Children and Lunatics

THIS WEEK’S OTHER FEATURED BOOKS, “HOW TO GROW AN ADDICT,” BY J.A. WRIGHT AND “BUSINESS AS USUAL,” BY JESSIE KWAK, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST, OR BY CLICKING THE AUTHOR’S NAME ON OUR AUTHOR PAGE.

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THE BOOK: Children and Lunatics.

PUBLISHED IN: 2016.

THE AUTHOR: Megan McNamer.

THE EDITOR: Dianne Goettel.

THE PUBLISHER: Black Lawrence Press.

SUMMARY: In Children and Lunatics, the 21st century is new and fragile, the center barely holding. Wars, terrorists and hurricanes are on TV. A silent street person and a suburban mother share intimate spheres of love and grief and odd obsessions, although they barely meet. As their paths converge, an eerie world hovers, casting shadows and flickering lights, igniting fears and dreams.

A war death hovers around the happenings — a high school boy gone off to Iraq and instantly killed. This occurs off stage and is signaled to the reader through the street person’s sense of a lost brother and the suburban mother’s giddy anxieties flung around her own son. No one is quite clear about the nature of the world they live in except to know that their own control is tenuous.

Image result for Megan McNamer + author + photographsTHE BACK STORY: This was written in short spurts at first, then during longer periods of time, during which I tried to find order in what was on the page and follow the paths I’d laid down. I did not have a clear message in mind. Rather, a quiet rage drove this work, which is imbued with grief at young lives lost — haphazardly, purposelessly, ridiculously — because of “national interests.” The people here attempt to live good lives, but they are floundering. The result is a book both comic and disturbing. It was begun a few years after 9/11 and published just before the Trump presidency began. There you have it.

WHY THIS TITLE?: It’s from a quote from Jean Cocteau: “Children and lunatics cut the Gordian knot which the poet spends his life patiently trying to untie.”

Which I take to mean cutting to the quick of the matter. A skateboarder kid named Sammy and a mute bag lady who walks obsessively see and feel more than do the people around them. However, there is a sort of double meaning to the “lunatics” part when the title is read alone, divorced from that Cocteau quote. In that case, the lunatics are idiot leaders and their cynical handlers, the talking heads on TV, everyone associated with, or reporting on, venal power.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? This is a book for those who do not require a straightforward plot, although it does have the building tension of a mystery.  I can’t think of a niche audience.  All of us. This book could be called War and Peace.

REVIEW COMMENTS
:

Children and Lunatics pieces together a nightmare landscape–the one we all live in.  It’s recognizable, strange, and subtly frightening.  You can’t lay this book aside unchanged.” — Rick DeMarinis, author of The Year of the Zinc Penny.

“Megan McNamer’s Children and Lunatics reminds us that madness is created by life’s tragedies and that comfort is found in the most ordinary of places:  every third house on a block, a chair, a thrift store purse, a cafe table.   …. There are acts of kindness and acts of violence in this book and I cared so much for the characters that I couldn’t stop reading, and I couldn’t stop hoping for their salvation.     — Mary Jane Nealon, author of Beautiful Unbroken.

“The book is a quiet page-turner, a quiet mystery and a quiet thriller, if there can be such a thing. McNamer’s greatest strength is capturing the importance of small moments and small things — and of capturing sensations: a certain feeling, an odd smell, a beautiful moment in the weather. McNamer has linked dozens of short, concrete moments here, creating a progression that gains imperceptible momentum with each turn of the page. But what is happening between the segments, in the white space, is what allows us to see across to the other side — an entirely different view of the same people and the same place, flickering before us.” — Sarah Aswell, Misssoula Independent.

AUTHOR PROFILE: “I grew up in small towns and on a ranch in northern Montana and went to the University of Montana to study music. The parameters of the music studied seemed narrow to me. I wanted to know more about the human impulse to create deep meaning and connection and joy through the manipulation of oscillating airwaves. I was intrigued, early on, by how radically the outward manifestations of this impulse could be. A friend said “You’re talking about ethnomusicology.” The path of my passions for the next ten years was laid. I got an MA in ethnomusicology from the University of Washington. I haven’t really “used” it, in the professional sense, but that move fed and has continued to feed my writing impulse. Which, basically, involves looking at the world and wondering … why?

AUTHOR COMMENTS: “This book has been called quiet, but it is my own, personal rage against the mac hine. I sent a postcard of the book cover to Mr. Trump and wrote ‘Please don’t be the subject of the sequel.” So far … (heavy pause).

SAMPLE CHAPTER

It happened on a bus day.  Occasionally she gave herself a bus day, when she would get on a Metro Line bus at the downtown terminal  – whichever bus was first to arrive, no matter the number or destination – and just ride.  She tried not to look at the number, because she generally knew which numbers went where.   She tried to make it a surprise.

The Number Five was her favorite. (Only a few times in her experience had it not been first to arrive.)  It went up Butler Creek Crossing, winding its way in a leisurely fashion through all the modern houses after the initial fast sail up Butler Creek Drive.  The Number Five on a weekday was as empty as the streets.  The driver knew her, but she pretended not to know him, so he pretended not to know her.  She knew he knew her because he had tried to strike up a conversation once or twice when it was just the two of them.  He had commented on her hat.  After that she sat farther back and kept her gaze out the window.

She picked a number.  She found it in the free news weekly. At the bus terminal she would pick up a paper and leaf through it until she found the number. “Three School Board Vacancies To Be Filled.”  No.  It had to be larger than five.  “Ten Ways to Make Halloween ‘Spook-tacular’.”   No.  Not “larger-than” enough. “U.S. Military Death Toll Approaching 2,000.”  No.  It had to be less than one hundred.  “Fifty-Five Alive: Driving Class Directed at Seniors.”  Okay.

After the bus passed Butler School she counted to the number at an even tempo.   Not so slow as one Mississippi, two Mississippi.  She used “aw-loo” instead, the suffix her little brother Eddy would hang on numbers, names, and some nouns.  Mama aw-loo, he said, at age three.   Sissy aw-loo.    He said  Santa aw-loo and Bunny aw-loo and Pinocchio aw-loo.  He said I am four aw-loo, five aw-loo.   It was his way of affixing things to the world, keeping them in place.  God aw-loo, he even said that. 

At Halloween Eddy put on the hard plastic, battered Caspar the Ghost mask, his breath rasping through the cracks and nose hole, his face like a moon.  Caspar Aw-loo  he said with a muffled, buried voice, cocking his stiff smile this way and that.

When she reached the given number (fifty-five aw-loo) she pulled the bell, gathered up her satchel, and prepared to get off.  The bus glided to a wholly unexpected spot, and she descended, the driver watching her.   The bus left with a hiss, the driver’s eyes turned back to the road.  The quiet, curving street was lined with smooth lawns and sporadic sidewalks.  She began to walk, purposefully, head up, satchel tucked under her arm.  Eyes open and fixed.  She began, again, to count.  She counted to half the previous number, rounding to the next highest (twenty-eight aw-loo), and when she reached that number she stopped and looked at the house, her house, the house that might be home. 

One day it was a two-story house with a sun porch.  Another time it was a white-painted brick house with a columned front porch and a stone bench.  Each time, just looking had the feel of going, going in, she heard an imaginary bell, a signal, cross the line, careful, proceed, step through …   

There were high cirrus clouds on this particular day, long wisps against the palest blue.  A faint breeze.  A hint of smoke, still lingering from the forest fires of the summer.  It was on the cusp, the sky, the air, the day.   It was on a fulcrum, balanced between all that had happened and what was yet to come.

After acknowledging her house (two-story stucco, shaded, with half a fence out front and lumber tossed here and there on the lawn, as if more building were in progress), she walked up the angled sidewalk that led to the front door under an archway flanked by bushes.  The porch was made from stones.  A small brass dog stood next to a bristled mat.  A collar hung around the dog’s neck.  It said “Attack Dachshund.” The bell made a chiming sound when she pushed it, and a delayed summons emitted from deep within.

She listened to the chime and to a plane that droned in the sky, far overhead, and to a distant call of a train. She could feel her heart beating.  It made her entire body move, slightly, like a tree stirred by a breeze.   She pressed the black button again, and heard the chime a second later, and she waited.   The jet’s monotone receded into silence.  The train remained, its presence a rhythmic thrum.   Brown flowers in a pot moved just perceptibly in the late-autumn air.  She turned the knob and gently pushed.   The door swung open and let her in. 

LOCAL OUTLETS:

Fact and Fiction, Missoula, MT; Shakespeare and Co., Missoula, MT.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Black Lawrence Press, Small Press Distribution, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target.

PRICE: $16.95.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: meganmcnamer@meganmcnamer.com.

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How to Grow an Addict

THE BOOK: How to Grow an Addict.

PUBLISHED IN: November 2015.

THE AUTHOR: J.A. Wright.

THE EDITOR: Brooke Warner.

THE PUBLISHER: She Writes Press.

SUMMARY: Randall Grange has been tricked into admitting herself into a treatment center and she doesn’t know why. She’s not a party hound like the others in her therapy group—but then again, she knows she can’t live without pills or booze. Raised by an abusive father, a detached mother, and a loving aunt and uncle, Randall both loves and hates her life. She’s awkward and a misfit. Her parents introduced her to alcohol and tranquilizers at a young age, ensuring that her teenage years would be full of bad choices, and by the time she’s twenty-three years old, she’s a full-blown drug addict, well acquainted with the miraculous power chemicals have to cure just about any problem she could possibly have—and she’s in more trouble than she’s ever known was possible.

J.A. WrightTHE BACK STORY: I’m a recovered drug addict and alcoholic and wanted to write a book that other addicts could relate to, not feel judged, and gain a bit of hope from.

WHY THIS TITLE? The content matches the title.

 REVIEWS:

A  dark, ultimately hopeful story that reveals how a young, female addict is grown (starting with a mean, drunk dad, an equally mean brother, and a distant, damaged mother). I fell for Randall Grange in the first line: ‘I still can’t figure it out.’”  – Barbara Claypole White.

“In a voice that resonates with the little girl, Scout Finch, fom To Kill a Mockingbird, the reader sees through Randall Grange’s eyes the child’s world of constructing values, making sense of what doesn’t have any sense, and realizing there are people to trust and those you can’t.” – Diana Paul.

“I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning reading J.A. Wright’s HOW TO GROW AN ADDICT: A NOVEL because it’s riveting and I couldn’t close the book without knowing how it ends. Dysfunction, chaos, loss, survival, and resiliency are elements that serve to tighten the screws in this gut-wrenching portrayal of recovery that will break your heart wide open.” — Laurie Buchanan.

AUTHOR PROFILE:  J.A. Wright grew up in the Pacific Northwest of the United States and moved to New Zealand in 1990 with her young family. She’s been crafting this novel since she stopped using drugs and alcohol in 1985.

AUTHOR PROFILE:  J.A. Wright grew up in the Pacific Northwest of the United States and moved to New Zealand in 1990 with her young family. She’s been crafting this novel since she stopped using drugs and alcohol in 1985.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: See Amazon page.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Indiebound, Powells.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Various on-line stores.

PRICE: $16.95.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:  j.a.wright2015@gmail.com

Business as Usual

Business as Usual: Corporate Notes from the Zombie Apocalypse by [Kwak, Jessie]

Jessie KwakTHE BOOK: Business as Usual: Corporate Notes From the Zombie Apocalypse.

THE AUTHOR: Jessie Kwak.

PUBLISHED IN: 2017.

THE ILLUSTRATOR: Natalie Metzger.

THE EDITOR: Tricia Callahan.

SUMMARY: Are you worried about the state of business during the zombie apocalypse? You’re not al;one. In my quest to document our new reality, I’ve spent the past year collecting stellar examples of how everyday business people like you and me are keeping their chins up during the apocalypse.

A collection of short, punchy zombie stories told through the medium of e-mail chains, webinar scripts and internal memos, Business as Usual is the laugh-out-loud break in your day you deserve.

THE BACK STORY: I wrote Business as Usual accidentally. A few years ago, a friend was publishing a collection of feminist bicycle science fiction stories with a zombie theme (specific, I know), and asked me to contribute. At first I thought, I don’t have anything interesting to say about zombies! But since I was in the midst of a freelance job writing catalog copy for a bicycle company, I immediately started imagining how the industry would shift to accommodate the zombie apocalypse.

I wrote the first story in the collection, “Notes to Creative on the Fall 1 Catalog: Zombie Apocalypse Special Edition,” in about 30 minutes, giggling the whole time.

The second story came a few years later, after I saw a call for submissions for a sci-fi anthology about woman educators. I had recently watched a webinar from one of my clients, a company that makes employee onboarding software, and within an hour I had the first draft of “Don’t Miss Today’s Webinar on ExitZ, the World’s Only Zombie Employee Offboarding Software Solution.”

After that I couldn’t stop. I wrote a blog titled “These Six Jaw-Dropping Stats about Zombies Will Transform Your B2B Content Marketing Program” and pitched it to McSweeney’s. It was accepted! Then I enlisted my friend Natalie Metzger to draw some comics, wrote a few more zombie stories, and pushed the thing out the door.

Basically, this was my twisted attempt to stop myself from inserting stupid zombie jokes into actual client projects. So far it’s worked.

WHY THIS TITLE? The title came to me in a flash, just like each of the stories had. (This is unusual for me — normally, I’m as slow writer and terrible at coming up with titles). As soon as I wrote it down I started giggling uncontrollably, so I figured I had a winner.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? This is a weird little book designed to bring some levity to your day. If you work in an office — or have ever been on the receiving end of a corporate memo — you’ll get a kick out of it.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“Highly amusing tongue-in-cheek read. Trouble is, it could be where I work, it sounds so convincing.” — Angie.

AUTHOR PROFILE: Jessie Kwak is a freelance writer living in Portland, Oregon. When she’s not working on B2B marketing copy for clients, you can find her scribbling away on her latest gangster science fiction novel, road tripping with her husband, or attempting to tailor a three-piece suit for herself.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: “I’d forgotten how much fun I have writing humor — working on Business as Usual has sparked some really fun ideas for relates series — think Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets The Office, set in a coworking space at the onset of the apocalypse. Stay tuned!

SAMPLE CHAPTER: I’ll point you to the story on McSweeney’s, as well as the Amazon page, where you can see Natalie’s great illustrations.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Just on Amazon at the moment. I’m working on getting it into gift shops and book stores in Portland.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon

PRICE: $2.99 ebook, $6.99 paperback

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Come find me at www.jessiekwak.com, follow me on Twitter (@jkwak), or just shoot me an email jessie at jessiekwak.com.

 

Weather Report, Nov. 13

Anguilla

THIS WEEK’S CURRENTLY FEATURED BOOKS, “”ALL THE DIFFERENCE,” BY PATRICIA HORVATH AND “AMERICAN AMNESIAC,” BY DIANE RAPTOSH, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST, ALONG WITH THE “FIRST TUESDAY REPLAY.” OR CLICK ON THE AUTHORS’ NAMES ON OUR AUTHOR PAGE.

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The first book ever featured on Snowflakes was Brian Simpson’s “Island Dogs,” in May of 2015.  I loved that story then, and I still do.

The setting for Brian’s novel was the Caribbean island of Anguilla, one of those recently savaged by the one-two punch of hurricanes Irma and Maria. Typically, the mass media focused on the plight of the people there — most of whom depend upon tourism to put food on their tables — for about five minutes before moving on to other stories.

That’s one reason why Brian would like to help, even in a small way. He writes:

“My wife and I have lived in a lot of places in our lifetime, but living in Anguilla for a couple of years changed us forever. The white beaches, the blue water, the fantastic music, the beyond delicious foods, and of course, the truly amazing people of the island will remain a part of our lives and in our hearts no matter where our future takes us.

“While we have sent what we could to help some of our friends who suffered destruction from the recent hurricanes, we want to do more. After some discussion, we came up with an idea to help generate funds for the island restoration projects while giving people a little something for their money.

“From now until December 31, 2017 we will donate 100% of the profits from the Amazon sales of Island Dogs, a novel by BM Simpson, to the Blooms Anguilla Relief Fund.

“The novel Island Dogs is a story of five expats from around the world who befriend each other in a bar in Anguilla as each of them tries to put their dysfunctional life back on the right track. Throw in a local bartender, an island beauty, a local woman who is shrewder than most could imagine, a Frenchman who gets in over his head and a few more characters in the mix and you have the recipe for Island Dogs, the novel.

“Of course, wanting the book to be authentic, I did a fair amount of research at some of the great island bars such as the Ferry Boat Inn, the Pump House, Sunshine Shack, Elvis’s, Sandy Island, The Dune and several fine establishments on the island. All of them were inspirational to writing the novel.

“So, if you want to help Anguilla with their rebuilding efforts and read a fun, island novel about some dysfunctional expats and the friendships they kindled while living in Anguilla, go to the link below and help us raise funds for the restoration of our beautiful island. Every purchase will be appreciated and every penny of profit from the Amazon sales will be donated to the fund.”

UPCOMING ON SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, NOV. 14-20.

“CHILDREN AND LUNATICS,” BY MEGAN McNAMER.

​In Children and Lunatics, the 21st century is new and fragile, the center barely holding. Wars, terrorists and hurricanes are on TV. A silent street person and a suburban mother share intimate spheres of love and grief and odd obsessions, although they barely meet. As their paths converge, an eerie world hovers, casting shadows and flickering lights, igniting fears and dreams.

A war death hovers around the happenings — a high school boy gone off to Iraq and instantly killed. ​ This occurs off stage and is signaled to the reader through the street person’s sense of a lost brother and the suburban mother’s giddy anxieties flung around her own son. No one is quite clear about the nature of the world they live in except to know that their own control is tenuous.

 
“HOW TO GROW AN ADDICT,” BY J.A. WRIGHT
 
Randall Grange has been tricked into admitting herself into a treatment center and she doesn’t know why. She’s not a party hound like the others in her therapy group—but then again, she knows she can’t live without pills or booze. Raised by an abusive father, a detached mother, and a loving aunt and uncle, Randall both loves and hates her life.
 
She’s awkward and a misfit. Her parents introduced her to alcohol and tranquilizers at a young age, ensuring that her teenage years would be full of bad choices, and by the time she’s twenty-three years old, she’s a full-blown drug addict, well acquainted with the miraculous power chemicals have to cure just about any problem she could possibly have—and she’s in more trouble than she’s ever known was possible.

 

BUSINESS AS USUAL,” BY JESSIE KWAK

Writes Jessie, whose “Shifting Borders” was previously featured on Snowflakes:

“Are you worried about the state of business during the zombie apocalypse? You’re not alone. In my quest to document our new reality, I’ve spent the past year collecting stellar examples of how everyday businesspeople like you and me are keeping their chins up during the apocalypse.

“A collection of short, punchy zombie stories told through the medium of email chains, webinar scripts, and internal memos, Business as Usual is the laugh-out-loud break in your day you deserve.”

All the Difference

All the Difference by [Horvath, Patricia]THIS WEEK’S OTHER FEATURED BOOK, “AMERICAN AMNESIAC,” BY DIANE RAPTOSH, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST, ALONG WITH THE “FIRST TUESDAY REPLAY.” OR, YOU CAN CLICK THE AUTHOR’S NAME ON OUR AUTHOR PAGE.

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THE BOOK: All the Difference

PUBLISHED IN: 2017

THE AUTHOR: Patricia Horvath

THE PUBLISHER: Etruscan Press

Etruscan is a non-profit literary press working to produce and promote books that nurture the dialogue among genres, cultures, and voices.

http://etruscanpress.org/

SUMMARY: All the Difference is a captivating account of the author’s transformation from a visibly disabled young woman to someone who could, abruptly, “pass” for able-bodied. In prose that is searing and humorous Patricia Horvath details her experiences with bracing and spinal fusion, as she considers the literature of physical transformation and how folk and fairy tales shape our attitudes towards the disabled.

Image result for Patricia Horvath + author + photos

Diagnosed with scoliosis as an adolescent, Patricia Horvath wore a brace for three years and, when that failed to work, her spine was fused and she was immobilized in a chin-to-knee cast for nearly half a year. She had to relearn how to walk; more significantly, she had to learn to fashion an identity as a person who was no longer seen–and treated–as disabled. All the Difference considers the relationship between disability and self-identity–what happens to one’s sense of self when a physical disability ceases to be visible. Along the way the book takes in family relationships, class dynamics, 1970s pop and drug culture, mythology and fairy tales of transformation, romantic love, and the myriad ways in which women’s bodies are commodified.

THE BACK STORY:  “All the Difference resulted from my reaction to a diagnosis of osteoporosis while I was still in my 30s. I felt that my body had once again “betrayed” me, and the diagnosis re-opened many submerged feelings I had about my spinal fusion and bracing from my adolescent years. The impetus for my writing is two-pronged: vexation and inquiry. That is, something is bothering me, and I need to understand why. The “something” in this case was my body, and the need to understand my complex relationship to it is the source of this book.

“I originally wrote All the Difference as a short story, and the members of my writing group, after asking me pointed questions about that story’s genesis, pushed me to write the “actual” story of my experience. In the process of writing All the Difference, I found my old medical records as well as my journal entries from that time of my life, and an account that my mother wrote for a Continuing Education course at Fairfield University. All of those eventually made their way into the book. It’s one of the few times in my life when I felt happy to be a pack rat.”

WHY THIS TITLE?:  The title derives from the final line in Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken.” All the Difference examines issues of personal autonomy as they relate to disabled people and the notion that the able-bodied and the disabled inhabit distinct and separate paths. The book considers the porous boundary between the able-bodied and the physically disabled.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT?  All the Difference is unique among memoirs for its strong narrative arc, conveying the author’s transformation from a visibly disabled young woman to someone who could, abruptly, “pass” for able-bodied. The book will particularly appeal to people interested in literary nonfiction, coming of age stories, disability studies, and feminist body issues.

Author Patricia Horvath provides a moving account of her struggles with physical disability and her subsequent ambivalence about “passing” for able-bodied. The book considers how disability is configured broadly in literature and explores the ways in which women’s bodies are subject to scrutiny. Her story will certainly resonate with a wide readership, especially readers are grappling with their own body issues.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“In her elegant book All the Difference, Patricia Horvath recounts the difficult time of wrestling both with medical challenges and adolescence. It is a graceful story not of overcoming challenge, but of accepting it.” — Nina MacLaughin, The Boston Globe

“A beautifully written, thoughtful memoir… Remarkably, there is not a sentence that hints of self-pity or lashes out at fate for the injustice or pain of her circumstances. Horvath’s short memoir is full of pleasures.” — Jonna Semeiks, Confrontation

“All the Difference is the poignant story of a woman’s struggle with scoliosis and early onset osteoporosis, but it is also the story of navigating the fractures of family and growing up. Horvath carefully excavates the fault lines and intersections of these powerful strands in her narrative, writing a heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful story about acceptance.” — Martha McPhee Author of Bright Angel Time & Dear Money

“All the Difference is as brave, honest, and beautiful a book as I have read in years. The book abounds in wonderfully vivid scenes and great humor even as it makes us understand the cruel and curious ways the bodies we live with create—both physically and emotionally—who we are. A stunning, memorable achievement.” — Jay Neugeboren, Author of Imagining Robert

AUTHOR PROFILE:  Patricia Horvath’s stories and essays have appeared in numerous literary journals, including The Massachusetts Review, The Los Angeles Review, New Ohio Review, Shenandoah, Confrontation, The Laurel Review, 2 Bridges Review, and Cream City Review. A recipient of New York Foundation for the Arts fellowships in both fiction and literary nonfiction, she was awarded Bellevue Literary Review’s Goldenberg Prize in Fiction for a story that was accorded a Special Mention in the 2013 Pushcart Prize anthology. Her essay “Wrath” was named a Notable Essay of 2015 in Best American Essays. She teaches at Framingham State University in Massachusetts and divides her time between Cambridge, MA, and Harlem, NY where she lives with her husband, Jeff, and her cat, Puck.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: “All the Difference considers the porous border between the disabled and the able-bodied. Author Patricia Horvath recounts her journey from being identifiably disabled to someone who abruptly ceases to bear the visible markers of disability.

“At a time when we have, in our highest office, someone who feels free to mock the disabled, All the Difference examines a range of attitudes towards physical disability. The book examines the myriad ways in which our literature conflates physical disability with moral failing. A coming of age story, All the Difference is, as well, an account of family dyamics, romantic love, the ways in which our bodies define us, and the even greater ways in which we push back against those definitions.”

SAMPLE CHAPTER:

Testifying

 

I moved to New York during the first year of the new century, a boom time, though my neighborhood, Central Harlem, was not yet booming.

The sales office for my building was a double wide trailer parked on West 116th Street. The marketing director, a formidable woman with a crown of coiled braids, referred to me as her “queen.” As in: “And how is my queen today?”

Like the other women in the office sh was overtly religious, and on the day I signed the purchase and sale agreement for my unit, a Sunday, she celebrated by inviting me into the office staff’s prayer circle. I stood between her and the accountant in a group of a dozen or so praying, swaying women, all of us holding hands.

Some of the women “testified”—about struggles overcome, family members who needed help, a son in prison, a daughter with an addiction, a diploma recently achieved, people who needed prayers of supplication or thanks. I didn’t know the words to the prayers and I had no inclination to testify, but I felt moved to be included in this circle, to have crossed some invisible barrier from client to communicant.

When it was my turn to give thanks, I said simply, I’m so happy to be here.

Across the street from my new building were two vacant lots heaped with demolished car parts that glittered in the sun.

The lone neighborhood supermarket had brown lettuce, sawdust-strewn floors, gangsta rap. There were abandoned buildings on both sides of every block. Crack vials crunched underfoot; I had to pay attention whenever I wore sandals. But my apartment was large and sunny, and every day, weather permitting, I went for a walk in Central Park.

I had only to read the paper to be reminded, starkly, of how my neighborhood differed from New York below 110th Street.

There, people ate gold-flecked desserts in celebrity restaurants. Hermès kept a waiting list for five-figure Birkin bags. A famous woman with a famous father backed her Mercedes SUV into a crowd of people milling about a Hamptons nightclub while screaming “Fuck you, white trash!”

I’d known about the excess before moving, of course. Still, the contrast between where and how I lived and the antics taking place to the south was jarring. One day, I no longer recall where, I read an article about a couple who had plastic surgery and liked the results so much that they decided to have their children undergo the process, too, “So we’ll look more like a family.”

I’d been diagnosed with osteoporosis only a few months earlier, and it occurred to me that this was a serviceable metaphor for the creative person in the consumerist vortex that was twenty-first century Manhattan. So I wrote a story in which a woman, a poet, is shrinking so rapidly that she has to carry a milk crate to stand on. When she disappears entirely, no one notices.

The story, being somewhat heavy-handed, didn’t really work. It was funny, but tainted by bitterness. I knew that. Still, I showed it to some colleagues in my writing group, who asked me about the piece’s genesis.

So I told them. About my osteoporosis and then, haltingly, about its precursor, scoliosis, the years I’d worn back braces and body casts, my spinal fusion at age fifteen, the difficulty I’d had re-learning how to walk, the even greater difficulty of learning to see myself as “able-bodied.”

I’d known these women for years. We’d gone to grad school together, had met every Thursday night for dinner and workshops, and had stayed in touch when school ended.

They were astonished. We had no idea, they said. Why didn’t you ever tell us?

It doesn’t seem important anymore. Even as I said this, I knew it was a lie, a way of distancing myself from the house of cards I still felt my body to be.

That’s the story you need to write. They were adamant and unanimous. I didn’t want to listen. These women, my confidantes, were urging me to open a door I’d nailed shut. No, I thought, I’ll never write that; it’s nothing I want to revisit.

But I knew they were right. Without vexation, another word for conflict, there’s no story. I’d held back for so long, erased so many years. Difficult as it might prove, maybe writing would be a way to reclaim them.

The next day I began.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Book Culture, New York, NY; Porter Square Books, Cambridge MA; Barnes & Noble, Framingham, MA

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, Goodreads

PRICE: $16.95

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Contact the author through her webpage: https://patricialhorvath.com/

 

American Amnesiac

THE BOOK: American Amnesiac.

PUBLISHED IN:    2013

THE AUTHOR: Diane Raptosh.

THE EDITOR: Phil Brady.

THE PUBLISHER: Etruscan Press: a non-profit literary press working to produce and promote books that nurture the dialogue among genres, cultures, and voices.

SUMMARY: By way of summary, here is an excerpt from a review in Rain Taxi by Daniela Gioseffi:

“American Amnesiac is Diane Raptosh’s fourth book of poetry, and very possibly her best. She attempts something quite unusual with this magnum opus—one long poem spoken in the persona of an older [white] man suffering from amnesia. The book constitutes his stream of consciousness as he attempts to piece together who he is and what he’s experienced in his American life. His situation is laid bare on the first page of the book: “I . . . / woke in Civic Center Park three states away, four hundred bucks / stuffed in my right sleeve. My life has always been a flock of mishaps // waiting to take flight.”

Diane Raptosh“A poignant and interesting saga follows, page after page, as the amnesiac travels through America in and out of his mind, commenting on the meaninglessness of his journey and the story of his life that only comes to him in bits and snatches of memory. It is a skillfully written journey through the American cultural landscape, as our “John Doe” becomes “a man missing a nation and a wife, strung up between a past / I may not want and a present in which I cannot make myself at ease.”

“‘John Doe,’ as he prefers to call himself, thinks he may be anyone from a ‘Calvin J. Ex sous chef . . . to a ‘Think-tanker in Singapore. Financial Consultant. Art historian. / Husband. Apprentice in P.R. NGO pundit.’ His rambling thoughts carry us through seventy-two pages of his memories, snatches of speculations and ironic pronouncements that constitute a meandering critique of American culture.”

THE BACK STORY: I wrote the book after a number of decades of studying America. I started seeing so many disturbing patterns, having to do with growing income inequality, diminishing options for developing selfhood, environmental degradation, and white fear (One key line in the work is “Pale males will not have been the wronged minority / despite what they will no doubt come to say.” And here we are in 2017: the era of white nationalism. The book took about three years to write, but I had been researching the themes–studying how power works in the U.S.–for basically my whole life.

WHY THIS TITLE?: It’s basically self evident: a book-length dramatic monologue spoken by an amnesiac in the U.S.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? Anyone who wants to understand how America works–what its real priorities are–and anyone who enjoys humor and language play, cultural analysis and crossword puzzles, poetry and philosophy, music and art, food and the news, should read it. It came out in 2013 but was quite prescient in terms of its pointing the way to the present political moment.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“Neither do we [readers] recognize this world in which we are caught in our own delusions and jumbled recollections that boggle the brain into a uniquely American amnesia. Ultimately, that is the point of this stirring saga.”– Daniela Gioseffi, Rain Taxi

“American Amnesiac is an epic poem of sorts – to the extent that our age allows the possibility of an extended and culturally unifying narrative – and it asks us to consider notions of greatness that run counter to our usual veneration of the individual. Cal’s loss of identity is an unsettling, ominous, and particularly American condition, but, in Raptosh’s hands, it also opens up the possibility of a positive transformation.” — Hartskill Review

“When Adrienne Rich won the Yale Younger Poets Award in 1951, few people felt the United States was on the path of becoming a country that would embrace marriage equality and an African American president. What these poems do best is to synthesize our experience—both intellectually and emotionally—and try to make sense out of the cacophony. Like Rich, Raptosh sees a changed world, and the poems in American Amnesiac point with a “spine of possible decency” toward it.” –Marc Sheehan, Weave Magazine

“The character’s pretended amnesia is infecting in the sense that the poems manage to distract us by their continuously funny and captivating surprises, thus swiftly transforming us from bewildered witnesses into pervert accomplices to this psychological suicidal (as we enjoy the riddles and pretend to forget they are actually about us too).  Therefore, Raptosh’s ingenious scenarios speak not only about contemporary human condition, but also about the cultural and linguistic conditions of engaging with that condition.” — Margento, A U-Ottowa Arts Website

AUTHOR PROFILE: Diane Raptosh’s fourth book of poetry, American Amnesiac (Etruscan Press) was longlisted for the 2013 National Book Award as well as a

finalist for the Housatonic Book Award in poetry. The recipient of three fellowships in literature from the Idaho Commission on the Arts as well as a grant from the Alexa Rose Foundation, she served as Boise Poet Laureate (2013) as well as the Idaho Writer-in-Residence (2013-2016), the highest literary honor in the state. An active poetry ambassador, she has published widely in peer-reviewed journals and anthologies and has given poetry workshops everywhere from riverbanks to maximum-security prisons. She teaches creative writing and runs the program in Criminal Justice/Prison Studies at The College of Idaho, where she holds the Eyck Berringer Endowed Chair in Literature. Her fifth book of poems, Human Directional, was published by Etruscan Press in Fall 2016. She lives in Boise, Idaho with her family. Find her website here:
http://www.dianeraptosh.com

AUTHOR COMMENTS: “In the tradition of 19th-century figures like Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, I feel I am very much a poet of America. I had for a long time wanted to write a great big American poem, following the tradition(s) of some of the nation’s best writers, not all of them poets: Adrienne Rich and James Baldwin are two of my all time writing heroes. But I knew I needed to put my own signature on such a work. Hence, in ​American Amnesiac:  the humor, the crazy word-play, the dissociative elements of the book that befit an amnesiac as well as speak from the fractured contemporary American psyche we all share.”

SAMPLE CHAPTER: (Sample poem):

The self is a thousand localities
The self is a thousand localities
like a small nation—assembly required: borders and roads,

armies, farms, small and large pieces of parchment. I stand by
all the territories I have ever been, even as I can’t

remember them. I am a locum—ear to the emperor penguin, a banner ad
blinking to the hoi polloi. Since I’ve become John Doe, I swear

I can feel most objects with sixty digits
instead of five. This makes me think

of Lisette. Makes me miss her left collar bone. Her hips’ wingtips.
A train moans from a far hummock.

Which reminds me that everyone I’ll have to live without
I must help to find a place within. Which is an act

of granite will. A strain. A ditty.
An exercise in utmost beautility.

From American Amnesiac (Etruscan Press 2013)  by Diane Raptosh

LOCAL OUTLETS: Rediscovered Books, Boise; Barnes and Noble, Boise

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Etruscan Press http://etruscanpress.org/​


PRICE: $16.00

 

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: draptosh@collegeofidaho.edu; https://www.facebook.com/DianeJRaptosh/​  ; Twitter: @DianeRaptosh  ;  https://dianeraptosh.tumblr.com/​

 

First Tuesday Replay, Nov. 7

THIS FEATURE HAS A TWO-FOLD PURPOSE: 1. TO ALLOW THOSE RECENTLY ADDED TO OUR FOLLOWER’S LIST TO LEARN ABOUT BOOKS THEY MIGHT HAVE MISSED AND 2. TO MAKE SURE PREVIOUSLY FEATURED AUTHORS AND THEIR WORK AREN’T FORGOTTEN. IF YOU’D LIKE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT ANY ONE OF THE BOOKS REVISITED HERE, SIMPLY CLICK ON THE “AUTHOR” PAGE, THEN ON THAT AUTHOR’S NAME.

“THE SILENCED,” BY JAMES DeVITA

In the aftermath of the Millenium War, the new Zero Tolerance government focuses on the safety inherent in homogeneity of political thinking, ethnic origin, and appearance. A wall has been constructed around the southern part of the country and suspected families relocated into a “re-dap” community in which the young people can be educated into right-thinking. But within her Youth Training Facility, Marina has found some kindred souls: an art teacher who encourages her, a boyfriend with whom she sneaks out at night, and a rebellious newcomer. As she gradually retrieves her memories of her mother’s death, Marina determines to honor her spirit, starting her own resistance movement, the White Rose. This leads to a horrifying discovery: the tool the party uses to silence wrong-thinkers permanently.

“A RED, RED ROSE,” BY SUSAN CORYELL.

When twenty-year-old Ashby Overton travels to Overhome Estate in Southern Virginia for the summer, she hopes to unearth her ancestral roots and the cause of a mysterious family rift surrounding the horseback riding death of her Grandmother Lenore many years ago.

From the moment she enters her room in the oldest wing, Ashby feels an invisible, enfolding presence. She learns the room belonged to a woman named Rosabelle, but no one is willing to talk about Rosabelle—no one except Luke, the stable boy who captures her heart. As Ashby and Luke become closer, she realizes he can be the confidant she needs to share the terrifying, unfolding secrets.

Ever present is a force Ashby never sees, only feels. Candles light themselves, notes from an old lullaby fall from the ceiling, the radio tunes itself each day. And roses, always meant for Ashby, appear in the unlikeliest places. Are the roses a symbol of love, or do they represent something dark, something deep and evil?

“ADIRONDACK GOLD,” BY PERSIS GRANGER.

Hollis Ingraham, a young Adirondack boy of the 1890s is forced by his widowed mother’s poverty to go to live on the farm of grandparents he hardly knows, and who, he senses, do not like his mother. He strives to earn the approval of his seemingly angry grandfather by mastering chores on the farm, and, in the process, learns more about his deceased father and the cause of his grandfather’s bitterness.

In the 1970s and ‘80s, my husband and I were subsistence farming on an old farm in the so”uthern Adirondacks, heating mostly with wood, growing large gardens and raising pigs, cows and chickens for family food. I thought about how much work it was for us even though using modern equipment, and marveled that farmers in the 19th century had done it.  My admiration grew for those humble farm families of the past, and I wanted to share that proud history with youth of today whose roots reach deep into that tradition. I wanted them to understand the responsibility assumed by children early Adirondack family farms and to be proud of their heritage.”

“FRATERNITY OF FRACTURES, BY MARK PANNEBECKER.

Phoenix and Justin Sunder are master cat burglars and best friends until Dylan Panicosky enters their circle of hedonism and crime. Set in the blighted city of St. Louis in the ’80s, Fraternity of Fractures is a love triangle played out in an urban setting full of nocturnal decadence and danger, with all the players fractured in their own way.

“FALLEN,” BY MELINDA INMAN

From Melinda: “I spent twenty years researching the biblical and the mythological stories surrounding the Garden of Eden. My own curiosity inspired my research.  First, I examined the ancient Hebrew record. I was then delighted to find many similarities to the biblical version in myth, each with their own twist, depending on the culture. This common story spanned cultures. But I was disturbed to see misogynistic ideas arise within myth across all cultures. Spending so much time mulling over the implications of our human roots, the novel took shape in my mind, and I began to write in 2008.”

 

“SWINGING ON THE GARDEN GATE,” BY ELIZABETH JARRETT ANDREW.

Andrew skillfully and seamlessly weaves the threads of spirituality, sexuality and the creative process out of the compelling events of her life. The spark of spirit she finds embedded in her body she also discovers throughout the solid matter of life — in childhood, in nature, in encounters with death and loss and wild growth. Her exploration of the sacred is vivid, fresh, and grounded in the details of ordinary days.: