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Caroline Leavitt interviews Harriet Levin Millan...

NEW YORK TIMES AND USA TODAY BESTSELLING NOVELIST, SCREENWRITER, EDITOR, NAMER, CRITIC, MOVIE ADDICT AND CHOCOHOLIC, Caroline Leavitt, blogs… 

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2016

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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Publishing

  • The Vale of Cashmere

  • by Sean Elder

    green forest

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Jesus, what the hell you drinking?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Here you go, ma’am.”

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

    “Drinks are complimentary, ma’am.”

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

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

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

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

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

    “Yes, ma’am.”

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

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

    “Now isn’t that something?”

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

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

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

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

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

    “What numbers are you playing today?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    That’s when Floyd said no more.

    “What numbers are you playing today?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Does she have a cell phone?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Hello?”

    “This ain’t no telemarketer.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “I know that.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Can you do it?”

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

    “How do you mean?”

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

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

    “Now that’s gotta hurt!”

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

    “Is it important?”

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

    “Uh, oh. Better have another drink.”

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

    ______________________

    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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Spotlight on Kyla Bennett at the Sharon Public Library

The Sharon Public Library interviews Kyla Bennett, author of No Worse Sin

1. As noted in your biography, you have a lot of experience in the fields of environmentalism and naturalism. What led you from that into writing? How has your knowledge of these topics influenced your writing?

            I have always loved writing fiction, and tried my hand at writing my first book when I was ten years old. As I began working in the environmental field, I realized how little people really knew about biology, the environment, and animals. I also knew the power of books—when my daughter and all her friends were obsessed with the latest vampire book du jour, I decided that it would be a good idea to try to combine a young adult romance with critical environmental issues to raise awareness about our planet. The work that I do today as my job as a scientist and environmental lawyer greatly influenced my novel No Worse Sin. People always advise to “write what you know,” and I did just that. Two of my legal cases involve pharmaceuticals in water and the critically endangered North American right whale, and both of these issues are highlighted in my plot.

 

2. Has your focus on environmental issues affected your book’s reception—in ways you anticipated, or in ways you did not?

            My focus on environmental issues has not affected its reception, but did cause one reader to tell me there was “too much science” in the book. However, others have told me that they loved the environmental slant, and it made them do more research into the things I wrote about. The environmental themes in my novel did help me get published, though. My publisher, Harvard Square Editions, focuses on publishing environmentally and socially conscious literary fiction, particularly things about climate change (i.e., cli-fi). I wish that more publishers focused on these genres, because we can change the world for the better by educating young people through literature.

 

3. You are a self-described “avid reader.” Which books have made your “Best 3 Books of All Time” list?

            It’s really hard for me to select my three favorite books because I have so many! One is easy—Watership Down by Richard Adams has to be my all-time favorite book. I read it as a child when it first came out, and numerous times since then. I recommend it to everyone, children and adults alike—it is timeless and ageless. I’d have to say that two of my other favorite books are The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas, and And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. But I have so many more! (I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I also adore any book by Louise Penny, Tana French, and Liane Moriarty, three wonderful female mystery writers from Canada, the UK, and Australia, respectively.)

 

4. Who or what do you rely on to give you good recommendations when you are looking for a new book or author to read?

            I rely on my friends, my mother, and my library to give me good book recommendations! My library has this cool app where you can type in the name of a book you loved, and it will give you suggestions of other books to read. I love it!

 

5. Is there a particular genre you enjoy reading (or writing)? Why is that?

            I adore mysteries, particularly British mysteries. I have a hard time reading non-fiction, probably because I get so much of that in my work. Mysteries are my go-to genre, and I can’t fall asleep at night unless I read at least a few pages. I think I enjoy mysteries so much because they really take me out of my present life and make me forget any personal struggles I am experiencing. They are all-consuming, and I find that relaxing. As far as writing, I love anything for and about young adults. I’m not sure why I’m drawn to young adult writing… maybe I want to try and change the world through the next generation.

 

6. There’s a recent trend, I think, in terms of YA novels being optioned for the big screen. Hypothetically speaking, if your book were adapted, what would your ideal casting list look like?

            I have actually spent time thinking about a cast for the movie version of No Worse Sin… and, I actually modeled the heroine, Laena, after my daughter (she is an actress). I think Leonardo DiCaprio would make a great father (Ben), and Julia Roberts or Jennifer Garner as the mother (Michelle). Cree is the big unknown… he would have to be a newcomer!

 

7. Are you working on any new novels or stories at the moment?

            I am working on two books concurrently: one is a sequel to No Worse Sin (I had always anticipated that it would be a trilogy); and the second is a book I can’t discuss because I will have to use a nom de plume. It will be a little explosive for some people, because it is based on experiences I have had and that my colleagues have had. I wish I could say more, but I’m actually in discussions with a lawyer about how far I can go with this book!

 

8. That sounds exciting! I won’t ask you to reveal more about this mysterious book, all things considered, but here’s a related question: Are there any local spots that particularly inspire you? Any that have made it into one of your works?

            There are two local spots that inspire me: Borderland State Park and the Hockomock Swamp. I have a half-written mystery that takes place in Borderland, and I have a book idea that takes place in the Hock. I love nature, and both of these fabulous places move me… I would love to share them with others.

 

6 Books That Will Change You

(according to Kyla Bennett)

All of these books either make the reader care more about animals, the environment, or the world in which we live, or they challenge the commercialism and standards that pervade our society today. I feel that literature has the power to change people, and I think each of these six books do that in one way or another.

 

Watership Down

by Richard Adams

The Dog Stars

by Peter Heller

The Story of

Edgar Sawtelle

by David Wroblewski

Nature Girl

by Carl Hiaasen

The Ethical Assassin

by David Liss

PopCo

by Scarlett Thomas

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Outtasite MOOC

On May 15, 2017, the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa will open Power of the Pen: Identities and Social Issues in Fiction and Nonfiction, a free massive open online course. This creative writing MOOC will focus on writing about identities, communities, and social issues in fiction and nonfiction. There is no cost to enroll; registration is completely free for all participants. No writing experience is required. This MOOC welcomes writers of all communities and identities.

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Post Mortem

By Rajani Kanth

love rent
like  a ravage
of war

admitted  no
outwarding
scar

heart
near strangled

spirit
entangled

riven,  I cross-ed
the bar

*

courting
gruff  ills

wooing grim
woes

under  a
nescient  star

Fate
or  the Will,  I
cannot much
say

nor how I
dissembled
thus far

*

give unto
love that
which is
love?

not enough! –
now there’s the
jar

one loves:
An-other consents
to be loved

ah, lovers
are Never
on par

*

that,  the bane
of  the passion
arcane

no truce –
even after
the war

lo,  after the
scarring

feathers
and tarring:

flares, invisible ,
from afar!

[© R.Kanth 2017]

Rajani Kanth is the author of Coda, a chronicle of the life, and afterlife, of the last human, in both flashback and future shock, after the apocalypse of the millennium, where timeless, misanthropic aggression, and blindness predictably destroy all life on Earth. Coda is a compelling philosophical, and quasi-theosophical, post-modernist narrative, that (re)solves eventually the Riddle of the Universe, from the unique vantage point of the last sentient being left alive to ponder the question of existence. It is the quest of a latter-day Siddhartha, albeit in the context of an apocalyptic  world  sundered by global  catastrophe.

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O Jerusalem

selling selling

forever selling

burger, burger
fake news,  fries

killing killing
forever killing

MOAB  bombs –
and bigger lies

read all the news
that’s fit to fake

unabashed
on the make

coveting more than
one can take

mark it well
make no mistake

an antic  Thirst
no one can slake:

from Pizarro
to Francis Drake

*

Western civ:
ain’t that  a scream!

all  strawberries,
and  clotted cream? –

or is it just
an american dream?

another idyll
out of steam?

if a dream
’tis my mistake:

but tell me this:
when shall we wake?

seriously,
for goodness sake!

when shall we all
come awake?

and where, o where,
is William Blake?

*

holes in  heaven
fire in  lake

we swig brine
they take the cake

a fear  that we may
never wake

coronets quiver
citadels shake

holes in heaven
fire in lake:

Goodbye, Jerusalem –
and  William Blake

[© R.Kanth 2017]

__________

Rajani Kanth is the author of Coda, a chronicle of the life, and afterlife, of the last human, in both flashback and future shock, after the apocalypse of the millennium, where timeless, misanthropic aggression, and blindness predictably destroy all life on Earth. Coda is a compelling philosophical, and quasi-theosophical, post-modernist narrative, that (re)solves eventually the Riddle of the Universe, from the unique vantage point of the last sentient being left alive to ponder the question of existence. It is the quest of a latter-day Siddhartha, albeit in the context of an apocalyptic  world  sundered by global  catastrophe.

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The Self-Fulfilling Multiverse*

[OR Why (how)  Objects Exist, and the Meaning of ‘God’-ness], by Rajani Kanth

Rajani

Rajani Kanth, author of CODA

Well, actually, They don’t: IF  (still evolving) quantum science is right (now that’s a Big IF)
Objects are waves of potentiality – located at the level of possibility only, in some extraneous ‘non-local’ Extraverse (my term).
Their actualisation ‘requires’ a ‘perceiving’ subject.
So, curiously, objects exist because we – subjects – exist, and are capable of perception (which collapses the ‘wave-function’ into particle form).
That much is the ‘observer effect’.
We call forth ,i.e., manifest, the ‘object’ universe.

In that sense it is consciousness  – a universal consciousness – that produces existence.
Consciousness is, then,  the ground of Being (A.Goswami): it is the Categorical A Priori (my term).
So there are two domains of reality, one manifest, one potential.
The manifest we may call the Universe; the potential, the Extraverse; and together they constitute the Multiverse.

The ‘Big Bang’  ( a ‘Singularity’ where Classical Physics is inapplicable) , if true,  would be conceived in the domain of possibility only : its actualisation would have to wait  for  the ‘delayed choice’ of a more  evolved consciousness  able to fathom it.
The universe, as is widely accepted,  is far  too fine-tuned to deny its obvious ‘anthropic’ bias.
It’s a set-up : for us.
So, it is ‘our’ universe,  existing for us, in  a situated  ‘arising’ from  Co-Dependent  Origins ( Co-dependent Origination is a Jain/Buddhist idea).

But where do  ‘we’ come from?
We too are mere  potentials only , and ‘construct’ each other, as ‘objects’ in, and of,  our consciousness.
When not interacting  (where we objectify  each other) we are waves of potential only, part of the Extraverse.
So, universal consciousness is both subject and  object, a sort of a  ‘Non-Thing-in-Itself’ (vide Kant).
We are spawned, spontaneously, similar to nano-particles,  within that self-same ether.

What about ‘God’?
It is  a  rather poor proxy term for the limitless consciousness which ‘creates’, or constitutes, all objects and subjects: within itself.

Consciousness ‘chooses’ out of  a  Non-Local  domain of possibilities and  objects are materialised, and become part of our experience.
The brain does not ‘produce’ this consciousness – matter cannot produce non-matter – but rather is ‘occupied’ by it (every  such ‘experience’ is a quantum measurement).
Consciousness, therefore, ‘self-splits’ into subject and object – both are within consciousness – creating the ‘duality’ we apprehend  in everyday life.

The ‘me’ we recognise daily  is just the pattern of such   experiences recorded in our memory which  stamps us with a temporal/spatial ‘unity’. The responsiveness of the body – via sensing, thinking, feeling and , intuiting – is controlled by consciousness  in its avatar as ‘mind’, and inseminates the world with ‘meaning’.
Higher meanings evolve from lower ones.

Good and evil, as  universal archetypes, are initially, simply  what allow us (individual, tribe) to live and die: they are not ‘Platonic essences”, but ad hoc survival norms (what helps us live being ‘good’, and what does not, ‘bad’).
(Societal) Morality is  itself conceived, analogously,  within the above.
Beyond that,  come the  near-infinite variety of refinements of these ‘essential’  basics.

Darwinian ideas  – relevant within a limited  domain – are inutile  to explain the  original  formation of Life: the time span needed to ‘evolve’ life , by its protocols, would be far too long ,  using material processes, given the  young age of the planet.
So, it would have to be a spontaneous sui generis act of creation bringing forth the first cell, its  subsequent evolution being governed, again, by remarkable quantum leaps, rather/more than  the slow-acting  processes of  ‘natural selection’ : the universe has existed, par exemple,  for only 10  to the power of 17 seconds (14 billion years) whereas the creation of a even a simple  protein, via random mutation/natural selection, might take, estimatedly, as much as 10 to the power of 51 seconds.
Until that First living cell, the Universe exists as possibility (i.e. as an Extraverse)  only: it is actualised only post-factum (via ‘delayed choice’).

Stated another way, objects are created in consciousness as possibilities, before ‘materialising’ in the observed world.
So the materialist world-view (everything is matter) set off by the genius of Newton, and dominating all sciences (so-called ‘social science’ inclusive) for centuries after (via physics-envy), is radically mistaken.
Everything is , ‘really’, consciousness (‘matter’ is contained within it).
Indeed, there is no other possible solution of the quantum measurement problem (recall, also, matter,  or the ‘brain’ , sui generis,  cannot produce consciousness, i.e.,  ‘non-matter’).

Besides ‘materialism’ is really not even  very significant even if matter were all we knew, since the  matter we know is only 4% of the inscrutable  ‘stuff’ that is out there (dark matter, dark energy, etc.) which defies any  description.
So consciousness is the vast ocean of (transcendent’) ‘reality’.
It is, possibly, what  simple, untrained minds, call ‘god’?

What does this ‘allow’?
It frees us from  assuming reified  rigid material constraints on our societal realm of possibilities, so allows a certain quantum of ‘freedom’ – better parsed as fresh thinking –  in that area.
It allows us to question Darwinian biology (which fails in many important regards:  in the obvious area of the fossil-gap, in its non-explanation of the origin of life, et. al.)  and ‘correct’ that corpus of science (btw the noble Darwin was never as dogmatic about his discoveries as his epigones).

It also explains a lot of ideas that have been, hitherto, banished to the boondocks: telepathy, ESP,  homeopathy, acupuncture,  ayurveda –  and all manner of alternative healings, even so-called ‘reincarnation’.
Why?
Because, Non-Local  (instantaneous, unconfined by the speed of light limitation) communication is not only possible but  have been established in the laboratory,  suggesting the operation of a transcendent domain.
These vital energies are real, indeed can even be photographed and measured.
And because there are ‘vital energies’ – Chakras , in the Vedic scheme ,  that exist within us  but  are not ‘captured’ in Western , materialist science.

The New Science makes the Old archaic: but it will  take time for the old(er)  ideas to  be given up.
After all, even the great Einstein took his time adjusting to quantum ideas: how can we fault his successors?

The Universe is ‘Self-Aware’ (Amit Goswami): perhaps through us?
But,to go further, I suspect it is also Self-Fulfilling:  a Program that we  ourselves Co-write, as Co-Authors?
How else are we to interpret  the obvious Co-Dependency?
That does open the world up to   a new, improved,  notion of creativity in the arena of human affairs.

Ancient  (if neglected) systems that base their practices/epistemes on  the idea of  posited vital  energies, such as in India and China are, thereby,  amply validated.
However, Notional Materialism (‘everything is matter’)  is anything but  of zero relevance – there is an obvious  particle component to the world, and to us – but rather, highly  incomplete and inadequate.
If hit by a car,  ‘material’ medicine is irreplaceable: but it is far  less  effectual in  context of deeper malaises like cancer, or diabetes.

Now for some much needed Corrective Anthropology ( I used to call it ‘reverse anthropology’ ).
Owing to its  to EuroModernist  (EM)skews most of official theoretical  anthropology – where it is not ‘straight’ ethnography -is bunk.
The Human Universe is, ineluctably,  an Essentialist one.
We are, male or female, dominated by instinctual drives that may be acted against but never entirely erased.
I will not go into why EM discourse shuns that obvious fact, save by saying it had nothing to do with any scientifically valid norms, let alone any  empirical facts.
In essence, the Story of Humans  – in their collective aspect – is male violence pitted against female pacifism (both considered as ‘ideal types’ , if inescapably, and altogether,  real).
As such,  it is not a pretty story.
Indeed, how could it be?

Does all this solve the mystery of the Extraverse?
No, but it  does give us a few clues as to its real nature, obscured thus far by various modalities of conjectural imputations.
The traditional ‘God’ theory of the Multiverse is no more than  logically equivalent to the Simulation Idea  – which stems  from  an antipodal  corner.
However,  the latter conjecture has more indirect ‘proof’ than the former, besides requiring  simple logic rather than ‘faith’.

One imp.  caveat: the rejection of classical scientific materialism, perforce ,owing to the inescapable ontology of quantum science is not to, ipso facto, succumb to its polar opposite: i.e., theological idealism  – which has even less of  a leg to stand on.
Indeed, it’s time that the old materialism/idealism binary were  to be finally retired from serious analysis as  quite ill-conceived.
It is not, whatever it might be,   a ‘politically correct’ Multiverse.
And, it is not, sadly, ‘meaningful’  either –  save the meaning that we choose to impute to it.
But I wonder now: is that good or bad?

* IMP:  Caveat(s):
The (Quantum) Physics content  in this Note  (such as it is) is owed to the works of  two important  Latter-day Physicists: (the late) David Bohm, and Amit Goswami : the rest (of a socio-anthropological nature), comprises my own set of ideas.

I am not convinced of the entirety of the received Physics I refer to : but my critique of it is still in formation,and I would rather not hazard any guesses, at this stage. Suffice it to say, the Multiverse is still, in some very significant senses, a mystery, despite the ideas proffered in this Note.

REFERENCES
Kanth, R   –  Farewell to Modernism: On Human Devolution in the Twenty-First Century, Peter Lang, NY 2017.
Kanth, R   –  The Post-Human Society, De Gruyter, Munich 2016
[© R.Kanth 2017]

__________

Rajani Kanth is the author of Coda, a chronicle of the life, and afterlife, of the last human, in both flashback and future shock, after the apocalypse of the millennium, where timeless, misanthropic aggression, and blindness predictably destroy all life on Earth. Coda is a compelling philosophical, and quasi-theosophical, post-modernist narrative, that (re)solves eventually the Riddle of the Universe, from the unique vantage point of the last sentient being left alive to ponder the question of existence. It is the quest of a latter-day Siddhartha, albeit in the context of an apocalyptic  world  sundered by global  catastrophe.

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

Via The Oregonian

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

Must-read book
9781941861288-PerfectHSAwSeal.inddHot Season: Susan DeFreitas’ 2016 novel has been called “activist lit” and “ecolit,” and even though it takes place in the Southwest, it has a very Portland feel to it. “The book will bring you back to a time when you still thought you could save the world,” The Huffington Post writes. DeFreitas, in an interview for Fiction Writers Review, says the “main conflict at the heart of the book is one that you will find in many activist communities — perhaps part of what we’d call callout culture — when those newer to the cause who have a lot of fire, a lot of unrelenting, uncompromising black-and-white points of view, take issue with what they see as the backsliding of the older generation, of those who have been involved longer than they have.”

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Pop! New Pop Lit

Via newpoplit.com

WE PRESENT not just pop lit, but sometimes straight pop, on our path toward true “fusion” fiction. No less a personage than Jonathan Franzen has claimed to have a similar goal– except that in his ultra-long novels there’s less entertainment value than in a single story by Alan Swyer– and less than one-tenth the heart.

Doubt it? Read Alan’s new tale “Country Sweetheart” to see what the pop lit revolution is about.

________

Alan Swyer is the author of The Beard, about a Jersey boy who uses guile to substitute for a lack of connections to advance in a SoCal world of extreme wealth and ruthless ambition

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

Guest post for School Library Journal by author Sabrina Fedel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_______

9781941861240-Perfect Final cover Kent.indd

Sabrina Fedel’s debut Young Adult novel, Leaving Kent State, was recently released from Harvard Square Editions. Her YA short story, ‘Honor’s Justice’, was nominated for a 2017 Pushcart Prize, as well as a 2016 story South Million Writers Award and a Sundress Publications Best of the Net ’16 award. She holds her MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University.

You can find Sabrina at her website, www.sabrinafedel.com, or on twitter (@writeawhile) or Instagram.

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Interview with Author of Gold Medalist HOT SEASON

Susan DeFreitas just won an Independent Publishers (IPPY) Gold medal for her eco-novel HOT SEASON

Author Interview: Susan DeFreitas

(via Rose City Reader)

Susan DeFreitas was born in Michigan, lived in Arizona, then moved to Portland, where she now writes realistic fiction and sci-fi. Her debut novel, Hot Season, has generated plenty of high praise in book circles. She’s one to keep an eye on!

Susan recently answered questions for Rose City Reader. You can also listen to a long interview of Susan on Between the Covers.

How did you come to write Hot Season?

I wrote the stories that would become the chapters of this novel during the course of my MFA at Pacific University. I had just moved to Portland from Prescott, Arizona, where I had lived for the past fourteen years, and I suppose these stories were portraits of people and places and experiences from that time in my life I wanted both to pay homage to and make sense of.

What is your professional background? How did it lead you to writing fiction?

I began writing fiction as soon as I was old enough to read it. My first stories were mysteries—by the time I was in junior high, it was fantasy and science fiction. But I had an English teacher who insisted I write realist fiction in his class. I thought it was snobbish at the time, and I still do, but it did lead to me to attending a boarding school, in my senior year of high school, for the arts.

I took a break in my study of creative writing between undergrad and graduate school—during which wrote for magazines, directed an arts nonprofit, and wrote marketing copy—but I was always working on a novel. In my early thirties, I decided to go back to school for fiction.

What is the significance of the title? Does it have a personal meaning for you besides its connection to the story?

Hot season in central AZ is not quite summer. It comes on with a vengeance around the end of April and tends to hit its apex right around the Fourth of July. That’s when the monsoons begin, and the rain cuts down on both the danger of wildfire and the heat.

But in those parched two months leading up to the monsoons, there’s a hallucinatory quality to the heat, as well as a real sense of danger. I found it an apt metaphor for the paranoia around government surveillance in this novel, as well as the sparks of attraction that fly between its characters. Hot season is also the time of year when much of the novel is set.

How closely does the plot of Hot Season hew to the real events that inspired the story?

The outlaw activist around whom much of the plot revolves is based on a real person, Bill Rogers, who was part of a group of radical activists based out of Eugene, Oregon, in the nineties, which was responsible for some of the largest acts of so-called terrorism in US history, totaling $45 million in damages. Like the character Dyson in the book, Bill was a graduate of Prescott College, my alma mater, and he, like Dyson, did establish an activist center that was raided by the FBI.

There are also some characters and circumstances based on the time when I owned a house in the barrio of Prescott and rented rooms to college students, all of them younger women. But that’s where the similarities end; in many ways, the book is an imagined version of their lives, as I graduated college in 2000, before the era when the novel is set.

Did you know right away, or have an idea, how you were going to end the story? Or did it come to you as you were in the process of writing?

Because these chapters started off as short stories, my process with this novel was a little different than is typical. The story that would become the title chapter—the final chapter of the book—was probably the third or fourth piece I wrote in grad school, in my first semester. I had the feel of it, the swing and sound of it, the aesthetic and the images, before I really had any idea what the story was about.

To get that—i.e., who these characters were, what they were doing together, and what these events were, in fact, the resolution of—I had to go back and discover the bones of the book, the plot. I had to develop the arcs and the through lines, the threads of connection that would converge there. But did I always know that piece was the ending? Absolutely.

Hot Season has been compared to another college novel, Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. The eco-sabotage storyline is reminiscent of Jim Harrison’s A Good Day to Die. How do you feel about these kinds of literary comparisons?

Donna Tartt is brilliant, so any comparison to her is welcome. =) And I do think the comparison to The Secret History holds, in that college is a time, I believe, when we’re both really smart and really dumb—a time when a philosophy or idea or commitment can get ahold of you in a way that may define, for better or worse, the rest of your life.

I’m also happy you brought up Jim Harrison, as I am a native of the Great Lakes State. But in contrast to A Good Day to Die—and that other rollicking, wisecracking classic of eco-sabotage, The Monkey Wrench Gang—this is a novel first and foremost about women, young women in particular. As such, it’s not so much about high-stakes heroics as it is about the being willing to dedicate your life and career, early on, to incremental changes in culture and society that you may not even live to see. That, to me is real courage, and it’s completely unglamorous. Megan Burbank noted in her review of the book in the Portland Mercury, that Hot Season “depict[s] social agitation as, really, what it is: a gradual, infuriating, complex effort performed by smart, dedicated, flawed humans to varying degrees of commitment and success.” I really consider that the essence of what I’m getting at here.

What did you learn from writing your book – either about the subject of the book or the writing process – that most surprised you?

I learned how to build a novel out of linked stories. Not just linked stories billed as a novel (increasingly fashionable these days) but a novel with real arcs, real stakes, and resolutions. For me as a writer, that often means looking at the end of the story and determining what needs to be set up in the beginning.

What is the most valuable advice you’ve been given as an author?

Alberto Luis Urrea: “Nil carborundum illegitimi—don’t let the bastards wear you down.” =)

Who are your three (or four or five) favorite authors? Is your own writing influenced by the authors you read?

As an author, I’m influenced by all sorts of authors, and my favorites include Ursula K. Le Guin, Denis Johnson, and Lydia Millet. But this particular book was most directly influenced by Ed Abbey and John Nichols, as well as the punk writer Aaron Cometbus.

What kind of books do you like to read? What are you reading now?

I write both realist fiction and speculative fiction, so my tastes are all over the map. But right now I’m really enjoying the work of an author who’s new to me, Laura Pritchett—her latest novel, The Blue Hour, set in small-town Colorado, is just a dream. I’m also enjoying revisiting the weirdness of Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link.

You have a terrific website and Facebook page and are also on Twitter. From an author’s perspective, how important are social networking sites and other internet resources to promote your book?

I’m a big fan of Jane Friedman, so I knew, long before I signed the contract for my first book, that I needed to own the domain associated with my name. I also used to work as a journalist and blogger, so I know how important it is to ensure that all the info these time-strapped folks need to cover us can easily be found in one place. That’s why I have all of my press materials—as well as links to all of my reviews and interviews—online at susandefreitas.com.

As for my Facebook and Twitter pages, I consider them not just a place to share my own news and views but links to articles of interest and to the work of other authors I love. That kind of literary citizenship interests me more than “look at me!” all the time (though I do think there’s a thrill for readers in sharing the writer’s journey). As for how important social media is—how else would anyone know about me or what I’m doing? Unless they happened to find me in person? In this day and age, social media is the marketplace of ideas, the big town square where we gather to discuss the issues of the day. Though it has its vagaries, I can’t imagine not wanting to be part of that discussion.

Do you have any events coming up to promote your book?

Yes! In fact, I have a bit of a Northwest mini-tour set up for April, both as an author and an editor. Here are my upcoming dates (click links for details):

4-8-17:  Panel Appearance and Editing Consultations at IBPA’s Publishing University (Portland, OR)
4-11-17:  Author Appearance at Broadway Books (Portland, OR)
4-17-17:  Group reading for the City of Weird anthology at Post 134 (Portland, OR)
4-18-17:  Author Appearance at Annie Bloom’s (Portland, OR)
4-20-17:  Group Reading at Another Read Through (Portland, OR)

Upcoming events can be found on the home page of my website.

What’s next? Are you working on your next book?

Right now, I’m working on a series of speculative short stories with a strong sense of place in the three states I’ve called home—Michigan, Arizona, and Oregon—called Dream Studies, a project that’s being supported by my Patreon subscribers. I’m also preparing to dig back into the next novel in the series that begins with Hot Season, which is called World’s Smallest Parade.

 
THANKS, SUSAN!
 
HOT SEASON IS AVAILABLE ON LINE,
OR ASK YOU LOCAL BOOKSELLER TO ORDER IT!
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Stu Krieger Wins the Lifetime Achievement Award in Screenwriting

Stu Krieger SMALL

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch his TEDx Talk, “Choose Joy.”

(Via Riverside International Film Festival)

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Tweets From Bill McKibben

billmckibben 6 hours agoIt's as if the princes of capitalism don't understand just what a crisis they've led us into. They're literally pla… https://t.co/NATy434snz

Erika Raskin

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    • Love’s Denouement

    • By Rajani Kanth

       

      The dullest

      Eye

      doth True

      Love

      discern  –

       

      Though  Sirens

      Will   perjure

      And   Furies

      Still   Burn –

       

      And so

      the  sweet

      mien

      Of Heaven’s

      Soft  gaze –

       

      Does  all

      Ills   resolve:

      all  Miscues

      Erase –

       

      So, though

      Unrequited

      may we yet

      go down –

       

      fulsome

      empress,

      or   fey,

      foolish ,

      clown

       

      in

      burgeon  

      of   fresh

      daisies –

       

      past recall,

      or renown

      *

      So, ask not

      Why those

      Gay flowers

      Bloom –

       

      They,

      The fair

      Harvest:

      Of our deep

      delved

      doom

      [©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
      replete
      with Reasons
      Too multifarious
      To know

      The heart only
      Two Seasons:
      The high and the
      Low

      No
      Intervenient
      stakes
      No neutral
      stance
      It takes

      But all that
      it feels:
      either
      Cleaves –
      Or forsakes

      O the head
      is so
      conjugated:
      The heart,
      simple,
      syncopated

      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

      Schoolgirl:

      become Heroine

      Of the Hour

       

      Yes, she was

      Arrested:

       

      Her mettle,

      Sore tested –

       

      Sure, Defiance,

      Was bought at

      High Cost

       

      But that should

      Not faze us –

       

      Rather, amaze

      us:

       

      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

    by Ben Mattlin (HC ’84)

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

    by Teresa Hsiao (HC ’07)

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

    Tweets

    TylerJamesComicTyler James
    @TylerJamesComic:
    All of a sudden, though, you start stacking ComixTribe, Image, Boom, Action Lab, Valiant, etc... books against Big Two books...
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