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Lee Conell Books In Order

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

The Party Upstairs (2020)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Publication Order of Collections

Subcortical (2017)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Lee Conell is a literary fiction author best known for “The Party Upstairs” that she published in 2020. She is also the writer of the award-winning “Subcortical,” short story collection that won the American Fiction Award, and The Story Prize Spotlight Award. She was the recipient of several endowment awards, the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship in 2020, in addition to becoming a fellow of the Yiddish Book Center, Vanderbilt University, and the Tennessee Arts Commission. Conell’s fiction has been featured in “Glimmer Train,” “Kenyon Review Online,” and the “Oxford American” among many other places. Her short stories have made the shortlist for the Pushcart Prize anthology, Best American Short Stories, and won the Chicago Tribune’s Nelson Algren Award. She has also been a professor at the Nashville Public Library, Vanderbilt University, and Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital.

Lee Conell first published “Subcortical” her first short story collection in 2017. However, while this was her first attempt at publishing, the New York City native had tasted some small success when as a junior at SUNY-New Paltz, she had her piece published in the New York Times. In 2016, “The Lock Factory” her short story was the winner of the prestigious Nelson Algren Literary Award. According to the author, the story is inspired by her mother’s experience in trying to resolve a universal human dilemma. The story was all about the different ways that people connect with each other. This theme of connection had some influence in her decision to go to study her MFA in creative writing at Vanderbilt. She loved the student-faculty ratio and when she visited the campus she thought it would be great to have the opportunity to work with the likes of Tony Earley and Lorraine Lopez who were distinguished authors. She also found the atmosphere of the campus very welcoming. She currently teaches at Vanderbilt and is also involved in a Nashville organization named Southern Word devoted to empowering and educating underserved communities through the arts. In 2020, she published her first novel The Party Upstairs.

“The Party Upstairs” by Lee Conell is a captivating debut whose events take place in a single day in a middle-class New York apartment building. Tensions had risen between the superintendent of a building and his teenage daughter and their conflict changes everything for everyone. Ruby had grown up under the nose of privilege as the daughter of the building superintendent in the Upper West that had gradually become gentrified. But Rose was not privileged but she had been good friends with Caroline who is the daughter of one of the wealthiest persons in the neighborhood. Moreover, her life in a beautiful and clean neighborhood across from the Met and very near to the Natural History Museum that she loved brought expectations alongside some real advantages. Ruby had gone on to follow her dreams enrolling in a small but prestigious college after taking a large student loan. But after graduating from college with her art degree, she finds that getting her dream job or anything close to it is not as easy as she thought it would be. Circumstances finally force her to move back in with her father in the basement apartment where he is the superintendent. The novel is the story of great expectations, family living, and the dark and gripping violence of class.

Lee Conell’s “Subcortical” is a combination of deft stories that blur the line between the imagined and the real. Subcortical the first story from which the collection draws its name tells the story of a young woman with dreams of becoming a doctor. But she is manipulated by an older man who manages to convince her to join one of his medical studies. In the Award-winning story “The Lock Factory,” three women find themselves in an ever-escalating conflict that is fueled by their own egos. In “The Rent Controlled Ghost,” a story is told of a boy whose mother has gone missing and he searches far and wide for the spirit of a tenant that had supposedly been treated badly before he abandoned his lease in a huff. An elderly woman tells her experiences working on a government-contracted site where some aspects of the atomic bomb were produced in the novel “What Bob Said to Me.” With verve and humor, Conell’s Subcortical stories are dynamic as they explore the mysteries of the human mind. They tell of people who are struggling with educational and economic inequality and often have to contest the spaces in which they exist.

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