This was the year, as Wesley Morris pointed out in the New York Times, of “a great cultural identity migration” — it was a year we wrestled with identity. This fact is everywhere evident in our independent literature — take, for example, John Keene’s exploration of race and historical identity in Counternarratives, the year’s best work of short fiction, independent or otherwise. Or Maggie Nelson’s much celebrated The Argonauts, which wrestles with family, queerness, and gender-fluidity by way of a courageous act of autotheory. It’s worth pointing out, too, that these examples, like many others on this list, rely on hybrid or altogether new forms of writing. Migrating identities, in other words, require migrating forms.
This is why I’ve chosen to include independent nonfiction on this year’s list. It’s also why I haven’t shied away from selecting from a wealth of translated fiction. National identity, or identities that build and dissolve within foreign borders, likewise migrate — sometimes into English. And they shouldn’t be ignored.
Here is your list of the 50 best books from independent presses that I knew of — or managed to remember — from 2015.