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Book Review

Publishing

  • The Vale of Cashmere

  • by Sean Elder

    green forest

    This story first appeared in Voice from the Planet, FREE from March 30 – April 3, 2017 at Amazon Kindle US, and Kindle UK among others.

     

    Truth was, she used to be able to organize her thoughts, until Floyd retired. Now he was always hanging around talking to her, asking what she was doing. Every time he went out, which wasn’t often enough for her taste, he would ask her if she needed anything and then look angry if she did. Sometimes he’d look angry if she didn’t. Now she looked for errands for him, just to get a moment’s peace. When she sent him off for milk this morning she could have lived without it. But she couldn’t have stood listening to him complain about the bus ride to Atlantic City before it happened, not non-stop for the next two hours.

    “You’re creating your future,” she told him. “Whatever you’re thinking and feeling, that becomes your reality.”

    “Don’t give me that shit,” he’d said, putting on his coat and hat. He had been wearing that same damned hat with the stingy brim so long it had come back in style.

    “It’s the law of attraction,” she’d continued. “You can deny it all you want but that don’t mean it’s not true. “Everything coming into your life you are attracting into your life. You’re like a magnet.”

    “Well, this magnet’s going to attract some milk,” he’d said before going out the door.

    He had made fun of her ever since she first heard Oprah talking about The Secret but deep down she thought that maybe he believed her. Or would, if he would just give it a try. He would come home so angry about something that happened out there – the security guy asleep in the chair, or someone who wouldn’t give his seat up on the subway – and she would tell him, “Every bad thing that comes into your life, you make happen.”

    Sometimes that really made Floyd angry. “Is that right? Every bad thing? I made happen every bad thing that came into my life, Marcy?” He would tower over her, breathing heavily, staring at the top of her lacquered hair until she was silent.

    She looked closely at the big digits on the clock by the bed. It was almost 8:30 and she still had not done her makeup. From the drawer in the nightstand on her side of the bed she looked for her own pill organizer and then realized she had already taken it out. She put it under the light, right beside that picture of her two boys, smiling in the lap of a black Santa, and looked at Wednesday. There were still pills in the morning box but the evening box was empty. Maybe she took the evening pills by mistake. Not that it mattered ‘cause they were basically the same. Or maybe she hadn’t filled the PM part.

    Looking at the rainbow colored compartments (Wednesday was green, Thursday red) she thought of Wilson, who had the hardest time with his R’s when he was little – “Weeding Wainbow,” he would say about his favorite show, and his brother would laugh at him. She felt overcome for a moment and then heard her husband’s keys in the door.

    She took the morning pills, four altogether, as Floyd shouted at her from the kitchen.

    “Do you know how much they wanted for a half-gallon of milk?” She imagined his face as he said the price and the way he would look at her afterwards. He might be looking that way right now, even though she wasn’t there.

    “Cost of everything is going up,” she yelled back. Then she stood and headed for the bathroom. “I got to get a move on.”

    “Ain’t you even going to drink your milk?” She heard him swear as she closed the bathroom door.

    The bus driver turned out to be some white guy who’d been sleeping in the back while people waited outside. The whole bus was talking about it, even after they got out of the Holland Tunnel and were getting on the turnpike, people tisking and hmm-hmming until Floyd wanted to yell, “Who told you to stand out there in the first place? It’s not even cold.” But he kept quiet and sat by a window, alone thank you very much, though Tommy insisted on sitting right in front of him, while Marcy huddled on the other side with a bunch of ladies. They outnumbered the men five to one anyway; he let Tommy represent, going back and forth across the aisle like some congressman making a deal. Each time he went over to the ladies he would say something so low that Floyd couldn’t hear and they would all laugh and holler.

    “I think it’s about time for some music,” Tommy said after one of his sorties. He had a gym bag with him that also said Mets on it, and from it he pulled a boom box that he tried to balance on the seatback in front of him. He pushed play and Johnnie Taylor started in on “Who’s Making Love” and the ladies all laughed, even though the sound was kind of wobbly. From the front of the bus the driver said something, they could see him looking at them in the rear view mirror, but no one tried to hear him. In fact Tommy stood up, with the boom box on his shoulder, and started to shake it in the aisle, which made the driver get on the mike.

    “Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to sit down.” He had some kind of accent, Russian or something, but no one really paid him any mind.

    The hits kept coming; it must have been some kind of collection since Floyd never heard a deejay. Tommy jammed the boom box between the headrest and the window so it wouldn’t fall down and turned around to look at Floyd, but not before looking at the driver, who had his eyes on the road again.

    “How ‘bout a little taste?” Tommy said, taking a half-pint in a brown bag from the pocket of his jacket.

    “Too early for me,” Floyd said, looking out the window. To him it always looked like New Jersey was halfway through being torn down.

    Across the aisle Marcy was in the middle of a conversation with the other ladies but she didn’t feel quite right. It started as soon as she left the building; she had picked out a brooch to go with her blue blouse, a little gold tree with red apples on it, but she had left it sitting in front of the mirror. Now she felt naked, all that blue stretching out below her chin like an empty ocean almost and she felt like she was being pulled back from drowning each time one of them stopped talking. That meant somebody was supposed to say something, you were supposed to jump in like it was a game of double-Dutch.

    “What I value most is the privacy,” Marcy said, but no one answered. She had a feeling she had said that before. The topic was assisted living and how to know when you needed it.

    “Until you wake up privately dead,” said the lady in the Kente cloth. Marcy didn’t remember meeting her before, a friend of Helen’s was how she was introduced, but she didn’t like her now. She had these gray and white streaks in her hair, extensions by the look of it, but it reminded Marcy of mud. Besides she was probably the youngest woman of the bunch, what was she talking about dying for?

    “My boy checks in on us every night,” said Marcy and immediately wondered why she had. It wasn’t true. Most times she had to call Eric and he never sounded too happy to hear from her. He did come to visit though, once a month at least. They saw less of him after his divorce, though you’d think it would be the other way around.

    “Where are we?” she said suddenly, looking out the window. Everything looked the same.

    “You keep asking that,” the lady in the Kente cloth said, or maybe she said. Marcy wasn’t looking at her and the music Tommy was playing made her feel lost.

    “Sending this one out for all you ladies,” said Tommy, like he was some deejay, and they all laughed but Marcy didn’t think it was funny. It was that song about sitting on a park bench that always made her sad. “I see her face everywhere I go/on the street and even at the picture show/have you seen her?”

    There was a hospital up there high on a hill and for a second she felt that the bus was going to take off and fly straight up to its doors. She closed her eyes and felt herself rise.

    They parked in the lot of the Showboat casino. Though they could have gone anywhere they wanted, the thirty odd passengers that disembarked made for the Showboat as if summoned, shuffling and limping toward the entrance in a broken conga line.

    “No one says we got to go to this casino,” Floyd said to the crowd of ladies leading the way.

    “The Showboat has a Mardi Gras theme,” said the lady in the Kente cloth. She turned around to give Floyd the fisheye, pulling down her glasses as she did. “Besides, we got coupons for the Showboat.”

    He fell in line sullenly beside Tommy who offered him another drink. Floyd took a swallow this time without pulling down the brown paper to see what it was. It tasted like mouthwash.

    “Jesus, what the hell you drinking?”

    “Little peppermint schnapps.” Tommy tried to slap Floyd on the back but the big man danced away, handing the bottle back as he moved.

    “What she mean by a ‘Mardi Gras theme,’ anyway?” Floyd said.

    Tommy shrugged. “As long as they got free drinks and blackjack I don’t much care.”

    Seagulls screamed overhead. Floyd saw his reflection scowling in the window of a parked Humvee. He went to New Orleans during Mardi Gras when he was in the Navy, how many years ago? He got lost and someone stole his wallet. A man dressed as a woman tried to put beads around his neck, he remembered. You could have your Mardi Gras.

    Marcy was among the first of the women to enter the casino and the air conditioning hit her like a cold wave. “Good thing I remembered my shawl!” she said but no one answered. The music and the sound of the slot machines, dinging and ringing with sirens going off every five minutes as if some crime was being committed, swallowed her voice.

    Marcy had thought to bring rolls of quarters and silver dollars. While the other ladies were getting change she was already pouring her silver into a red plastic cup provided to her by a girl in the shortest skirt she had ever seen.

    “You must be freezing!” Marcy said but the girl didn’t seem to hear her. Maybe she just got tired of people trying to talk to her.

    The slots area had thousands of machines and at noon it was already half filled, mostly old timers like her and Floyd. He and Tommy had set off in the other direction like there was a sign saying ‘Men, That Way.’ The carpets were in a pattern of red and orange and gold that reminded her of a kaleidoscope and the ceiling was made up to look like stained glass, though she knew real stained glass when she saw it and this wasn’t it. She felt like if she didn’t sit down she might just fall into the colors. She sat down at a quarter machine and began feeding it. She didn’t know where the other ladies had gone and looking over her shoulder left her none the wiser.

    “Y’all gonna have to find me,” she said and as if summoned a different lady in a short skirt appeared.

    “How you doing today?” she said. She had a tray filled with drinks and a notepad tucked into her belt. “Can I get you something to drink?”

    “Well I suppose you can!” Marcy turned in her chair to show her appreciation. “My name’s Marcy by the way, I come here from Brooklyn with a bunch of folks from my church group.”

    “Now isn’t that nice? My name’s Kim Sue. What can I get you?”

    Marcy smiled and opened her mouth. But she could not think of the names of any drinks, not just the fancy ones but any drink. She felt a trickle of sweat run down her back underneath her blouse.

    “It’s funny,” she said, embarrassed. “My mind’s just a blank today.”

    “Sure, no problem!” Kim Sue smiled back at her like one of those Chinese dolls, her name right there on her badge. “We have beer and wine and soda and mixed drinks.” She kept smiling at Marcy and continued. “I could make you a nice white wine spritzer, if you like.”

    “Oh, that sounds nice,” said Marcy, and it did sound nice, like a sprinkler in the summer time, the kind the boys used to play in. Kim Sue left and Marcy returned to the machine. Cherries and plums rolled past, never stopping at the same time.

    Eric used to chase Wilson through the sprinklers in the park and sometimes when Marcy wasn’t looking he would hold his little brother down and try to pull off his shorts in front of all the other children. She would get so mad at him, always teasing like that, knowing it would make Wilson cry and come looking for her, but she had a job then, looking after a little white boy named Oskar whose parents lived in Park Slope and worked all the time. Oskar’a parents didn’t mind too much when she brought her boys with her when she took him to the park. “As long as you remember,” the father said, “that Oskar is your first priority.”

    Well of course he is, mister doctor man! Why would my own flesh and blood come before your little prince? Good gracious, the things that man would say. If the wife heard him she would weigh in and try to soften the blow. “What my husband means is that we don’t want you to get too distracted. Three children is a handful.”

    Now that was the kind of thing only a white person would say. Where she came from three children was just getting started, even if she was done after Wilson, something her own mother could never understand.

    “Oh, don’t worry, ma’am,” Marcy would say. “I won’t ever let Oskar out of my sight.”

    All these people thinking someone was going to steal their child then, like the whole country had gone crazy. Soon they’d be putting their pictures on milk cartons and billboards and on TV during the news – “Have you seen Brandon?” Usually white kids. If a black kid went missing generally people know who took him.

    “Here you go, ma’am.”

    Kim Sue was back with her drink. It was in a big plastic cup with a straw that went in curlicues, like a roller coaster, like this was for a child. She started fishing in her coin cup.

    “Drinks are complimentary, ma’am.”

    Like I didn’t know that. She pulled out a Susan B. Anthony and put it on her tray. “That’s for you,” she said.

    “Very nice of you, ma’am. And if you need anything else you just let me know.”

    She turned to leave and Marcy was afraid to see her go. “Kim Sue, it’s like your momma gave you two names.”

    “Kim is my family name. Family name comes first in Korean.”

    “Is that right?” said Marcy. “Well I think family should come first, don’t you?”

    “Yes, ma’am.”

    Marcy thought that was something else she should write in her book but realized that she hadn’t brought it with her, and then forgot what she had said. “But they probably don’t spell it like that in Korea, do they? The Sue, I mean.”

    “No, ma’am, we have a different alphabet.”

    “Now isn’t that something?”

    She was balancing a tray full of drinks while she talked to Marcy so she let her go, disappearing into the big Tiffany lamp around them. A band was playing Dixieland and Marcy strained her eyes to see them. The music seemed to be coming from everywhere at once, “When the Saints Come Marching In.”

    “Let me tell you another,” she said, sipping on her drink. The lady at the machine next to her looked at Marcy and then moved away, taking her quarters with her. She watched as the drink spun up the straw when she sucked. Here we go loop de loop.

    Sometimes Eric would help her push the stroller as they went around the park, and Wilson would run so far ahead she would shout after him. “Don’t go where I can’t see you!” she’d holler, and Oskar, too big to be pushed around in a stroller, would try and stand up and yell after her. “Go where I can’t see you!”

    Wilson would hide like that at home as well; hide so good she couldn’t find him sometimes. They were living in Prospect-Lefferts, more house than they needed but you could afford those big limestone buildings then even on a Con Ed salary and Wilson would go into different rooms and be so quiet that she would get hysterical, be practically beside herself by the time her husband got home. Then they would hear him laughing. “Got you!” he would say and emerge from the cupboard or from behind the sideboard and Floyd would get so mad. That one time he came out of her closet wearing her bra and Floyd just about went crazy; took off his belt and chased him.

    She put in a coin and pulled the lever: a watermelon; a bell; the number seven in gold.

    “What numbers are you playing today?”

    She turned her head but nobody was there. Who had spoken? Just turning her head made the colors around her move and when she looked at the floor she saw the pattern there was moving too. It was like a flying carpet, the Vale of Cashmere –

    The Vale of Cashmere! That was the name of that strange corner of the park where she took the boys now and then. They were getting older; other boys took the place of Oskar, and Eric got too big to want to be with them. But Wilson kept her company as she made the rounds, bought them ice cream and wiped their sticky hands. People used to call it The Swamp and there was a muddy pond okay and some hanging trees.

    “How come you don’t play with boys your own age?” one of the kids had asked him once.

    “I just like to help my momma,” he’d said.

    He was the one who found out the real name of The Swamp, checked an old book out of the library and showed her on the map. There was a poem that went with it and Wilson stood up by the pond and put one finger in the air as he read: “Who has not heard of the Vale of Cashmere/With its roses the brightest the earth ever gave?”

    Another babysitter saw them by the pond once and came over to warn them. “You shouldn’t be down in there,” she said, afraid to come too close with her stroller in front of her. “They say men get together down there.”

    And after that Marcy noticed them, lurking about, standing in the trees. Once when she came down with Wilson and a stroller two men ran out, going in different directions.

    She didn’t think about it again for years, until Wilson was grown and still living at home, and he came back one night that first time with his face all bloody, drunk or high on something and smiled at her, blood on his teeth.

    “Hey, Momma, I been to the Vale of Cashmere!”

    That’s when Floyd said no more.

    “What numbers are you playing today?”

    She turned and the colors whooshed like a scarf being wrapped around her head. She saw her this time, a little woman, no bigger than a dragonfly like the ones the boys chased in the park, Wilson would put them in a jar with holes punched in the top, while Eric tried to cover it up with his hand so they would smother.

    “I’m looking for three sevens,” Marcy said to the dragonfly woman. “Are there some other numbers to play?”

    “That is the question, isn’t it?” said the faerie. “Are there other numbers to play?”

    And then she flew away, just like a little hummingbird, and Marcy got up to follow her, passing into the pattern of colors and leaving her cup of coins behind.

    Floyd went through all his money the first hour. Not all his money but all the money he’d meant to spend, the money he put in his shirt pocket, seemed to fly off the table. Dealer beat him every time: if Floyd had 18, the dealer had 19; if Floyd sat on a 19, the dealer hit him with two bricks.

    “I guess this lady feels like she has to show us what a blackjack looks like,” said Tommy, when the dealer drew her third in ten minutes. She apologized to them both, even though they didn’t tip her, and Tommy’s luck was better than hers: He doubled down twice and made a hundred bucks in the blink of an eye. All Floyd could do, once he had spent the money he had earmarked for this outing, was sit there and simmer in his resentment while Tommy’s chip pile grew.

    That was when Helen, the lady in the purple pantsuit, came and asked if he knew where Marcy was.

    “I thought she was with you,” said Floyd. It came out like an accusation.

    “Well, we agreed to meet for lunch at three,” she said, “but then nobody could find Marcy. We figured maybe you two went off together.”

    And that’s how well you know us, Floyd thought. “Maybe she just went off to another casino by herself,” he said. Even though he was losing, and wasn’t even playing at the time, he didn’t want to have to leave his spot and go look for his wife. “There’s no law says we got to stay here.”

    “Blackjack,” said the dealer, flipping another ace.

    But after a minute he did get up to look, as he knew he would, leaving Tommy, who still had a hot hand and no doubt wondered what all the fuss was about.

    “Did you try the ladies room?” he asked Helen.

    “That was one of the first places we looked. They have sofas in there, you know.” She paused. “Do you think we should call security?”

    The suggestion made his blood pressure rise. “No, I don’t think we should call security. Christ sake, grown woman goes off for a few minutes and you want to call the cavalry?”

    “Does she have a cell phone?”

    “Our son gave her one but she couldn’t figure out how to use it.” This was literally half true: Eric had given them each one last Christmas, and neither of them could figure out how to use it. By the time Floyd got the hang of it he realized that the only person he would call was his wife, which was kind of stupid since he saw her all the time anyway.

    They looked all the places that they had already looked and the lady in the Kente cloth joined them, acting more concerned that Floyd felt. “We need a system,” she said, as they circled the room for the second time. The place was more crowded than ever and Floyd could hardly hear what she was saying. “How about I go stake out the buffet and you stay here?” she suggested to Helen.

    “How ‘bout I go stake out the buffet?” Helen said. “I haven’t had lunch yet.”

    Floyd said they could both go feed themselves and take their time doing it; Marcy would turn up. He stood like a sentinel beneath the bells and sirens of the Mardi Gras slots, scowling most of the time. He hated slot machines; there was no sport in it, as he often told his wife. Blackjack at least you were playing the odds. Slots to him was just dumb luck, like a rabbit betting it wouldn’t get run over when it ran across the road. Twice he thought he saw his wife, and each time he took pleasure in anticipating just how much grief he was going to give her. But each time he was wrong.

    By four o’clock they were back together, Tommy too, and they began to set out in search parties. They were a small group: most of the travelers didn’t want to leave their stations, since the bus was scheduled to leave at six and this whole business had already cut into their time as it was. The lady in the Kente cloth, who finally introduced herself as Niobe, took charge. She contacted the hotel security, who seemed to have some experience with old folks wandering off, and as the witching hour neared, and the day-trippers started heading back toward the bus, she went out and argued with the bus driver, who was pretty adamant about leaving on time.

    “You can’t just go off and leave an old lady alone,” she scolded him. The engine was already running, gently shaking the bus, while the AC gusted out the door in heavy welcoming breaths.

    “I won’t be leaving her alone,” the driver said. “I will be leaving you to find her.”

    He agreed to wait as they made one last search. A handful of them fanned out, going to neighboring casinos and restaurants, off the boardwalk and into the side streets. Floyd couldn’t help but think that Marcy was messing with him the whole time, and when he saw the impatient faces of the other folks on the bus – they’d lost their money and had their fill, they just wanted to go home – he couldn’t help but side with them.

    Most of the people he saw as he wandered were wearing shorts and T-shirts. Used to be people would get dressed up to go someplace. And when did everybody get so fat? Walking down the boardwalk, bag of French fries in your hand, what did you expect? The new motto for the city was “Always Turned On,” which he found kind of creepy. There was nothing that he saw that turned him on.

    Doors were open, air conditioning blasting out, cooling nothing. Floyd took to popping into places and doing a quick look around, not even asking half the time if they’d seen anyone who looked like his wife. One, they couldn’t hear you with all that noise and two, half of them couldn’t speak English.

    “You seen an old black lady?” he shouted at one girl scooping ice cream. Her nails were so long he figured they might end up in somebody’s cone. “Blue shirt, about this high?” She stared at him like he was the one with the language problem.

    He kept walking. Going in and out of the summer sun was making him dizzy, to say nothing of thirsty. He wished for the first time that Tommy was with him. That man would always stop for a drink. He saw people in those rolling chairs, being pushed by young people, girls sometimes. And you wonder why you so fat?

    Down at one end of the boardwalk he found what looked like a real bar. The crowd had trickled off as the sun sank lower in the sky. Go on, get out of here. A lot of good you been. Floyd ducked inside and felt the rivers of sweat roll out from under his hat and chill on his face and neck. His glasses steamed as he took a seat at the bar and ordered a gin and tonic. He perched on the stool and looked up at the game on TV. The waitress brought him his drink and man did that taste good. No skimping on the gin, either. He forgot to ask her about Marcy. His wallet was bothering him, he felt like he was balancing on it. When she asked him if he wanted to start a tab he simply nodded.

    “You got a phone?” She pointed to an old-fashioned booth in the back, kind Superman used to change in. The place was filling up, young couples waiting for dinner. Went back to the hotel to put your dress shorts on? Once inside the paneled wood booth he forgot who he was going to call. Eric, right. He searched the scraps of paper in his wallet for the number he never had cause to memorize and let it ring, go to voicemail, and then dialed again.

    “Hello?”

    “This ain’t no telemarketer.”

    “Hey, Pop.” He did not sound happy to hear from him and Floyd had already put enough change in the machine so he cut straight to the point.

    “We in Atlantic City and your mother’s gone missing.” He backtracked from there, explaining the whole afternoon in greater detail than Eric needed, but never did his son sound any more excited than Floyd felt. He asked the obvious questions – had they called the police? Who else was looking?

    “Did she have her cell phone?” he asked, pointedly.

    “That’s why I was calling,” Floyd said. “I figured maybe she’d called you.”

    Eric was silent, and Floyd knew that he knew he was lying. He imagined him at home, still in his work clothes, the sound on the TV muted, his eyes on the game. From his perch in the booth Floyd could see the TV over the bar. Jeter was trying to steal.

    “I’m sure she’ll turn up, Pop. I mean, where’s she gonna go?”

    “I know that.”

    “You got your cell phone with you? So I can call you if she does?”

    Floyd muttered something and got off the phone. That boy would go to his grave asking about those damn phones. He should just wrap them up and give them back to him for Christmas. Turn ‘em into salt-and-pepper shakers.

    When he got back to his seat at the bar Jeter got picked off and he ordered another drink. Now they could send the search party out for him. The tumblers were tall and when he turned in his seat he found he had company. Big old white dude with long hair and a pointed beard. He was sipping a Budweiser longneck and looking at the screen. His arms were covered in tattoos; dragons, snakes and skulls disappeared into his shirtsleeves.

    “Fuckin’ Yankees,” he said and turned to look at Floyd. “Nice hat.”

    Floyd turned to face his own reflection in the mirror behind the bar. “You wouldn’t believe how long I had this hat,” he said.

    “There isn’t much I wouldn’t believe,” the man said.

    They got to talking. Turned out he worked in a tattoo parlor on the boardwalk, which explained all the ink. Half way through his second drink and Floyd was feeling generous in his opinions.

    “Back in the day,” he said, “man had a tattoo it meant he’d been someplace. In the service, in the joint, you know.”

    “I hear you,” the man said. “These days it just means you been to the mall.” He drained his beer and held up the empty. “Buy you a drink?”

    “Let me buy you a drink,” said Floyd, and pulled out the fat wallet that had been giving him such a pain and laid it on the counter. Soon he had the pictures out and was showing him snaps of Eric, bragging on his job even if he wasn’t exactly sure what he did. Then one of the whole family, when everyone was young.

    “Where’s your other boy?” the stranger asked.

    Floyd made a face like he was sucking on a lime. “Wilson got killed in a hold-up ten years ago,” he said.

    “Oh, man, I am sorry. They catch the guy who did it?”

    “No, it was in Prospect Park one night. Lot of crime in there.”

    “That’s why I could never live in the city,” the man said, which struck Tommy as funny. Most people would be scared of him, even in Brooklyn.

    “So what happens when folks get old?” said Floyd, changing the subject. “Maybe they don’t want all those tattoos any more.”

    “Shit, you don’t have to wait ‘til your old to regret something stupid you did.” The man laughed and Floyd got a glimmer of a gold tooth in his head. “People come in all the time wanting to have tattoos taken off, usually the name of some girl that don’t love them anymore.”

    “Can you do it?”

    “Sure,” the man said. “Hurts like hell and costs twice as much. But we can do it. Easier just to change it, though.”

    “How do you mean?”

    “Well, there was this one girl who loved a guy named Chris and had it tattooed on her ass. Until she found Jesus and then we just added a ‘T’.”

    He didn’t smile at first and it took Floyd a minute to figure it was a joke. He smiled first. “Hey, I got one,” he said. The stranger’s eyes gleamed in anticipation. “There was this guy who loved this old girl so much he had her name tattooed on his Johnson.”

    “Now that’s gotta hurt!”

    “Hell, yeah.” Floyd wiped his mouth. “Then they broke up, you know, and soon he started missing her real bad. So he went all over looking for her, from Wisconsin all the way down to Jamaica. Then he’s in the bathroom one day and he looks over and he sees this other guy’s dick.” He stopped for a minute. The stranger kept staring at him. “Now I can’t remember that girl’s name.”

    “Is it important?”

    “Yeah, it’s the whole punch line.”

    “Uh, oh. Better have another drink.”

    He felt flushed and excused himself to go to the bathroom. There he stared straight ahead at the wall and read all the graffiti as if looking for a message. And by the time he got back to the bar he was not surprised to see the stranger was gone and with him his wallet though all Floyd could feel was a keen sense of disappointment: He remembered the end of the joke now. He had remembered that old girl’s name.

    ______________________

    ‘Vale of Cashmere’ was first published by Harvard Square Editions in Voice from the Planet, FREE from March 30 – April 3, 2017 at Amazon Kindle US, and Kindle UK among others. Sean Elder’s writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, New York Magazine, Salon, Slate, Vogue, Elle, Men’s Journal, Men’s Health, O: The Oprah Magazine, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Details and many other publications. The essay he contributed to the collection of men’s writings The Bastard On the Couch (Morrow, 2004) was reprinted on three continents; his essay on ecstasy, included in the collection of drug writings entitled White Rabbit (Chronicle Books, 1995) was called “seminal” by Granta; and a piece he wrote about being a stay-at-home dad for Oprah was included in her best of O collection, Live Your Best Life (Oxmoor, 2005). He has co-authored several books, including Websites That Work with designer Roger Black (Adobe Press, 1997) and Mission Al Jazeera with former Marine captain Josh Rushing (Palgrave, 2007). He also works as a book doctor and helped edit the forthcoming Making Rounds with Oscar by Dr. David Dosa (Hyperion, 2010). He lives in Brooklyn, New York with his wife and daughter.

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  • Are small publishers doing all the hard work for the big ones?

  • Extracted from The Guardian, UK

    by Ilana Masad

    These days, it is minimally staffed and funded firms who invest in new authors. The giants avoid such risk, only picking the writers once their names are made

    Independent publishers have existed since the 19th century; it wasn’t until the 20th and the 21st that we saw the industry dominated by a few corporations. “The Big Four” publishers – Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House, Hachette and HarperCollins – have grown big by buying up small publishers. Hogarth, for example, was founded by Leonard and Virginia Woolf in 1917; now it is an imprint at the Crown Publishing Group, which is in turn a part of Penguin Random House – which itself used to be Penguin and Random House before their merger in 2013. Phew.

    Some success stories have already been written about, both on the Guardian and elsewhere. His Bloody Project, published by Contraband – a imprint of Saraband, which is run by two people – was nominated for the Man Booker prize, for example, and Transoceanic Lights by S Li was published on a shoestring budget by Harvard Square Editions and named as one of the National Book Foundation’s Five Under 35.  (…more)

     

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  • Excerpt of the Novel: Dark Lady of Hollywood

  •  
     

    by Diane Haithman

    pic of Diane

     
     
     

    Chapter 1

     

    Since nor the exterior nor th’ inward man

    Resembles that it was.

    — King Claudius, Hamlet

     
     

     

    “See, here’s the thing, Kenny . . .”

    I’d forgotten how my immediate supervisor, Danny Gordon, never really shook hands. He’d just put his in yours and leave it there, like a small, limp package waiting for UPS. We’d been holding hands like this ever since he walked into my office to welcome me back. Sweet.

    “The thing?”

    “The . . . thing.” Dan nodded then fell silent. I decided it was up to me to end the non-handshake and gentlly disengaged myself from it. Dan still said nothing. The pause was clammier than his hand. “Say whatever the fuck it is you have to say, Dan,” I suggested pleasantly.

    Danny winced; he tended to take profanity very personally. His small brown eyes had been fixed on the floor. Now, as he looked up, they darted every which way behind the narrow glasses — furtive weasel eyes trying to escape from his desperately hip green rectangular frames, from his head, from my office. From me. (more…)

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  • All at Once: Excerpt of the Novel

  • I step onto a wide stone platform surrounded by water and lie on my stomach to peer down over the edge. At my approach, tiny fish scatter like drops of colored light; crabs pause, wary, then scuttle along the sides of the basin, stuffing their mouths as fast as they can with alternate pincers. After a while, a kind of brown finger wriggles out from the shadows. Another one emerges, then two more, and finally the bulbous body of an octopus comes into view. It skims along until the water is too shallow then starts to walk, using its tentacles as legs. When the water gets deeper it pushes off against the sandy bottom to glide, once more, just beneath the surface. It circles round and round my platform.

    My back begins to prickle, and I realize I’ll be burnt to a crisp if I don’t find shelter pretty soonthe ocean breeze masks the sun’s virulence.

    Standing up makes me momentarily dizzy. The tide has gone out, uncovering rocks studded with barnacles or slick with thick green hair. I head back toward the flat sand and continue walking, looking for a place to rest. I’ve just about resigned myself to the idea of a plastic chair, when I spot a barraca that’s not open for business. The beach in front of it is empty, the small structure shuttered; its thatched roof casts a nice, wide stripe of shade onto the sand. Gratefully, I set up camp, taking out the water and crackers I brought, spreading out my towel to sit on, and leaning against the barraca wall with the empty backpack in between for cushioning. A sigh of relief.

    The ocean is now more white than blue. At the horizon, a wavering smudge might be a cruise ship or an oil rig. The great mass of water is barely disturbed by shifting waves, fretful and sluggish like a dog settling down to sleep. There’s an occasional bloom of white spray when a wave breaks against rock; wisps of cloud trail across the sky. I yawn, lie down on the towel, and close my eyes.

    Now the landscape is reduced to the rustle of wind in the palm thatch, the faint piping of a distant bird, and the dull roar of the ocean. I stretch my arms and let them flop back down. Rolling my head slowly from side to side to loosen the tension in my neck, I notice that this movement causes the pitch of the ocean to vary ever so slightly. Intrigued, I try it a few more times, just to make sure.

    There’s a lesson in that, I reflect: reality changes according to your viewpoint. I roll my head once more from side to side then lie still again, listening to the tiny, ceaseless fluctuations within the monotone.

    An insect lands on my footwithout opening my eyes I flex my toe to chase it away, and realize that the gesture produced an infinitesimal shift in the ocean sound. Bizarre! I can understand the position of my head influencing what I hear, but the position of my toe? (more…)

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  • Spotlight on the Alternative Justice System

  • There is a higher probability of doing time in the ‘land of the free’ than in any other country.

    On its way to becoming a prison state with the highest incarceration rate in the world, the U.S. seized the center stage again when it provoked the hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay.

     

    Wall Street Journal reporter and author Jess Bravin (HC ’87) highlights some of the differences between U.S. prisons and Guantanamo and discusses where to try suspected terrorists in this exclusive author interview.

     

    Jess: There’s one tremendous difference. In U.S. prisons, people are there because they have been convicted of a crime and sentenced to a term of years or life. At Guantanamo, as we know, almost no one there has actually been convicted of anything. They’re being held preventatively.

    LitVote: Can you tell me how many are in there for no reason at all?

    Jess: Sure. Well, right now there are about 166 men still held at Guantanamo Bay. Congress has imposed a lot of restrictions preventing the president from transferring people out of Guantanamo, and the United States is having difficulty finding places to send them since it won’t accept them on its own soil, so it has to try to negotiate or persuade or pay other countries to take them. Most of the prisoners cleared for release are from Yemen, and U.S. authorities believe the environment in Yemen is too unstable and risky for these men. Other detainees, such as the Uighur Muslims from China, are at risk of persecution if repatriated to their home countries. And the US Congress has imposed restrictions on the president’s ability to transfer detainees out of Guantanamo.

    LitVote: How come they’re all men? US prisons are 92 percent men and 8 percent women.

    Jess: … there don’t seem to be a lot of women who were involved in very high levels or involved in organizing terrorist acts or taking up arms who were fingered in this way.

    LitVote: What about the people in the orange suits with the bags over their heads?

    Jess: I did see in January of 2002 a military transport plane that was offloaded with detainees coming off, and they had those famous orange jumpsuits, and they were handcuffed and they had on blackout goggles and earmuffs and facemasks and gloves, basically to deprive them of most of their senses. I did not see any abuse, and my visits there have been many, but my visits at Guantanamo have all been under military escort, so I can’t see anything that they don’t choose to let me see when I’m there.

    LitVote: When do you expect it to be shut down entirely?

    Jess: Well, I have no information on that. The president said he was going to do it when he ran for office the first time in 2008. They recently reassigned the State Department official whose job was finding new homes for the detainees. I suppose the questions is whether President Obama wants to leave off in four years having accomplished that campaign promise from 2008 or having it be one of the things that is a mark on his report card as incomplete. (more…)

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Home » Archives » Recent Articles:

Columbus Day Parade, Monday, October 9

Columbus Day Parade, Monday, October 9, 2017
 
When Len Riggio, Chairman of Barnes & Noble, was asked by the Columbus Citizens Foundation to be the Grand Marshal of this year’s parade, he decided to celebrate Italian-American authors and their outstanding contributions to the history and culture of the United States, creating this year’s theme for the parade: “A Celebration of Italian-American Authors.” Joe Giordano is proud to say that he’ll join 100 authors marching with Mr. Riggio up Fifth Avenue on Monday, October 9th.
 
His novels, Birds of Passage, an Italian Immigrant Coming of Age Story and Appointment with ISIL, an Anthony Provati Thriller are available on Amazon.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1941861342
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Professor R. Kanth, Harvard University, Speaks on “The Iron Cage”

HABITAT: Gulmohar Hall , 7 PM, 13th September, Habitat World, IHC. New Delhi
Chair: Cyprus High Commissioner, Demetrios Theophylactou

***

THE IRON CAGE
On Anthropic Essence and Existence: Within and Without Eurocentric Modernism (EM)

Professor R. Kanth/Harvard University

Post-Renaissance Europe, around the Seventeenth Century, struck upon a brand new Model of Societal Being, best described as Eurocentric Modernism.This was first foisted upon itself, and then imposed, largely by force, across the globe that lay within its sphere of influence.

It was both a prescriptive ontology and epistemology: i.e., a philosophy, a politics, a societal framework, an economic modus, and a way of living, thinking, and interacting.

It is this Paradigm that has brought the entire world today to the brink of various kinds extinctions that we know, or anticipate , so well today: of civility, of legality, of the environment, of the species, and the planet itself.

The Talk, in broad outline, defines this fateful system, traces its trajectory , points to its likely EndGame: and suggests, implicitly, possible salves and escapes.

A B O U T   T H E   S P E A K E R

Professor Rajani Kanth is an economist, philosopher, and social thinker.
He has held affiliations with some of the most prestigious universities in the world.
He has also served as an Advisor to the United Nations, in New York.

He is the author/editor of several academic works in political economy , and culture-critique, is a novelist and poet, and has also scribed several screenplays
He has taught in the areas of anthropology, sociology, political science, history, economics, and philosophy.

His research interests lie in political economy, peace studies, gender studies, cosmology and the environment.

An Affiliate at Harvard , he is Trustee of the World Peace Congress..
His most recent books are : Farewell to Modernism, Peter Lang, NY, 2017; and The Post‐Human Society, De Gruyter, Warsaw, 2015.

Professor Rajani Kanth, Author of Coda, and Expiations
Trustee; World Peace Congress

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Interview with Harriet Levin Millan, author of HOW FAST CAN YOU RUN


HLM2

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by Maribel Garcia 

Interviews, Reviews, Book Club Babble

 

In her debut novel, How Fast Can You Run, poet Harriet Levin Millan (The Christmas Show, Girl in Cap and Gown) gives an insightful and carefully crafted account of just one of the many consequences of the second Sudanese Civil War and refugee life in America.

In 1988, Michael Majok Kuch was violently uprooted from the Dinka plains of Southern Sudan to the Kakuma refugee camp to Nairobi and eventually to Philadelphia.  Millan’s novel is inspired by Michael’s story. [more]

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In the Land of Eternal Spring Launch

By Alan Howard, Author of In the Land of Eternal Spring
My head is still spinning from the launch of In the Land of Eternal Spring in the Boston suburb of Newton on June 15 and then the following week, like a one-two punch, first to the head with some folks I hadn’t seen since grammar school and then to the outpouring of so many of my dearest friends for the reading in New York City where I lived for fifty years.
6_21_readingNearly 100 people in the course of a week, in Newton where I grew up and then in NYC with dozens of friends going back to the political battles of the Sixties and on through two Obama election campaigns and eight years of fighting the good fights.
Thanks to Mary Cotton and Jaime Clarke for the invite to the renowned Newtonville Books and to Kate Linker and Bernard Tschumi for hosting our NYC event as only they could have done it.
These events were like nothing I have ever experienced before (after all, In the Land of Eternal Spring is my debut novel). To feel directly the full force of so much energy, love and affection.
And the hardest questions!
 6.21.signing
Well, the NYC event did take place at the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, when our biological connection to the sun is charged to the maximum and we are pumped—historically one of the most sacred days of the year.
About that Bertolt Brecht inscription for In the Land of Eternal Spring
Ah, what an age it is
When to speak of trees is almost a crime
For it is a kind of silence about injustice!
–let me say there have been more than a few moments over the past seven months since our disastrous election when I have asked myself how I could have devoted so much time and energy writing this novel that takes place a half century ago in a small, poor and distant country.
It was only in conversation with these old friends and new readers that I began to understand the answer to that question. It is about that famous connection between the personal and the political and the force of our collective actions. It is about the beloved community that gave birth to the movement that still sustains us and that I feel fortunate to be part of and to have written a book that tries to give artistic form to a moment in that history.

 

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Appointment with ISIL by Joe Giordano (Book Spotlight, Author Interview & Giveaway!)

9781941861080-Perfect (1).indd

by Laura Fabiani, via Library of Clean Reads, on June 19, 2017 in 50 states of America Author Interview Giveaways Italy Book Tours Joe Giordano

After reading Joe Giordano’s first book, Birds of Passage, I was eager to read his latest release Appointment with ISIL. Although different from Birds of Passage, which was historical fiction, this latest work is a literary thriller. It contains the same bold intelligent writing, with mobsters jumping off the page at every turn. Check out my interview with the author and enter to win a copy of the book!

Book Details:

Book Title: Appointment with ISIL: An Anthony Provati Thriller

Authors: Joe Giordano

Category: Adult Fiction, 299 pages

Genre: Literary Thriller

Publisher: Harvard Square Editions

Release date: June 2017

Format available for review: ebook (mobi, PDF and ePub)

Tour dates: June 19 to 30, 2017

Content Rating: PG (No f-words but there’s mild profanity, and mild religious expletives such as “damn”, “hell” and “Oh God!”, some depictions of violence or brief sexual content (kissing). No drug use or underage drinking.)

Book Description:

This time, Anthony’s libido threatens his life. He flirts with Russian mob boss, Gorgon Malakhov’s mistress. The Russian deals in death. ISIL, the Islamic State in the Levant, wants the product. Russian Intelligence supplies the means, and an art theft funds the scheme. ISIL’s targets are chilling. The chase across the Mediterranean is on. Can Anthony thwart ISIL? Will he survive?

Praise for Appointment with ISIL:

A roller-coaster ride to the finish, this book confirms Giordano as a writer to eagerly watch.”

Kirkus Reviews

A sexy, all-in-one-breath read, this is a story for those eager to strap on their boots and immerse themselves in a whirlwind adventure that will take them from espresso in New York with the Italian Mafia to walking the Old City of Jerusalem with the chief of Israel’s security service.”

The iRead Review

If you like gritty intriguing thrillers involving the FBI, Russian/Italian mobs or Islamic Terrorists you will absolutely love this book…. The characters, the plot and prose come together for an outstanding work of contemporary Americana. PRIMO highly recommends Appointment with ISIL.”

Primo Magazine

Buy the Book: 

Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble

Add to Goodreads

Interview with Joe Giordano:

LCR: Welcome to Library of Clean Reads, Joe. Can you describe your novel in 20 words or less?

JG: Anthony’s libido gets him into trouble with the Red Mob, ISIL, and Russian Intelligence, played out on an international stage.

LCR: Your last novel Birds of Passage was an historical coming of age romance. What made you want to write a literary thriller?

JG: Ben Fountain, author of the best-selling Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, and a writing mentor of mine, told me that the literary thriller was the “holy grail.” I took on his challenge. The genesis of the novel was an Islamic History course I’d taken from the University of Texas in Austin, and a short story, “The Unkindest Cut,” published, by decomP Magazine.

LCR: You include an art theft in your story. Are you an art lover?

JG: On my travels, I enjoy visiting museums, and have taken numerous course in Art History from UT. I enjoy incorporating some of what I’ve seen and learned into my writing.

LCR: How has your own Italian heritage influenced your writing?

JG: The genesis of my first novel, Birds of Passage, an Italian Immigrant Coming of Age Story, was a graduate course at UT on the Progressive Era, 1880 – 1930. I wanted to understand the environment that my family encountered when they arrived as immigrants from Naples, Italy. I’m old enough to have known Italian immigrants born in the nineteenth-century. The famed poet, Jorge Luis Borges asked, “What will the world lose when I die?” When my generation passes, the first-hand connection to the turn-of-the-twentieth-century Italian immigrants will be lost, their culture, their thinking, their experiences. Writing Birds of Passage allowed me to reconnect with my roots. In Appointment with ISIL, an Anthony Provati Thriller, the protagonist is an Italian-American from New York, giving the novel an Italian flavor. By the way, in Manhattan’s Little Italy, on Mulberry Street, the connection with the past is maintained by Dr. Scelsa and The Italian American Museum. The Manhattan launch for Appointment with ISIL will hosted by the Museum on Friday, July 7th.

LCR: If you could travel back in time, where would you go?

JG: We tend to romanticize the past, especially in troubled times. Perhaps I’d be present at the Sermon on the Mount. Marching into Persepolis with Alexander would’ve been a blast. If I could pick a person to be, Augustus would be an interesting choice. A clever emperor, administering over a peaceful period, living large. Okay, his wife poisoned him, but only paradise is perfect.

LCR: Are you working on another novel or project? Can you tell us anything about it?

JG: My next novel will be another Anthony Provati thriller with the working title, Drone Strike, and will include some of characters introduced in Appointment with ISIL, but each novel can be read independently. Drone Strike includes a victim of “collateral damage.” Where can they turn for justice? Without a higher authority to arbitrate, is the desire for revenge understandable?

LCR: Any advice for writers and authors?

JG: Read a lot. Write a lot. Criticism and rejection come by the bucketful. Embrace them. Persistence is one of life’s least appreciated success factors.

LCR: Thank you so much for taking the time to tell us more about you and your writing.

Meet the Author:

Joe Giordano was born in Brooklyn. He and his wife, Jane, have lived in Greece, Brazil, Belgium and the Netherlands. They now live in Texas.

Joe’s stories have appeared in more than ninety magazines including The Monarch Review, The Saturday Evening Post, decomP, The Summerset Review, and Shenandoah. His novel, Birds of Passage, An Italian Immigrant Coming of Age Story, was published by Harvard Square Editions October 2015. His second novel, Appointment with ISIL, an Anthony Provati Thriller will be published by HSE in June 2017.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest

Harvard Square Editions has released Appointment with ISIL, An Anthony Provati Thriller. Read the first chapter below. The book is available on Amazon (link provided), Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, and Apple.

 

Chapter 1

When her son Billy was sent to Iraq, Angie Dekker purchased fifty-two pairs of athletic socks. She sent him one every week. Like an hourglass, the pile shrunk marking the year until her son returned home. Pair thirty-two was in her hand when the two marine officers appeared at her door. She heard, “Fallujah,” “Killed in action,” and “Deepest sympathies.” The funeral at Arlington National Cemetery was mostly a blur. She remembered Taps and the folded flag clutched to her breast.

At home, a female friend tried to console her. “You’re an attractive woman with plenty of life ahead of you.”

She might as well have spoken to a corpse. Angie’s depression was as deep as a canyon. When everyone left, Angie cried alone. She anguished over Billy’s last moments like a stuck record in her brain.

Angie’s grief evolved into a singular desire to see where Billy died. The U.S. State Department blocked her visa applications; Iraq was dangerous even before the Islamic State in the Levant, ISIL, ate its cities. Frustrated, Angie flew to Istanbul. She approached the hotel concierge for a guide recommendation. He called an ex-colonel in Turkish intelligence.

Erol Dogan had gray, cropped hair, and a mustache. He’d lost a son in a military helicopter accident. He was sympathetic to Angie, nonetheless he recoiled at the danger of her requested destination.

Dogan said, “Mrs. Dekker, may I call you Angie? Please accept my condolences for your loss. Going to Fallujah won’t accomplish anything.”

Angie’s eyes wandered to the horizon.

Dogan continued. “Why don’t you allow me to show you the real Istanbul? The Bosporus is beautiful, especially at night. I know an excellent seafood restaurant.”

“Erol Bey, you’re very gracious. I’ll go to dinner if you agree to take me to Fallujah.”

Dogan said, “I understand your need for closure, but there’s nothing for you there. Trust me.”

“I have money for expenses.” Angie reached for her purse.

Dogan raised his palm. “I don’t want payment. It’s a matter of safety.”

She took his hand in both of hers. “I beg you.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I’ll go on my own.”

“A woman shouldn’t travel alone. Men will take advantage.”

“Then guide me.”

Dogan said, “Give me the chance to dissuade you over dinner.”

Angie released Dogan’s hand. “I’m not hungry.”

“Please.”

Angie said, “Excuse me. I need to get ready. I’m starting out tomorrow.”

The next day, Angie was at the Istanbul Atatürk Airport waiting for the Turkish Air flight to Diyarbakir. A shadow fell across her.

Angie said, “You followed me.”

Dogan said, “Angie, please don’t leave Istanbul.”

“I’ve decided.”

Dogan crossed his arms. “Perhaps I’ll have you arrested and sent home.”

“That won’t stop me. I’ll fly to Amman and enter Iraq through Jordan.”

Dogan puffed out a breath. “You’re being stubborn.”

Her eyes held his. “I will go to Fallujah. Erol Bey, have you gotten over your son’s death?”

Dogan broke eye contact. “No.”

“Then you should understand. Will you help me?”

Dogan sighed. He sat next to her. “You can’t go alone.” He rubbed his forehead. “If I agree, you must follow my instructions.”

“Of course.”

“We must cover your blonde hair, or you’ll be recognized as foreign. We’ll buy you Arabic dress.”

Angie offered him money in a pink pouch.

He refused. “You’ll need that when we’re back in Istanbul. Insha’Allah.”

Angie gave him a tight smile.

Dogan made a couple of phone calls.

The two-hour flight was bumpy. Dogan had prearranged a taxi for the six-hour, two-hundred-mile trip to Silopi at the Iraqi border. Dogan cautioned Angie not to say, “Kurdistan,” as a Turkish inspector in fatigues reviewed her passport and kept a copy. Dogan showed the inspector his credentials, and the man saluted.

A huge yellow sun pictured in a red, white, and green Kurdish flag flew over the customs building when they crossed the Habur River into Iraq. Dogan negotiated a ten-day visa, lying about Angie’s purpose and paying the Iraqi stamp tax.

“The south is aboil,” the uniformed officer said.

Dogan grimaced. Angie smelled the sour sweat that rose on Dogan’s back. In Zahko, they procured another taxi, a gray Renault with the “e” lost from the Magane hatchback logo. Dogan told the driver that Erbil was their destination.

As the car passed brown hills with patches of green, Dogan turned to Angie. “Don’t be alarmed.” He showed her the luger pistol he’d carried in his shoulder bag.

Her eyes widened.

He said, “It’s necessary.”

He leaned forward and put the barrel of the gun to the Kurdish driver’s head.

The man’s cigarette dropped from his mouth. His hands flew off the wheel of the car. “I have no money.”

Dogan said, “Drive. South.”

“Where?”

“Fallujah. You’ll be well paid.”

Al-ama. Give the money to my widow.”

The taxi smelled of rose water and rattled like a box of wrenches on the three-hundred miles to Fallujah. They traveled at night. Angie dozed on and off. Dogan was alert. 

They arrived in Fallujah at dawn. The city looked like an ancient ruin with broken palm trees and spiked with mosques. Morning Prayer had begun. Atop a minaret boomed the melodic chant of the muezzin’s voice. “Allah Akbar…”

Dogan’s face glistened. He turned to Angie. “Fifteen minutes, then we go.”

The taxi driver’s head swiveled as he searched the street and nearby buildings. He left the engine running.

Angie wore a black niqāb and burga covering her from head to toe. She trembled as she opened the taxi door and stepped onto the dusty street. Billy died here, she thought, what a filthy desolate place, and tears welled.

The driver’s neck craned from the car window. “Let’s go.”

Dogan said, “Angie, we must leave.”

Angie sighed. She nodded and slipped back into the vehicle.

The taxi moved thirty yards. Two stolen U.S. military jeeps with camouflage paint appeared on either side of the street and sped toward the taxi, blocking its path back and front. A brace of dark-haired men in black flak jackets, gray pants, and boots carrying rifles with scopes and large magazines emerged from doorways on both sides of the street and surrounded the taxi.

Dogan’s fist slammed down. “Bok.”

Angie stiffened. Her stomach turned to acid. She put a hand to her mouth.

A tall, well-built man in a black skull-fitting takiyah and full beard strode to the car with rifle pointed. He said in Arabic, “Get out.”

The driver stepped into the street with hands raised. Two men grabbed him. He struggled, then burst into tears. Dogan grabbed the pistol. Angie touched his forearm. He nodded and left the gun when they stepped from the car.

The tall man turned to Dogan. “He’s a Kurd. You look to be a Turk.” His rifle pointed at Angie. “What nationality are you? Remove the veil.”

Angie didn’t understand.

The tall man’s voice rose. “Woman, remove the scarf.”

Dogan spoke English in a low voice. “He wants you to uncover your face.”

The tall man’s voice became excited. “English. Turk, what have you brought me?”

Angie peeled off her mask. She wanted to be defiant. She had the urge to urinate.

Dogan said in English, “She’s Swedish. A tourist. We meant no harm.”

The tall man stroked his beard. He spoke English with a British accent. “You didn’t pray. That was a mistake. Lying to me is another.”

The tall man turned to Angie. “I’m called Al-Nasir li-Din Allah. What’s your name and country?”

Angie glanced at Dogan. “My name is Angie Dekker. I’m Swedish.”

Al-Nasir tilted his head. He pressed the barrel of his rifle into Dogan’s chin. “Lie to me again and you’ll watch his head explode.”

Dogan said, “Don’t …”

Al-Nasir cracked Dogan’s skull with his rifle butt. He fell to the ground bleeding and unconscious.

Angie gasped. She bent to Dogan.

Al-Nasir said, “Tell me, woman. Now.”

Angie gulped. She didn’t look up. “I’m an American.”

Al-Nasir’s grin revealed white teeth. “And why have you come to Fallujah?”

Angie’s eyes rose. “My son was killed here. I wanted to see what he fought for.”

“Now that you’re here, what do you think?”

“He died for nothing.”

Al-Nasir roared in amusement. The men around him didn’t understand, but they smiled.

Angie said, “What will you do with me?”

Al-Nasir caressed his beard. “Something Shakespearean.”

The building where Angie was kept smelled like an outhouse pit. Bugs in her lumpy bed bit her left eye and it swelled. Fly bites itched and festered. Weeks past. She was grimy from unwashed sweat. Her hair was filthy and matted. An old woman, clothed in black, brought food and water and emptied her latrine bucket. Angie feared she’d be raped, but no man touched her. She worried about Dogan.

The old woman wouldn’t say what had become of him. She regretted involving the Kurdish driver. She had plenty of time to think.

When the old woman brought the orange tunic, Angie gulped. She didn’t want to die. She prayed for the first time since she was told of Billy’s death. The thought of an afterlife comforted her; she’d see Billy again. What if it all was a myth? There’d be nothing. They said that Billy died instantly, without pain, without contemplation of his fate. That was better, she thought.

The morning Angie was taken to the desert, something in the water tasted bitter. Angie became unsteady; her mind dreamy. The old woman helped her put on the orange tunic. The military jeep bumped along the sandy road, then swerved onto the dunes for about a mile. In her sleepy state, Angie saw a line of men, dressed completely in black, all but their brown eyes covered. The tallest man in the middle she guessed was Al-Nasir. Angie’s hands were bound. She was half-carried from the jeep across the sand to Al-Nasir by two men on either side of her. She thought, I must fight, run, scream, but her spacey head damped down action. They pushed her to kneel at Al-Nasir’s feet facing a camera on a tripod.

Al-Nasir spoke to the lens in Arabic. To Angie, it seemed a long speech. Dogan came into her mind. She said a silent prayer. Her vision blurred.

Al-Nasir’s last line was in English, “America, you can’t protect your women.”

Angie caught the glint of the steel knife in his hand.

Al-Nasir brought his lips close to her ear and said in a soft voice. “I’ll be quick.”

Angie gasped, and a black curtain fell.

 

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IPPY Award Winners Susan DeFreitas and Harriet Levin Millan

Harriet and Susan

Susan DeFreitas and Harriet Levin Millan donned their medals May 30th, 2017 at the Independent Publishers (IPPY) award ceremony at Copacabana in New York. The sizzling Gold Medal Winner Hot Season is DeFreitas’ debut eco-novel. Millan’s true-fiction novel How Fast Can You Run portraying a migrant in Sudan won a bronze medal.

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25 Oregon writers every Oregonian must read — assuming you like sex, strange obsessions and, yes, geek love

Via The Oregonian

Susan DeFreitas
The Michigan-raised, Arizona-educated writer and editor works in a variety of genres, from science fiction to poetry, though environmental themes tend to dominate. She is the author of the novel “Hot Season” and contributed to the Portland-centric story collection “City of Weird.” Her stories, she says, are “full of dreamers and makers and builders and wild children making forts in the woods.”
Andrea Lonas

Must-read book

Hot Season: Susan DeFreitas’ 2016 novel has been called “activist lit” and “ecolit,” and even though it takes place in the Southwest, it has a very Portland feel to it. “The book will bring you back to a time when you still thought you could save the world,” The Huffington Post writes. DeFreitas, in an interview for Fiction Writers Review, says the “main conflict at the heart of the book is one that you will find in many activist communities — perhaps part of what we’d call callout culture — when those newer to the cause who have a lot of fire, a lot of unrelenting, uncompromising black-and-white points of view, take issue with what they see as the backsliding of the older generation, of those who have been involved longer than they have.”

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#SJYALit May 4, 1970: The Day the Vietnam War Came Home, a guest post by Sabrina Fedel

Guest post for School Library Journal by author Sabrina Fedel

On May 4th, 1970, tragedy struck the campus of Kent State University when National Guard troops opened fire on unarmed student protestors. The Guard fired 67 rounds over thirteen seconds into a crowd of several thousand. M1 bullets struck trees, shattered windshields, and lodged in two separate dormitories where, moments before, students had been crowding windows to watch the protest. Four students lay dead and nine more were seriously injured, one of them paralyzed.

The nation was shocked, but also deeply divided over the Guard’s use of force. President Nixon said that night on television that he was sorry about the dead and injured students, but that “tragedy is invited when dissent turns to violence.” The National Student Association called for a nationwide strike to protest the “appalling use of force,” while news outlets interviewed average citizens who said things like “they should have shot them all.”

Kent, Ohio, was a typical college town in 1970. It had a robust bar reputation thanks to a vibrant music scene. There had been small protests in Kent, but the major clashes were happening at schools like UC Berkeley and Ohio University. No one predicted that the penultimate clash between citizen protestors and the Nixon Administration would occur in sleepy Kent.

On Thursday, April 30, 1970, President Nixon announced that American troops had invaded Cambodia to drive the North Vietnamese out of that country. Young people across the U.S. saw this as a blatant escalation in Vietnam and another broken promise to end the war.

On Friday afternoon, a group of about 500 students gathered near the Victory Bell on the KSU campus. Two graduate students who were Vietnam veterans burned their draft cards and buried a copy of the constitution because, they said, Nixon had killed it.

That night, students gathered downtown for their usual bar hopping. Some stopped cars to ask drivers what they thought of the invasion. A couple of trash can bonfires were lit. The police moved in and shut the bars down, pushing a large, drunk crowd into the street. A small riot ensued as beer bottles were thrown through store windows and at police cruisers. Police drove the crowd back to campus, but Main Street was a disaster.

On Saturday morning, rumors flew as people gathered to clean up downtown. Many residents believed that outside communist agitators, the kind they had been hearing about for months in the news, were waiting to descend on Kent to poison the water and plant bombs. These fears were not totally without foundation. The country had suffered a series of domestic terrorism attacks that leant an air of possibility to these fears. Kent’s mayor wasn’t taking chances. He requested National Guard support from Governor Jim Rhodes.

Governor Rhodes was in a tight senate race with a member of the popular Taft family and eager to establish his reputation as a “law and order” official. By late afternoon, National Guard troops had moved into Kent.

The students were ordered to stay on campus that night. This led to an impromptu protest and the burning of the ROTC building on campus. Bayoneted Guardsmen clashed with students as they struggled to regain order and lock up the dorms for the night.

By Sunday, the campus was calm again. Students mingled in the warm weather checking out the damage to the ROTC building and even taking photo ops with the Guardsmen. But there was growing unrest at the idea of being treated like naughty children. The students wanted the Guard to leave. They wanted the curfew lifted and their rights to move freely restored.
Their anger was becoming as much about authoritarian rule as it was about Vietnam.

On Monday, May 4th, students gathered to protest. The crowd of several hundred quickly swelled as kids walked through the commons on their way to noon classes. Many stopped to watch the guard march around and demand the students disperse. A small number of protesters heckled the guard or threw rocks. Chants of “One, Two, Three, Four, We Don’t Want Your Fucking War,” and “Pigs Off Campus,” echoed over the hillside. The Guard responded with tear gas, but the day was windy and it had little effect. The Guard, apparently in a show of force, marched down the hill to a practice field and became trapped between a fence and the protestors. “We have you surrounded,” they announced and a roar of laughter erupted.

The Guardsmen huddled on the field before walking back up the hill toward Taylor Hall. Many students thought the protest was over and began to head to class. When the Guard reached the top of the hill, however, they turned in one motion and began firing into the crowd. Not a single student was close enough to be a danger to the Guardsmen.

The Vietnam War, with all its ugliness and social injustice, had come home. Despite massive inquiries in the ensuing decade, no definitive evidence has surfaced to explain the Guard’s attack. Several Guardsmen claimed they feared for their lives, but no Guardsman involved has ever been able to explain why they believed that. An FBI investigation found the force used was “unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable.” Slowly, the massacre at Kent became the final straw in America’s tolerance for the war, leaving us with a legacy of questions, but also a clear sense of the unacceptable use of deadly force to counter unarmed civil protest.

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Sabrina Fedel’s debut Young Adult novel, Leaving Kent State, was recently released from Harvard Square Editions. Her YA short story, ‘Honor’s Justice’, was nominated for a 2017 Pushcart Prize, as well as a 2016 storySouth Million Writers Award and a Sundress Publications Best of the Net ’16 award. She holds her MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University. You can find Sabrina at her website, www.sabrinafedel.com, or on twitter (@writeawhile) or Instagram.

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Stu Krieger Wins the Lifetime Achievement Award in Screenwriting

Stu Krieger SMALL
 
The 2017 Riverside International Film Festival is presenting Stu Krieger with its Lifetime Achievement Award in Screenwriting at their opening night gala on April 21, 2017

 

“I’m incredibly honored and flattered by this unexpected recognition from the RIFF,” says Stu Krieger.

Stu Krieger is a professor of screen and television writing in the University of California Riverside’s Department of Theatre, Film & Digital Production and in the Creative Writing for the Performing Arts MFA Program at UCR. Each fall, he also teaches the Producing the Screenplay class at USC’s Peter Stark MFA Producing Program.

“As someone who spent the majority of my career in family oriented film and television, it’s especially rewarding that the award ceremony on April 21 will feature clips of my work along with comments from current UC Riverside students talking about what my film and TV projects have meant to them over the years.”

Krieger co-wrote the Emmy award winning mini-series A Year in the Life and was nominated for a Humanitas Prize for co-writing the Disney Channel original movie, Going to the Mat.

Among his more than 25 produced credits, Krieger wrote the animated classic The Land Before Time for producers Steven Spielberg & George Lucas

He also wrote ten original movies for the Disney Channel, including Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century and its two sequels, Tru Confessions, Smart House, Phantom of the Megaplex, and Cow Belles.

He has been a story editor and writer on Spielberg’s Amazing Stories and the supervising producer on the ABC Television series Jack’s Place. He served as the head writer and story editor of the animated preschool series Toot & Puddle on Nickelodeon in 2008-2009.

His first full-length play, Chasing Smoke, debuted in a staged reading at Garry Marshall’s Falcon Theatre in Burbank in July 2014. His short film script Bad Timing was produced by the UCR Department of Theatre, Film & Digital Production in March, 2016.

TOC_Cover - SMALL He is an Executive Producer of The Binding, a 2016 feature film written and directed by his son, Gus Krieger and also served as an Executive Producer of My Name is Myeisha, Gus’s second feature film which Gus co-wrote with UCR TFDP Professor Rickerby Hinds. Myeisha was shot entirely on location in Riverside in October 2016.

Stu Krieger’s first novel, That One Cigarette, a story of ordinary people making extraordinary ripples in the ocean of life, will be published by Harvard Square Editions in the fall of 2017.

Watch his TEDx Talk, “Choose Joy.”

(Via Riverside International Film Festival)

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Author Abda Khan Honored for Her Work

Abda Khan

Abda Khan, Author of STAINED

The Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation named lawyer and author Abda with a ‘True Honour Award’ Honouree for her work on women’s rights. Harvard Square Editions published Abda’s debut novel Stained, which has won acclaim for its depiction of a young woman struggling for her right to an education and to consent in all its forms.

Diana Nammi (left), the founder of IKWRO with Abda Khan (right)

Diana Nammi (left), the founder of IKWRO with Abda Khan (right)

Following the publication Stained, Abda has done much to raise awareness about the help that is available for victims and Survivors of “honour” based violence in media interviews, book launches, literary festivals, schools, universities and charity functions in Birmingham, Leicester, Yorkshire and New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Abda also writes short stories and guest writes for several publications, raising the profile of “honour” crimes. Her short story ‘The Lonely Path’ and poem ‘Forced’ were published by sister-hood.com and have been featured by AHA Foundation.

Abda volunteers for Birmingham & Solihull Women’s Aid and in particular helps “honour” related and forced marriage cases.
 
 

“Khan has written a contemporary Tess of the D’Urbervilles, a heart-wrenching and engrossing tale that challenges the definition of morality through the story of a wronged young woman fighting to come to terms with harsh realities and finding empowerment along the way.”

           —Booklist

 


Stained, by Abda Khan
Release date: October 3, 2016
Genre: Crime, Romance, Thriller
Paperback: $22.95
Ebook: $9.99
ISBN: 978-1941861325

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Harvard Square Editions Author S.Li Receives National Book Foundation Award

Debut author S.Li received his National Book Foundation ‘5 Under 35 Award’ at the Ace Hotel in Manhattan on November 14th–a wonderful night for S.Li and Harvard Square Editions.

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S.Li’s debut novel Transoceanic Lights, Harvard Square Editions, 2015, chronicles the hardships of a Chinese family after immigrating to the US. China-born author S.Li, graduated from Harvard College and took up creative writing as a hobby when he was in medical school. Now he has a dual career, as a neurologist and as an award-winning author.

“A tender and persuasive portrait of Chinese-American immigration in the post-Mao era.” —Pleiades Book Review

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HSE authors from left: Abda Khan, S.LI, Harriet Levin Millan

Transoceanic Lights was selected by an author who won the award last year, Karen Bender (below, right, with Harriet Levin Millan, left, author of How Fast Can You Run, Harvard Square Editions, 2016). Next year, S.Li will select a ‘5 Under 35 Award’ winner.

 

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“For me it was especially wonderful because I got to meet other HSE authors!”says HSE author Harriet Levin Millan, pictured left. “What a treat to actually meet them.” With Harriet pictured below, are New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Literature winner Kelvin Christopher James (People and Peppers, Harvard Square Editions, 2015), center, and debut author Abda Khan (Stained, Harvard Square Editions, 2016), right.

 

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The HSE authors and the other ‘5 Uner 35’ winners will also attend the 67th annual National Book Awards, hosted by Larry Wilmore, live on FacebookTwitter, and at nationalbook.org, are November 16th, 2016 at New York’s Cipriani (below, left).
 

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5 Under 35 Award winners, photo via Publishing Trendsetter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[…more]

 

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Available at booksellers everywhere

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Meet the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35

s-li

Excerpted from the LA Times, September 29, 2016

The National Book Foundation, which presents the National Book Awards, launched its 5 Under 35 program in 2006 to highlight the work of young literary talents; this year each writer gets a $1,000 cash prize and will be invited to participate in public readings.

Many past 5 Under 35 honorees have gone on to further acclaim. Nam Le’s short story collection “The Boat” won the international Dylan Thomas Prize; Tea Obreht’s novel “The Tiger’s Wife” took the Orange Prize for fiction; and two honorees, Dinaw Mengestu and Karen Russell, were each later awarded MacArthur Fellowships….9781941861301-JacketGray.indd

One of those writers this year is S. Li, who took up creative writing as a hobby when he was in medical school. The 31-year-old neurologist’s debut novel, “Transoceanic Lights,” was published by Harvard Square Editions, a small independent press.

“I had sent the book to the National Book Foundation for consideration for the National Book Awards, fully knowing that my chances were zero,” Li said from his home in Burlington, Mass. When he received the email informing him he’d been chosen as an honoree, “I thought it was a scam. And then I realized it wasn’t. I had no idea this was even in the cards.”

Li’s novel, about a Chinese immigrant family, is based on his own childhood. He was 5 years old when his family moved from Guangzhou, China, to Boston.

img-41“I was sort of teaching myself the craft of writing,” Li said of his years writing fiction while also learning medicine. “And so it just made natural sense to go with material that comes easiest to you, and that’s your childhood.”

Li is one of two immigrants honored in this year’s program. Yaa Gyasi, author of the critically acclaimed novel “Homegoing,” was born in Ghana and moved with her family to the United States when she was 2. [more]

 

 

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What are the best eco books for children and teens?

@EmilyDrabs, via The Guardian,

 

Authors including David Almond, Frank Cottrell Boyce and Katherine Rundell plus teen site members share the books that made them think more deeply about climate change and environmental themes. Now share yours!

This week we’re celebrating the positive power of stories, all kinds of stories, to bring home what we risk losing on our beautiful planet – and what we can do about it. Here authors and children’s books site members share the books that made them think. We’ll be feeding this blog with more recommendations all week, so please share yours – and keep checking back.

Frank Cottrell Boyce (whose latest book is the remarkably green The Astounding Broccoli Boy)

Frank Cottrell Boyce
First book of Saints

The book that made me realise that I was part of the environment was The Ladybird Book of Saints. On the cover was this brilliant image of St Francis releasing the caged birds he had he had bought in the market. For ages afterwards I would go into pet shops and zoos and itch to unlock the doors. In fact there are “freeing the animals” scenes in at least two of my books. There are so many environmental messages about how horrible humans are wrecking the planet – that’s obviously true in a way but this image made me feel that I belonged in the World too and that I could cherish and love it.

The Promise

David Almond, author of Skellig

The Promise by Nicola Davies and Laura Carlin. It’s beautifully written, beautifully illustrated picture book. It shows a troubled darkened world being recreated by the human need for greenery, life and colour.

Louise O’Neill, author of Only Ever Yours

Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake is a speculative fiction novel that is very much concerned with the damage humans are inflicting upon the environment and the possible catastrophic results that could have. Written in 2003, many plot points now seem eerily prescient and it makes for a disturbing, powerful read. Highly recommended for older teenagers.

Site member, Patrick

Carl Hiaasen’s Hoot is true to its name in that it’s a supremely funny YA novel, and one that tends to be overlooked. There’s a real environmental streak running through all of Hiaasen’s works and Hoot is no exception, it deals with a Florida teen who bands together with a couple of new friends to stop the destruction of a burrowing owl colony. It’s a lot of fun with a solid conservationist message at its core and an abundance of charm to boot.”

Under the weather

Candy Gourlay, author of Shine

Long ago I wrote a short story called How to Build the Perfect Sandcastle for Under the Weather, the climate change anthology edited by Tony Bradman. About a white sand beach losing its sand because the sea is heating up … the same hot oceans that later whipped up the murderous monster that was Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.

Perhaps the all too real climate change disaster in the Philippines has made me partial to flood stories. My favorite is Not the End of the World, the lyrical resetting of Noah’s Ark as a Tsunami survival story by Geraldine McCaughrean.

Lottie Longshanks, site member

The wild series by Piers Torday. So far I have read The Last Wild and The Dark Wild. Kester has the unusual gift of communicating with animals and it is his mission to save the animals from red eye the disease that is slowly killing them. It is a really exciting story and you soon guess who the villains are Selwyn Stone and his lackeys who want to dictate the way that everyone lives. The amazing rubbish dump in the second book in the series really makes you think about the damage that we are doing to our planet. I can’t wait to read the third book in the series,The Wild Beyond.

The Last Wild

White Dolphin by Gill Lewis Set in the south West of England the exciting story tells of children who take on the might of a powerful fishing business to stop dredging in the harbour because of the damage it does to marine life. I also love Moon Bear by Gill Lewis. This incredibly moving story shows how deforestation leads to misery for the animals whose habitat was the forest. And finally here is a recommendation for small children I read it to my cousin who lives in Oman when he comes to visit us. Dear Greenpeace by Simon James. Emily writes to Greenpeace to find out how to care for the whale that she thinks she has seen in her pond. Emily’s letters and the lovely replies she receives from Greenpeace will give little children a lot of information about whales. (Also see Lottie Longshank’s poem Our Precious world)

SF Said, author of Varjak Paw

I recommend Exodus by Julie Bertagna: a brilliantly prescient YA novel about climate change, set in a drowned future world. It’s full of unforgettable visions and characters, and it will stay with you forever!

Exodus

ItWasLovelyReadingYou, site member

My book would be Breathe by Sarah Crossan. It made me think about how we take so many things for granted, such as oxygen. You can’t see it, we use it every day, without it we would not survive; yet many people do not really sit down and feel a sense of gratitude for these types of things, becuase we assume we deserve them, we see them as something that will never go away, we just accept it without question. Breathe really made me feel a sense of ‘imagine if we didn’t have oxygen, or we had limited supplies of it-”, it made me question my unconscious detachment from what keeps us alive, and really feel privelidged to have all of these necessities.

 

Breathe
Photograph: PR

Katherine Rundell, author of Rooftoppers

Cosmic, by Frank Cottrell Boyce. Cosmic is a book that makes the world look like something worth protecting. It’s hilariously funny, and also wise – it makes its readers want desperately to go into space, but also to take care of the world while we’re on it. The Earth is, as one of the astronauts says, “some kind of lovely.” The Last Wild series by Piers Torday – these three spectacular books are about a world decimated by humans, and the possibility of that loss feels very real and urgent and frightening – and they’re also fantastic adventure stories, about bravery and animals and human capacity to do huge good as well as harm. And there’s a bossy talking cockroach.

Site Brahmachari, author of Kite Spirit and Artichoke Hearts

For me it has to be The Ring of Bright Water Trilogy by Gavin Maxwell. I fell in love with these books as a child because they are set on the West coast of Scotland – a place I love – where wildlife and nature are the biggest characters. It;s a humbling landscape. If you have a love of the outdoors and really want to study the nature of beautiful, playful otters… and can stand to have your heart broken …. you should read these stories. Although they were written 50 years ago they are as timeless as the shingle beaches they are set on. The author lived and breathed the paradise he went to live in… and so will you when you read these books… and afterwards you can watch the film (tissues at the ready!)

OrliTheBookWorm, site member

Breathe by Sarah Crossan is probably the book that’s impacted me the most in terms of the environment – it’s a dystopian novel, with people living in domes due to a lack of oxygen – the raw descriptions and harsh realities were wonderfully done and uttery thought provoking, and made me take a step away from my laptop and have a look outside my window…. It’s a brilliant book, which I guarantee will change your perspective on the environment around us.

Piers Torday, author of The Dark Wild trilogy

The Animals of Farthing Wood by Colin Dann – the original classic tale of a group of British animals seeking refuge when their precious Farthing Wood is threatened by human development. They overcome incredible obstacles and danger to make it to a wildlife sanctuary. But reading it today there is an extra poignancy – some of the animals in the story, like the red-backed shrike, are now extinct, and others – like the adder, hare and voles – are all under threat.

BritishBiblioholic, site member

Watership Down by Richard Adams – When the rabbits in Watership Down are forced to leave their home, it is due to its impending destruction by humans. This potentially can be seen as an allegory for the ongoing destruction for the environment in general – and unlike the rabbits, if we don’t save our environment, we won’t be able to find somewhere else to live.

Tony Bradman, author of Anzac Boys

One of my favourite books about the environment is Oi! Get Off Our Train, a brilliant picture book by John Burningham. It’s about a boy who dreams he’s travelling around the world on his toy train, and each time he stops he picks up animals from species that are endangered because their habitat is being threatened or has been destroyed. Great pictures and the message is delivered with a lot of fun.

Sarah Crossan, author of Breathe

The Last Wild by Piers Torday – it’s rare for a cli-fi novel to be magical, engaging and affecting, but Torday achieves all of these things. Not only that, but each book in the trilogy gets better. He’s not a writer to watch but one we are already keenly watching.

Please share the book that made YOU think about the environment and climate change and we’ll add it to this blog. You can either email on childrens.books@theguardian.com with the heading “eco books” or tweet@GdnChildrensBks.

Your recommendations

Beatrice, on email

The Word for World is Forest by Ursula Le Guin for fairly sophisticated young readers from about age 13. The indigenous social organization of the very green planet experiencing colonization therein was fascinating, and opens young minds up to understanding the profound disruptions experienced by, as well as the important teachings of native peoples everywhere. Also, The Owl Service by Alan Garner gave rise to surprising conversations with my 10 year-old about landscape, and the connections between culture, history and the environment, as well as the importance to humans of preserving those connections. For much younger children The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein can seem a little odd viewed from a conservationist perspective, but it inspired lovely conversations about nature and environmental stewardship (“us taking care of nature because nature takes care of us”) with my 4 year-old. Anything by Jean Craighead George.

Mary, curator, eco-fiction.com

Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta: The novel takes place in the future after climate change has ravished economies and ecologies, and made fresh water scarce. The main character, Noria, is a young woman learning the traditional, sacred tea master art from her father. Yet, water is rationed and scarce in her future world. Her family has a secret spring of water, and, as tea masters, she and her father act as the water’s guards, even though what they are doing is a crime according to their future world’s government, a crime strongly disciplined by the military.

 

9780989596077-PerfectNCupload7.inddNature’s Confession by JL Morin: The eco-novel is wonderful and reminds me of classic science fiction I watched or read as a kid. It was a genre that fascinated me then, and this book has joined that memory. The novel is epic in that it doesn’t just tell a story (which it does do too), but it puts our very survival into question while romping through the universe or discovering new quantum physics that are both scientific and spiritual in nature. In the meantime, universal symbols are unearthed, codes are investigated, fat corporations are dominating, a romance is blossoming, computers come alive, and native tribes and Nature on another planet bring our own treasured past into the future.

 

Tito intiro Chavaropana by Jessica Groenendijk: Tito intiro Chavaropana means ‘Tito and the Giant Otter’ in Matsigenka. The author, a biologist who has studied giant otters, is now working on a sequel, in which Tito sets off into the forest to hunt a spider monkey and meets a harpy eagle on the way. They become friends but not without a misunderstanding or two!
61cwBitpcAL._AA160_Spirit Bear by Jennifer Harrington: Spirit Bear celebrates a rare and iconic black bear that is born with a recessive gene that makes its coat creamy or white. Also called the Kermode bear, the spirit bear lives in the delicate, rich, and threatened ecosystem of the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia, Canada. Jennifer’s story is about the journey of a spirit bear cub that gets lost from his mother and has to find his way back.

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Virtual Writers Workshop, Sunday July 5th

Drum Circle 3

Virtual Writers Workshop at the Etopia Island drum circle

Join us live online for group readings and feedback at Etopia Island in Second Life.

Get writing for our monthly Sunday meeting of the Virtual Writers Workshop, bringing published authors together with writers for synergy and exchange at 12 p.m. Eastern time, 9 a.m. Pacific time.

 

(more…)

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Erika Raskin at the Virginia Festival of the Book

ErikaAtVFB

By Erika Raskin

Last week I went to the Virginia Festival of the Book — as an author. Held over four spring days right in my beautiful hometown of Charlottesville, the annual event brings together writers and readers from all over the country in a non-stop celebration of the written word. Surrounded by others who share a love of story and cadence, attending is basically like getting to go to summer camp for English geeks.

In informal get-togethers and panel discussions I talked process and publishing, plots and characters. I met a poet who beta tested potential titles for her collection and I picked up tips about social media. Who knew the goal was to have exponentially more followers than followees – requiring an illusory reciprocity and then a ruthless culling of the herd?(Yuck.) With relief I also learned that book selling often comes down to word-of-mouth.

The festival panels ranged from politics to memoir, short stories to crime waves. I was included in one called “Perfectly Imperfect: Novelists on the Modern Family.” Or, as I like to think of this particular grouping of related individuals: The motherlode of fiction.

Sarah McConnell, the unflappable host of the public radio show With Good Reason, moderated — and was so excellent I pretty much forgot I was feeling slightly throw-uppy about facing an audience. (Actually, Sarah’s introductory remarks made me laugh so hard I came perilously close to spitting coffee out of my nose.) She set the tone for a really relaxed exchange between a roomful of book/Nook/Kindle worms and three writers addressing the vagaries of family life.

It was an honor to read alongside Martha Woodroof (Small Blessings) and Sonja Yoerg (Housebroken) at the local Barnes and Noble. Martha’s huge-hearted novel deals with a family on the threshold of tomorrow; Sonja (who holds a PhD in biological psychology) weaves the shadow of the past onto the next gen, and my own novel explores the ups and downs of muddling through.

It was a great afternoon.

If you have the chance to participate in a literary festival: Do it. There’s a reason why summer camp is so popular.

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A Tale of Interracial Romance and Survival

Love’s Affliction by Fidelis O. Mkparu, Released March 17, 2015, ISBN 978-1-941861-00-4

Reviewed by Dr. Bessie House-Soremekun

Love’s Affliction, a novel written by acclaimed physician and cardiologist, Dr. Fidelis O. Mkparu, provides a refreshing and candid account of interracial romance and survival in a small town in North Carolina during the decade of the 1970’s.

This time period is particularly important given the fact that the United States had just experienced a major civil rights movement whose aim was the provision of equal opportunity and equal treatment for people of color and other disenfranchised members of this country. The decade of the 1970s, in particular, gave rise to the Black is Beautiful movement in America which sought to provide more opportunities for African-descended people in the United States to understand their African heritage and to identify with it in a variety of important ways.

“compelling and thought-provoking”

Given the fact that author Dr. Mkparu had the opportunity to be trained in Cardiology at Harvard University’s School of Medicine and to publish important articles in prestigious medical journals in the past, it is very impressive that he is equally comfortable and conversant with the world of the humanities and literature, as is demonstrated quite convincingly by the publication of this compelling and thought-provoking novel.

Love’s Affliction skillfully situates the topic of interracial dating and the “forbidden fruit” within the confines of what is was like to cross the racial line of romance in an academic setting in the Southern part of the United States. Although to some extent, Dr. Mkparu explores the critical role of agency in helping us to make critical decisions in our everyday lives, he also suggests that there are no easy answers to the challenges that many couples experience as they follow the paths of their hearts and have to navigate their survival on an ongoing basis within the much broader contexts of political, economic, and social conventions and external factors over which they often have little control. This book is a must read for people interested in learning more about the internal dynamics and complexities inherent in the process of crossing the color bar in America.

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Reviewer Dr. Bessie House-Soremekun is Director of Africana Studies, Professor of Political Science and Africana Studies, and Founding Executive Director at the Center for Global Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Development, Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis

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Thoughts on People and Peppers: A Romance

People and Peppers: A Romance, by Kelvin Christopher James, Eco-friendly, Diverse Fiction Romance, released March, 2015

Review by Eric Darton

 

Kelvin C. James’ latest novel People and Peppers: A Romance is a delightful tale for a wide general readership. My enthusiasm is based on two factors. First, the book presents an engaging “problem”: the love affair between an attractive young, unmarried pair, who, it turns out, will soon be parents. This could become, in the hands of a lesser writer, a very turgid business. But Kelvin Christopher James has the knack for telling his story with the quality that Italo Calvino, in his Six Memos for the Millennium, suggests as a primary virtue, i.e. lightness.

It is this lightness that leads the reader into an evermore intimate engagement with the characters and the playing out of their lives. It also permits Kelvin Christopher James to deal with quite serious material of a personal and social nature – what James Baldwin calls “the price of the ticket” – in a way that acknowledges the vicissitudes of history, including colonialism, without derailing the essentially joyful forward momentum of his tale.

Second, People and Peppers serves as a transparent, and therefore very effective, introduction to contemporary life in Trindidad and Tobago. James conveys a great deal of cultural – and culinary – information by weaving it seamlessly into the “romance.”

 

“I finished this volume with a lot more knowledge about this two-island nation, its people and customs, than when I began, without feeling I’d worked hard to gain it.

 

A third factor, one that arises from the timing of the book’s publication, gives it a measure of added value, particularly in light of the issues raised into public discussion by the recent police shootings of black men in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City and elsewhere. Trinidad and Tobago, while hardly free from social conflict, have an entirely different perception of “race” than we are used to in the U.S. It is instructive to find oneself, via James’ culturally-informed writing, living, albeit fictionally, in a society where race, that very real and deadly absurdity, is not the dispositive factor in people’s ways of seeing or dealing with one another. The genetic and cultural “callalloo” of T&T makes reduction to “black” or “white” impossible, so James’ characters, while hardly blind to skin color, hair texture or any other distinguishing feature, must, in the end, come to terms with one another based on – to paraphrase Dr. King’s words – the content of their characters.

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Erika Raskin

  • Write What You Worry About
    My second novel, Best Intentions, is a medical thriller that falls solidly between Write-What-You-Know, a form of untaxing research I heartily recommend, and Write-What-You-Worry-About, a selfless act of spreading alarm. (You’re welcome.) Shining a light on important issues while plucking details floating around my house to flesh them out was pretty much my dream project. As a doctor’s wife and a mother of a child with a serious illness, I’ve had an interesting vantage point from which to study our medical system. While I don’t claim to be an expert on the subjects I touch on in the book (it is fiction after all) I am a fairly decent observer of important issues. (Some might say nit-picky.) (They’d be wrong). While Marti Trailor, my protagonist, is a hospital social worker who actually finished her graduate degree (I dropped out when I couldn’t find a parking place for the last time), she graciously carries some of the concerns from my own experiences. Fixable problems top the list. Trojan horse statue trojan horse-9526 by Abraxas3d (flickr). CC license. These include dangerous medical practices like rigid hierarchies where everyone is expected to stay on their own levels, in their own lanes. (What could possibly go wrong with people being afraid to speak up when, you know, lives might be on the line?) Interns avoid challenging their resident supervisors, residents kowtow to attending physicians, and nurses—often more seasoned than the newly minted doctors—frequently feel compelled to follow sketchy orders. An orderly where my daughter Read More... The post Write What You Worry About appeared first on erika raskin.
  • Publisher Guidelines

  • Publisher Harvard Square Editions is looking for literary fiction of environmental or social significance.

    Its mission is to publish fiction that transcends national boundaries, especially manuscripts that are international, political, literary, sci-fi, fantasy, utopia and distopia. Send submissions of aesthetic value and constructive social or political content, especially manuscripts related to climate change, deforestation, and conservation.

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  • For Better Social Skills, Scientists Recommend a Little Chekhov

  • This article first appeared in the New York Times

    Say you are getting ready for a blind date or a job interview. What should you do? Besides shower and shave, of course, it turns out you should read — but not just anything. Something by Chekhov or Alice Munro will help you navigate new social territory better than a potboiler by Danielle Steel.

    That is the conclusion of a study published Thursday in the journal Science. It found that after reading literary fiction, as opposed to popular fiction or serious nonfiction, people performed better on tests measuring empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence — skills that come in especially handy when you are trying to read someone’s body language or gauge what they might be thinking.

    literature-articleInline

    Photo: Casey Kelbaugh
    Emanuele Castano, left, and David Comer Kidd, researchers in the New School for Social Research’s psychology department.

     

    “This is why I love science,” Louise Erdrich, whose novel “The Round House” was used in one of the experiments, wrote in an e-mail. The researchers, she said, “found a way to prove true the intangible benefits of literary fiction.”

    “Thank God the research didn’t find that novels increased tooth decay or blocked up your arteries,” she added.

    The 5-Minute Empathy Workout

    Curious to see how you do on a test of emotional perception?

    The researchers say the reason is that literary fiction often leaves more to the imagination, encouraging readers to make inferences about characters and be sensitive to emotional nuance and complexity.

    The researchers, social psychologists at the New School for Social Research in New York City, recruited their subjects through that über-purveyor of reading material, Amazon.com. To find a broader pool of participants than the usual college students, they used Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service, where people sign up to earn money for completing small jobs.

    People ranging in age from 18 to 75 were recruited for each of five experiments. They were paid $2 or $3 each to read for a few minutes. Some were given excerpts from award-winning literary fiction (Don DeLillo, Wendell Berry). Others were given best sellers like Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl,” a Rosamunde Pilcher romance or a Robert Heinlein science fiction tale…[more]

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  • A Moral Atmosphere: Hypocrisy redefined for the age of warming

  • By Bill McKibben (HC ’82)

    This article first appeared in Orion Magazine.

     

    THE LIST OF REASONS for not acting on climate change is long and ever-shifting. First it was “there’s no problem”; then it was “the problem’s so large there’s no hope.” There’s “China burns stuff too,” and “it would hurt the economy,” and, of course, “it would hurt the economy.” The excuses are getting tired, though. Post Sandy (which hurt the economy to the tune of $100 billion) and the drought ($150 billion), 74 percent of Americans have decided they’re very concerned about climate change and want something to happen… (more)
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  • Cambridge divest from fossil fuel

  • We call on the City of Cambridge Retirement System to immediately freeze any new investment in fossil fuelcompanies, and to divest from direct ownership and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds within 5 years (more)

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Around Harvard

Brain Pickings

by Ben Mattlin (HC ’84)

  • CONVERSATIONS ABOUT INTER-ABLED ROMANCE, part 5...
    Like all romantic entanglements, the reasons for their tensions—tensions, which eventually led the invisible rubber band between them to snap—weren't quite clear.  Or maybe they were entirely too clear.  Telling me about it, Shane struggled for the right words, but his meaning rang with the clarity of breaking glass. "For a while, she was planning on moving up here to be with me, to be able to help out with all my [...]

by Teresa Hsiao (HC ’07)

Sheila Connolly (GSA ’79) – Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen

Tweets

TylerJamesComicTyler James
@TylerJamesComic:
All of a sudden, though, you start stacking ComixTribe, Image, Boom, Action Lab, Valiant, etc... books against Big Two books...
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we smell like coffee and old libraries filled with new books waiting to be read
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When Dad has to hit the books in the middle of the day so he can support the fam @emrson11webster http://t.co/igjSlYR8cB
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forgot my books ?
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