Susann Cokal is an American author and academic. She has written the novels "The Kingdom of Little Wounds", "Mirabilis", and "Breath and Bones", along with short stories, literary and pop-culture criticism, and book reviews. "The Kingdom of Little Wounds" won a Printz silver medal award from the American Library Association in 2014.
Cokal has contributed short stories to anthologies and journals including Prairie Schooner, Hayden's Ferry Review, Bellevue Literary Review, and Gulf Stream. She has also contributed essays about contemporary writers to Critique and Centennial Review. She is also a reviewer of fiction for the New York Times Book Review.
Cokal was an assistant professor of creative writing and modern literature at California Polytechnic State University. She is now a professor of literature and creative writing at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia. The range of her interests can be seen in her contributions to the St. James Encyclopedia of Pop Culture on abortion, supermodels, Kate Moss, and zoos.
Some of the inspiration for Cokal's first novel, Mirabilis, "came from the year I lived in Poitiers, France. In between studying medieval art and history, I used to sneak into a decrepit medieval church whose nave was open to the sky. That church (renamed) is where Mirabilis begins. I wrote about a wet nurse because I'm fascinated with the idea that no matter how 'civilized' we've become, we still need this very primal function; also, wet nursing was the more honorable way for a woman to make a living from her body."
Cokal's first novel, Mirabilis is set in the fourteenth century in Villeneuve, France. Its protagonist is a wet nurse whose breasts provide an unending supply of milk. Reviewing the book for the Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide, Joy Parks commented, "Mirabilis is original, humorous, and fascinatingly bizarre, an enigmatic story wrapped in a gauze of feminine sensuality." In The New York Times, Sudip Bose wrote, "Cokal's prose is vivid, and she is adept at scenes ... that recreate a distant and terrifying world."
The book's (fictional) endnotes about the settings and characters were convincing enough that many readers presumed the book was based on real incidents. They are, however, fictional.
Cokal's second novel, Breath and Bones, was released in 2005 (A paperback edition was released in 2006). It is a comic picaresque whose protagonist, an artists' model and muse named Famke, travels the western United States in the 1880s. Humor, sexuality and Cokal's vivid writing abound. Reviews, while overall positive, were more mixed than for Mirabilis; though Cokal intended the book to be a romp, some critics called the book unrealistic.
Wrote The New York Times: "Cokal's storytelling blends the morbid and the titillating with imaginative exuberance. ... It brings to mind the question Martin Amis asked of Lolita: how was it possible to limit her adventures to this 300-page blue streak -- to something so embarrassingly funny, so unstoppably inspired, so impossibly racy?
Cokal's third novel, The Kingdom of Little Wounds, was published in fall 2013 by Candlewick Press. In the novel, women's bodies are the battlefields for court intrigue involving marriage and medicine during the Renaissance. Kirkus Reviews noted its gritty nature and frank portrayal of attitudes toward the body, especially pertaining to women, and gave it a starred review--"mesmerizing." The book also received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, which named it one of the best books of the year for young adults, and School Library Journal. In January 2014 the American Library Association awarded it a Printz Honor as one of the years's best works of literature for young readers. The Printz awards committee said of the book: "Impeccably researched and darkly disturbing, this complex literary tale reveals the sordid side of palace life in a 16th century Scandinavian kingdom where the royal family, the Lunedies, is cursed by a mysterious illness, and political machinations cast doubt on who will rule."
- The Kingdom of Little Wounds (novel), Candlewick Press, 2013
- Mirabilis, Putnam (New York, NY), 2001
- Breath and Bones, Unbridled Books (Denver, CO), 2005
- Sudip Bose (September 23, 2001). "Review of Mirabilis". New York Times. p. 24.
- Drzal, Dawn (July 3, 2005). "Breath and Bones and The Painted Kiss: Portrait of a Lady".
- Pearl, Nancy (June 1, 2001). "Review of Mirabilis". Booklist. p. 1835.
- Scofield, Sandra (July 1, 2001). "Review of Mirabilis,". Chicago Tribune. p. 4.
- Parks, Joy (September 2001). "Review of Mirabilis". Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide. p. 38.
- Bethel, Wendy (June 15, 2001). "Review of Mirabilis,". Library Journal. p. 101.
- Larson, Susan (August 1, 2001). "Review of Mirabilis". New Orleans Times-Picayune.
- "Review of Mirabilis". Publishers Weekly. June 11, 2001. p. 56.
- See, Carolyn (July 27, 2001). "Review of Mirabilis,". Washington Post. p. 24.