A.D. Nauman


A.D. Nauman is a novelist, short story writer, and literacy educator in Chicago, Illinois. An Illinois Arts Council Literary Award recipient, her work has been produced by Stories on Stage, broadcast on NPR, and published in Chicago Quarterly Review, Willow Springs, TriQuarterly, Necessary Fiction, and The Literary Review, among other journals. Though now a Midwesterner, Nauman grew up mostly in Tidewater, Virginia.





2:00 pm to 3:00 pm
House Committee Room 4
Fiction: Courageous Women Navigate Fate, Politics, and War
with Kimberly Brock, Pamela Binnings Ewen, A.D. Nauman, Irina Zhorov, and moderator Megan Holt

3:15 pm to 4:00 pm
Cavalier House Books Tent
Book Signing


Down the Steep

Willa McCoy is a strong-minded teenager who longs to follow in the footsteps of her important father. But the year is 1963, the place is small-town Virginia, and her father is a Klansman. Steeped in racism, Willa believes the Klan is daring and brave—like the father she idolizes. She wants only to rise in his esteem; he wants only to keep everyone in their place. Impatient for her to be more feminine, Willa’s parents send her to babysit for the new minister’s wife, Ruth Swanson, unaware the Swansons have moved from Minnesota to do their part in the budding Civil Rights movement. Soon Willa finds herself at Ruth’s kitchen table with Langston Jones, a smart young Black man. Langston and Willa despise each other, but they both love Ruth, so their paths continue to cross. One evening, Langston reveals a devastating secret that forces Willa to see her father’s true character, and the once-loyal daughter rebels. As she plots to destroy her father’s reputation, she unwittingly sets into motion a series of events that leads to her family’s ruin.

Down the Steep elegantly scrutinizes the horrors of the Jim Crow south, heroism gone awry, and the family and home you can never fully flee. A.D. Nauman writes with compassion and understanding about characters who don’t always understand themselves—and she keeps the pages turning. An engaging novel and a beautiful coming-of-age story.” — Rebecca Makkai, author of Pulitzer-finalist The Great Believers

Down the Steep travels into dark places where lesser authors might fear to tread. A.D. Nauman has created an unforgettable narrator, a pulse-pounding plot, and an ending that will leave readers haunted and changed. This book is unflinching in its honesty and breathtaking in its beauty.” — Abby Geni, author of The Wildlands

“It’s increasingly rare to encounter a work of fiction that truly allows us—no, compels us—to witness a character’s profound moral growth, their making and re-making, but with Willa McCoy, the teenaged protagonist of Down the Steep, A.D. Nauman accomplishes just that. This fast-moving novel of the heart and mind builds, one impeccable small-town detail after another, to a devastating conclusion. You’ll never forget this emotionally wrenching and beautiful book.” —Kimberly Elkins, author of What Is Visible


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