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ISBN: 978-1-62557-085-7
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MONARCH: Stories

Publication Date: May 2024


“A gutsy, grungy collection centering troubled souls…Brimming with pure Americana, not unlike the movies Wild at Heart or Thelma and Louise, Tobias’ stories pull no punches…A strong collection” – Kirkus

In June of 2023, Black Lawrence Press welcomed numerous existing and forthcoming Nomadic Press titles to our catalogue. Monarch was originally selected for publication by Nomadic.

MONARCH: Stories subverts the reader’s common perceptions about how love can heal, how loss and suffering can transform, and how every character deserves a second chance. America’s city scars, sewers, alleyways, and bars are landscape to their wars, as characters heal and transform under wind turbines and on open roads, in golden cornfields and with the wails of Chicago blues. Heroes in this collection are the marginalized, the sufferers, the down-trodden, the misfits, the wanderers, and the wounded, shaped by grief but not defined by their scars.

Honoring the human capacity for change, characters drive the collection, turning up the dial to raise the volume of voice for those who live on the fringe and are often ignored. In collection, MONARCH is an exploration of the human condition through a lens of damaged survivors as they learn to love through small acts of kindness, given and received. Characters bear traumas with their bodies, and often, they transgress. They break in, break down, and ultimately, break open.

An inclusive invitation, MONARCH aims at an intimate portrayal of scarred characters on American streets beating the drum of current culture against the fierce rhythm of critical social justice issues. With this at its heart, the collection Includes a reading guide written by the author with prompts intended to inspire discourse between readers, writers, and students, making the work of special interest to librarians, teachers, book clubs, and beyond.

Foreword by Chris Abani, author of The Secret History of Las Vegas.




This remarkable debut collection that traverses many of the parts of America that are unseen, or at least, unseen in this way, and gives us a wealth of material to engage with and themes that make a collection worth biting into – loyalty, betrayal, happiness and deep sorrow, addiction and victory and a reclamation of selves against the nearly impossible grind of modern American life.
–Chris Abani, author of The Secret History of Las Vegas

Superb, original and thoroughly alive with heartbreak and wonder. Tobias is electrifying.
–Junot Díaz, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and author of This is How You Lose Her

Full of empathy and rendered in searing, visceral prose, Monarch shines brightly. In eleven vivid, affecting stories, Tobias turns her careful attention toward the strugglers and strivers among us—the result is heartfelt and immersive.
–Kimberly King-Parsons, author of Black Light

The stories in Monarch are raw and gritty and always real. Emily Jon Tobias gives voice to the outsiders, the misfits, and the broken. I can’t say enough great things about this debut collection.
–Willy Vlautin, author of Lean on Pete and The Night Always Comes

Close your eyes and imagine a story collection where every story is a diamond. Monarch is just that. Each story took me and never let go, even after the story had long ended. Written with such grace and elegance, this collection pulses with so much life, so much compassion, even when things seem to be bleak. After you finish this collection, after you read it for a second and third time, you’ll find yourself asking what I asked: “Where is Emily Jon Tobias’s next book?”
–Morgan Talty, author of Night of the Living Rez

Richly rendered in knife-sharp and evocative prose, the stories in Monarch by Emily Jon Tobias are full of wounded hearts. They seek redemption, revenge, liberation, and rescue. What Tobias delivers through them is compassion, laying bare the complexities of a full spectrum of American life. A moving debut.
–Talia L. Kolluri, author of What We Fed to the Manticore

A haunting, lyrical debut. These stories are unforgettable and wrenching, vital and wise. I’ll be returning to this book again and again. Tobias is an unmistakable talent.
–Chelsea Bieker, author of Godshot and Heartbroke

The lost, the disillusioned, the mistreated, the desperate – Tobias inhabits all these characters with a singular poetic vision and an eye which is both compassionate and unflinching. Their interior lives and bruised, aching secrets resonated and lingered with me long after I finished reading.
–Cate Kennedy, author of Like a House on Fire

In these dazzling, kaleidoscopic stories Emily Jon Tobias arranges the jagged shards of life into patterns that shift and catch the light to take your breath away. These are wise, big-hearted stories from a writer of prodigious talent.
–Valerie Laken, author of Dream House and Separate Kingdoms

Women’s past and present mingle in Tobias’s stories where sentences are loaded with momentum and crafted with astonishing descriptions and surprising beauty. Regrets and disappointments haunt forlorn characters in this collection as they push through the pain in needles and whiskey, in babies that float, in the car on the highway with the windows down–maybe all at the same time, forever fleeing but never able. Monarch is packed with troubles, richly drawn and wrenched from alleys, from mattresses, lest we forget.
–Thea Swanson, author of Mars

Simultaneously raw, ferocious, frank and tender, these stories take readers on a harrowing journey of self-discovery and loss. There is a brutal beauty in this book as again and again, Tobias’ characters touch that throbbing desire to live and love dangerously. Emily Jon Tobias is merciless in this collection; her stories cut straight to the heart. This is unflinching prose at its best.
–Leah Bailly, Ph.D., author and educator, winner of 2022 CRAFT First Chapters Contest

Monarch is a startling debut from a gifted, compassionate writer. Emily Jon Tobias’s stories shock, awe, wound, and–ultimately–lift your heart. So many times will lives seem in ruin only to emerge more beautiful than before, not unlike a monarch butterfly shattering through its motley cocoon.
–Sarah Balakrishnan, Ph.D., writer/scholar/editor, winner of Narrative Magazine‘s Best Under 30 Prize for fiction

The eleven stories in Emily Jon Tobias’s collection entitled Monarch are a true testament to the author’s ability to elevate and elucidate for the reader what it truly means to be part of a marginalized, often forgotten community. Tobias uses a deftness of hand in all of the stories, taking the reader into the world of those who suffer the most with the least amount of attention. When I read the title story, “Monarch” I felt as if the author had a window into my soul. Any person who has ever experience abuse or microaggressions, will feel a tug towards this story and others in this collection. If the reader has somehow been fortunate enough to escape the heartbreak and neglect expressed in these stories, they can consider themselves lucky and they can thank Tobias for showing them an unflinching look into a world of pain but also a world of resilience. Tobias is only going to grow as an author and a truthteller. I count it an honor to witness a portion of her journey and I am buckling up my seatbelt for what is to come next.
–Angela Jackson-Brown, award-winning author of When Stars Rain Down and The Light Always Breaks

With prose at once sparse and weighty, Tobias effortlessly embodies the styles of Denis Johnson and Raymond Carver–while making them all her own. In this impressive debut collection, Tobias casts the spotlight on a wide array of characters/(unsung antiheroes) from varying walks of this often bleak thing called life. Showing us a vast scope of seemingly tranche de vie scenarios, ranging from “Nova” to “Fish and Flowers,” each tale of quiet woe in Monarch offers its reader a kind of romantic fatalism, embedded among such philosophical themes as: the patriarch as fallen god (“Jesus Wears Bermudas”), abusive relationships and repression (“Red Cardboard Hearts Hanging From Strings”) and being an addict flitting among the invisible great unwashed (“Under Her Cellophane Skin”). Wherever you fall on the spectrum of this existence, Tobias has surely covered it within these pages in delicate, thought-provoking detail.
–Genna Rivieccio, Editor-in-Chief, The Opiate magazine

In Emily Tobias’s raw and stunning story collection, grief, longing, fear and addiction live as companions to adoration, survival and the holy. Tobias’s characters are desperate and sorrowful, lost and grimly doomed—except in those moments when, as they frequently do, they soar. Here are characters who, like us, are broken and bruised: in ways that feel familiar and in ways that deeply unsettle. Longing for safety, for connection, they move through the world like cats in the night: on the hunt for some elusive sustaining force. Prowling the bitterest darkness, ravenous and unceasing, and also—in ways even they may not yet recognize—unexpectedly and uncompromisingly free.
–Shari MacDonald Strong, Editor of The Maternal Is Political

An emotionally poignant debut collection. Tobias fashions perspectives that feel both familiar and fresh. Her characters struggle with mental health, body image, addiction, lost relationships, and hurts that many of us will recognize, whether in ourselves or those around us. At the core, Monarch is about connection, how we all seek it in some way or another, how we can find love in surprising ways, how our desire for love can also cause pain. Tobias’s stories will leave your ears ringing, her characters’ voices resonating like a song, swooping between heartache and soulful hope.
–J Saler Drees, author/reviewer

Tobias’s debut collection of transformational stories evokes the pain and pleasure of self-acceptance after years of self-denial. Take the amazing ride of actualization with each of Tobias’s characters as they evolve like monarch butterflies in this evocative collection.
— Lisa Kastner, Founder and Executive Editor of Running Wild and RIZE Presses, and author of the acclaimed Lycanthrope novel, CURE

Slipping inside the pages of Monarch feels like hopping in a getaway car with Emily Jon Tobias, who rockets readers through richly-drawn landscapes where characters come to life in all their broken beauty. This collection is a powerful and unflinching exploration of the hunger we feel for love, acceptance, and ultimately, belonging. Monarch sizzles with electric imagery that burns with neon brightness long after the final sentence. I’m eagerly awaiting Emily Jon Tobias’s next work.”
–Liz Alterman, author of The Perfect Neighborhood

Emily Jon Tobias is a bold and charismatic writer whose significant gift is connecting readers to her soulful life journey and empathic heart. In these rich, original, and emotionally compelling stories, she reveals complex and memorable characters and their contemporary challenges as a way of providing her fresh and rewarding perspectives on compassion, healing, and the enduring power of hope … and of love.
–Joe Maita, Editor/Publisher, Jerry Jazz Musician

Emily Jon Tobias’ beautiful and powerful words go straight to the hearts of her readers. She maintains the tension in her stories of damaged women through careful use of detail, metaphor, and point of view. Sometimes her characters struggle to help others, sometimes they punish themselves, and sometimes they seek revenge. Together these women make Monarch a collection impossible to put down.
–Steve Lindahl, Managing Editor of Flying South Literary Journal

Emily Jon Tobias sets us free by revealing that which shackles us. She takes us into the tight, uncomfortable holes of our humanity and gives us space to consider what damage might get done and allows us to emerge through the opening into what she sees beyond. Taking on the gritty bits without flinching, Tobias writes to those of us who believe we can’t be saved by reminding us that making mistakes is not the same as being one.
–Courtney Morgan, President of Talking River Review

In this collection of portraits, Tobias explores the unsettling beauty to be found in the places where dark and light dwell together. These stories do not shy away from the depths, as though mining the source of feminine healing to lead us fearlessly and unashamedly forward.”
–Jennifer Top, TulipTree Publishing

About the Author

© John Tobias

Emily Jon Tobias

Emily Jon Tobias is an American author and poet. She is an award-winning writer whose work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, along with other honorable mentions, and has been featured in literary journals such as Santa Clara Review, Talking River Review, Flying South Literary Journal, Furrow Literary Journal, The Opiate Magazine, The Ocotillo Review, Jerry Jazz Musician, Typehouse Literary Magazine, Tahoma Literary Review, Big Muddy, Spoon Knife, Peauxdunque Review, and elsewhere. Midwestern-raised, she now lives and writes on the coast of Southern California and holds a Master of Fine Arts in Writing from Pacific University Oregon. MONARCH: STORIES (Black Lawrence Press, 2024) is her debut collection and winner of the 2024 American Book Fest International Book Awards in the short story collection category.

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