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The Gift

A novel by Barbara Browning

A sometimes funny, sometimes catastrophically sad story of performance art, ukuleles, dance, and our attempts and failures to make contact.

May 9, 2017
5.5 x 8.25 | 248 Pages
Trade Paper

Thanks to a 2013 ADA Access Improvement Grant administered by VSA Minnesota for the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, this title is also formatted for screen readers which make text accessible to the blind and visually impaired.

To purchase this title for use with a screen reader please call (612) 338-0125 or email us at

All orders will ship in May.

ISBN: 978-1-56689-468-5.


Available on backorder


In the midst of Occupy, Barbara Andersen begins spamming people indiscriminately with ukulele covers of sentimental songs. A series of inappropriate intimacies ensues, including an erotically charged correspondence and then collaboration with an extraordinarily gifted and troubled musician living in Germany.

Barbara Browning teaches in the Department of Performance Studies at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts. She received her PhD in Comparative Literature from Yale University. She is the author of the novels The Correspondence Artist (winner of a Lambda Literary Award) and I’m Trying to Reach You (short-listed for the Believer Book Award). She also makes dances, poems, and ukulele cover tunes.


“…the narrator has an exceptionally graceful page presence: loony and profound, vulnerable and ingenuous, Barbara acts to unify the book’s central concerns, giving its intellectual flights of fancy a palpable human pulse.”Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Browning takes a book that could easily exist in hypotheticals, layers, and masks and instead grounds it in the chaos of its time, including the disruptive politics of the Occupy movement, the infamous Pussy Riot protests and arrests in Russia, and the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The effect is indeed intimate but never inappropriate. Browning is working at the edges of her craft, and it’s utterly thrilling to watch. A delicious love letter to readers and co-conspirators everywhere.” —Kirkus, starred review

“The Gift is about the connections we make with other human beings, whether in passing, in person, or via email (or even in our imagination). It feels rare to read an uplifting book… but (the) Barbara’s zest for life is extremely contagious. Anyway, read this book, I promise it is worth it.”—Lenny

“Where does Barbara Browning end and Barbara Andersen begin? What is the difference between fact and fiction? Those are some of the intriguing questions raised by this enigmatic and mysterious tale.”—Booklist

“Barbara Browning’s winning and expansive novel describes one woman’s intimacies with lovers, strangers, culture and ideas, and family and friends during several months in NY between 2012 and 2013. Browning brilliantly synthesizes her work as a scholar and an artist into a single identity, becoming at once a master monologist, storyteller, and historian of her amorphous tribe.”—Chris Kraus

“Barbara Browning’s gift is delicacy’s embrace of edge, daring’s embrace of openness, dance’s embrace of song, in open tuning: a blues for intimacy’s constant rupture and repair, held out in simple and miraculous gesture. I mean to say that her sentences are carefully held out hands signing the theory and practice of generosity, speaking with such plain obscurity that what has been covered—the lonesome miracle of what it is to be together—is now visible.”—Fred Moten