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From Saddle Road Press:

The Lede to Our Undoing

1970s rust-belt America. The era of civil rights, women's rights, and gay rights, as well as the birth of the environmental movement. Twins Jake and Wren are raised in the white-flight suburb of Laurentine, not far from an industrial metropolis that was named in a much greener time the Forest City. The twin's parents, Harry and Florrie, are doing their best to keep their offspring on the straight and narrow, along the lines of what today we would call MAGA America, though before it got the name. But the two are not very good at coloring inside the lines.  Wren falls in love with an African-American youth named Donald, and Jake falls in love first with Romeo and then Peacoat––with traumatic results. Their story is told by the family mutt, Molly, whose outsider status offers the reader a unique view on human foibles, and prejudice.

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Available in September 2024!

From Saddle Road Press:

Ojo

To run for your life and be naked, literally and figuratively; to be pursued by your past, eyed and tracked by those you left behind; to be in a foreign environment, broke and without a job; to be queer and working class; to feel the burden of loss keenly; and to know that somehow you have to start over, create a new life, connect with others and construct a home for yourself, from scratch, never mind you're completely clueless as to how––finding refuge in that storm is what Ojo is about. It surveys the many youthful challenges that humans are confronted with, the traditions and laws that are by and large the product of old religion, which continue to hang on and at times destroy lives, senselessly in a modern world. Ojo is a celebration of possibilities, of new ways of creating a world, even as the old ways bear down. It's a story of finding love in the 1980's, in cowboy country, at the start of the HIV pandemic. 

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In The Press

Reviews

This is a big-ideas (yes, plural) novel—big-hearted, too.  Set in the Midwest-end of the Rust Belt, the story resonates beyond geography, as do its characters, whose see-saw lives of economic downsizing and religious uplifting are generously rendered in language attuned to the reality and poetry of lived experience.  If this sounds all too human, Mengay troubles that too with a canny narrator whose roving eye doesn’t miss a thing.  We’ve not seen ourselves in fiction in the way Molly sees us.

Rick Rodriguez, author of Immunity's Sovereignty 

Donald Mengay’s beautiful new work, The Lede to Our Undoing, provides a peripatetic, witty view of late 1960’s life among a band of outsiders who are discovering, as is their generation, a way to live truthfully, lovingly, and bravely. With a memorable cast of characters trying to navigate youthful rebellion, sexual identity, drug exploration, as well as an extremely unusual but uniquely articulate narrator, Mengay recreates for the reader the experience of leaving home as a young adult. His band of vagabonds support one another, fight occasionally, love even more, and embody the need so many young Americans had—and have—to escape from their family and community, even though they may not know how on earth to do that. The realistic dialogue balances delicately with the poetic narrative commentary upon the experience of this unique yet universal band of travelers. Donald Mengay has written a Bildungsroman that is moving, funny, and utterly memorable. 

Deftly written, original, eloquent, compelling, and all the more impressive when considering that "The Lede To Our Undoing" by author Donald Mengay (and the first volume of a planned trilogy) was his debut as a novelist and will have a very special and particular appeal to readers with an interest in LGBTQ and social issue fiction. Mengay's narrative driven storytelling style raises to a level of literary excellence that is unreservedly recommended for both personal reading lists and community/ academic library General Fiction collections. "The Lede To Our Undoing" is one of those novels that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book has been finished and set back upon the shelf.

The Midwest Review of Books

Victoria Amador, author of The Gothic Portal and Olivia de Havilland: Lady Triumphant

                                                                            

Told from the perspective of Molly, the family dog, Mengay’s ambitious debut novel follows the evolution of a young man named Jake as he explores his identity in a 1970s Rust Belt family of conventional ideals. Jake’s first romance, with Romeo, is turbulent and toxic. Romeo is controlling in more ways than one with a naïve and besotted Jake, and quitting the relationship is complicated. When it does end, Jake pivots in a completely different direction, to Peacoat, a member of a cult-like religious group. Jake finds a sense of peace and more with Peacoat, but this relationship is threatened by Pastor Billy’s obsession with Peacoat and his jealousy of the pair’s relationship. Peacoat’s disappearance throws more upheaval into Jake’s life, before he eventually finds peace with Tommy glimpsed at the novel’s start. 
 

“I know not only his tread but those of the others, though he assumes I’m oblivious,” Molly notes, the line exemplifying a narrative voice that’s rich, inventive, at times somewhat dense. Stories told through the perspective of pets offer a unique view into relationships dynamics between family, friends and lovers, and from the eyes of a character that sees everyone at their most unfiltered–Molly knows that Jake sees her as “Anything but myself: a thinker like him.” Through this dog’s-eye-view, the reader has the opportunity to see Jake searching for himself in both simple and complicated ways, and learns through Molly’s perspective truths like the reason Peacoat disappeared —a mystery to everyone else.

The novel’s ambitious language, perspective, and narrative approach leaves it to readers to chart the relationships between characters based on Molly’s observations, as they’re never explicitly outlined in a traditional way. Readers who appreciate that kind of literary challenge will find much depth, feeling, and startling insights here, as Molly watches Jake grow and change after the “loss of Romeo-heaven” and other heartbreaks. Also arresting: Molly’s vivid, incisive surveying of the upper midwest, from lakes to teen culture to factories that “shoot sparks and rain debris that mixes with snow, the tyranny of whiteness starting to obliterate everything.” Often beautiful, always surprising, Molly’s storytelling makes the familiar feel fresh.

Booklife

Molly, the narrator, is dead: “As a final straw they buried me in this traffic circle under the cover of night,” she gripes in an arresting opening line. Molly is also a dog, and it’s through her eyes, as she reflects on her history, that the reader also witnesses the life of her young owner, Jake. Jake and his twin sister, Wren, acquire Molly as children at the height of the Cold War. Molly observes Jake and Wren, noting how they grow and change. Notably, she watches them fall in love, and

sees their romances flatly rejected by their family: in the Midwest of the 1970s, interracial and queer relationships are taboo. It doesn’t help that Jake’s two major romances are messy: Romeo is forceful and demanding; while Peacoat, the boy he dates after his relationship with Romeo ends, is notably gentler and softer, he is tied to a non-traditional, fervently religious sect. In the words of another character, Peacoat’s group “[s]ounds ‘spicious to me.” Mengay’s prose is extremely

dense—his writing is colloquial and evocative of a specific time and place, but it’s also markedly literary in style and content. When Jake and Romeo have sex, the author draws attention to their shadows, “their darker selves,” before describing their physical actions. Throughout the text, Mengay makes clear homages to other works of literature, and his writing recalls that of T. S. Eliot, Kafka, and Thomas Wolfe. The reader may question how a dog is able to catch all of these details, but the voice never feels gimmicky. Instead, it provides both otherworldly omniscience and tender intimacy to the narration. A triumph. 

Kirkus Reviews

Narrated by a deceased family dog, Molly, The Lede to our Undoing by Donald Mengay, provides insight into the lives of Jake and Wren, twins in 1970s rust-belt America. Molly's observations reveal their experiences as they navigate a changing society against a backdrop of civil, women's, and gay rights movements. Molly was adopted into the family when Jake and Wren were tots, and in a homogeneous white Midwest suburb, she is witness to their lives, their growth, and the challenges they face in their relationships, intimate struggles intertwined with societal norms and taboos, and attitudes toward differences. Through Molly's lens, the novel captures the intricacies of their emotional journeys and broader cultural shifts, reflecting on a time when relationships defied convention amidst the tensions of the Cold War era.  

The Lede to our Undoing by Donald Mengay has all the hallmarks of exceptional literary fiction. The use of Molly's perspective is incredibly creative and also surprisingly effective, and through her, Mengay is able to craft a story that overflows with well-developed characters, evocative settings, subtle foreshadowing, authentic dialogue, and meaningful symbolism. It is the symbolism that pushes Mengay's work from mainstream historical fiction into literary, and prose that embodies elements like the motif of the decaying amusement park to serve as a powerful symbol for feelings of neglect and abandonment. The evolution of the twins, and Wren in particular, feels organic and in tune with the pace of the story. Thematically Mengay does not reinvent the wheel, but he does push it back to a time and place where that wheel destroys anything that strays from the socially conventional “morals” in its path, and it is a beautiful journey as a reader to experience it starting to crumble. Very highly recommended.

Readers' Favorite

BIO

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Donald Mengay grew up in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, where he worked in a factory for a time and managed a bookstore. He began writing fiction in his early twenties while pursuing a degree in Psychology at Metropolitan State University in Denver. He earned a Masters in English Lit at the University of Denver and a Ph.D. in Comparative Lit from NYU. He taught Queer and Post-Humanist Lit at the City University of New York for over thirty years, as well as English at the University of Paris, Nanterre. During his years teaching he published several articles of queer criticism in academic journals that include among others Genders, Genre, and Minnesota University Press. He also co-published a book entitled Dis/Inheritance: New Croatian Photography, from Ikon Press. The Lede to Our Undoing is his debut novel, the first in a trilogy. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Upcoming Events**

Past Events**

October 23, 2023 - 7:00pm - A reading of The Lede to Our Undoing and conversation with Victoria Amador at Magers & Quinn, 3038 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN, followed by a book signing

October 19, 2023 - 6:30pm - A reading of The Lede to Our Undoing and conversation with Linda Warren at Loganberry Books, 13015 Larchmere Blvd, Shaker Heights, OH, followed by a book signing

September 30, 2023 - 3:00pm - A reading of The Lede to Our Undoing and conversation at the Bureau of General Services Queer Division, at the LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13th St Room 210, New York, NY 10011, followed by a book signing

March 28, 2024 - 12:45 pm - A reading of The Lede to Our Undoing and conversation at Baruch College, CUNY, 1 Bernard Baruch Way, New York, NY 10010 

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**I am available for conversations about The Lede with college classes, book clubs, and reading groups - via Zoom or in person, depending.  Please use the form below to contact me.

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