Susan Niz’s new novel Kara Lost has gotten great reviews. Alison McGhee called it “a masterful debut,” and David Housewright thinks it’s “smart as hell.”

Sixteen-year-old Kara fless the suffocation of her surburban life, trading in her home and family for a gritty, anonymous existence on the streets of Minneapolis. She begins a perilous journey, naive, well-intentioned, and isolated as she struggles to reconnect with her older sister.

Part of the book’s charm also comes from it’s setting: Uptown in the 1980s. If you visited M&Q when it first opened 17 years ago, you’ll recognize Niz’s description of the neighborhood:

Walking down the street, I asked myself what was so exciting about Uptown in the first place. There was plenty to look at, that’s for sure. People with nose rings and spikes and patches on their black clothes. Fire-engine red and eggplant-plant purple hair, dyed with this Manic Panic stuff, drew attention from a block away. I had always shown up as is, looking suburban or not. I would watch the people as they panhandled for money to buy a case of beer, a meal, or a pack of smokes.

In Uptown, I got off by Calhoun Square and walked the block toward McDonald’s. There were more street kids out in the April weather than when I left in February, but most of them wouldn’t come out until after dark. Looking down at the sidewalk dotted with embedded wads of gray gum, I wondered what had been so fun about hanging out there. All I wanted was a safe little place to live and I could give up ever going there again.

Susan Niz comes to M&Q at 7:30pm, next Tuesday, September 27, to read from her new novel Kara, Lost.–David E