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Country of Under

Country of Under

By Brooke ShaffnerPublisher: Mason Jar PressISBN: 978-1951853181Genre: Literary fictionPrice: $20 for pre-sale through Feb. 1st, $25 after that
Available from: Mason Jar Press

COUNTRY OF UNDER, winner of the 1729 Book Prize, is the intertwined Bildungsroman of two intelligent, misfit young people carving out their place in the world: Pilar Salomé Reinfeld, raised by her undocumented father, a descendent of Bolivian Mennonites, in a Mexican-American community; and Carlos/Carla/Río Gomez, a gender fluid DREAMer raised by their grandmother in the same Texican bordertown.

Runner-up for the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, the novel encompasses politicized subjects including the experiences of undocuqueer people, DREAMers, and asylees. But it is foremost a beautiful, compelling, and intimate portrait of the transformative power of friendship. Vivid, immersive depictions of Pilar and Río's journeys blur the line between life and art, challenging readers to reject false dichotomies—between male and female, contemplation and engagement, existentialism and religion, and art, healing, and activism—and inhabit the spaces between them.

Country of Under won the 1729 Book Prize, was the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction runner-up, and was shortlisted for Dzanc Books’ Prize for Fiction and Black Lawrence Press’s Big Moose Prize. An excerpt won the Asheville Writers’ Workshop Fiction Contest. Brooke’s work has appeared in The Hudson Review, Marie Claire, BOMB, Litmosphere, Lost and Found: Stories from New York, and The Lit Pub. She’s received grants from the Arts & Science Council, United States Artists, and the Saltonstall Foundation and residencies from the MacDowell Colony, the Ucross Foundation, the Saltonstall Foundation, the Edward Albee Foundation, the Jentel Foundation, the I-Park Foundation, and VCCA. Brooke is at work on a memoir, an excerpt of which won the 2023 Lit/South Award. She grew up part Garza, part Shaffner in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley and co-founded Freedom Tunnel Press with her partner Niteesh Elias to publish artivist books that straddle borders. She teaches and edits through her company Between the Lines and is on the faculty of the North Carolina Writers' Network and Charlotte Lit. She received her MFA from Columbia University, where she was a Dean’s Fellow, and won the Charles Lloyd Writing Award at Davidson College. Find more at brookeshaffner.com.


Brooke Shaffner’s Country of Under is a novel about the pain and wonder of being between identities. Between male and female. Citizen and immigrant. Fulfilled and empty. Outsider and insider. A novel of our time, told with deep compassion and striking beauty.

Helen Benedict, author of The Good Deed and Wolf Season

Infused with actualizing hope, Country of Under is the intertwining coming of age story of two young people who journey ‘a vein of silver… tunnels of pale blue’ to find each other anew in sanctuary and community. With this wildly imagined and visionary novel, Brooke Shaffner becomes the mythmaker of a generation.

Honor Moore, author of Our Revolution: A Mother and Daughter at Midcentury and the forthcoming memoir A Termination

At its core, Country of Under is about time: The time it takes to understand oneself, others, the family you have–and the family you make. And, the time it takes to develop the patience to wait, as self-revelation unfolds.


Barbara Fischkin, author of Muddy Cup: A Dominican Family Comes of Age in a New America