her passion for painting. Sarah has the opportunity for a real gallery showing if only she can create some new and interesting work. There, near the beach, she hopes to escape a life caught in the stasis of caregiving for her elderly parents and working at an art supply store to unleash the artist within. One summer, a room filled with empty canvasses, nothing but possibility.

There she meets Marty, an older musician from a once-popular band whose harmonies still infuse the summertime music festivals. His strict adherence to his music and to his Jewish faith will provoke unexpected feelings in Sarah and influence both her time there and her painting.

Rockaway is a time capsule love letter to a quirky, singular town, in a time before an entire community was brought to its knees in the events about to occur in September 2001, and to an entire town that faced tragedy again when it was summarily devastated eleven years later by Hurricane Sandy. It is the startling new fiction by a writer praised by Carolyn See as “an important new voice in fiction.”

About the Author

TARA ISON is the author of A Child Out of Alcatraz, a Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and The List. Her short fiction and essays have been in Tin HouseThe Kenyon ReviewNerve.comPublishers Weekly, and numerous anthologies. She is currently Assistant Professor of Fiction at Arizona State University and in another life, co-wrote the cult film Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead.


“In Ison’s poetic depiction, Rockaway is equal parts tourist trap and salt-sprayed idyll, where beachgoers frolic in the shadow of some potent dramatic irony: the reader’s awareness of the devastation soon to arrive across the river makes for an unsettling countdown… Ison possesses a surfeit of wit and an especial knack for upending love story conventions…as the narrative swirls to a stylish and startling end.” —New York Times Book Review

“In Rockaway’s narrative passages Ms. Ison’s prose style is lovely and in places lyrical… [Sarah] is an engagingly complex character readers will hope to see more of..” —New York Journal of Books

“How tragic that this book — set in a Queens, New York, beach town that in real life was devastated by Sandy — has a new relevance. Sarah is a California painter who’s come east for a retreat she hopes will revive her artistic passion. It’s a sheer joy to stay in the company of Ison’s voice. There’s an unlikely relationship at the center, the kind of encounter that could happen only in the summertime suspension of ‘ordinary’ life.” —Karen Russell for O, the Oprah Magazine

“Tara Ison is one of the premiere stylists of her generation, and on every page of Rockaway she writes sentences that are elegant and rich. Casually sensual in ways that will curl your toes, Ison refuses to look away from the ramifications of that same dark eroticism unleashed. It’s no exaggeration to say Rockaway is pretty much perfect — a meditation on art, aloneness, ambition, love, religion, and the unknowable and unquenchable thirst that is human desire. Just start reading. You won’t stop.” —Charles Bock, author of Beautiful Children

“Here is a young woman at the end of her leash, the end of her youth, the edge of her art, not doing a melancholy artist-on-the-beach thing, but confronting the many true colors of her life in this beautiful and dangerous season. Tara Ison’s Rockaway is a stirring, fresh look at a tough passage.” —Ron Carlson, author of Five Skies

Rockaway is an illuminating inquiry into the nature of love, the meaning of art, the power of faith and family, and how grace is discovered in the most unexpected places — a stunning, modern echo of Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse with a uniquely brilliant voice.” —Emily Rapp, author of The Still Point of the Turning World

Rockaway is a novel that embraces everything: love, art, friendship, faith, and the mystery of why we create the lives we do, with prose that is breathtaking, clear, and elegant. Sarah and Marty and Emily are depicted with honesty that is utterly riveting. This is a beautiful gem of a book.” —Karen E. Bender, author of Refund

“Written in language that is utterly liquid, Rockaway inhabits the poetry of a woman fiercely searching for identity. Here, we find an illuminating meditation on the art of being, with the true revelation suggesting that perhaps we were never lost at all. A triumphant reclamation of the soul.” —Ilie Ruby, author of The Salt God’s Daughter

Bury This


If twenty-five years can discover the internet, the cell phone, this thing called the iPod, can twenty-five years discover the secret of a girl murdered, abandoned, by the side of the road?

That is the haunting premise of Bury This, an impressionistic literary thriller about the murder of a young girl in small-town Michigan in 1979. Beth Krause was by all intents a good little girl – member of the church choir, beloved daughter of doting parents, friend to the downtrodden. But dig a little deeper into any small town, and conflicts and jealousies begin to appear. And somewhere is that heady mix lies the answer to what really happened to Beth Krause.

Her unsolved murder becomes the stuff of town legend, and twenty-five years later the case is re-ignited when a group of film students start making a documentary on Beth’s fateful life. The town has never fully healed over the loss of Beth, and the new investigation calls into light several key characters: her father, a WWII vet; her mother, once the toast of Manhattan; her best friend, abandoned by her mother and left to fend for herself against an abusive father; and the detective, just a rookie when the case broke, haunted by his inability to bring Beth’s murderer to justice. All of these passions will collide once the identity of Beth’s murderer is revealed, proving once again that some secrets can never stay buried.

About the Author

ANDREA PORTES was born in rural Nebraska, and spent her early years living in Illinois, Texas, North Dakota, North Carolina, Rio de Janiero, and Brasilia. Portes attended Bryn Mawr and received her MFA from UC San Diego. She is the author of the semi-autobiographical novel Hick, and has also completed the comic book series, Super Rad, which was released in September 2013 by Dark Matter Media.


Bury This is a ‘can’t-put-down’ type of novel for a wide range of audiences. It’s a tale of an unsolved murder, riddled with unexpected twists and revelations. I highly recommend it, especially as a beach read this summer.” —Sensible Reason

“The violent murder of a young innocent underpins Andrea Portes’s second novel [and she] tells this tale of violence in spiraling prose. Her empathy shies away from nothing in the tangled lives of this small Michigan town, with a young girl tied up tight in the center… Bury This doesn’t breathe life into Krause to titillate us but to allow us to participate in the mystery — of her death, yes, but also of her life and of small-town America. Portes takes a tale of personal tragedy and marries it to one of national weight. Throughout, her writing about this dirty, awful thing is so fresh it falls on readers bright and clean as north-country snow.” —New York Times Book Review

“If one could hear novelist Andrea Portes at work typing, I think the keystrokes might sound something like machine-gun fire: rapid, furious bursts of word bullets, aimed directly at the reader’s heart and wasting no extra ammunition in getting there… Portes captures the fetid, dark essence of Bury This: some people’s seemingly unquenchable, monstrous thirst to destroy beauty. Amazingly though, in writing about it, Portes also creates something wondrous, like the glow of a single jellyfish, floating gloriously amid an endlessly dark ocean.” —Dallas Morning News

“Andrea Portes is a natural, and she creates a fever dream with Bury This. Portes writes with such cool grace we almost forget to be astonished by her narrative’s complexity. Bury This is exhilarating, a raw, gripping, wintry Gothic, a less patrician — and perhaps more shattering — version of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. Read it and be transfixed.” —Matthew Specktor, author of American Dream Machine

“Witty, gothic, sparse, and poetic at its heart, Bury This is a page turner from the first sentence and a journey into the dark mysteries of the human condition.” —Frank Bill, author of Crimes in Southern Indiana and Donnybrook

“Andrea Portes writes with the tip of a knife, shape-shifting between characters and laying bare their darkest secrets. Bury This is electrifying and elegiac, sensual and suspenseful.” —Dylan Landis, author of Normal People Don’t Live Like This

Bury This is a stunning, unflinching portrait of a girl discarded but not forgotten, a town shattered by suspicion, and the corrosive power of anger, secrets, and shame. Andrea Portes fearlessly explores what lies beneath our fragile surfaces, what we try to bury in order to survive. This is a raw, poetic murder mystery less about who or how than the more haunting and compelling why.” —Tara Ison, author of Rockaway

“Portes’s short chapters and staccato narration make for a quick and compulsive read…as a study in human nature, it’s a triumph.” —Publishers Weekly

“Based on a true story, this book delivers suspense but means to be a social study, told in precise, lyrical language.” —Library Journal

Reeling Through Life


Reeling Through Life: How I Learned to Live, Love, and Die at the Movies looks at how film shapes identity. Through ten cleverly constructed essays, Ison explores how a lifetime of movie-watching has, for better or worse, taught her how to navigate the world and how to grapple with issues of career, family, faith, illness, sex, and love.

Cinema is a universal cultural experience, one that floods our senses with images and sounds, a powerful force that influences our perspective on the world around us. Ison discusses the universal aspects of film as she makes them personal, looking at how certain films across time shaped and molded who she has become. Drawing on a wide ranging catalog of films, both cult and classic, popular and art-house, Reeling Through Life examines how cinema shapes our views on how to make love, how to deal with mental illness, how to be Jewish, how to be a woman, how to be a drunk, and how to die with style.

Rather than being a means of escape or object of mere entertainment, Ison posits that cinema is a more engaging form of art, a way to slip into other identities and inhabit other realities. A way to orient oneself into the world. Reeling Though Life is a compelling look at one popular art form and how it has influenced our identities in provocative and important ways.

About the Author

TARA ISON is the author of the novels The List, A Child Out of Alcatraz, a Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and Rockaway, selected as a 2013 Best Books of Summer by O, the Oprah Magazine. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in Tin House, The Kenyon Review,, Publishers Weekly, and numerous anthologies. She is the co-author of the cult film Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead.


“This is fun, and smart, either a cautionary tale or a how-to, or both.” —OC Weekly

“If the subject of sex makes for some of Ison’s best writing, it is in part because it hews the closest to her own experience, which she uses as an obstinate crowbar to jimmy open the gap between representation and reality… We are interested in Ison, her experience, her chunk of flesh.” —New York Times Book Review

“Tara Ison’s insightful essay collection, Reeling Through Life: How I Learned to Live, Love, and Die at the Movies, made me realize that the movies I loved had marked me, perhaps in ways I had not realized, and that I shared some of the sensibility she had so smartly articulated in this book… Ison’s keen insights strike a chord. An original blend of memoir and film criticism.” —Chicago Tribune

“[B]reathless and impassioned, Ison shows how and when her favorite on-screen characters and stories synchronized with her own life, or, more often than not, failed to do so. It’s possible that film buffs may not appreciate her breezy approach to cinematic history, but I found it delightful. Rather than a seminar, Ison’s book has the feel of a dinner party, where the hostess tries out voices, does impressions, acts out whole scenes and plots.” —Los Angeles Review of Books

“Her knowledgeable study of the films in terms of society and her own life are witty and right on target, and she offers readers much to ponder. There are no holds barred here… This is well written, absorbing, and thought provoking, with a highly creative approach to memoir and also to film as it relates to our collective culture. The title will appeal to a wide readership and is especially recommended for those who enjoy film.” —Library Journal

“Novelist and screenwriter Ison delivers an innovative blend of film criticism and literary memoir in this absorbing collection of 10 essays… The result is powerfully universal, and the author’s writing is at once intellectually razor-sharp and poetic as she delves into the most complex of emotions… These essays, combining cultural criticism with deeply personal reflections on love, religion, family, and the nature of art, offer brilliant analysis and food for thought for film aficionados and casual fans alike.” —Publishers Weekly

“Ison is keenly aware of how cinema’s massive power molds us, teaches how to love, to drink, and to die….  Confessional, honest, and humorous, Reeling through Life is an engrossing memoir and a guide to essential film…” —Booklist

“There are wonderful movies revisited here…. [W]ell-written and engaging…” —Kirkus

“Essential and completely identifiable reading for any film lover. Tara Ison writes about movies and life the way Stephen King can write about horror — with an encyclopedic knowledge of both.” —David Koepp, screenwriter of Jurassic Park and Spider-Man

In Reeling Through Life, Tara Ison fashions a marvelous alchemy, giving cinematic sweep to the challenges in her life —some of them recognizable and very funny, some of them not and damned hard — while finding instructive nuggets in an array of iconic films to help make sense of the daily stuff we’d like to leave, if only we could, on the cutting room floor. The result is a brave yet buoyant personal story, told with grace and wit and not a hint of self-pity.” —Douglas Bauer, 2014 PEN New England Book Award winning author of What Happens Next?: Matters of Life and Death

“Like a great film retrospective, Ison’s gorgeous essays flicker and dazzle with nostalgia; her shimmering prose and astute, provocative insights surprise and delight. But it’s in her courage to rack focus, turning her personal life inside-out, that elevates this book into a profoundly moving, revelatory whole.”  —Neil Landau, author of the bestselling 101 Things I Learned in Film School

“Tara Ison’s Reeling Through Life: How I Learned to Live, Love, and Die at the Movies is unforgettable – a must read for anyone who loves movies. In an exquisite blend of memoir, criticism, and cultural observation, this luminous collection engages readers’ hearts, minds, and intellect the way that only the best movies – and the best storytellers – can. Ison masterfully showcases how movies shape and guide us; how they move and empower and embolden us; how they help us learn how to be, above all, human.” —Emily Rapp, author of The Still Point of the Turning World

“Tara Ison’s passion for the movies shines in every essay in Reeling Through Life, as she gleans life lessons from the movies she’s fallen in love with. By turns hilarious, poignant, and outrageous; always profound and beautifully written.” —Hallie Ephron, author of Night Night, Sleep Tight

“Tara Ison’s Reeling Through Life is the most enjoyable, intelligent, sharp-eyed, and intensely personal account I’ve ever read of how movies help to make us who we are. It’s as stirring as Norma Rae’s union sign, as seductive as Mrs. Robinson’s leopard-skin coat.” —Matthew Goodman, bestselling author of Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World



Ball is the thrilling and emotionally provocative debut collection of short fiction by the acclaimed author of the novels Rockaway and A Child Out of Alcatraz, and the essay collection Reeling Through Life.

Ball explores the darker edges of love and sex and death, how they are intimately and often violently connected, with bright, vivid stories set mostly in contemporary Los Angeles. In “Cactus,” a young girl comes to fear the outside world following the freakish, accidental death of her adventure-seeking, naturalist boyfriend in the California desert; in “Wig,” a woman must help her best friend face life-threatening cancer while covering up an unseemly affair with her friend’s husband; in “Fish,” the narrator sits watch over a dying uncle, trying to pay for past sins while administering to his final needs, but distracted by the ravenous fish in the Koi pond near the hospital; and in the collection’s stunning title story, the bonds of friendship and pet ownership collide in the most startling and unexpected ways.

With a keen insight into the edges of human behavior and an assured literary hand, Ball is the new book by one of the West’s most provocative stylists.

About the Author

TARA ISON is the author of the novels The ListA Child Out of Alcatraz (a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize), and Rockaway, selected as a “2013 Best Books of Summer” by O, the Oprah Magazine. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in Tin HouseThe Kenyon Review,, Publishers Weekly, and numerous anthologies. She is the co-author of the cult film Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead.


“Each tale in Ison’s story collection, seemingly innocuous, delves into a dark examination of inappropriate behavior: affairs, self-mutilation, shocking deaths; no faux pas stone is left unturned. But with her expert writing and willingness to push boundaries the grotesqueness and horrors are bearable, even beautiful.” —Marie Claire

“Ison delves into the minds of these characters and others in this captivating and disturbing collection of stories: think Mary Gaitskill or Miranda July, but more demented… Ison’s straightforward style belies a deeper, parallel truth hidden in each story. These stories find a strange sweet spot between the mundane and the horrific. They may shock but they also provoke, with many leading to an unexpected, and not always happy, ending.” —Publishers Weekly Starred Review

“Elegant, creepy short stories with a horror-film sensibility… That classic horror-movie elision, from friendly normalcy to nauseating terror, is made by most of these beautifully written, often first-person narratives… Freaky, nasty, highly original, and unforgettable, whether you like it or not.” —Kirkus

“Tara Ison’s stories locate the pleasure in pain, the victory in betrayal, the beauty in depravity — they walk the line between love and debasement. In the end, Ison’s characters are knots of selfish interest and desire, clinging to any warm body as death grows near, achingly human in her portrayal.” —Sarah Gerard, author of Binary Star

“Tara Ison is the mistress of bad behavior. She divines the beauty in darkness. She twists the familiar — a friendship, an apology — till something fantastic cracks. And she will have you in thrall to her gorgeous language. The stories in Ball are exquisite and harrowing. Must read straight through. Must remember to breathe.” —Dylan Landis, author of Rainey Royal

“The stories in Ball take place at the far limits of obsession and desire and lust, exploring the dangers of turning toward the kinds of love we have tried always to refuse. Tara Ison is a fearless writer, and her bravery before the dark urges of the heart thrills on every page.” —Matt Bell, author of In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods

Tara Ison


TARA ISON is the author of the novels The List; A Child Out of Alcatraz, a finalist for The Los Angeles Times Book Prize; Rockaway, selected as a 2013 Best Books of Summer by O, The Oprah Magazine; and the essay collection Reeling Through Life. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in Tin HouseThe Kenyon Review,, Publishers Weekly, and numerous anthologies. She is the coauthor of the cult film Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead.

She is the author of:

Ball: Stories
Reeling Through Life: How I Learned to Live, Love, and Die at the Movies
Rockaway: A Novel