Green Card & Other Essays

This week’s other featured books, “The Shaman of Turtle Valley,” by Clifford Garstang and “Hotel Obscure,” by Lisette Brodey, 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: Green Card & Other Essays

PUBLISHED IN: April 2019

THE AUTHOR: Áine Greaney

THE PUBLISHER: Wising Up Press, GA

SUMMARY: GREEN CARD & OTHER ESSAYS maps Greaney’s journey from being a 24-year-old immigrant landing alone in a huge new country to becoming a newly-minted and ambivalent U.S. citizen registered to vote in, and write about, life in that country. A blend of introspective, memoir and opinion essays, Greaney’s work offers a window into the issues faced by all immigrants from all countries.

THE BACK STORY: I was inspired to write the title essay, “Green Card” after a trip to my local USCIS office to renew my U.S. residency. This is what you have to do every 10 years to stay and work legally in the United States. The first draft of that essay wanted to be written in second person, so I went with it. I decided to discard it, but first, I read it to a group of teen writers at a school where, back then, I had a writers residency. The young students surprised me with their vehemence and advocacy and they begged me to keep and re-work the essay, Of course, they also reminded me that “you’re always on our case about being ready to draft and re-draft your work, so why won’t you?” That was in 2011, which, in terms of immigrant attitudes and policies, I now regard as our “age of innocence.”

I wrote the other essays and published them in various publications such as Salon, Litro, New Hibernia Review, Books by Women and The Irish Times. Then, as things became more vitriolic about immigrant and asylum seekers’ rights, I realized that I wanted to collect the individual essays into a book.

WHY THIS TITLE?: A green card is a casual name for your U.S. residency card. The card, by the way, isn’t green at all and I’d bet it’s not even manufactured in the United States. So as “Green Card” was the title of one of my previously published essays which, by the way, was cited in “Best American Essays,” this seemed like a good title for the book overall. There would have been a time when it might have confused readers, but now that immigrant is front and center in our national debates, I went with it.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? Topically, I don’t think my book is entirely unique. There are many immigrant memoirs out there, and I checked out and read many of them before I collected my short works into a full-length book.

What is unique, I’m told, is my own narrative voice and my willingness to be so frank about the conflicted sense of belonging that is inherent to being an immigrant in any country. One beta reader asked me why someone like me (read: white, long-tenured, middle class (hah!)) would even want to write a book like that in the first place. So when I edited the essays for a complete book, I was much clearer about where my intent and my loyalties and the fact that I feel it my duty to write and speak for those immigrants who are either too busy working three low-wage jobs or too scared to write on their own behalves.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“An acutely serious contribution to the literature of immigration in our times.” — James Silas Rogers, author, Irish American Biography

“Perhaps the book’s greatest strength is Greaney’s voice itself: heartfelt, honest and intimate; the essays read like a conversation with an old friend. ” — The Merrimack Valley Magazine

“Green Card & Other Essays is a must read — we need more of these voices to educate us about immigrant experiences to dissipate our false perceptions.” — Savvy Verse & Wit

AUTHOR PROFILE: Áine Greaney is an Irish-born author who never wrote or published anything until she emigrated to America in 1986.

Since then, her work has been published and broadcast in the U.S., Ireland, the U.K. and Canada. In addition to her five books, her essays and articles have appeared in Creative Nonfiction, NPR/WBUR, The Boston Globe Magazine, Salon, The Drum, New Hibernia Review, Litro Magazine, The Wisdom Daily and other outlets. Her awards and shortlists include a citation in “Best American Essays.” Also, “Sanctuary,” her essay about family bereavement, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She has presented or co-presented at national and regional conferences and discussion panels. She also teaches writing workshops.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: “The trick in writing first-person essays is that you have to balance the personal with the public or political. For essays to be effective, they must connect author to reader and, in the best cases, invite the reader to re-see something about a facet of life. As an author, if five readers came back to me to tell me that my essays gave them a new insight into the issues of immigration, displacement and all of our conflicted sense of identities, I would probably rush out and buy myself a cake and shove some fancy candles in it and sing myself a little song. Then I would write back to those readers and thank them profusely.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: https://www.wbur.org/cognoscenti/2016/03/03/hand-me-downs-from-america-aine-greaney

LOCAL OUTLETS: Jabberwocky Books, Newburyport. Or direct from the publishers: Wising Up Press (http://www.universaltable.org ). If you buy it I can also mail you a hand-signed book plate or a book plate signed for the person to whom you are gifting the book.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & noble, etc.

PRICE: $12 at the publishers; $16 at online bookstores such as Amazon.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: http://www.ainegreaney.com Twitter: @AineGreaney. Facebook page: Áine Greaney, Writer. Email: aine@ainegreaney.com

The Shaman of Turtle Valley

The Shaman of Turtle Valley by [Garstang, Clifford]THE BOOK: The Shaman of Turtle Valley

PUBLISHED IN: May 2019

THE AUTHOR: Clifford Garstang

THE EDITOR: Jeffrey Condran

THE PUBLISHER: Braddock Avenue Books

SUMMARY: The Alexanders have farmed the land in Turtle Valley for generations, and their family and its history is tied to this mountainous region of Virginia in ways few others can claim. When Gulf War veteran Aiken Alexander brings home a young and pregnant South Korean bride, he hopes at long last to claim his own place in that complicated history—coming out from behind the shadow of his tragically killed older brother and taking up a new place in his father’s affections. However, things do not go according to plan. While he loves his young son, his wife, Soon-hee, can’t—or won’t—adjust to life in America. Her behavior grows stranger and stranger to Aiken’s eyes every day until the marriage reaches a breaking point. When Soon-hee disappears with their son, Aiken’s life and dreams truly fall apart—he loses his job, is compelled to return to the family home, and falls prey to all his worst impulses. It is at this low point that Aiken’s story becomes interwoven with a dubious Alexander family history, one that pitted brother against brother and now cousin against cousin, in a perfect storm of violence and dysfunction.

Clifford GarstangTHE BACK STORY: In a sense, the novel is an extension of the rural stories I was telling in my first collection, In an Uncharted Country, which came out in 2009. Like those stories, the novel was inspired by small-town life and the history of the region, but it also has sources elsewhere–my experience living in Korea and learning the language and culture of that country, making a connection between the landscapes and customs of the two settings, and my interest in the forces and secrets that often drive families and communities apart. I wrote the book in a three-year period and then spent several years refining the manuscript and looking for a suitable publisher.  

WHY THIS TITLE: The book had an early working title and then for a long time a title that I thought I was committed to until I finally hit upon this one fairly late in the process. For me, it raises a few questions that I hope readers will want answers for. Shamanism and folk customs play an important role in the story and, while it isn’t critical to the plot, the turtle is a significant symbol in Korean folklore, representing both wisdom and longevity. 

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: Readers will be surprised and pleased by the juxtaposition of Korean and Appalachian cultures and the parallels in the history and customs of the two regions. Beyond that, readers will be engaged in the story of the Alexander family, their history on the land, their dwindling fortunes, and the family secrets and conflicts (and accompanying ghosts) that haunt them.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

In his excellent and deeply moving novel, The Shaman of Turtle Valley, Clifford Garstang has created a fine cast of characters, most notably the women surrounding his protagonist, Aiken. By inhabiting their voices and lives, showing their resilience and complexity, their precise, individual emotional terrains, he imbues the novel with a powerful undertow of empathy, alignment, and imaginative comprehension. This is a story about the many kinds of love beautifully written, unerringly told. –Kate Christensen, PEN/Faulkner-award winning author of The Great Man and The Last Cruise

When Aiken Alexander, a vet returning from Desert Storm, brings his young Korean shaman wife home with him to the Virginia mountains, he sets off a powerful cross-cultural collision. Garstang’s novel reads like a modern-day version of the Odyssey with a delicious twist: on his return to Ithaca, this Odysseus brings Circe with him. –David Payne, author of Barefoot to Avalon

With his first novel, The Shaman of Turtle Valley, Clifford Garstang has created a melding of two worlds he knows intimately, and he has done so with the outright surety of a master. Turtle Valley itself sits below the mountain ranges of Virginia, maybe, but the valleys at work in the hearts and minds of Mr. Garstang s characters owe as much to the history and culture of Korea, that far-off land from which the novel’s protagonist brings his teenage bride. By using a series of short but fluid sections, moving about the world with ease, Mr. Garstang has given us a novel with the feel of something universal and, indeed, epic. Once you start it you won’t be able to put it down. –Richard Wiley, author of Soldiers In Hiding, winner of the Pen/Faulkner Award for Best American Fiction

AUTHOR PROFILE: Clifford Garstang is the author of a novel, The Shaman of Turtle Valley (Braddock Avenue Books, 2019), a novel in stories, What the Zhang Boys Know (Press 53, 2012), which won the Library of Virginia Literary Award for Fiction, and a collection of short stories, In an Uncharted Country (Press 53, 2009). He is the co-founder and former editor of Prime Number Magazine and is also the editor of the anthology series, Everywhere Stories: Short Fiction from a Small Planet, Volumes I-III (Press 53). His fiction has appeared in numerous magazines, including The Hopkins Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Blackbird, Cream City Review, and Tampa Review, and his book reviews have appeared in Washington Independent Review of Books, New York Journal of Books, Rain Taxi, Virginia Quarterly Review, Shenandoah, and elsewhere. Many writers know him from his ranking of literary magazines, a service he provides on his website: https://cliffordgarstang.com. A former international lawyer, having worked throughout East Asia, he now lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  

AUTHOR COMMENTS: No one is perfect, least of all the main character of this novel. While I wanted to tell his story, I realized that coming from his background he might not be the most enlightened guy around, and therefore frustrating to some readers, so I included the voices of the women in his life to help the reader to a broader of view of what’s happening in this family and community. To the extent that this man is able to evolve, it’s only with the help of these women. The result is a picture that is real, I think, but not one that everyone will be comfortable with. People make mistakes. Can they be redeemed?

SAMPLE CHAPTER: (Provide link). Excerpts have appeared in Cagibi Lit and Shelf Media

https://cagibilit.com/the-shaman-of-turtle-valley-book-excerpt/

https://shelfmediagroup.com/excerpt/excerpt-the-shaman-of-turtle-valley-by-clifford-garstang/

LOCAL OUTLETS: Any bookstore should be able to order the book from Small Press Distribution.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Shaman-Turtle-Valley-Clifford-Garstang/dp/173289566X

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-shaman-of-turtle-valley-clifford-garstang/1131544957?ean=9781732895669

Indiebound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781732895669

The publisher: Braddock Avenue Books: https://shop.braddockavenuebooks.com/shop/braddock/00046.html

The distributor: Small Press Distribution: https://www.spdbooks.org/Products/9781732895669/the-shaman-of-turtle-valley.aspx

Price: $18.95 paper, $9.99 Kindle

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: https://cliffordgarstang.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/cliffgarstang

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CliffordGarstangAuthor/

Hotel Obscure

THE BOOK: Hotel Obscure

PUBLISHED IN: 2018

THE AUTHOR: Lisette Brodey

SUMMARY: In a run-down neighborhood in an unnamed city, people live and die in “the Obscure.” Whether anyone remembers the real name of the derelict establishment is a mystery. In this six-story building, most who occupy the rooms are long-term residents, though some stay for as little as an hour. The patronage is an eclectic group: musicians, writers, addicts, hookers, lonely people, poor people, rich people, once-well-off people, and those who have reason to hide from their former lives or to escape the demands of a disapproving and punishing society. As shabby as the Obscure is, as long as its walls keep out the wind and the rain, it remains a shelter, a hideaway, and a home for the many bewildered souls.

Lisette Brodey PictureHotel Obscure is a collection of seventeen short stories that all take place in or around the “the Obscure.” While the stories stand alone, they are to be read in order. Some characters appear in multiple stories, and sometimes, a story will continue in an unexpected way. The Obscure is life. It is death. In the blink of an eye, it may appear supernatural. It is a place we all visit … whether metaphorically or physically, at least once in our time on Earth.

THE BACK STORY: Throughout my life, I have been a people watcher with a great interest in what makes them tick. As a writer, I have found it nearly impossible to contain my enthusiasm for the written word to one genre. So, without ever planning to be one, I became a multi-genre author. I have published books in contemporary fiction, coming-of-age, YA paranormal, romantic comedy, and literary fiction. When I was working on my YA paranormal trilogy, The Desert Series, I became frustrated with some of the language restrictions that come with writing in that genre. So, how does this explain the birth of Hotel Obscure? Well, while I was waiting for edits to be completed, I had some free time to write. I wasn’t sure what to write about, I just knew that it had to be literary fiction. I didn’t want to start a new book that I would have to tuck away once it was time to return to the YA novel. So, I began writing a short story. To me, it was the perfect outlet for my frustration. It worked. Then I wrote second story. I can’t remember how it happened, but soon after, I knew that I wanted to write a collection of stories to take place in and around one location. I’m guessing that I chose the locale of a run-down hotel because that’s where the first story took place … and because the locale intrigued me.

I’ve always been drawn to urban settings and the innumerable stories of the eclectic people who live in them. After I wrote the first two stories, I dug into folders of decades-old ideas seeing what I might unearth. As suspected, I found a few lost gems. And while I have used those ideas to create new stories, they bear very little resemblance to how I originally envisioned them. But I think this experience illustrates why authors should save old ideas that appear to have no future. One never knows.

So, that is how the idea for Hotel Obscure revealed itself to me. Though it is a short story collection, in many ways, I think of it as a novel, and that is why, as mentioned above, the stories should be read the order in which they appear. I never thought of myself as a short story writer, but Hotel Obscure is now one of my favorite books (that I’ve written), and yes, I definitely want to write another themed collection in the future.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? This book’s greatest appeal is to readers who enjoy character studies and character-driven stories. When one reads Hotel Obscure, they gain the superpower to become invisible and to meet the people who live in and around the establishment. It is quite possible that many will meet people not dissimilar from themselves or those they know.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“Hotel Obscure is one of the best short story collections I’ve ever read. The tales (quick, easy reads) are brilliant and unfold in a fascinating story world that is like a delightful blend of Ray Bradbury, Roald Dahl, and a dash of the Twilight Zone.”

“The Hotel Obscure – almost a character in its own right – squats in a run-down section of the city and its slow but certain disintegration mirrors the lives of many of the individuals who populate the pages of this work.”

“Ms Brodey has a talent for sharp dialogue, and her powers of observation and insight into people’s mindsets are very keen.”

“I see the book as being more like an episodic novel in which the main character is the hotel itself, and the stories are of the various people that pass through the hotel and of their relationship to the hotel.”

AUTHOR PROFILE: I have been writing since I learned how to do so. What I didn’t know early on, however, was what I wanted to write. For a while, I thought I might be a playwright, then a screenwriter, but I finally came to the conclusion, for many reasons, that writing novels and stories was by far the best fit for me. Despite the fact that I have folders filled with poetry, I never, even for second, had any desire to be a poet. I far prefer to write poetic prose. Humor is also a big part of my writing. I couldn’t write without it. If I’m writing a romantic comedy, well, the humor is obvious. But even if I’m writing a very dark story, there are times when humor just sneaks out of the woodwork and inserts itself on the page. It’s very stubborn and doesn’t want to leave. There’s rarely any argument from me when that happens.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: You can read samples of all of my books on Amazon.com. (See links below)

PRICE: The Kindle edition of Hotel Obscure is $2.99. At the current time, all of my e-books are free to read if you’re a member of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program. The paperback edition of Hotel Obscure is $14.95. Additionally, all of my books are available in paperback at various prices.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Website: http://lisettebrodey.com

Amazon Author page: (Universal Link) Author.to/lisettebrodey Twitter: https://twitter.com/LisetteBrodey

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/lisette-brodey Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BrodeyAuthor/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ca/lisette/

Weather Report, Sept. 16

(Photo from the Gordon Law Group)

Our currently featured books, “New Land Same Sky,” by C. Fong Hsiung, “This Never Happened,” by Liz Scott and “Parse,” by Ruth Baumann, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.

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 Note: A slight change in routine this week. Since I’m leaving on a trip early Tuesday, I’m going to post this week’s featured books late tonight instead of Tuesday morning.

 UPCOMING ON SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, SEPT. 17-23.

“GREEN CARD AND OTHER ESSAYS,” BY AINE GREANEY

“Green Card and Other Essays” maps Greaney’s journey from being a 24-year-old immigrant landing alone in a huge new country to becoming a newly-minted and ambivalent U.S. citizen registered to vote in, and write about, life in that country. A blend of introspective, memoir and opinion essays, Greaney’s work offers a window into the issues faced by all immigrants from all countries.

Writes Aine: I was inspired to write the title essay, “Green Card” after a trip to my local USCIS office to renew my U.S. residency. This is what you have to do every 10 years to stay and work legally in the United States. The first draft of that essay wanted to be written in second person, so I went with it. That was in 2011, which, in terms of immigrant attitudes and policies, I now regard as our “age of innocence.”

“I wrote the other essays and published them in various publications such as Salon, Litro, New Hibernia Review, Books by Women and The Irish Times. Then, as things became more vitriolic about immigrant and asylum seekers’ rights, I realized that I wanted to collect the individual essays into a book.”

“THE SHAMAN OF TURTLE VALLEY,” BY CLIFFORD GARSTANG

The Alexanders have farmed the land in Turtle Valley for generations, and their family and its history is tied to this mountainous region of Virginia in ways few others can claim. When Gulf War veteran Aiken Alexander brings home a young and pregnant South Korean bride, he hopes at long last to claim his own place in that complicated history—coming out from behind the shadow of his tragically killed older brother and taking up a new place in his father’s affections. However, things do not go according to plan. While he loves his young son, his wife, Soon-hee, can’t—or won’t—adjust to life in America. Her behavior growing stranger and stranger to Aiken’s eyes every day until the marriage reaches a breaking point. When Soon-hee disappears with their son, Aiken’s life and dreams truly fall apart—he loses his job, is compelled to return to the family home, and falls prey to all his worst impulses. It is at this low point that Aiken’s story becomes interwoven with a dubious Alexander family history, one that pitted brother against brother and now cousin against cousin, in a perfect storm of violence and dysfunction.

“HOTEL OBSCURE,” BY LISETTE BRODEY. 

 In a run-down neighborhood in an unnamed city, people live and die in “the Obscure.” Whether anyone remembers the real name of the derelict establishment is a mystery. In this six-story building, most who occupy the rooms are long-term residents, though some stay for as little as an hour. The patronage is an eclectic group: musicians, writers, addicts, hookers, lonely people, poor people, rich people, once-well-off people, and those who have reason to hide from their former lives or to escape the demands of a disapproving and punishing society. As shabby as the Obscure is, as long as its walls keep out the wind and the rain, it remains a shelter, a hideaway, and a home for the many bewildered souls.

Hotel Obscure is a collection of seventeen short stories that all take place in or around the “the Obscure.” While the stories stand alone, they are to be read in order. Some characters appear in multiple stories, and sometimes, a story will continue in an unexpected way. The Obscure is life. It is death. In the blink of an eye, it may appear supernatural. It is a place we all visit … whether metaphorically or physically, at least once in our time on Earth.

 

 

This Never Happened

This week’s other featured books, “New Land Same Sky,” by C. Fong Hsiung and “Parse,” by Ruth Baumann, 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: This Never Happened

PUBLISHED IN: Feb, 2019

THE AUTHOR: Liz Scott

THE EDITOR: Eve Connell

THE PUBLISHER: University of Hell Press

SUMMARY: This Never Happened is a genre-bending memoir, told in a non-linear way using photographs, letters, and lists. This is a spare work…alternatively heartbreaking and darkly comic. Like an archeological dig, this memoir goes in search of the answers to the mysteries of my family. It’s an unflinching quest to uncover the truth, leaving no one, including myself, unexamined. In the end, it is about the challenge of making peace with questions that will never be answered and the struggle to forgive.

Liz ScottTHE BACK STORY: Over the  years when people have heard the stories of my family I have consistently received this feedback: you should write a book. While my parents were alive, the emotional and psychological noise was so loud it was nearly impossible to get the narrative distance I needed to figure how how to tell the story of my very odd and dysfunctional family. I also felt that it would be needlessly unkind, especially to my troubled mother, to even consider writing this book while she was alive. I am grateful that the very process of working on my book brought me to a place of deeper compassion and understanding for both my parents.

WHY THIS TITLE: This is the title of one of the chapters of my book and when I finished the whole thing I realized that it would be a fitting title for the book. First of all, the fact that we were completely cut off from any other family, that I never met another relative and that my parents were secretive about their families created a kind of unmoored sense in my life. I felt untethered and as if my very small nuclear family was just deposited on earth attached to nothing. Add that to the fact that I have only a small handful of actual memories from my childhood and the result was something like This Never Happened.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT?: Anyone who has experience with narcissism OR parental abandonment OR family secrets will find solidarity in my story.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

Liz Scott shares the achingly real struggle to understand her childhood and her narcissistic parents in her hilarious/beautiful/wrenching memoir, This Never Happened. Raging narcissism is the foundation of her confused childhood and continues into her acquiescent adulthood; there is no escape. She works hard to excavate the truth of her life, overturning each insane interaction with her parents; looking for answers, looking for meaning. Told with an unflinching willingness to self-examine, Scott never gives herself a pass on suspect behavior. It’s no wonder Scott eventually becomes a therapist; her lifetime of ruthlessly analyzing her own life is a rich preparation for helping others. Told with raw humor, bracing humility, enough anger to light a fire, but ultimately with an abundance of love, This Never Happened is a deeply affecting and satisfying read. Brilliant! —-Dianah Hughley, Bookseller Powell’s Books

A remarkable hopscotch through memory and memorabilia to understand how the past shapes one’s present. An irreverent, relatable, compulsively readable creation. — Robert Hill, author of The Remnants.

Spare, elegiac, This Never Happened is a mournful and yet reassuring memoir of a family’s dissolution in the wake of a narcissistic mother and a father’s abandonment. Liz Scott writes with warmth and humor, bringing light to even the saddest darkness. This memoir is destined to be a classic. — Rene Denfeld, author of The Child Finder.

Surprising, funny and impossible to put down, Liz Scott’s memoir This Never Happened will break your heart with its calamitous wit and self-awareness. Scott’s elusive pursuit of familial truth and belonging haunts every page. A strange, unforgettable search for meaning. — Margaret Malone, author of People Like You

“In this unflinching memoir, Liz Scott gathers up the pieces of her family’s legacy, from the exquisite yet heartbreaking letters young Liz wrote to the father who abandoned her, to the magnificent love letters between her parents before Liz was born—sentiments unrecognizable in the mutual rage Scott later witnessed for most of her life. Love and affection, when given at all, were doled out sparingly, and never without a price. This Never Happened is a searing examination of a life lived in the shadow of an unpredictable mother whose past remained hidden even on her deathbed, and whose motives for meanness seemed impossible to pin down. But Scott does just that, and in the process of cracking the code of her mother, it is Scott who breaks open and unfolds in this beautifully honest look at what it means to have compassion, however flawed, for the people who hurt us, and for whom we can never truly know or understand.” — Deborah Reed, author of The Days When Birds Come Back  

Description: https://ssl.gstatic.com/ui/v1/icons/mail/images/cleardot.gif“Liz Scott’s journey into the deep and vast is a journey into family. Who fits where and where is that place just for her. Where do I fit? Where do I belong? Liz takes a pickaxe to her illusions. Family. The deep and vast cavern where we smithy our chunk of coal into a diamond. You will love Liz Scott’s memoir. Run out and buy it.” — Tom Spanbauer, author of The Man Who Fell in Love With the Moon

AUTHOR PROFILE: Liz Scott has been a practicing psychologist for 40 years, helping clients to identify life themes and make sense of the puzzle of their lives. She has brought this focus to her writing in the last fifteen years, first as a short story writer and most recently in her memoir, This Never Happened. Originally from New York City, she currently lives and works in Portland, Oregon. You can find more information at www.lizscott.org

AUTHOR COMMENTS: The search for the truth has been a lifelong pursuit for me. It lead to a career as a psychologist where I have the privilege of helping people sort out the mysteries and puzzles of their lives. I have done my best to take an unflinching look at my family, including myself, in the hopes that others might see themselves reflected and feel some solidarity.

SAMPLE CHAPTER:

What We Had

We had woods that never stopped. We had creeks with tadpoles and garter snakes and painted turtles. We had real Indian arrowheads buried shallow in our backyards. We had freedom. We had mothers who didn’t work. We had lessons: ballet and piano and horseback riding and ice-skating and ballroom dancing and etiquette. We had money. We had fathers who came home drunk on the 7:20 train or who stayed in the city during the week. We had swimming pools and tennis courts. We had no curfews. We had Zenobia and Mammy and Beulah and Miss Fay. We had rope swings over swimming holes. We had real art on the walls and real antiques for furniture. We had mothers who took Miltown and stayed in bed all day. We had freezers packed with ice cream sandwiches and Eskimo Pies. We had no rules. We had spring vacations in the Caribbean. We had parents who had sex with our friends’ parents. We had dogs and cats and horses and fish. We had camps we were sent to on the day after school let out that lasted until the day before it started again. We had famous neighbors. We had fathers who never came home. We had fireflies in mayonnaise jars with holes punched in the lid. We had ponies at birthday parties. We had friends’ fathers who groped our small breasts. We had no chores. We had miles of twisty one-lane, stonewall-lined roads almost free of cars where we could ride our shiny bikes till dark. We had sex too early. We had cotillions. We had mountains of presents under the Christmas tree. We had perfect manners and perfect grammar. We had unlocked liquor cabinets and pantries stocked with cartons of Chesterfields. We had keys to the car before we had licenses and our own fancy cars to drive home from high school. We had Madame Alexander dolls and Ginny dolls with full wardrobes, including real fur coats. We had illegal abortions in Park Avenue offices.

We had so much

LOCAL OUTLETS: Powell’s City of Books

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes and Noble Online, Powell’s online

PRICE: $20

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: esphd1@gmail.com OR www.lizscott.org

New Land Same Sky

Photo of C Fong HsiungTHE BOOK: New Land Same Sky

PUBLISHED IN: October 2018

THE AUTHOR: C Fong Hsiung

THE EDITOR: M. G. Vassanji (3-time Giller Prize nominee, 2-time winner)

THE PUBLISHER: Mawenzi House

SUMMARY: The Sino-Indian war has ended. The Chinese community in Calcutta (Kolkata), feeling threatened and facing discrimination, begins to look for ways to emigrate. By the seventies they are flocking to Canada legally or otherwise. Wen-Lung, a young man in his twenties, goes away on a tourist visa to Toronto where he marries Megan, a white Canadian woman, in order to obtain his legal papers. He leaves behind his pregnant wife, Maylei and a two-year old son. When Maylei arrives in Toronto a few years later, the union is far from ideal because Wen-Lung is still attached to Megan. To complicate matters further, Maylei meets her former lover Keith, an Anglo-Indian. When Maylei returns to India to see her aging parents, she finds herself caught in the midst of a race riot.

A touching story of modern exile and immigration, of the pain of leaving and the joy of freedom, set in Tangra, the leather district of Calcutta, and in Toronto’s neighbourhoods.

THE BACK STORY: The immigrant story goes back centuries. No one decides to uproot from one’s country for no reason and migrate to another land. Every immigrant has a unique and interesting background. I wrote New Land Same Sky (NLSS) to highlight some of those stories, focusing on Maylei and Wen-Lung, a young couple who go to unusual lengths to establish permanent residency in Canada.

This novel took me two years to write, after which I pitched it to two Canadian publications. Both accepted it, but I chose to go with Mawenzi House the publisher for Picture Bride, my first novel. The editing process was long, and the timing depended on the publisher. By the time NLSS came out, it had been four years since I started.

WHY THIS TITLE: New Land Same Sky is a reference to the global nature of our world and how we remain the same person inside under the same big sky no matter where we go.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: This is a relatable immigrant story where you’ll encounter characters like you and me, their lives driven by their need for love, family, culture and traditions. The racial and political overtones come through because those are the realities of the modern society. The story has unusual twists that keep you turning the pages until the end. If there’s one underlying comment from my readers, it’s that they wish the book was longer.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“New Land, Same Sky” introduced me to a culture of which I was not familiar: the Hakka Chinese community in Calcutta, India. It tests their resolve to maintain their deep rooted Chinese customs in an alien land. Maylei is caught between the two worlds and struggles to do the right thing. I enjoyed taking the journey with her as she evolves from the submissive to the independent modern woman she becomes. The story moves along quickly and keeps your interest. I cared about Maylei and her relationships. It’s worth your time. – Amazon Reader

Just read New Land Same Sky by C Fong Hsiung. Enjoyed how her novel unraveled with twists and surprises both big and small. Most of all, I loved all the human stories and all the Hakka Chinese characters that fill the pages. – Amazon Reader

AUTHOR PROFILE: C. Fong Hsiung grew up in India where she spent most of her formative years in boarding schools. Her parents were concerned about the political and social climates in her neighborhood at the time, and they felt that staying in boarding schools was best for her education. She is grateful to her parents for this as it taught her independence at a young age, and this served her well as an adult. At the height of her career—vice president of Accounting and later of Business Processes and Systems—she left the corporate world in 2017 to write and follow her passion. She lives a full life doing what she enjoys and traveling as often as possible. Her typical day starts out with a half-hour meditation, followed by reading, writing and lots of exercising. In addition to writing novels and short stories, she keeps a motivation journal to start the morning and a gratitude journal to end the day.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: It’s the author’s hope that by writing these stories, she documents for posterity a community in Kolkata (old name Calcutta), India that is slowly becoming extinct. The Chinese Indian population, at its peak, was in the thirty-thousands. Today only a few thousands remain. As noted in an interview for The Hindustan Times, New Delhi edition, the reporter calls Fong a “chronicler” of the stories of this vanishing community.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: See preview on Amazon.com by clicking on “Look inside”

LOCAL OUTLETS: Indigo Bookstores in Canada Amazon.com Amazon.ca Indigo and Kobo Google Books Mawenzi House

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Worldwide distribution, e.g. Amazon India

PRICE: CAD $20.95 paperback, $9.99 ebook

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Author’s website Twitter @MyWritingSide Instagram @f.hsiung Facebook @CFongHsiung

Parse

THE BOOK: Parse

PUBLISHED IN: 2018

THE AUTHOR: Ruth Baumann

THE EDITOR: Diane Goettel

THE PUBLISHER: Black Lawrence Press

SUMMARY: Parse is a collection of poems that deal with what it’s like to get sober & then get still. These poems inhabit an often painful space where reality is faced, in many ways for the first time, despite years removed from the events in question– there’s a metaphor in recovery about the addict being like a train that suddenly stops. Since the brakes have been slammed on, the many train cars all fly up & crash & dump their garbage out. These poems are a way of attempting earnestly to sort through the debris & find a new way to move.

THE BACK STORY: This book came from a really painful period of reckoning. I spent my teenage years not sober & they were full of attendant chaos & trauma. I started to live a calmer life at nineteen, but it took years for all the emotional wreckage to truly catch up with me–probably because it took that long before I was psychologically able to both see clearly & cope. I wrote the second & third section of this book while walking through the pent-up grief, & wrestling with this bizarre reality I’d found myself in where I was a person actually experiencing repressed memories unrepressing, something I never thought would happen to me. I was finally moving out of survival mode & able to be still, & the whiplash was intense. The first section of the book was written about a year earlier, but it deals with some of the trauma in a way that I thought led into the subsequent sections. The good news–as I want to leave you with good news–is that the rawness faded, the period of almost violent internal suffering ended, & I hope the existence of these poems speaks to that truth, that it is possible (in my experience) to look squarely at what you have been running from, what you have been burying the deepest, that you can feel it all & you will live.

WHY THIS TITLE: As the poems were created during a sincere effort to piece together the past & figure out what parts of the world/the self were worth keeping or, alternately, were to blame, ‘parse’ seemed like a perfect summary of the actions of that time.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: To feel less alone if they’ve been through or are going through a similar period of upheaval & chaos; to feel more compassion for someone else who walked through similar events/ emotions; to feel inspired to purge whatever darkness & uncertainty they’ve been holding onto; to allow themselves the freedom to grieve & then put some of that grief away, finally felt & expended; to experience how relatable human emotions are even if the circumstances aren’t relatable, & thus feel more connectivity towards others despite different lives; to be grateful they are on the other side of a dark time, or to be shown that every dark side does have an end point.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

  • Compression has always been one of the poet’s most powerful and intoxicating tools, their process of sculpting the poem until it advances for inspection only its most essential mysteries and delights. In Ruth Baumann’s fearless, commanding debut collection, Parse, it becomes something more—the strategy more spiritual than aesthetic, with the stakes being nothing less than the poet’s own soul. It’s rare to see a debut poet build such alluring density, or such incantatory silence. Baumann’s is a devastating, urgent music: “Above the frame bells toll. / All blood out of / focus. Can you hear?” —Kaveh Akbar.
  • It is necessary, at times, for the reader’s heart to be wrenched loose from its safe chamber where it doesn’t have to look at lives shattered by violence. Parse is an impossibly unflinching work of insight by a poet who has “heard/ a bird cry in the middle of the night// like it needed dawn now.” With unparalleled intellectual and artistic honesty, Ruth Baumann articulates a childhood ransacked by familial havoc and an adolescence undone by sexual violence. Like our very best poetry, Parse is written for others, and literature’s human truth is broadened by its presence. Here is an injured, unsettling and, yes, a living song. — Katie Ford.
  • Ruth Baumann’s Parse is a gorgeous mosaic of the fractured pieces of trauma, the glittering jagged shards of memory and annihilation, adoration and loathing, utter darkness and divine light. This is a journey into the soul’s dark night, but one that is illuminated by the lantern of art. A beautiful and touching debut collection. — Barbara Hamby

AUTHOR PROFILE: https://www.blacklawrence.com/author/ruth-baumann/ or http://www.ruthbaumann.com/

Ruth Baumann is the author of Parse, forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press in 2018. She is also the author of five chapbooks: these tornadoes (Dancing Girl Press, 2018), A Thousand Ars Poeticas (Sixth Finch, 2018), Retribution Binary (Black Lawrence Press, 2018), wildcold (Slash Pines Press, 2016) & I’ll Love You Forever & Other Temporary Valentines (Salt Hill, 2015). Poems are published in Colorado Review, Sonora Review, Sycamore Review, The Journal, Third Coast & others. She is a PhD candidate at Florida State University & holds an MFA from the University of Memphis. She also co-edits Nightjar Review.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: I hope these poems are helpful somehow. I hope they find the right reader at the right time.

SAMPLE

Belonging

The first time I put meth up my nose I thought Oh.
Well that’s a line crossed. Of course
it’s that easy, becoming more than I thought possible,
in any direction—Oh. I have this theory,
that hell & family slink in like that, not
on baby cat feet, but
in one normalized Oh after another.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Copies should still be available at Midtown Reader in Tallahassee!

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Black Lawrence Press, the publisher: https://www.blacklawrence.com/parse/

Small Press Distribution: https://www.spdbooks.org/Products/9781625577009/parse.aspx

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Parse-Ruth-Baumann/dp/1625577001

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/parse-ruth-baumann/1129488064?ean=9781625577009

PRICE: $15.95

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: http://www.ruthbaumann.com/