Reviews and Interviews
Feral, North Carolina, 1965
Listed in BuzzFeed as one of "18 Books from Smaller Publishers that Deserve Your Attention," fall 2019. BuzzFeed click here
Feral, North Carolina, 1965 is made up of sharply concentrated moments of portraiture that put me in mind of Sandra Cisnero’s The House on Mango Street, a series of keenly realized episodes that, taken together, add up to much more than the sum of their parts. There’s a powerful elegiac feeling to the characters and situations depicted here, as though they were being lovingly recalled rather than being invented.
Pinckney Benedict, O. Henry Award winning author of Miracle Boy
In this ambitious and often moving tale, Saraceno has a knack for convincingly rendering the internal experiences of a thoughtful young girl’s early encounters with imposing, big-picture questions. Further, the author’s depictions of country town summers from a bygone era are pleasurably atmospheric and her prose sparkles when she is rendering the subtleties of emotional incidents.
Kirkus Review—click to read more
Feral, North Carolina, 1965 is a powerful gem. Told with wit and verve, the novel unfolds in vignettes that read like short stories, and in fact, many chapters were previously published as short stories. Feral captures a time and place with impeccable world building, astute observations, and subtle humor, yet does not hide from the bigotry and malice that drives the final chapters.
Claire Hamner Matturro Southern Lit Review—click to read more
Ruth Jackson Hall: What compelled you to write this book?
June Sylvester Saraceno: The book grew out of stories and vignettes that amassed over a period of years...
Ruth Jackson Hall—Interview click to read more
This wonderful debut novel of Truckee writer June Sylvester Saraceno is written with the heart of a storyteller and the voice of a poet. From the start, we are drawn into the world of 10-year old Willie Mae, coming of age in rural North Carolina and insatiably curious about the adult world and her place in it. Through a series of interconnected vignettes, we follow Willie as she bikes down the gravel roads that mark the allowed perimeter of her travels and strays into the surrounding woods and forbidden by-roads where adventures abound.
I enjoyed that Willie Mae sounds like a child, she can be a nasty little whip of a thing and sweet in the center, children really are neither good nor bad. Like all of us, they sway between the two. Yes, read it.
Feral, North Carolina, 1965 is a moving quick-read of interconnected stories. June brilliantly weaves wistful childhood tales with darker aspects of the time.
June Sylvester Saraceno has created a character for the ages; Willie Mae Miller is curious, clear-eyed, hilarious, and a little bit feral, herself—on her trusty bike, she becomes the perfect tour guide to 1965’s North Carolina. I love this book with every bit of my heart.
Feral, North Carolina, 1965 is an impressive first novel, both as story and in its fine use of language to bring either a landscape, a face, or a room colorfully to life. “Willie,” June Sylvester Saraceno’s young narrator, introduces us to her beloved older brother Dare, parents, extended family, and a few hypocritical church ladies. Willie, a girl coming of age and struggling with gender identity, is an eavesdropper and questioner who wonders about God and church, slowly learns about dark family secrets and, finally, about the pain of race hatred sparked by school integration. Masterfully told, full of discovery and surprise, the novel is both enjoyable and rewarding.
The Girl From Yesterday
It's easy to see this each poem in this collection as a gorgeously crafted bead, some elegiac, some celebratory, strung together to create a breathtaking whole, something to hold close to the heart.
of Dirt and Tar
There's a rumor making the rounds that poetry, alas, is dead--I know of no better way to refute that idiocy than to immerse yourself in these lyric stanzas these deftly-crafted narrative moments that unreel like snippets of cinema. June Sylvester Saraceno has once again infused the literary landscape with a necessary breath; this long-awaited volume couldn't come at a better time.
of Dirt and Tar explores and illuminates interior and exterior worlds, as well as the temporal landscape of generations.
These poems are both artifact and art in their quiet, soulful courageousness.
Geosi Gyasi: Let’s begin with your poetry collection, “of Dirt and Tar”?
June Saraceno: The title is a phrase from one of the poems, and also a nod to my rural North Carolina working class origins. Many of the poems are experiments with persona – an older Nancy Drew in an Alzheimer’s ward, Socrates’ wife complaining about his low earnings, Mrs. Robinson’s predatory musing – but their voices are not so different than ones I heard closer to home.
Altars of Ordinary Light
These poems nicely balance light and dark, humor and sorrow. In "Scars," she writes: "My body is a book / I reread the lines to find/ the fierce allegory of old adventures." Most of these poems have an urgency, and they compel as adventures do. Altars of Ordinary Light is an impressive debut.
The title is apropos for a book that seeks to shed light on ordinary living-childhood, family, marriage, womanhood. Saraceno's verse is accessible, yet filled with vivid imagery. Each poem begs to be reread to gain understanding of not only the poet but the reader.