Zackary Vernon grew up in Pawleys Island, South Carolina, where his forthcoming YA novel Our Bodies Electric is set. His relationship with his hometown is complicated and even contradictory. Its geography is where he feels most at home, and yet growing up there he felt at best like a black sheep and at worst like a social pariah. His work explores this love/hate relationship with Pawleys Island and, more broadly, the U.S. South. His chief aim is to craft young adult characters who learn to celebrate themselves, despite sometimes being surrounded by narrow-minded views on spirituality, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Zack’s vision for the South, then, is one that embraces diversity and the full range of human potential.
Zack holds a BA in English from Clemson University, an MA from North Carolina State University, and a PhD from UNC-Chapel Hill. At those institutions, he was fortunate enough to study with many highly regarded writers, including Jill McCorkle, Keith Lee Morris, Minrose Gwin, and Randall Kenan. He has taught literature and writing at NC State, UNC, Duke, Merrimack College, and Appalachian State, where he is now an Associate Professor of English.
Zack is the editor of two scholarly collections: Summoning the Dead: Essays on Ron Rash and Ecocriticism and the Future of Southern Studies. He has also published in many magazines and journals, such as The Bitter Southerner, Southern Cultures, Cold Mountain Review, and The Carolina Quarterly. Three of his essays have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize in recent years, and in 2015 he won the Alex Albright Creative Nonfiction Award from the North Carolina Literary Review. Zack is currently the Nonfiction Editor for Cold Mountain Review.
Zack is over the moon that Fitzroy Books will publish Our Bodies Electric in 2024. The novel is a southern coming-of-age story about a teenager named Josh who is tormented by his religious family and struggles against the pressure to conform to their brand of restrictive heteronormativity. When Josh befriends an aging couple that used to operate South Carolina’s premier nudist resort, they give him a book containing Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself.” Through reading Whitman’s poetic manifesto of individual liberation, he begins to understand his own sexuality and recognize the fluidity of gendered categories. Our Bodies Electric consists of short chapters that provide snapshots of Josh’s maturation process, including his obsession with David Bowie in the film Labyrinth, his fumbling attempts at making homemade thongs, and the titillating, gender-bending potential of games like Marco Polo and Powderpuff.