Julia LangbeinMar 21, 2023
Broke English teacher Penelope Schleeman is as surprised as anyone when her feminist novel American Mermaid becomes a best-seller. Lured by the promise of a big payday, she quits teaching and moves to L.A. to turn the novel into an action flick with the help of some studio hacks. But as she's pressured to change her main character from a fierce, androgynous eco-warrior to a teen sex object in a clamshell bra, strange things start to happen. Threats appear in the screenplay; siren calls lure Penelope's co-writers into danger. Is Penelope losing her mind, or has her mermaid come to life, enacting revenge for Hollywood's violations?
American Mermaid follows a young woman braving the casual slights and cruel calculations of a ruthless industry town, where she discovers a beating heart in her own fiction, a mermaid who will fight to move between worlds without giving up her voice. A hilarious story about deep things, American Mermaid asks how far we'll go to protect the parts of ourselves that are not for sale.
Julia Langbein spent her formative years doing sketch, stand-up and improv comedy in New York before getting her doctorate in Art History. She is the author of a non-fiction book about comic art criticism (Laugh Lines, Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2022) and has since written about food, art and travel for Gourmet, Eater, Salon, Frieze and other publications. A native of Chicago, she lives outside of Paris with her family. American Mermaid is her first novel.
Chris Holmes is Chair of Literatures in English and Associate Professor at Ithaca College. He writes criticism on contemporary global literatures. His book, Kazuo Ishiguro as World Literature, is under contract with Bloomsbury Publishing. He is the co-director of The New Voices Festival, a celebration of work in poetry, prose, and playwriting by up-and-coming young writers.