Habilis by Alyssa Quinn
Alyssa Quinn, who is working toward a doctorate degree in creative writing in the
Department of English, has written her debut novel, “Habilis,” to be released Sept. 13, 2022. She recently spoke with the Salt Lake Tribune about
her idea to write a book that incorporated theories of human language.
Palak Jayswal writes that the book is “disorienting, yet masterful, set of interconnected narratives about the origins of
language, the human species, and how we communicate.”
Quinn’s novel follows a young woman with an uncertain past, who finds herself thrust into a mysterious anthropology
museum that converts into a disco club each night. Moving through its labyrinthine
galleries, she tries to construct an origin story for herself and for her species.
But as the night progresses, her grip on language and identity slips away until the
exhibit captions rupture the text, transporting us to East Africa, where the lives
of three people—British anthropologist Mary Leakey, an Indian indentured laborer building
the Uganda Railway, and a curator with too many secrets—interweave to reveal the darker
side of the search for origins.
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Jana Cunningham, University of Utah College of Humanities
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