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Caroline Leavitt interviews Harriet Levin Millan...



Harriet Levin Millan talks about her profound novel-based-on-a-true-story, How Fast Can You Run, about a South Sudan refuge searching for the mother he was separated from when he was five.

“The best war novel told from a young boy’s perspective since Jerzy Kozinski’s The Painted Bird.”

—Nyoul Lueth Tong, author of There is a Country: New Writing from the New Country of South Sudan

Prepare to be amazed. When One Book, One Philadelphia asked author and Drexel University professor Harriet Levin Millan to choose ten of her undergraduate creative writing students to interview ten South Sudanese refugees for a special One Book writing project, she met Michael Majok Kuch, who became the subject of her novel. . Kuch survived the torching of his village in South Sudan, and was separated from his mother when he was only five. His quest to be reunited with her, and the plight of the refuge is both profound and moving. Thank you so much Harriet, for being here.

I always say every book starts with a yearning. What was yours?

My yearning was for Michael Majok Kuch, the S. Sudanese national, I based my novel on, to see his mother. They had been separated since Michael was five-years-old and their village was attacked in the middle of the night and they got separated. So by the time I met him, when he was a senior in college, he hadn’t seen her for nearly 22 years. [more…]

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  • 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.


    “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.


    voice from the planet

    ‘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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  • 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.

    aao cover

    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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Birds of Passage, An Italian Immigrant Coming of Age Story

Joe Giordano, author of Birds of Passage, An Italian Immigrant Coming of Age Story, released October 8th, 2015

The great wave of Italian immigrants to the United States started after Italy’s consolidation in 1871, but il Risorgimento, did not create a nation. As one statesman put it, “Italy has been made. Now we must make Italians.”

The south of Italy, or Mezzogiorno, spoke different languages, had been dominated for centuries by foreign powers, and had distinct cultures. Many in the north of Italy held southern Italians in disdain. The south was already poor when Italy was united. The economic policies imposed by the north made economic conditions worse. As a result, many Italians emigrated to North and South America to find work.

In Argentina, Italians were early immigrants and welcomed. Pope Francis’s parents were Italian immigrants. In Brazil, Italians replaced freed blacks on coffee plantations. Treated little better than slaves, Italians moved to other pursuits. Today the richest state in Brazil, Sao Paulo, has more people of Italian heritage than the founding Portuguese.

The Italians who arrived in New York found the Irish and Tammany Hall running the city. If an Italian wasn’t a mason, a tailor, a barber, or a shoemaker, and didn’t open a shop with his family, he was consigned to manual labor. The padroni system for finding employment was Italians exploiting Italians. Workers were often recruited in Italy and controlled by a padrone in New York who took a cut of their wages. As new immigrants to the U.S., Italians occupied the bottom rung on the socio-economic scale. Often, they were used as “human steam shovels” to build the skyscrapers and subways of New York.

Birds of passage was the name given to Italians of the late nineteenth and early twentieth-centuries because they were the first U.S. immigrants who returned to their home country. Many made multiple trips to earn money in the States. After World War I, when U.S. immigration laws tightened, Italians could no longer guarantee their return, so many decided to stay. That’s when they brought their families.

As with the character Guido Basso in Birds of Passage, both my grandfathers were ragmen. Their labor was dirty and backbreaking, but they were their own padrone. My father was the last immigrant in my family. He acquired just a seventh-grade education before he set out to work. Unemployed for a long period during the Great Depression, he found a job in a warehouse. Working rapidly to impress the boss, he reached up for a box. Someone had left a vase on top. The glass knickknack slipped and shattered onto the concrete floor. My father was fired on the spot. Not deterred, he started his own business. My mother was one of five daughters employed at home doing piece work so her family could earn enough money to leave the tenement. Eventually her family purchased a home in Brooklyn.

As a boy, when my father and I passed a man doing hard manual labor, he would say to me, “See that? Go to school.” Many of my fellow Italian-Americans stand upon the shoulders of parents and grandparents who were intrepid enough to try and make a better life in a new country. Birds of Passage is not about my family, but I’m old enough to have known Italians born in the nineteenth-century. In the novel, I tried to capture how Italian immigrants of past generations thought and acted.


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Everything you wanted to know about Downton Abbey

By Mary Thurman Yuhas

PR shots 2014 www.sarahweal.com

Jessica Fellowes

Jessica Fellowes is an author, journalist and public speaker. Formerly a celebrity interviewer at the Mail on Sunday and deputy editor of Country Life magazine, she has written seven books as well as touring with her lectures on Downton Abbey from Cheltenham to California.

LitVote: Sadly for many of us, the upcoming season of Downton Abbey is the last one. It has enjoyed an incredible estimated viewership of 300 million worldwide. The next series, The Gilded Age, takes place in the 1880s in the U.S. and showcases families such as the Vanderbilt’s. Will you be co-writing it with your uncle, Julian Fellowes, creator and writer of Downton Abbey?

Jessica: No! I have nothing to do with Julian’s script writing at all, and in fact he always writes alone – he’s extremely unusual in not leading a team of writers for Downton Abbey. However, I adore the era he is writing about for The Gilded Age, so if there was an opportunity for me to explore the series in the same way that I have done for Downton Abbey, I would jump at it.

LitVote: Why did your uncle choose to write about Americans for the next series?

Jessica: You’d have to ask him to find out but I imagine it was a combination of NBC (who have commissioned the pilot) wanting a show based in the U.S. and Julian wanting to explore that territory. It’s ripe for a series – the building of New York, the rich families, the cowboys, the British aristocracy marrying into them…I can’t wait!

LitVote: Some of the lines in Downton Abbey have become iconic. One of the most memorable was Maggie Smith’s character, Violet Crowley, the Dowager Countess, when she said, “What’s a weekend?” Your uncle, Sir Julian Fellowes, grew up in an aristocratic household. Is Downton Abbey somewhat of a memoir for him?

Jessica: No. He – and my father, as well as their four brothers – were the children of a ‘mixed’ marriage in that their father was from an aristocratic background, though he was the poorer relation, and their mother was middle-class stock. She suffered terribly at the hands of her husband’s snobbish aunts, and Julian has drawn a lot from those stories for the show. His was a comfortable, enjoyable childhood but not of Downton ilk.

LitVote: Why do you think that people from all over the world fell in love with the characters?

Jessica: I think for a start there is a wide range of them, so whoever you are, you should find at least one to relate to, or recognise or even just like to hate! Plus the master/servant relationship is at the centre of so many classic dramas – even without having servants or being one, we’re all familiar with the workplace environment and certainly with families.

LitVote: Did you or your uncle expect such a positive response to the show?

Jessica: He was certainly hopeful and very excited about it but we couldn’t have possibly anticipated the extraordinary phenomenon that it became!

LitVote: The scenes in the bedrooms and kitchen are all shot on a set. Only the living areas and dining room are filmed in Highclere Castle [this is the real-life name for Downton Abbey.] What are some of the other fun facts that most viewers probably don’t know?

Jessica: The funny consequence of the two sets – which are about 50 miles apart – means that they have to film in blocks of two or three weeks. So when a footman leaves the kitchen with a plate of food, he doesn’t emerge in the dining room until a fortnight later!

LitVote: You’ve written three beautiful companion books with photographs about the show and characters. Is Highclere Castle as beautiful as it photographs?

Jessica: I’ve now written a fourth companion book – out Nov 10 – ‘Downton Abbey: A Celebration’, with even more beautiful photographs! The house in which the show is filmed is certainly handsome and impressive – the architecture is one of Victorian confidence, which is what Julian and the producers specifically wanted. Inside, the Great Hall, library and dining room are all in real life as you see them on the screen. But I think the beauty we associate with ‘Downton Abbey’ the show comes from the brilliant technical and creative achievements of the art department, costume designer, lighting cameraman, good-looking actors….

LitVote: The costumes are magnificent. What happens to them when the show ends?

Jessica: Initially, some were made, some were bought and many were hired – so they were returned to the hire companies. Cosprop lent a great many of the costumes and together with Carnival (who make the show), they have staged a marvellous costume exhibition that is currently touring the USA (dressingdownton.com). The later series, under the hand of costume designer Anna Scott Mary Robbins, hire very little but buy in or design and make their own costumes – they are, of course, an asset now, because of the success of the show. They are carefully stored – beaded dresses, for example, cannot be hung or the beads will pull the material they are sown on – and I hope there will be more exhibitions!

LitVote: Now that you and your uncle have five years experience writing and filming a period piece, is there anything that you will avoid or add in the upcoming series?

Jessica: Again – I only write the companion books, not the show! But I have read the scripts for the final season and I can promise you that it will not disappoint. They are going out on a very high note.

LitVote: What do you see in your future?

Jessica: I hope to be lucky enough to continue to work as a writer, both non-fiction and fiction, and enjoy many happy days with my family.

*      *     *

Mary Yuhas, is a journalist and has contributed to Sun-Sentinel, USA Today, China Daily USA and Washington Times among others, creator of Baby Boomers the first reality blog and the author of the upcoming memoir, QUIT AND BE QUIET, about growing up with a severely mentally ill mother,  featured three times on Scribd.

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The Goliards

A story by Brian Sloan, Author of Double Crossed: The Imperium Impunged

Nearly one thousand years ago, a loosely knit band of student clerics, collectively known as the Goliards, roamed what are now regions of England, France, and Germany. They were a lively, sinful bunch despite their priest-in-training status. Most historians see eye to eye on the fact that they were vagabonds; though, few have made the logical conclusion that they were on the run. Heresy, in those days (and for centuries beyond) was punishable by a tortuous death, usually of the burning at the stake variety—and sadly, much to the delight of the public.

Some historians have viewed the Goliards as the most scholarly of the time, while others have labeled them drunks.   Scribed history must be especially viewed with a skeptical mind. Skewing the truth of the day’s events isn’t just a recent phenomenon of this digital age (CNN v. Fox), but an effective tactic since the beginning of time for those who have sought influence and power.

Works of art, however, have survived in a more pure state over time and while masterpieces have been commissioned with the intent to influence, art has, and always be, subjectively interpreted. In the early 19th century in what is now, Germany, a collection of poetry, short stories, and music was discovered that has been attributed to the merry Goliards. Most of the collection takes direct aim at their employer, the Roman Catholic Church.

The Carmina Burana would likely remain unheard of except for German composer, Carl Orff, who in the early 20th Century scored the cantata which too is titled the Carmina Burana. Cue Fortuna Plango Vulnera, the 2nd movement from his opus magnum, and most will rightfully claim they’ve never heard it. Cue the first movement, Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi, and nearly all who have watched commercials or movies will recognize this piece instantaneously. Not many could sing along, and fewer yet can comprehend the lyrics, but it’s seemingly loved just the same.

In writing Double-Crossed: The Imperium Impugned, I borrowed the translated lyrics from the first movement to frame the outline for this novel.   My intent was to create an intriguing story in the most beautiful place, with the most beautiful people, marred by the ugly truth. It’s a story about how quickly life changes and the importance of exploiting each and every moment. And like the Goliards, I placed anagram and acronym clues to answer the readers’ questions as they arise in the story. Can you make an anagram from Goliards?


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Faggot: An Appalachian Tale, Surviving Bullying
Frank E. Billingsley
Book Launch at Serendip Spa
Place Stephanie, Brussels, Belgium

by Frank E. Billingsley, PhD

As an American expat author in the capital of Europe, I launched my new novel, Faggot: An Appalachian Tale, Surviving Bullying, at Serendip Spa in Brussels Belgium. The owner of this award-winning spa, Melissa Rancourt, offered me the opportunity to be the first author to host the newly created “Wine and Books” evening. I was incredibly flattered to be the author to initiate the event. As the day of the event grew closer, I could feel myself becoming more and more nervous. What if no one wanted to come meet the author a controversial book?

crowdOn July 3rd, the event commenced, and I was a little more than nervous. But, as the familiar and unfamiliar faces started to appear, the room slowly became more crowded, and I could feel myself becoming more at ease. The event was a wonderful experience for a new author: the genuine compliments, and wishes of congratulations filled the warm summer evening’s air.

FrankSigningI am overall honored and humbled to have had such a wonderful turnout. Serendip was the perfect venue to discuss the book, and why the story was important for me to tell. The discussions led to great debates about words that have touched us all for the better and for worse. The venue offered a safe place to discuss those words, and how they have left a mark on our lives. And, further, it helped toward realizing how the words have molded our characters and made us the individuals we are today. Overall, what a great experience, which has led to the next book signing event on July 29th at the Book Loft of German Village, Columbus, Ohio.

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Haw puts a new spin on dystopia

Interview via eco-fiction.com

June 19, 2015 – Author Sean Jackson’s Haw was just launched today.

Haw is the gripping story of a father’s struggle to save his son from a corrupt society in a pitiless, bleak, futuristic America. Sean Jackson has published numerous short stories in literary journals, from the U.S. to Canada and Australia. Haw is his debut novel. He was born in Raleigh, North Carolina. He lives in Cary with his wife and two sons. I want to warmly welcome Sean and thank him for speaking with Eco-fiction.

Mary: Your novel, Haw, takes place in a future world where climate change and related problems have degraded the planet, yet reportedly your book offers some hope. Do you think that literature can effect social moods and ideals–and, if so, do you think dystopian views or hope is the better motivator (or a combination of both)?

Sean: Literature has a dramatic effect upon the way we think, socially and politically. It’s just a matter of whether writers want to address these larger issues. I understand the desire to write for a larger audience, but I’ve always felt that if you’re not bringing something new to the table, if you’re not agreeing to a dare of some kind, then you are probably cheating yourself. When I was younger I felt that the only worthwhile writing was found in the books and stories about change and revolution, like in Dostoevsky or Sartre or Ibsen. I’m lucky in that I still feel this way.

Dystopian literature has been around a long time. It’s in the religious scriptures, and you can find it in Homer. I’ve been a big fan of Richard Bach for years. He writes both very simply and very mystically about our stations in life. Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy take darker views into human nature. I tried to put some of both in Haw. The story just didn’t seem to work without keeping the compelling and unbreakable nature of love intact.

Mary: They say that a story, first and foremost, is what draws a reader. Your novel has been described as humorous, brilliant, and moving. Please describe what’s going on in your novel at a pure and essential story level.

Sean: Unchecked power corrupts and destroys. That’s the nut graph. Expanding out from there, I explore the possibility that future generations could become even lazier with holding their governments accountable. You cede more power to a ruling entity, it only craves more power. It’s a vampire-and-host relationship. The people become weaker, the rulers grow stronger. Scarce resources cause white populations to systematically destroy dark-skinned people. None of this sounds very humorous, but I assure you that some comic relief is sprinkled throughout; otherwise it would get too grim. And sometimes dark comedy works best. Hopeless people can be funny. It’s often their only way to survive. Unfortunately, violence is the only remedy to the problems of the future landscape in Haw. I think we’ve seen that in America recently in places like Ferguson and Baltimore.

Mary: There is an LGBT element to your story as well, something that is unique (so far) in the flood of novels coming out about climate change.

Sean: Across the country, there is what feels like a war against the LGBT community, simply because they have sought equality. It’s a repeated cycle, with the suffragettes, then the Civil Rights marches, and now the rainbow flags are the battle flags for many people. It’s a taboo that many writers want to shrink away from if they are seeking a mainstream audience. I have a transgender daughter and I noticed over the years that if I referenced a work that featured homosexual characters, it was often written by a lesser-known writer such as Jean Genet or John Rechy. People were saying, by omission, that gay people did not belong in novels. So I created gay characters that are a part of the setting just like they are in real life. It’s weird that this hasn’t been done before.

Mary: I’m glad that you are not being exclusive. Mitch Cullin (Tideland, A Slight Trick of the Mind) described your novel as a potentially seminal work in contemporary American fiction and likens your novel to Brave New World. What are some of the similarities?

Sean: I hope Mitch is right. The book takes a straight-on look into a potentially bleak future, unless we can rein in these people who think the Earth is invulnerable and that minorities are disposable. How long can we keep this up? I think Aldous Huxley and George Orwell are more relevant than ever before, more so than even the Cold War era when nuclear war was the looming disaster. I think it’s been a while since widely read American authors have tackled social issues.

And there is a genetic issue similar to Brave New World, only darker: some people aren’t bred to be more perfect but rather more imperfect. Populations of dark-skinned people (the citoyens) are fed into systems of poor nutrition and economic hopelessness so that the white society exists in a matrix of plenty.

And there is a trip into the American West that could remind a reader of Huxley’s novel. Brave New World showed the dangers of utopian society, and I feel Haw depicts an even more extreme and imminent threat, of having wealth-inequality force the majority of people into deprivation so that the depleted natural resources can sustain and nourish a select few.

Mary: You’ve published in several literary journals thus far. What kinds of works have you published before, and are you working on anything else at the moment?

Sean: Short stories written in the literary fiction vein, quite different from Haw. I’m trying to finish and revise a couple of stories currently being published in journals so that I can put together a collection. I want these stories to reflect the struggles that poor, young families and strong women encounter in the modern world. I’m not sure if they’ve “gotten there” yet. But I’d like to get a book of stories published next year. We’ll see.

And I am toying with the idea of writing a sequel to Haw.

Mary: I will be looking forward to it! I’ve been asking all the authors I interview: who were your greatest inspirations (authors) when growing up?

Sean: I’m from North Carolina, so Thomas Wolfe is near the top of that list. The old standards, Dostoevsky, Faulkner, Raymond Carver, Hemingway, and Willa Cather, Arthur Miller and Eugene O’Neill, are there. And I read a lot of French authors after high school. I wanted to teach French lit after college, so I read Gide, Camus, Hugo, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Collette and the great Louis-Ferdinand Celine.

Mary: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to Eco-fiction.com. I’m looking forward to Haw!


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By Bradette Michel, author, For Their Own Good

The idea to write my novel, For Their Own Good came after I attempted to confirm a family rumor that my grandmother had been committed to the mental hospital in Jacksonville, about sixty miles from her home. Modern privacy legislation prevented my access to her treatment records, but I did gain information about the history of the asylum and a woman who was locked up in the hospital long before my grandmother’s time—Elizabeth Packard.

In 1860 Mrs. Packard was committed to the Illinois State Hospital for the Insane in Jacksonville, Illinois for disagreeing with her husband’s religious beliefs. I was stunned by her fate, but sadly found she was not alone. Many nineteenth century patients were locked in this institution and others like it for reasons that had more to do with the needs of their families than any mental aberrations. Deemed unfit to live in their communities, these outcasts were rejected by society, often lost custody of their children, and were deserted by spouses.


Mrs. Packard

Legally, Reverend Packard was not required to seek a court hearing before committing his wife. Instead, he enlisted the sheriff to bring her to the hospital by force. Naively, Mrs. Packard thought that since the hospital was experienced with the treatment of the insane, staff would recognize her as sane and refuse to admit her.

The institution’s superintendent, Dr. Andrew McFarland diagnosed Mrs. Packard’s illness as monomania, a condition in which the patient is sane in every way but one. Dr. McFarland concluded that Mrs. Packard’s insanity came from religious excitement. Only by agreeing with her husband’s theology, would she show evidence of being cured.

The Jacksonville hospital was one of many built across the country in the early nineteenth century through the efforts of social reformer Dorothea Dix. Dix convinced Illinois state legislators that asylums were the best way to cure the mentally ill. The Illinois State Hospital for the Insane in Jacksonville, Illinois, admitted its first patient in 1851.


Like many other asylums built across the country at that time, the Jacksonville hospital was designed by Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride. Kirkbride and other medical professionals believed that locating these hospitals in rural areas with landscaped grounds and farmland stimulated and calmed patients’ minds, as well as reduced costs by providing food products and livestock for the facility. Large and multi-storied, these institutions were most likely the biggest structures country patients had ever seen.

Kirkbride Buildings were intended to facilitate a new method of the care for the mentally ill—moral treatment. Moral treatment advocated placement in the hospital, away from vaguely defined causes of insanity, where meaningful work and recreation regulated the mind, encouraged physical fitness, and fostered social skills. Recovery could only be achieved in the asylum under the Christian guidance of a strong superintendent who acted as a wise father to all in the facility.

Residents were classified according to gender and symptoms before they were placed into wards on either side of the administration building. The most disturbed patients lived on the lower floors, in wards far away from the civilized activities of the central offices. The better-behaved patients resided near the administrative center on the upper floors.

Moral treatment’s tenet that good behavior be rewarded motivated some, but also created an atmosphere of fear of placement in the worst wards for bad behavior. Those wards had windows as well, but the expected therapeutic views of the grounds were blocked by metal screens to deter escape.

Mrs. Packard continued to defy Dr. McFarland’s instructions and refused to accept her husband’s beliefs. As a result, she was moved from a ward near the administration building to Jacksonville’s infamous Ward Eight, which housed the most disturbed residents. Mrs. Packard worked diligently to improve the filthy conditions she found there, while keeping a strict personal schedule to maintain her own sanity.

The implementation of moral treatment soon proved to be anything but simple. Patients did not always respond positively to the so-called healthy environment provided by the hospital. Staff returned to the use of restraints like the holding chair, opium, and punishing cold baths—old practices that Dix had found shocking. Even traditional medical practices, such as bleeding and blistering were revived. It became difficult to tell the difference between the use of these methods as treatment and their use as punishment for what staff deemed sinful behavior.


Holding Chair

Because of the ease of commitments and the lack of any standardized definition of mental illness, the asylums quickly became dumping grounds for what society deemed as misfits, who were forced to live with truly dangerous residents. The total control of staff and confusion over appropriate therapeutic interventions created an environment ripe for mistreatment of patients.

Asylum superintendents adamantly defended the hospitals, establishing the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane (AMSAII), forerunner of the American Psychiatric Association. As heads of these institutions they had attained secure and well-paid employment. Their families lived in spacious, well-appointed living quarters in administration buildings, complete with attendants to serve their needs.

RBased on absolutely no research on best practices for the treatment of the mentally ill, but utterly convinced of their own expertise, superintendents maintained support from power brokers and the public—for a time. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, the system began to crumble. Crowding, expensive operating costs, and no evidence of the effectiveness of moral treatment made it difficult for politicians to justify funding the asylums. Reports of abuse and unsanitary conditions within the walls sped up the hospitals’ demise.

Mrs. Packard contributed to the system’s downfall as well. In spite of Dr. McFarland’s refusal to provide her writing paper, she acquired writing materials surreptitiously and wrote almost continuously about the asylum’s mistreatment of patients, and how many women were locked up as a result of their husbands’ selfish purposes. After her release, she published her writings and lobbied state legislatures across the country to enact laws requiring a trial before commitment. In spite of the objections of the AMSAII, Illinois and other states passed such legislation.

Interestingly enough, Mrs. Packard’s release did not lessen her impact on Reverend Packard and Dr. McFarland. They followed her to several states, testifying before state legislatures that her opinions were the ranting of an insane woman.

Mrs. Packard’s story inspired me to write For Their Own Good, but my challenges as a twenty-first century woman do not compare to her struggles against persecution. The agents of nineteenth century society attempted to break her, but in the end, as with all trailblazers, attempts to contain Mrs. Packard only made her stronger.


Carlisle, Linda V. Elizabeth Packard, A Noble Fight, University of Illinois Press, 2010.

Packard, Elizabeth, The Prisoners’ Hidden Life Or Insane Asylums Unveiled (1868) Kessinger Publishing, LLC (February 21, 2008).

Sapinsley, Barbara, The Private War of Mrs. Packard, Saint Paul, Minnesota: Paragon House Books, 1991.






Bradette Michel small

Bradette Michel served as a counselor and teacher in locked institutions. She has degrees in psychology and human development counseling. A published non-fiction author of Supervising Young Offenders, she has authored several online courses.  For Their Own Good won second prize in the Florida Writers Association’s 2013 Royal Palm Literary Awards historical fiction category. She and her husband live in south Florida.

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Nature’s Confession Receives Hon. Mention at NY Book Festival

The epic tale of two teens in a fight to save a warming planet, the universe . . . and their love, received an Honorable Mention at the 2015 New York Book Festival. The panel of judges determined the winners based on the story-telling ability of the author and the potential of the work to win wider recognition.

Via The Guardian:

Nature’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.”

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Charles Degelman’s A BOWL FULL OF NAILS wins a bronze medal




A bowl full of bronze nails for Charles Degelman: his new novel won a bronze medal in the Independent Publishers Book Awards. The “IPPYs” are intended to bring increased recognition to the thousands of exemplary independent and university titles published each year.

Shedding Skin: A Writing Professor Bares His Alter Ego

Charles Degelman teaches dramatic and narrative writing at California State University, but he’s spent most of his life outside academia. As a student at Harvard, Degelman and many of his peers became aware that America’s universities had become land-grabbing, ivory-towered, defense-research factories while outside their ivy-covered walls, there was a war to stop.

In this brief interview — produced and directed by Daly, a student in the university’s Television, Film and Media Studies program — Degelman drops his role as writing teacher to speak about coming of age in the 1960s and his participation in the resistance movements artistic collectives and communes, and the counterculture that arose— in the words of Bertolt Brecht — from those who practice their art “under the regime of bourgeois liberty.”

Charles stepped away from academia, determined to change the world through theater, music, and fiction. “It was a tough job,” he laughingly recalls, “but somebody had to do it.” He left campus life to pursue an anti-career as political activist, actor, musician, writer, carpenter, gypsy trucker, and utopian anarchist.

Years later, Degelman returned to university life, hoping to pass on what he had learned about resistance and the power of art as a tool for social change. In every class, a handful of students took notice and began to ask questions that lay beyond the purview of diction, grammar, and syntax. Cal State University’s Mathew Daly was one of those curious students.

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Writers of the Future Award Ceremony 2015

“A culture is as rich
and capable of surviving
as it has imaginative artists.”

— L. Ron Hubbard

Thus began a talent search for the best creative imaginations in the world—the storytellers, the artists, the entertainers, the visionaries. Two contests that changed the future of science fiction and fantasy:

L. Ron Hubbard presents Writers of the Future and Illustrators of the Future.

Each year, twelve writers and twelve illustrators are selected by a panel of the biggest-name authors and the biggest-name artists in the field. They will be the stars of tomorrow. (read more)

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Interview with Kyla Bennett, No Worse Sin

Women Working in Nature and the Arts


via eco-fiction.com

Mary Woodbury at Eco-fiction talks with Kyla Bennet, an environmentalist and novelist, with a PhD in ecology and a law background.

Mary: Thanks so much for agreeing to have this interview, Kyla.

Kyla is the author of No Worse Sin, a YA title coming out on May 15, 2015.

Mary: I wanted to start out with your professional career to date. You work for a non-profit and volunteer for a state park. In both these positions you act as a steward for the environment. What are your favorite work experiences, and how did your studies lead to your fiction writing?

Kyla: My favorite part about all of the jobs I have had is that they sometimes–although not always–lead to saving a habitat or population of animals. There is something really emotionally satisfying about being able to look at a wild animal or a wilderness place and thinking, “This is going to survive because of the work we did to save it.” It’s giving a voice to the animals and places that could not speak for themselves. I also really enjoy my volunteer work giving nature walks in the state park. A few weeks ago, we took people out at night to look at vernal pools. When we brought a spotted salamander out to show to the group, a 4-year old boy was so wide-eyed with wonder…you could tell that not only was he fascinated with the salamander, but that he cared about it. Being able to teach people about animals and the threats they face is so important.

Both of these things–saving animals and their habitats, and teaching people about animals–influencedNo Worse Sin. I wanted to write a young adult novel that was romantic and exciting enough to capture teens’ attention and that would also teach them how important the earth and all its inhabitants are.

Mary: That sense of wonder in children is so amazing. I’m glad that you got to experience such delight. Is this your first novel?

Kyla: Yes, it is my first novel!

Mary: No Worse Sin is set in the future, addresses climate change, and involves a romance in the brewing. This mix sounds a little intoxicating, in a good way. One of your main characters is a skeptic when it comes to climate change. I think it’s important to add in such a perspective in order to show how redemption is possible–but I’m just guessing! What can you tell us about your novel so far?

Kyla: There is a lot of skepticism in No Worse Sin, some of it valid and some of it invalid. Laena, my female protagonist, believes in climate change, but she has difficulty accepting that it is going happen as quickly and be as devastating as Cree tells her. I understand that it is really hard to be concerned about something that you can’t immediately see. But in the book, I force Laena to open her eyes and believe the evidence in front of her, no matter how disturbing it is. And I’m hoping that this will open the readers’ eyes as well.

Mary: Your press release describes part of the focus of the novel as science vs. faith. Can you expand on this?

Kyla: I think this aspect of No Worse Sin might become the most contentious part of my book. In my dealings with climate change skeptics, one of the most common arguments I hear is that humans cannot possible change the climate, as only God has the power to do something this drastic. And when I listen to some U.S. Congressmen, I hear the same argument. Believing that humans cannot change the climate, or that a superior force will fix the problems we have wrought, delays implementation of possible solutions. This is very scary to me, and I wanted my readers to understand that we have to actnow. So, both Laena and Cree are atheists, two teens who accept science and the frightening fact that humans are changing the climate. They believe we are in grave danger. However, several of Laena’s classmates (and a violent acquaintance of Cree’s) all believe that if climate change is happening, it is God’s will. By doing this, I have pitted science against faith. I am hoping that readers will believe what Cree knows to be fact, and understand that as a species, humans do have the unfortunate power to destroy the planet. If they can understand this, maybe they will force the change that we need.

Mary: How did you decide to write for the young adult audience rather than, say, an adult audience?

Kyla: Several years ago, my then-teenage daughter was reading the vampire series du jour. She couldn’t put the books down. I decided to read one of them to see why all the kids loved these books so much. When I finished, I thought what a shame it was that this book had captured the hearts of millions of kids’ imaginations, but didn’t make them care about real problems!  I wondered if it was possible to write a book that captivated teenagers, but also taught them about environmental issues that would become critical problems in just a few short years–problems they themselves would have to deal with. I think if we’re going to make any headway with huge issues such as climate change, water pollution, and habitat destruction, we must make the children of today understand and care.

Mary: I think it’s true that children and teenagers, who will inherit our messes, will have to squarely deal with climate change more than we are–and it’s a sad thought to me. I wondered if you have gotten any early feedback from the young adult crowd about this novel–or other work you have done?

Kyla: I have given an advance copy of the book to a lot of my daughter’s friends and to teenage children of my friends. So far, they seem to enjoy the book! And several of the girls have fallen in love with Cree, the male protagonist, which is not surprising. He is pretty cute.

Mary: Romance is a good angle for telling the story! How did your work in the field of science prepare or inspire you to pen this novel?

Kyla: People always tell you that you should write what you know, and that’s what I tried to do here.No Worse Sin has sub-themes about the endangered right whale getting entangled in fishing lines, pharmaceutical pollution in our waters, and climate change–all problems that I have learned about in my training, and worked on for my jobs! So, my work in science definitely inspired me and helped me write this novel.

Mary: I ask this of a lot of authors: who were some of your favorite authors when growing up?

Kyla: This is an easy one! I was (and still am) an avid reader. I loved Richard Adams (Watership Down), Madeleine L’Engle (A Wrinkle in Time), all of the Jim Kjelgaard books, William Golding (The Inheritors), and Agatha Christie mysteries.

Mary: All great books and authors. Is there anything else you would like to cover here?

Kyla: I’m really happy that cli-fi and other eco-fiction is becoming a thing, especially for young adults. As Baba Dioum said, “In the end, we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.” I love the idea of reaching children and young adults through books. I am so grateful to my publisher Harvard Square Editions, which actively seek books with social and political content, especially manuscripts related to climate change and conservation. If we can move our children to care, then there is hope for the future.

Mary: Wonderful thoughts to end our interview on, Kyla. Thanks again for this discussion, and I hope your book does well!

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Erika Raskin

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    • Love’s Denouement

    • By Rajani Kanth


      The dullest


      doth True


      discern  –


      Though  Sirens

      Will   perjure

      And   Furies

      Still   Burn –


      And so

      the  sweet


      Of Heaven’s

      Soft  gaze –


      Does  all

      Ills   resolve:

      all  Miscues

      Erase –


      So, though


      may we yet

      go down –




      or   fey,

      foolish ,





      of   fresh

      daisies –


      past recall,

      or renown


      So, ask not

      Why those

      Gay flowers

      Bloom –



      The fair


      Of our deep



      [©R.Kanth, 2019]  


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

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    • Traits

    • The head’s
      with Reasons
      Too multifarious
      To know

      The heart only
      Two Seasons:
      The high and the

      No neutral
      It takes

      But all that
      it feels:
      Cleaves –
      Or forsakes

      O the head
      is so
      The heart,

      But O what
      A difference
      That dissimilitude
      Makes !

      [© R.Kanth 2018] 
      Professor Rajani Kanth is the author of Coda, and Expiations
      and trustee of the World Peace Congress

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    • Song for Ahed

    • By Rajani Kanth


      Ahed Tamimi

      Stood , Fearless,

      up to Power –


      A mere


      become Heroine

      Of the Hour


      Yes, she was



      Her mettle,

      Sore tested –


      Sure, Defiance,

      Was bought at

      High Cost


      But that should

      Not faze us –


      Rather, amaze



      At   Sixteen,

      She ,  the

      One War –

      Zion Has Lost

      [©R.Kanth 2018] 

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

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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, excerpted from 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)

      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.

      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.”

      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.

      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!

      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.

      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.


      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.


      NC front DR TinyNature’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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    • 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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    • 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)

      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)

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


    TylerJamesComicTyler James
    All of a sudden, though, you start stacking ComixTribe, Image, Boom, Action Lab, Valiant, etc... books against Big Two books...
    66 months ago
    we smell like coffee and old libraries filled with new books waiting to be read
    66 months ago
    aidanr1022Aidan Ryan
    When Dad has to hit the books in the middle of the day so he can support the fam @emrson11webster http://t.co/igjSlYR8cB
    66 months ago
    forgot my books ?
    66 months ago