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The Gone Dead

Chanelle Benz

July 27, 2020

A decrepit house in Greendale, Mississippi once belonged to Billie James’s father, a renowned black poet who died unexpectedly when she was four years old. Her mother dies of cancer. Then years later, her paternal grandmother dies and leaves Billie the old Mississippi Delta house. At age 34, Billie returns to the house, encounters the locals, and learns that on the day her father died, she went missing. She doesn’t want to leave Mississippi until she finds out what happened, but someone doesn’t want Billie to know the truth. Told from several perspectives, The Gone Dead (Ecco, 2019) is a story about family and memory, justice for those who were never given a chance, and some of the wounds caused by racism in America. 

Chanelle Benz has published work in Guernica,, The New York Times, Electric Literature, The American Reader, Fence and others, and is the recipient of an O. Henry Prize. Her story collection The Man Who Shot Out My Eye Is Dead was named a Best Book of 2017 by The San Francisco Chronicle and one of Electric Literature’s 15 Best Short Story Collections of 2017. It was also shortlisted for the 2018 Saroyan Prize and longlisted for the 2018 PEN/Robert Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction and the 2017 Story Prize. The Gone Dead was a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice and a Tonight Show Summer Reads Finalist. It was long-listed for the 2020 PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel and the 2019 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize. It was also named a best new book of the summer by O, The Oprah Magazine, Time, Southern Living, and Nylon. Benz currently lives in Memphis where she teaches at Rhodes College. Whenever possible, she loves to listen to true crime and history podcasts. 

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