I became interested in fiction writing when I was thirteen years old. I began taking as many creative writing courses as I could at school, in continuing education classes, and in college and graduate school. Much to my surprise, the first books I published were about my artwork. It was only after independently publishing three art books that I returned to fiction.
A Bitter Pill to Swallow, 2016
When they find each other, they find themselves.
On the edge of the Chicago medical district, the Harrison School for Exceptional Youth looks like a castle in a snow globe. Janina has been there since she was ten years old, and now she’s fourteen. She feels so safe inside its walls that she’s afraid to leave.
Devante’s parents bring him there after a tragedy leaves him depressed and suicidal. Even though he’s in a different place, he can’t escape the memories that come flooding back when he least expects them.
Dr. Gail Thomas comes to work there after quitting her medical residency. Frustrated and on the verge of giving up on her dreams, she sees becoming a counselor as her last chance to put her skills to the test.
When he founded the school, Dr. Lutkin designed its unique environment to be a place that would change the students’ lives. He works hard as the keeper of other people’s secrets, though he never shares any of his own.
But everything changes late in the winter of 1994 when these four characters’ lives intersect in unexpected ways. None of them will ever be the same.
Praise for A Bitter Pill to Swallow
"Tiffany Gholar's debut novel is a gripping narrative set in a world of multigenerational characters fighting for truth, integrity and wholeness."
—Kalisha Buckhanon, author of Speaking of Summer and Upstate, winner of the ALEX Award
"In this smart, layered story about life in a school for troubled teens, the characters learn to embrace recovery and ultimately, one another."
—Cal Armistead, author of Being Henry David
“The characters, at every age, are vulnerable, believable, multi-faceted and compelling. Gholar's deceptively straight-forward style, a mix of humor and brutal honesty, stokes our empathy and our hope for understanding, and makes us remember how harrowing the world can be for teenagers. She gets under the reader's skin, forcing attention be paid to the deep and turbulent lives of sensitive, intelligent youth.”
—James Finn Garner, author of The Wet Nose of Danger
"Multigenerational stories are uncommon on the YA shelves, and this element of the book fills a gap...the book helps illuminate how treatment of mental health in African American communities often lags behind that of white suburban communities. "
—School Library Journal
Read the first chapter here.
The Sum of its Parts, 2019
It is really hard being an artist sometimes.
Had I painted myself into a corner? I had sacrificed everything for my art career, but when would it ever pay off? I invested my Jeopardy! winnings into my biggest and most ambitious solo show yet, but that show, like so many other things, didn’t yield the results I hoped for. Was I right to believe that my “big break” was just around the corner or was I lying to myself? Where would I find the patience to keep on going despite numerous rejections? What was the use of making art when it seemed like nothing mattered and no one cared? Not everything can be salvaged, but I pieced together what I could to try to create some semblance of imperfect beauty. This is the chronicle of an art career that, during a time of great despair, disappointment, and discontent, did not flourish but did not die.
The Doll Project, 2014
Fashion doll or fashion victim?
Is Barbie to blame for giving girls body image issues, or are there larger forces at work? The Doll Project explores the influence of visual culture and societal norms while caricaturing and satirizing unattainable standards of beauty. In a world where girls gather online to remind each other that "nothing tastes as good as thin feels" and diet ads ask "what will you gain when you lose," even Barbie is never thin enough. The Doll Project dramatizes this quest for perfection in miniature. Each picture tells a story from my perspective as an ambivalent doll collector who has a love/hate relationship with the fashion industry. The photographs in this series show how both the iconic fashion doll and the fashion world around her have changed in the decades since her introduction, and culminate in a dynamic poster designed to remind women and girls to love and accept themselves no matter what they look like.
Imperfect Things, 2014
A story of art, passion, heartbreak, and resilience.
In 2010, I got my own art studio. I finally had a space dedicated to making artwork. But was following my dreams worth the risk? Would I ever find the right audience for my work? Could I stay motivated to keep painting despite all the times I returned from shows with unsold artwork and an empty wallet? With everything else falling apart, how would my artistic vision come together? This is the story of three years in my life when everything changed.
Every artist has a story. This is a story of reinvention.
A year after graduating and not being able to find a good job with my degree, I decided to go back to school to study what I had always wanted to learn: painting. As I repurposed discarded materials for my paintings, I discovered the artistic purpose of my life. This book tells the story of my circuitous journey to creating my first major body of work as an artist. More than just an exhibition catalogue, this book highlights the events in my life that inspired my work while featuring large color photos of finished paintings and works in progress. This is the story of Post-Consumerism. This is a story of reinvention.