There: an experimental novel
After graduating with my MFA I took a teaching job in Kurdistan, Iraq and while there briefly did some journalism for a local, English speaking newspaper. My experiences with the paper served as the inspiration for my debut novel, There, which won Emergency Press’ 2011 International book award and was published by the Press in 2013.
This book gets to the bone of what I seek to most get out of the writing experience: An exploration of place, history and culture by way of the lyrical and visual, placing high value on the way words sound and look on the page, as well as the white space that surrounds them.
Synopsis: There follows a young American journalist working in the capital city of the northern Kurdish region of Iraq, a land verging on economic boom, but never far from a violent past. A cross-genre work that most closely resembles a novel, the story is at once driven and diverted by the young reporter’s struggles to negotiate her own uncertainties in a strange land— observing, participating, and retreating daily from the people and events surrounding her. Assigned reports that the newspaper bosses deem fit for an inexperienced female foreigner, she ultimately turns to writing her own story, relayed with careful attention to the intricacies of language rhythm, acoustics, and repletion. What she discovers is that her own in-betweenness is only amplified in this foreign place, that the tension between ancient customs and contemporary conflicts somehow provides a familiar backdrop for her own attempts to relate to the people back home who, confused by her choice to travel to a dangerous place, ask, why go there?”
Listen to an interview I did with Lisa Morgan on WYPR:
Watch a reading I did at Yellow Sign Theater:
Read a couple reviews/interviews:
Guernica Magazine --
Some praise for There
“Rounds is a major new voice in Baltimore's literary scene, and There is a work of both beauty and courage.
Baynard Woods, Author of I Got a Monster: The Rise and Fall of America's Most Corrupt Police Squad
"As an American writing about time spent in the Middle East, Rounds’ voice is mercifully free of the hubris and self-pride that infects many Western travelers. This story has been skimmed of Orientalist attitudes and biases; this is a rare protagonist whose eyes have not been clouded with self-righteous assumptions and expectations."
Claire Luchette, Bustle
“Rounds has passed her life onto these characters, and them onto us. Putting There around our eyes, our ability to see a girl in clothes she does not recognize, hankering after the small, vital facts that tell her story.”
Aditi Sriram, Guernica
“Heather Rounds manages to make entirely everyone in her novel, There, rootless and adrift, whether that be her American protagonist or the various homelanders she meets on assignment in Kurdistan. No one—and certainly not the reader—escapes from a feeling of escape, of a gnawing tumble in space. Thing is, that feeling is so perfectly pitched, so well attuned through imagination and craft, that one feels the wheel of familiarity, a presence of home in homelessness.”
Joseph Young, author of Easter Rabbit
“Rounds gives us her eyes and ears, jacks us up with the heightened receptivity of the traveler, and sets us down in Iraqi Kurdistan. With direct, economical prose, alive to its surroundings, she chronicles every contour of that space between wanderlust and the way a place actually turns out to be—and the way one turns out to be in it. There takes us all the way in, and on the way gives us a meditation on the poetics of self as a foreign body, on the accidental poetry of translation and strangeness, on the merry-go-round of subtle breakthroughs, approaches, and evasions; in short, the being there, and the being always destined to lose it all by going home.”
Megan McShea, author of A Mountain City of Toad Splendor