Ooligan Press is excited to announce its spring 2021 title, The Step Back by J.T. Bushnell! The Step Back will be Bushnell’s first published novel. He is originally from Sisters, Oregon, and currently lives in Eugene, Oregon, with his family. Bushnell earned a BA in journalism from Linfield College and an MFA in fiction from the University of Oregon. He has taught writing and literature at Oregon State University in Corvallis since 2007. Bushnell’s short fiction has also appeared in Passages North, Mississippi Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Meridian, Flyway, Monkeybicycle, The Greensboro Review, and other literary journals. His writing about fiction appears in Poets & Writers, Fiction Writers Review, and The Science of Story.
The Step Back is a work of literary, coming-of-age fiction about Ed Garrison, an eighteen-year-old Californian who is about to begin college in the fall of 2000. A lover of basketball and dogs, Ed originally plans to attend UC Berkeley, but when his mom announces she is leaving his father and moving across the country to live with her new girlfriend, Ed begins to fall apart. He decides at the last minute to attend the far less prestigious Sequoia College instead, hoping that he can walk on to the school’s last-place, D3 basketball team and retain some sense of the community he is leaving behind. But, in a moment of hesitation, Ed loses his shot at playing college ball and slowly becomes unmoored, unable to connect to his classmates, refusing to communicate with his mother, and losing touch with his friends and—more importantly—his father and brother at home.
As Ed navigates college life, he encounters a series of failed romantic relationships, struggles to find intellectual inspiration, and develops a passion for distance running, all while struggling to regain the sense of home he lost when his mother left. In order to grow, Ed must face his own cruelty and selfishness, and he eventually finds that certain bonds are impossible to break, no matter how neglected.
Told with breathtaking imagery and imbued with compassion, The Step Back examines the loneliness that sometimes accompanies the transition from adolescence to adulthood, which can take a true reckoning to overcome. The novel addresses concerns prevalent to its setting in the early 2000s in ways that still feel relevant today including homophobia, sexism, substance abuse, class, and toxic masculinity.
The Step Back is due to be released in May of 2021, and it will be the first work of literary fiction from the press in over two years. This makes it a special challenge for the 2020 and 2021 Ooligan cohorts and an exciting opportunity to work outside of the genre fiction the press has published recently.
More coverage of The Step Back will be available as the project develops.