Battleborn | Granta

  • Published: 16/08/2012
  • ISBN: 9781847085559
  • Granta Books
  • 304 pages


Claire Vaye Watkins

The stories in Battleborn all unfold in Watkins’s home state of Nevada, from down south in Nye County and Las Vegas, to Reno, Lake Tahoe, and the Blackrock Desert, the site of Burning Man. We are introduced to a very specific small town America, to those homes and lives off the highway – the ones travellers and writers usually drive past on their way to somewhere else.

While the locations are ordinary, the characters and Watkins’ telling of their lives are anything but. There is the man who finds a cache of letters, pills and a photograph abandoned by the side of the road and as he writes to the man he imagines left them behind, reveals moving truths about himself (‘The Last Thing We Need’); the man in late middle age who finds a troubled, pregnant teen dying in the desert and, through her, begins to dream of regaining the family he lost (‘Man-O-War’); the brothers caught in the early days of the gold rush (‘The Diggings’); and the sisters unable to comfort each other following their mother’s suicide (‘Graceland’). And there is the first story (‘Ghosts, Cowboys’), a semi-autobiographical account of a troubled – and famous – family history.

The authentic voice of the American desert - hard, dry, brutal and tender. Watkins emerges as one of the most exciting young voices in American fiction

Hari Kunzru

The stories in Battleborn are varied, told in many voices, from many perspectives, yet form a coherent whole

Erica Wagner, The Times

A kaleidoscopic view of the modern American West... Watkins's mode is unflinching and non-judgemental. She is unafraid of controversy... but also possesses warmth and humanity in abundance

Jonathan Barnes, Literary Review

The Author

Claire Vaye Watkins was born in Bishop, California in 1984 and raised in Nevada. A graduate of the University of Nevada Reno, Claire earned her MFA from the Ohio State University, where she was a Presidential Fellow. Her stories and essays have appeared in Granta, The Paris Review, the New York Times and elsewhere. She is currently a visiting professor at Princeton University. In 2012, Watkins was selected as one of the National Book Foundation’s “Top 5 under 35” and was a finalist for the New York Library Young Lions Fiction Award. Her debut short story collection, Battleborn, won the 2013 Dylan Thomas Prize.

More about the author →

Claire Vaye Watkins on

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‘Even in fiction, a writer's job is to tell the truth’

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‘The uncooperative cadence of the phrase my myspace page perfectly encapsulates the awkwardness of the early oughts when our story begins.’

Fiction | Granta 139


Claire Vaye Watkins

‘He had a mind to surf through all crises and shortages and conflicts past and present.’