Barrie Hill Reunion

BARRIE HILL REUNION by [Brodey, Lisette]THIS WEEK’S OTHER FEATURED BOOKS, “EVANGELICALISM AND THE DECLINE OF AMERICAN POLITICS,” BY JAN LINN, AND “THE FOURTH CORNER OF THE WORLD,” BY SCOTT NADELSON, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST, OR BY CLICKING THE AUTHOR’S NAME ON OUR AUTHORS PAGE.

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THE BOOK: Barrie Hill Reunion

PUBLISHED IN: 2017

THE AUTHOR: Lisette Brodey

SUMMARY: Eight people. One weekend. Eight lives forever changed. In the mid-1960s, at an elite college in the quaint town of Barrie Hill, Connecticut, a group of literary-minded students met regularly off-campus at the Vanessa Grand Hotel. Often late into the night, they would discuss the day’s news, analyze literature, philosophize, trade barbs, and socialize. Twenty years after graduation, in 1986, the group’s founder, Clare Dreyser, organizes a weekend reunion. Seven former Barrie Hillers and one guest get together, eager to re-create an extraordinary time in their lives and reunite with old friends. From the outset, and baffling the group, Leah Brent displays a brash, condescending attitude for nearly everyone and everything. To the chagrin of actor Bart Younger, Leah immediately lays out the unwelcome mat for his wife, Aimee. No one, not even Leah’s husband, Colin, is immune to her wrath, but Leah is relentless in her bizarre and cruel quest to bring down her primary target: Clare. As the reunion progresses, the Barrie Hillers strive to enjoy their time together as they become enmeshed in personal dramas, struggle with matters of ethics, and weather escalating uncertainties that threaten to destroy their lives. By Saturday night, the second day of the reunion, karma makes a surprising and shocking visit. As the Barrie Hillers’ time together draws to an end, each is changed forever.

Lisette BrodeyTHE BACK STORY: When I was attending Pace University in New York City, my grandmother came to visit me for the weekend from Philadelphia. That Sunday, she took me to brunch at the Algonquin Hotel. It was then that I learned about the Algonquin Round Table, the famous group of witty people who met there for lunch from 1919 until 1929 or thereabouts. It was so long ago that I barely remember the experience, but I do remember that I was pulled in by my surroundings as I imagined the laughter and the conversation of days past.

The inspiration was instant, and I knew I wanted to write a story about the reunion of a college literary group and set it in a hotel similar to the Algonquin. Back in those days, I wasn’t very good at finishing things, but I did write an intriguing, albeit unfinished, short story. Not wanting to lose it, I thought I had better make a copy. My roommate at the time had worked in an office and I’d asked her if she could “Xerox” it for me. She’d completely forgot to do it and I’d forgotten that my brilliant idea and story had ever existed.

Fast forward eight years. I’m now living in Los Angeles and my former roommate is getting rid of stuff she had collected, finds my story, and mails it to me. I was overjoyed. Instead of finishing it, I turned it into a one-act play. For the sake of brevity, I’m going to leave out a lot of needless details, and fast-forward again many years to when I turned it into a two-act play. Now, I’m going to skip decades and tell you that I finally turned the story into a novel that I published in October 2017. The characters all have their original names I’d given them. I did make several tweaks to some of their characters, and because I was writing a novel, I was able to write sub-plots that really brought the story together.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT?  It is very much a character-driven story. I might even call it an “emotional thriller” as there is a lot of tension throughout.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

While many of Lisette Brodey’s books have dealt with painful issues and struggle between feeling people, Barrie Hill Reunion, in some ways, is the harshest of all; taking place under the polite veneer of a weekend reunion. You wait and wait; watch the cracks for; wait for something to break and then… well, that’s enough.

* * *

This book was fascinating. I’ve never read anything like this. It was such an interesting panorama of characters, almost like a study of different personalities. I loved that there was one overreaching plot arc, but within that umbrella were several subplots involving smaller groups of characters, and that these subplots all came together in the end. You wonder as it’s going along how they all will relate; there is secrecy and manipulation and yearning and desperation, and you’re reminded that we all have deep dark secrets we keep from others.

***

The dialogue-rich narrative drives the plot and exposes twenty years of secrets, passions, and lives gone awry. Among the friends present, one in particular stands out. Leah Brent, who lacks any self-critical conscience bulldozes her way into conversations with an acid tongue. She hurls insults for sport and takes great pride in causing pain for the others. You know she will eventually get her ‘just desserts,’ but you have no idea how sweet it will be. With numerous surprises along the way, Ms. Brodey doles out each morsel like pieces of calorie-rich chocolate. The journey to discovery is quite delicious.

AUTHOR PROFILE: In my early career, while living in New York City, I handled special events (and much more) for a trade association of New York radio stations, reps, and networks. When I left that job, I moved to Los Angeles for several years and worked at both CBS Studio Center (then CBS/MTM) and Paramount Studios. I worked as an assistant to many executives and producers. While I have lots of stories, working for Hollywood executives is not a job I’d recommend to many. Enough said! I returned to the East Coast and for many years worked as a freelance writer. I was a copywriter on several major marketing campaigns and had a resume business, too. In 2010, I moved back to Los Angeles. I am a multi-genre author of seven novels (though I am currently finishing a collection of short stories), and am already cooking up trouble with plans for my next novel. In addition to writing, I work as a SAG background actor from time to time. (Working on set is much better than working in executive offices!)

AUTHOR COMMENTS: I write about real people. When I say that, I do not mean that my characters are living or dead people in disguise. They are not. But I listen to my characters when they speak. While I may work hard to craft my narrative, I approach dialogue in a different way. I allow the characters to say what they want, use profanity if that’s what they do, act rude if they are so inclined, be funny and ridiculous, and spill secrets (even to me.) I strive to write relatable novels that I hope will entertain people or give someone a new way to think about something that may be going on in their lives.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: myBook.to/BarrieHillReunion

WHERE TO BUY IT: It is available in paperback ($14.95) and Kindle ($3.99) editions on Amazon. Members of Kindle Unlimited can read it for free.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:

Website: http://lisettebrodey.com/

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Lisette-Brodey/e/B002TBELOY/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1516669578&sr=8-1

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LisetteBrodey

Facebook Author page: https://www.facebook.com/BrodeyAuthor/

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Evangelicalism and the Decline of American Politics

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51e7q8wcVtL._SY346_.jpgTHE BOOK: Evangelicalism and the Decline of American Politics

PUBLISHED IN: 2017

THE AUTHOR:  Jan G. Linn

THE PUBLISHER: Cascade Books, the academic imprint of Wipf & Stock Publishers

SUMMARY: Beginning in the 1970s evangelical Christians decided to become involved in our nation’s political life by becoming Republican partisans. Today they are widely considered the Republican Party’s most reliable constituency. During this same period American politics has become more bitter, chaotic, divisive, and dysfunctional. There is a significant bipartisan consensus that the Republican Party bears the most responsibility for this state of our nation’s politics. This is not an endorsement of Democratic policies, only an assessment of why our government no longer gets anything done and why bitter disagreement is more common than cooperation.

What is often ignored, though, is the role evangelicals are playing in what is happening. This book connects the dots between evangelical theology and evangelical politics. The key factor in both is their “no compromise” attitude that sees negotiations as a betrayal of moral principles, confident as they are that they are doing God’s work here on earth. The result, as this book shows, is bad politics and bad religion, both of which are out of step with the views of most Americans. It concludes with suggestions for what evangelicals can do to abandon political partisanship and theological exclusivism that will help both Christianity and the nation.

THE BACK STORY: The relationship between religion and politics has been a point of controversy since our nation was founded. In recent years both seem to have become toxic as the line between them has become more and more blurred. My research led to me to see a link between partisan evangelicalism that began to emerge in 1979 and our nation’s political divisions. The book seeks to identify, explain, and examine that link.

Writing this book was an experience different from anything I have written previously. The nature of the subject and the required research led me into an intensive writing period of six months, literally seven days a week, with some days lasting twelve plus hours. One thing would lead to another and I was so engrossed in the research and fascinated by my findings that I could not stop writing.

WHY THIS TITLE?: The book’s title was intentionally self-explanatory to alert readers to the nature of the subject.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? We are living in serious times as a nation. We are divided as a people, our federal government is dysfunctional, and state governments are passing laws that fit into the category of what is called “morals regulations,” that is, seeking to legislate morality. Evangelicals are playing a major role in these efforts, doing damage to the image all Christians bear and damage to the nation’s political life.

REVIEW COMMENTS: “In this provocative book, Jan Linn argues that the evangelical theological movement is responsible for the extremism of right wing politics, and the incivility that characterizes so much of contemporary public life. Linn does not take potshots. He writes from the perspective of a former insider who grew up in evangelicalism and who understands many of its dynamics. Linn points to a way forward: partisan religio-politics giving way to respectful dialogue in a context of critical thinking in which participants are informed by education and are willing to compromise. This volume is excellent for individual reading and as a resource for group study.”   Ronald J. Allen, Professor of Preaching, and of Gospels and Letters, Christian Theological Seminary

“With deft analysis and an impressive command of the contemporary political and religious scene, Jan G. Linn lays bare the cultural captivity of evangelicalism to the Republican Party. The consequence, as he demonstrates, has been detrimental to both, as well as to the public good. Evangelicalism and the Decline of American Politics provides a cautionary tale about the dangers of conflating religion and politics.”   Randall Balmer, John Phillips Professor in Religion, Dartmouth University

AUTHOR PROFILE: Jan G. Linn has served as chaplain and a member of the teaching faculty at Lynchburg College in Virginia, and was Professor of the Practice of Ministry at Lexington Theological Seminary in Kentucky before giving up tenure to become co-pastor with his wife of a new church start in Minnesota. After fourteen years he retired to write fulltime. He is the author of fifteen books, and has a widely read blog, “Thinking Against The Grain,” at linnposts.com.

Jan’s primary interest has been the intersection of religion and politics. In 2004 he wrote the groundbreaking book, What’s Wrong With The Christian Right, the first if its kind at the time to explore the role of the Christian Right in American life and American politics.

SAMPLE CHAPTER:

Introduction:

This book is about people I know, people in my family, people I grew up with, went to school with, went to church with, people who believe things I once believed, people who are still friends of mine. I was teaching and serving as chaplain in my hometown of Lynchburg, Virginia in 1979 when Jerry Falwell founded the Moral Majority.

For several years I got calls from reporters looking for information on Falwell they could use for a scoop of some sort. I was a prime choice for interviews because I grew up the neighborhood where he did. Some of his family attended the same church where my family belonged, and some of my family, uncles, aunts, and cousins on my mother’s side, attended his church.

But I didn’t learn evangelicalism by knowing Jerry Falwell. I was raised in it. My home church was the largest evangelical church in our city, actually the largest church period, long before Thomas Road Baptist Church came along. Falwell himself attended my church as a teenager though he never acknowledged that in public as far as I know. I have heard evangelical theology all my life, that God loved me and that Jesus came to save me from my sins, that I needed to accept Jesus into my heart and walk the straight and narrow way to get to heaven. I did as I was told and spent my adolescent and teen years singing gospel songs and trying my best to be good.

This was the evangelicalism of my youth and it is evangelicalism today. For some of us, though, as children we spoke like an evangelical child, thought like an evangelical child, and reasoned like an evangelical child, but when we became adults, we put away evangelical things (1 Corinthians 13:11). Others did not, ending up becoming members of a collective evangelical constituency of the Republican Party. In short, they moved from the pew to ballot box, bringing the certainty of their religious beliefs into partisan politics to the point where the federal government is virtually dysfunctional.

There is, as I will show, a very real and dangerous connection between Republican obstructionism in Washington and evangelical theology. Evangelicals do not consider any possibility that what they believe may be wrong. There is no shade of gray in their religious convictions or their worldview. There are right and wrong beliefs and they know which is which. After years of hearing recalcitrant Republicans in Congress talk the same way about their political views as I heard people in my home church talk about their religious beliefs it became quite apparent that there is an uncanny parallel attitude and tone between the two that is hardly coincidental.

It is this partisan political reality that is the focus of this book, partly to expose the fact that evangelicals have played no small role in pushing the Republican Party to the far right, which in turn has resulted in our federal government being in a state of political dysfunction.

Thus far evangelical Republicans have basked in their political power. But in the process they have also stirred the waters of controversy to the point where our political, racial, and social differences have evolved into divisions, our public discourse has become more uncivil, and our government has become dysfunctional in being able to bring differing political views to the table to make laws that work for the common good. Evangelicals are not the only reason for this state of affairs, but they have been a major player in it.

That they have been involved at all in creating the worst political conflict and division we have seen in generations is enough to indict evangelicalism for its undermining of Christian values and Christian morals.

LOCAL OUTLETS: The book is available at all bookstores and online through Amazon, Barnes & noble, etc.

PRICE:  $24.95

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: janlinn45@gmail.com

The Fourth Corner of the World

Scott NadelsonTHE BOOK: The Fourth Corner of the World: Stories

PUBLISHED IN: 2018

THE AUTHOR: Scott Nadelson

THE EDITOR:  Victoria Barrett

THE PUBLISHER: Engine Books

The Fourth Corner of the World by [Nadelson, Scott]SUMMARY: The stories in The Fourth Corner of the World revolve around self-imposed exile, both physical and emotional; they explore characters who abandon their lands of origin, sever their roots, make distance between themselves and the people they once were. Interspersed with three personal stories—embellished autobiography—they roam geographically and historically, chronicling, among others, a group of Jewish utopians in 1880s Oregon, a would-be assassin in 1920s Paris, a fundraiser for the Zionist underground in 1940s Helsinki, and a pair of teenage girls seeking revenge in 1980s New Jersey.

THE BACK STORY:  These stories came together over a period of about three years, and for a long time I didn’t know if I was writing one book or three different books. Some of the stories were autobiographical, some were historical; some took place in New Jersey, some in Oregon, others in Europe. Only after I’d written most of them and started putting them side by side did I begin to recognize that they all shared a common obsession with questions of exile and belonging. The characters have all willingly escaped in some way from the place where they began, and the result is a combination of fulfillment and alienation. And now, looking back on the process, it makes sense to me why these themes were so present for me while I wrote: I started the book just about the time when I had lived in Oregon longer than I’d lived in New Jersey, the place I’d escaped from and the place my imagination returns to most often when I sit down to work.

WHY THIS TITLE?: The title refers to a line in the Hebrew bible, in which one of the prophets (Isaiah, I think), predicts that the future Messiah will one day gather all the outcasts and exiles from the four corners of the earth. I used it for the title story—based on a true story—in which a group of young Jews from the Ukraine form a utopian colony in the wilds of 1880s Oregon. At that time, Oregon must have seemed the most far-flung corner of the world, the last possible place they could have imagined themselves—and while they found a certain freedom there, they also discovered that they were largely bound to the place and people they’d left behind.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? I’d like to think there’s a bit of something for everyone in this collection—revenge and adventure, the intimacy of autobiography, a dose or two of humor. Above all, though, I hope the book finds its way to aficionados of the short story form, which is my abiding literary love. To me, nothing is more satisfying than a well-made story, which often packs the punch of a novel in a sliver of its size—or as William Blake put it, illuminates the whole world in a grain of sand.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“A story collection that effortlessly bridges time, offering us a glittering trail of human experience. Scott Nadelson is equally at home in an immigrant’s Paris after WWI as he is an American temp worker’s search for love and meaning. Tender, brimming, beautiful stories of displacement and revival.” —Dominic Smith, author of THE LAST PAINTING OF SARA DE VOS

“Scott Nadelson’s wide-ranging, vividly imagined stories ring with authenticity, humor, and unavoidable heartache. Nadelson’s stories expose emotional lives with…is there such a thing as brutal and lyrical honesty? The Fourth Corner of the World is a collection of gorgeously written, truth-soaked stories.”  —Adrianne Harun, author of A MAN CAME THROUGH A DOOR IN THE MOUNTAIN.

“With grace, ease, and astounding sensitivity, Nadelson squires us through a dazzling array of human experience and emotion reminding us again the power and majesty of great stories. Each story burns with an interior light, illuminating the cracks within the characters and the hope that keeps them going. Nadelson’s confident and assured voice marks him as a masterful storyteller.” —Gina Ochsner, author of THE HIDDEN LETTERS OF VELTA B.

AUTHOR PROFILE: Scott Nadelson grew up in northern New Jersey before escaping to Oregon, where he has lived for the past eighteen years. He has published three previous collections of short stories—Aftermath, The Cantor’s Daughter, and Saving Stanley: The Brickman Stories—and a memoir, The Next Scott Nadelson: A Life in Progress. His most recent book is an episodic novel, Between You and Me (Engine Books, 2015). He is the winner of the Reform Judaism Fiction Prize, the Great Lakes Colleges New Writers Award, and the Oregon Book Award for short fiction, and his work has been cited as notable in both the Best American Short Stories and Best American Essays anthologies. Nadelson teaches creative writing at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, and in the Rainier Writing Workshop MFA Program at Pacific Lutheran University.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: Excerpt from the story “Temporary Salvation”:

For three days I helped an internet travel firm move into new offices, loading and unloading files and arranging them in polished mahogany cabinets, while a stout secretary kept close watch on me, skeptical, I suppose, about my knowledge of the alphabet. Then for a week I worked in the downtown office of a lumber company, transferring several thousand handwritten insurance claims into an electronic database. Most of the claims concerned a cedar siding that had buckled or warped, and the company’s lawyers were disputing every single one of them. For each entry, I had to check a box marked “In Process,” which I took to mean in the process of being disregarded.

I sat at a makeshift desk in the middle of the sales floor typing dates and figures and listened to four barking salesmen pushing that same siding onto wholesalers up and down the coast. After a few days I made a joke about it—“You guys must moonlight for Allstate”—but none of them laughed. In fact, not one even acknowledged that he’d heard me, and during my week-long tenure none spoke more than three words to me. It was unnerving to be so thoroughly ignored, though I sat less than ten feet from all of them, at a folding table beside the printer, the stack of unresolved claims beside me. It was as if they couldn’t see anyone who didn’t dress as they did, in khakis and baby-blue dress shirts, college football jackets draped over the backs of their chairs. All day they talked over my head without addressing me, and more than once one or another bumped into me on his way to the bathroom. To get back at them I occasionally added an extra zero to the figures in the claims. It was a quiet, half-hearted rebellion, but one that helped me survive the plodding hours and the cramping in my hands.

This was the summer of 1999, soon after I’d arrived in Portland. Jobs were fairly easy to come by then. The newspapers loved to print stories about people my age—twenty-six—cashing in on stock options at internet start-ups and opening charitable foundations. But I knew nothing about the internet—I’d only recently gotten my first email account—and the only stocks I owned were dull ones in which my parents had invested my bar mitzvah money, like General Electric and AT&T. Instead of making my fortune, I’d spent the last few years in a graduate program that had left me with few practical skills and little ambition. Other than the occasional fantasy about lucrative book contracts and international prizes, I had no clear vision of my future. That it was so open to possibility, so entirely free and undetermined, I found mostly exhilarating, though some nights I lay awake until almost dawn trying to picture what the coming days would bring, the coming months and years.

I read the classifieds line by line and replied to any listing for which I felt even the slightest bit qualified. In a single day I’d apply to serve in the admissions office of a nearby community college and to manage the publicity department of the National Psoriasis Foundation. I didn’t know what psoriasis was, and after looking it up, didn’t think it needed much publicity, but if someone wanted to pay me a starting salary of thirty-five grand, I wasn’t going to turn him down. I sent out two or three dozen résumés in a week, without keeping any records, and then lay on my couch reading short story collections and slim European novels in which little happened—women looking out windows, men walking briskly in the rain—and occasionally glanced up at the phone, only vaguely curious to find out when the direction of my life would announce itself.

But after a couple weeks without news, I began to experience the mild itch of impatience—along with an aggravating worry about paying rent without my parents’ help—and called the first employment agency I came to in the phone book. I took the tests for word processing and spreadsheet programs, but it turned out I didn’t know what a mail-merge was or how to add the contents of a column, and I scored in the twenty-fifth percentile. “Well,” the recruiter said. “You type pretty fast. That’s something.” She scanned her list of openings, tapped her head with a pen, and said, “Can you start this afternoon?” Then she offered to advance me money for a new shirt and tie. “My clients take pretty much whatever they can get right now,” she said. “But we still try to send them professionals.”

On my way out I stopped in the bathroom and checked myself over, in the off-white polyester shirt I’d bought at a thrift store, sweat stains just visible under the arms, and the tie I’d found abandoned in the closet of my new apartment, mustard-colored, with a pattern of blue diamonds. The recruiter had given me a hundred bucks. An outrageous amount, I thought, to spend on a single outfit—or, for that matter, on a whole wardrobe. Instead I dropped it all at a nearby record store, coming home with two dozen used CDs, most of them by local bands I’d never heard and whom, after a single listen, I decided I never wanted to hear again. But I didn’t regret the purchase. I was immersing myself in the culture of my new home, I told myself, and it was as important to discard the dreck as it was to discover the gems. I donated all but two of the CDs to Goodwill.

WHERE TO BUY IT: Anywhere books are sold—especially your local independent bookstore!

PRICE: $14.95

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: My website: scottnadelson.com.

Weather Report, Feb. 19

OUR CURRENTLY FEATURED BOOKS, “HAINT,” BY TERI ELLEN CROSS DAVIS, “QUEEN OF SPADES,” BY MICHAEL SHOU-YUNG SHUM AND “HENRY,” BY KATRINA SHAWVER, CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST, OR BY CLICKING THE AUTHOR’S NAME ON OUR AUTHOR’S PAGE.

One of the goals of this project is to spread the word about alternative reading possibilities.

Toward that end, we draw from several niches that often seem overshadowed by the widespread  addiction to novels. From week to week on this site, you can find poetry, short stories, and older books that have shoved aside by the ever-flowing river of new titles (these days, 2014 is considered ancient history).

Not that there is anything wrong with novels, but the other forms also have their special charm. Short stories, for instance, seem to fit our ever-shrinking attention spans. They provide nearly instant gratification. And if the one you’re reading doesn’t grab you, the next one might.

This week, we’re featuring a book of short stories by Scott Nadelson, “The Fourth Corner of the Earth” — the 34th such collection posted on this blog.

Scott is a writer in love with short stories, and this is what he has to say about that form: “I’d like to think there’s a bit of something for everyone in this collection— revenge and adventure, the intimacy of autobiography, a dose or two of humor. Above all, though, I hope the book finds its way to aficionados of the short story form, which is my abiding literary love. To me, nothing is more satisfying than a well-made story, which often packs the punch of a novel in a sliver of its size—or as William Blake put it, illuminates the whole world in a grain of sand.”

This week’s other authors are each making their second appearance on Snowflakes — Lisette Brodey (“Barrie Hill Reunion,” a novel) and Jan Linn (“Evangelicalism and the Decline of American Politics.”)

UPCOMING ON SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, FEB. 19-26.

“THE FOURTH CORNER OF THE WORLD,” BY SCOTT NADELSON.

The stories in The Fourth Corner of the World revolve around self-imposed exile, both physical and emotional; they explore characters who abandon their lands of origin, sever their roots, make distance between themselves and the people they once were. Interspersed with three personal stories—embellished autobiography—they roam geographically and historically, chronicling, among others, a group of Jewish utopians in 1880s Oregon, a would-be assassin in 1920s Paris, a fundraiser for the Zionist underground in 1940s Helsinki, and a pair of teenage girls seeking revenge in 1980s New Jersey.

“BARRIE HILL REUNION,” BY LISETTE BRODEY

Eight people. One weekend. Eight lives forever changed. In the mid-1960s, at an elite college in the quaint town of Barrie Hill, Connecticut, a group of literary-minded students met regularly off-campus at the Vanessa Grand Hotel. Often late into the night, they would discuss the day’s news, analyze literature, philosophize, trade barbs, and socialize. Twenty years after graduation, in 1986, the group’s founder, Clare Dreyser, organizes a weekend reunion. Seven former Barrie Hillers and one guest get together, eager to re-create an extraordinary time in their lives and reunite with old friends. From the outset, and baffling the group, Leah Brent displays a brash, condescending attitude for nearly everyone and everything. To the chagrin of actor Bart Younger, Leah immediately lays out the unwelcome mat for his wife, Aimee. No one, not even Leah’s husband, Colin, is immune to her wrath, but Leah is relentless in her bizarre and cruel quest to bring down her primary target: Clare. As the reunion progresses, the Barrie Hillers strive to enjoy their time together as they become enmeshed in personal dramas, struggle with matters of ethics, and weather escalating uncertainties that threaten to destroy their lives. By Saturday night, the second day of the reunion, karma makes a surprising and shocking visit. As the Barrie Hillers’ time together draws to an end, each is changed forever.

“EVANGELICALISM AND THE DECLINE OF AMERICAN POLITICS,” BY JAN LINN

Beginning in the 1970s evangelical Christians decided to become involved in our nation’s political life by becoming Republican partisans. Today they are widely considered the Republican Party’s most reliable constituency. During this same period American politics has become more bitter, chaotic, divisive, and dysfunctional. There is a significant bipartisan consensus that the Republican Party bears the most responsibility for this state of our nation’s politics. This is not an endorsement of Democratic policies, only an assessment of why our government no longer gets anything done and why bitter disagreement is more common than cooperation.

 What is often ignored, though, is the role evangelicals are playing in what is happening. This book connects the dots between evangelical theology and evangelical politics. The key factor in both is their “no compromise” attitude that sees negotiations as a betrayal of moral principles, confident as they are that they are doing God’s work here on earth. The result, as this book shows, is bad politics and bad religion, both of which are out of step with the views of most Americans. It concludes with suggestions for what evangelicals can do to abandon political partisanship and theological exclusivism that will help both Christianity and the nation.

 

 

 

 

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Haint

Haint: poems by [Davis, Teri Ellen Cross]THIS WEEK’S OTHER FEATURED BOOKS, “QUEEN OF SPADES,” BY MICHAEL SHOU-YUNG SHUM, AND “HENRY,” BY KATRINA SHAWYER. CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST, OR BY CLICKING THE AUTHOR’S NAME ON OUR AUTHOR’S PAGE.

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THE BOOK: Haint

PUBLISHED IN: 2016

THE AUTHOR:  Teri Ellen Cross Davis

THE EDITOR: None

THE PUBLISHER
: Gival Press,  http://www.givalpress.com/

SUMMARY: Haint is a book of poems that touch on identity, nationality, womanhood, fertility, infertility, and so much more.

THE BACK STORY
: These are poems that have haunted me for years. For me, when an issue sticks with me and I cannot let it go, I tend to write about it.

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WHY THIS TITLE?: While there is a title poem called Haint, this title speaks to the uneasy way poems can haunt you.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT?
If they are looking for poetry that digs under the skin, is accessible, clear and lyrical, this is the book for them.

REVIEW COMMENTS
: “What Teri Ellen Cross Davis writes in her poem I’ll Be There is an apt description of the power and yearning this book is: ‘It’s a breaking heart’s last hope of reunion….’ Although heartbreak is the origin of so many of these poems, it’s love that makes them go. Love to which they plead and aspire and pray.“ —Ross Gay, 2016 Kingsley Tufts Prize, 2016 National Book Critics Circle Award, author of Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude


”A haint is a term for the dead, but in Teri Cross Davis’ hands, Haint is a book of life. Not a book of survival, though the poet survives, not a book of reckoning, though the poet comes to terms with many things. Haint is a book of choices, and witnessing. A book of learning the bodies, territories, pleasures and sorrows. A book that constructs the irrepressible center of a soul, page by page, plank by plank. A book a reader will put down after reading and mutter yes to themselves, haunted.”
—Cornelius Eady, Miller Family Chair, The University of Missouri

“Science tells us that skin is our largest organ. Poet Teri Cross Davis reminds us that skin is both collective history and individual testimony—a maze, a frustration, a celebration. Her extraordinary debut, Haint, asks us to consider every consequence of the female form, from the quiet ecstasies of Morning Ritual to the methodical way a woman cuts an apple for her dying father-in-law; pulling no punches, an Ode to Now ‘n’ Laters is chased with a wrenching consideration of pre-teen pregnancy. Davis is a master of shifting dictions to surprise. In Odalisque, we venture the perspective not of the central white nude, but of the black maid forced to stand naked behind her: ‘You bleed like I bleed / but we ain’t friends.’ A few pages later, the sonnet Knell invites, ‘Haunt this empty space if you will.’ This collection, which hums and startles, will echo in the reader for months to come.” —Sandra Beasley, author of I Was the Jukebox and Count the Waves

AUTHOR PROFIL
E: Teri Ellen Cross Davis is the author of Haint, published by Gival Press and winner of the 2017 Ohioana Book Award for Poetry.  She is a Cave Canem fellow and has attended the Soul Mountain Writer’s Retreat, the Virginia Center for Creative Arts and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. She is on the Advisory Council of Split This Rock (a biennial poetry festival in Washington DC), a semi-finalist judge for the National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Out Loud and a member of the Black Ladies Brunch Collective. Her work has been published in many anthologies including: Bum Rush The Page: A Def Poetry Jam, Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem’s First Decade, Growing Up Girl, Full Moon on K Street: Poems About Washington, DC, Check the Rhyme: An Anthology of Female Poets & Emcees, The Golden Shovel Anthology: New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks and Not Without Our Laughter: poems of joy, humor, and sexuality. Her work can be read in the following journals: ArLiJo, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Delaware Poetry Review, Fledging Rag, Gargoyle, Harvard Review, Natural Bridge, North American Review, MiPOesias, Poet Lore, Tin House, Torch, and Sligo Journal. She has work forthcoming in Little Patuxent Review and the Black Girl Magic anthology. She is the Poetry Coordinator for the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C. and lives in Maryland with her husband, poet Hayes Davis and their two children.

AUTHOR COMMENTS:
 I ordered this book chronologically as I wanted to guide the reader on this journey of selfhood through poetry. There are persona poems, a couple of sonnets, and a Bop! My interests vary, as does my poems, and when it comes to writing, I am not afraid. I will venture to dark and light places, it is always about staying true to the poem.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: More than a few poems are online- check them out here- https://www.poetsandparents.com/teri-s-poems

WHERE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Gival press website and on me, if you happen to be at a reading!

PRICE: $15

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: My website has my contact information but you can also  follow me on Twitter –TCD@cross_davis

 

“I am left with plain hands and
nothing to give you but poems”from “speaking of loss” by Lucille Clifton
Follow me @cross_davis

Queen of Spades

Queen of Spades by [Shum, Michael Shou-Yung]THE BOOK: Queen of Spades

PUBLISHED IN: 2017

THE AUTHOR: Michael Shou-Yung Shum

THE EDITOR
: Laura Stanfill

THE PUBLISHER: Forest Avenue Press, an independent press located in Portland, OR

SUMMARY: Based on the author’s experience working as a poker dealer, Queen of Spades is a modern re-telling of the classic Pushkin fable of the same name, a highly stylized tale set in a Seattle-area casino that combines elements of a Hong Kong gambling movie with literary language and a lively cast of unforgettable characters.

Image result for Michael Shou-Yung ShumThe three main narrative threads follow Barbara, a recovering gambler trapped in a cultish twelve-step program; Mannheim, a pit boss at the Royal Casino who discovers he has just six months to live; and Chan, a dealer obsessed with the playing style of a mysterious customer known as the Countess.

Queen of Spades invites readers into the murky realm of taking chances not just as a recreational activity but as a way of life.  The beauty and complexity of the novel lies in its unique portmanteau structure, its page-turning plot, and its insider view into the late-night card-dealer’s world, where everyone yearns for more than what they have, and where luck plays a curious, fidgety role that may—given the right card at the right moment—change everything, for better or worse.

THE BACK STORY: I’ve always been interested in gambling, not just casino gambling, but taking risks as a means to important, meaningful change — I worked as a poker dealer in a small casino for two years, so I accumulated a lot of material that eventually found their way (in fictive form, of course) into the manuscript. Overall, I would say the story took about 10 years, from first seed to publication, to come to fruition.

WHY THIS TITLE?: It’s based on Pushkin’s famous short story, “The Queen of Spades”

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? if you feel like your daily experience has lost its magic, and you are seeking (whether you are conscious of it or not) a “re-enchantment” of your world


REVIEW COMMENTS:

Necessary Fiction: Queen of Spades is overall a brilliant work, fit for both fans of the original story who want to pore over the thematic links, and readers looking to pick up a gripping new novel. For a story that touches on the addictive nature of card games, Queen of Spades is itself a difficult book to put down. (Aleksandra Appleton)

Shelf Awareness: Shum devised the plot based on his own experiences as a dealer and on the stories told to him by a fellow pit dealer, who in 1984 dealt one of the most impressive hands of faro in the 20th century. Shum writes with precision, but it is his power of observation that transforms Queen of Spades into a deeper rumination on avarice, willpower and the uncomfortable alliances forged at the gambling table. Games of chance become the canvas on which Shum examines the internal battle among personal motivation, personal redemption and despair. (Nancy Powell)

Library Journal (Starred Review): It’s rare to encounter high seriousness and humor under one cover, but the author’s layered grasp of gambling and its contingencies, its potential to dominate players emotionally, charges the narrative with thrills and danger. Perhaps the real triumph, though, is an unflinching (yet humane) glimpse into the lives of several characters in desperate relationships with chance, addiction, and lethal levels of debt. (William Grabowski)

AUTHOR PROFILE: Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Michael eventually found himself dealing poker in a dead-end casino in Lake Stevens, Washington. Two doctorates bookend this strange turn of events: the first in Psychology from Northwestern, and the second in English from the University of Tennessee. Along the way, Michael spent a dozen years in Chicago, touring the country as a rave DJ, and three years in Corvallis, Oregon, where he received his MFA in Fiction Writing. He currently resides in Astoria, Queens, with Jaclyn Watterson and three cats. Queen of Spades is his first novel.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: If reading the book makes you feel better and also makes you want to gamble, then I’ve succeeded in my intent.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: Lit Hub was kind enough to publish a chapter called “Lottery” from the novel -> http://lithub.com/lottery/

LOCAL OUTLETS: Astoria Bookshop, Queens

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Powell’s, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.

PRICE: $15.99 list

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: @dr_shum (Twitter), michaelshum.wordpress.com (webpage)

Henry

HENRY: A Polish Swimmer's True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America by [Shawver, Katrina]

Katrina ShawverTHE BOOK: HENRY: A Polish Swimmer’s True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America

PUBLISHED IN: November 1, 2017, USA

THE AUTHOR: Katrina Shawver

THE EDITOR: Staff at Köehler Books

THE PUBLISHER: Köehler Books, Virginia Beach, VA, USA

SUMMARY: When journalist Katrina Shawver met the eighty-five-year-old Henry Zguda, he possessed an exceptional memory, original documents and photos, and a knack for meeting the right people at the right time. Told in an interview format, Henry relates a life as a champion swimmer and coach, interrupted by three years imprisoned in Auschwitz and Buchenwald as a Catholic Polish political prisoner. This bridge to history is told with a pragmatic gallows humor and is supported by extensive research, original documents, and rare photos. Ultimately, HENRY is the story of a resilient young man who survives by his wits, humor, friends, and luck.

THE BACK STORY: I met Henry Zguda by a random referral when I wrote for the newspaper. My only goal was enough information to craft an interesting 600-word newspaper column. However, from the very first interview I sensed a much greater compelling, and unusual story risk of being lost forever. Henry had no relatives to hand his story to. Conversely, he had already told me “nobody is interested my stories. I’ve told Nancy [his wife] to throw everything out when I’m gone.”

I still can’t explain why I impulsively called him up and suggested we work together to write his story. He was already eighty-five years old, so I knew the stories had to be captured right away. From the very beginning, the story came to me unexpectedly, has stayed with me for reasons I can’t explain. I’ve set it aside more than once as the size of the task overwhelmed me. But it kept calling to me, the right people kept coming into my life at the right time, so it was meant to be. I’ve followed a higher power in finishing this book.

This book has been fifteen years in the making. I met Henry in 2002, and the book was published in 2017. If alive, he would be a hundred years old. I have become a huge student of Poland, WWII and the Holocaust and have a huge respect for Poles.

WHY THIS TITLE: HENRY is a thoroughly researched, historically accurate, and incredible true story with a character you will fall in love with. Readers will definitely have their “aha” moments in reading many parts of the history, because of Henry’s keen “insider” perspective of someone who was well connected. I definitely recommend the book for any college-level courses on the Holocaust, World War II, or Poland, and adults interested in history. Due to some scenes in a concentration camp, I do recommend it for adults.

The book makes an ideal addition for book groups and reader discussions. A list of Topics for Discussion is included in the back to help spark additional thought and lively talks.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: HENRY is an intelligent read for discerning adults, especially those interested in European history, World War II, and the Holocaust. A reader’s discussion guide is included for book groups. It is also ideal for college-level courses on WWII or the Holocaust. I have received a lot of support from the Polish community, and definitely anyone of Polish heritage or connections will appreciate it. The book includes more than 80 original documents and photos not printed elsewhere. By copyright with museums, these will only appear in the print format, which means readers must get the book. I consider the book an intelligent read for the discerning adult.

REVIEW COMMENTS: See attached document of praise and reviews from professors, esteemed authors, and book reviewers received to date.

AUTHOR PROFILE: Katrina Shawver is an experienced writer, blogger, speaker, and the author of HENRY – A Polish Swimmer’s True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America, an adult nonfiction biography released in 2017 to high praise. She holds a BA from the University of Arizona in English/Political Science, and began her writing career more than twenty years ago by writing hundreds of newspaper columns for The Arizona Republic in Phoenix, Arizona which she calls home. Her favorite quote is ”What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” She lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband Rick.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: I have always been drawn to nonfiction since I was a young girl, especially those stories that combine biographies and history. After writing for the newspaper, I became passionate about the power of the written word, not only to transport us to imaginary worlds, but to influence opinion, provoke discussion and inform the community about interesting people and organizations who deserve credit. I like books that make me think. As to history, I found a quote by A Whitney Brown that I included in the front of my book: ”The past actually happened, but history is only what someone wrote down.” If my writing influences how we think about history, that’s the power of the written word.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: The listing on Amazon includes a “Look Inside.” To find HENRY on Amazon, follow this link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1633935205

WHERE TO BUY IT: Henry is available for purchase in hardback, paperback and eBook formats on most online book sites worldwide.

PRICE: SOFTCOVER, $19.95, 978-1-63393-520-4

HARDCOVER, $29.95, 978-1-63393-523-5

EBOOK, $9.99, 978-1-63393-521-1

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: For more information on Katrina and HENRY: A Polish Swimmer’s True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America, visit her website katrinashawver.com where she blogs regularly. She can also be found on

Facebook at Read Katrina Shawver and on Twitter at KatrinaShaw