Poets & Writers

Ashleigh Bryant Phillips

author of five books, most recently Florida, published by Riverhead Books in 2018.

ONLY a few sentences into the first story in Ashleigh Bryant Phillips’s brilliant debut collection, Sleepovers, I understood that I was holding something like a live wire in my hands: dangerous, potent, with an astonishing power to illuminate. I hadn’t even set it down before I knew it would win the C. Michael Curtis Short Story Book Prize, for which I was the 2019 judge.

The very short stories in the collection move in the same corner of rural North Carolina where Phillips is from, each story painting its own vivid vision so that, by the end of the book, through specificity and some sort of dazzling wizardry, the place rises up like a living hallucination around the reader. This is a world in which dressed-up taxider-mied squirrels become a window into a better life, where prayers about the unspeakable build until they nearly burst, where girls dream themselves into does.

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