Indiana State University Newsroom

Debut novel by ISU professor named among the best

July 1, 2010

The nation's largest nonprofit organization serving creative writers has recognized Indiana State University professor Aaron Morales' book "Drowning Tucson" as one of the summer's five best debut novels from independent publishers.

The July/August issue of Poets and Writers singles out Morales' work for its innovative quality. Editors of the magazine use the word "unconventional" in describing the table of contents that offers "six ways of navigating the interconnected tales that compose the novel."

Morales' book, officially released on May 1, chronicles the lives of the Nunez family in some of the toughest neighborhoods of 1980s Tucson. The characters include both crooked cops as well as prostitutes plying their trade along the streets of downtown Tucson, Ariz. The characters are linked by crushing poverty, the brutal codes of the street and the harsh nature of the desert.

According to the Poets and Writers review, "Drowning Tucson" is among five books written by first-time authors and released this summer by independent publishers that "would be notable regardless of who published them."

"Each year's list exemplifies how first-time authors are the ones who are taking the chances, pushing the conventions of their genres, and proving themselves in a season typically glutted with summer-reading lists filled with lousy beach reads," the article states.

Morales, 34, said the honor is very humbling.

"Obviously, I'm flattered," he said. "I am surprised that of all the debut novels released in the last few months that mine was picked up as one of the best."

Morales said he began writing the short story episodes that would later become the book without a clear idea about where his work was headed.
Tucson was the perfect setting for some of the themes he wanted to explore in his writing, he said, because that's where he witnessed the work of gangs, life on the street and the "dark side of humanity."

Morales, an assistant professor of English at ISU since 2005, is also a 2000 graduate of the English department's creative writing program.

Photo: Aaron Morales,

Contact: Aaron Morales, assistant professor of English, Indiana State University at 812-237-3168 or

Writer and Photographer: Rachel Wedding McClelland, assistant director of media relations, Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University at 812-237-3790 or