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This Tenuous Atmosphere
by Maria S. Picone

Paperback / Fiction

ISBN 978-1-942387-21-3

Release date: February 27th, 2024 

Upcoming author signing:

2:00pm to 3:00pm on Friday, February 9th, 2024
Table T1637, AWP Conference, Kansas City Convention Center

About the Book

This Tenuous Atmosphere is a linked series of surreal, speculative fictions. This innovative and lyrical narrative follows Asia, a Korean girl who becomes a hybrid spacecraft and goes to live among the ghost men and their culture of destructive capitalism in space. In this story of adoption, identity, and belonging, Asia never forgets her longing to return home and find her mother, but she is torn between loyalty to her port of origin and a desire to explore deep space. In a starred review, Foreword Reviews raves, “This Tenuous Atmosphere is an ingenious, unforgettable novella about a woman searching for home, family, and purpose in a strange, disorienting universe.” 

Cover image for Maria S. Picone's "This Tenuous Atmosphere," featuring a stylized drawing of planets and stars.

About the Author

Maria S. Picone / 수영 is a queer and neurodivergent Korean American adoptee. She is the author of several forthcoming poetry and art books. This Tenuous Atmosphere is her debut fiction collection.

Maria has been published in Tahoma Literary ReviewVestal ReviewSalamanderOrca LitFractured Lit, Best Small Fictions 2021, and elsewhere. Her work has been supported by The Juniper Institute, Palm Beach Poetry Festival, Lighthouse Writers Workshop, GrubStreet, Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, and Tin House Writers Workshop. She is Chestnut Review’s managing editor, Uncharted Mag’s associate editor, and assistant fiction editor at Foglifter. She holds an MFA in fiction from Goddard College. Find out more at mariaspicone.com, Twitter @mspicone

Author photo for Maria S. Picone / 수영

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Advance Praise for This Tenuous Atmosphere

“Finally I have had the experience of reading a book that feels like it was written just for me. This Tenuous Atmosphere has beheld me. I am beheld. I am held. This is a book, especially for Korean adoptees, that will hold you in its/your liminal space, that will speak to you in a language that makes it possible to speak the adopted self.”

—Matthew Salesses, author of The Sense of Wonder

“In This Tenuous Atmosphere, Maria Picone has created a powerful, poetic fable of being other, of the unspoken why don’t you look like us, of capitalism and bureaucracy, of longing for place and family. With her singular voice, Picone invites the reader to worlds both known and unknown, and takes us somewhere that might be home.”

Cathy Ulrich, author of Small Burning Things

“In Maria S. Picone’s This Tenuous Atmosphere, the costs of adoption and xenophobia collide in a space opera about finding family and the parts of yourself hidden by circumstance. Inventive and heartfelt, Picone’s prose could teach empathy to robots. Enter the narrator’s ship and emerge changed.”

Chelsea Stickle, author of Everything’s Changing and Breaking Points

In the awe-inspiring and genre-defying This Tenuous Atmosphere, Maria S. Picone deftly fashions connected narratives of identity, capitalism, family, fear, anxiety, love. Unapologetic and subversive, Picone jettisons your preconceptions, allowing the gravity of her words to pull you down, where you will be left emptied, and ultimately, refueled.

Melissa Llanes Brownlee, author of Hard Skin and Kahi and Lua

“Told in a deeply compelling voice, This Tenuous Atmosphere propels the reader into a spatiality that embraces both belongingness and unbelonging. Throughout the book, Maria S. Picone etches an acute sadness originating from separation from mother and family, and a profound longing to reunite. The conflict between home and an unfamiliar place among ‘ghost men’ and a culture of ‘destructive capitalism’ drives this powerful narrative. Replete with symbolism and metaphor, the linked stories attempt to build a bridge between otherness and identity-construct. Picone’s use of lyrical prose, innovative poetic forms and Korean language lends a complexity that enhances the reading experience.”

Mandira Pattnaik, author of Where We Set Our Easel and Girls Who Don’t Cry

“This imaginative parable—set in an abstract, incongruous, dreamlike world—describes the bewildering estrangement of being an outsider, of being ‘other.’ Every sentence is chiseled and evocative. . . . This Tenuous Atmosphere is an ingenious, unforgettable novella about a woman searching for home, family, and purpose in a strange, disorienting universe.” 

—Kristen Rabe, Foreword Reviews (Starred Review)

“Ghosts drift throughout this chapbook at a haunting, nostalgic, and cyclic beat. Each piece is a poetic dance. A kind of astrophysical orbit far from reach, and yet also grounded in concrete, gut-puncturing moments. You travel from Seoul subways to night skies to lunar landings, each location encapsulating different sides of one emotional truth. It feels as though gravity pulls you through the collection of pieces—narratives of home and family and heritage, some staggered and some propulsive—until you’ve found your conclusive whole.”

—Lucy Zhang, author of Hollowed

“The brilliance and beauty throughout This Tenuous Atmosphere shines from one story to another, a fresh format awaiting at every page. Maria Picone’s mastery of boundless imagination, strange yet fulfilling, makes this chapbook an unforgettable read. Be it the escape velocity or orbiting the home with a longing to return, this fine work captures the essence of immigrant life in utmost precision. Picone’s words glitter and pulse with originality, so sure of their strength, I found myself captivated. This Tenuous Atmosphere is a true joy and force not to be missed.”

Tara Isabel Zambrano, author of Ruined A Little When We Are Born and Death, Desire And Other Destinations

“Told in the voice of a spaceship abandoned by its mother, The Tenuous Atmosphere is a tale of longing for home and family, of otherness and fitting in, of assuming new and forced identities, of being confined to check boxes, then fleeing to find one’s roots, and upon finding them, starting once again in pursuit of individuality and purpose. Although set in the cosmos of stars and exoplanets, light years or light seconds away, the story attaches itself close to the heart, a place of yearning to own and belong. And, that, to me, is the magic and skill of Picone’s narration—her precise and poetic language, her original and hard-hitting metaphors, and her seamless integration of the real with the surreal. This chapbook is unforgettable and inimitable; it leaves a multi-blended and distinct flavor like kimchi on your tongue.”

Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar, author of Morsels of Purple and Skin Over Milk