Preternatural: Reckoning

THE BOOK: Preternatural: Reckoning

PUBLISHED IN
: 2022

THE AUTHOR:  Peter Topside

THE PUBLISHER
: Meadowsville Quille

SUMMARY: In the first book of the Preternatural trilogy, readers are introduced to the town of Meadowsville, the home of the most popular urban myth, Mr. Smith. This vicious, vampire-like entity rules over this booming town by any means necessary, slaughtering its citizens, and upholding a long-standing tradition. As the danger grows, residents of Meadowsville band together to fight this dangerous monster and embark on an undertaking that will change each of them and their town forever.

Peter Topside

In book two, readers follow Alexandra as she returns to Meadowville fifteen years after the vampire Blackheart was defeated to take over her father’s church. Throughout the novel, Alexandra struggles to find her true purpose, torn between her shaky loyalty to Christian Reed – the unstable town antihero who vanquished Blackheart years ago – and increasing efforts at seduction and manipulation from Blackheart himself.

On April 12, 2022, author Peter Topside will release the highly anticipated third and final book in the trilogy, Preternatural: Reckoning [ISBN: 9781736347225], an entertaining and fast-paced psychological horror that pushes its audience to combat their fears, insecurities, and traumas. Set a year after Blackheart was finally put to rest, he now finds himself cast out of the afterlife and back to his old ways. Planning a war on God, Blackheart resurrects John Smith to assist him in this quest, all while acting as a false prophet and savior to the people of Meadowsville. Follow the final adventures of Alexandra Hughes and the Reed family, as they work together to destroy this legendary monster once and for all, or find themselves in hell on earth.

THE BACK STORY. “I traveled to a lot of the dark corners of my mind, confronting the deepest and scariest aspects of my PTSD, over many years, but I was able to make it through successfully,” shares Topside. “Throughout my recovery process, I was able to funnel all of the energy, thoughts and feelings into my writing. My books are the culmination of my own personal, life-changing journey.”

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? “My books have a lot of hidden meanings throughout, ranging from religious undertones, to psychological elements, references to some of the classic horror films and stories, etc.  Each reader can have their own unique experience with the trilogy, which is why I wrote it a certain way.  The main takeaway messages that I would put across are to develop your own type of spirituality, be empathetic and respectful to your fellow man, and always be true to yourself.

REVIEW COMMENTS

“Peter Topside did a fantastic job of setting the stage for the reappearance of some of the first two books’ characters, and I like how the tension is constantly being ramped up as the story progresses. The right amount of tweaking with the pacing and tension can have a significant effect on how surreal a scene appears to the reader and the author had excellent control over both aspects. Scenes were vivid, unnerving, and overall, just how I love them in books in this genre. The characters were well written too, and John Smith’s dark humor was a nice touch to an already memorable character. Other members of the cast had their own unique quirks and personalities, so I was also pleased with the character development. In conclusion, this was an interesting book, and fans of the series are in for a treat.” — Reader’s Favorite

AUTHOR PROFILE: Peter Topside is an accomplished chef and baker, movie fanatic, a proud father and husband, and a Clinical Exercise Physiologist by trade. His books are the culmination of his own personal, life-changing journey of triumphing over the PTSD of his traumatic upbringing. He hopes to inspire readers to bravely fight their own battles with anxiety and depression.”

SAMPLEhttps://www.amazon.com/Preternatural-Reckoning-Psychological-Horror-Trilogy/dp/1736347225

WHERE TO BUY IThttps://www.amazon.com/Preternatural-Reckoning-Psychological-Horror-Trilogy/dp/1736347225

PRICE: $8.99

CONTACT THE AUTHOR

Connect with Peter Topside on FacebookTwitterInstagramBookBub, and Goodreads.

Weather Report, May 2

(Photo from Dreamstime)

UPCOMING ON SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, MAY 3-9

“MOUSE,” BY N. SCOTT STEDMAN.

Twelve-year-old Mouse Gamma has spent her entire life struggling to communicate. She’s never understood how to stop the bullies and negligent foster parents without causing more trouble than it’s worth. That is until she discovers the magic of code—a language that’s more powerful than anything she’s ever imagined.

To everyone’s surprise, Mouse is anonymously chosen to attend the prestigious Rickum Academy—an incubator for the brightest and most promising young minds in tech. Her excitement is short-lived as the mystery of how she ended up at Rickum very quickly unravels around her, threatening the safety of her new life and the innocent lives of those around her. With the help of her new friends, Ada and Boone, Mouse is in a race against her classmates, her teachers, and the most powerful man in tech to not only uncover the truth about who she is, but who she is not.

“I KNOW YOU LOVE ME, TOO,” BY AMY NESWALD.

I Know You Love Me, Too circles around two half-sisters, Ingrid and Kate, eight years apart, whose shared father dies when Ingrid is twenty and Kate, twelve. As Ingrid struggles with her artistic identity and love life, the hairline cracks in Kate’s seemingly perfect life widen. Told from varying perspectives, I Know You Love Me, Too follows Ingrid and Kate through their lives, loves, and their attempts to understand their inheritance of mysteries and memories left behind by their dead father. As Ingrid muses in Friday Harbor, the relationship between half-sisters should be half as complicated… but they’re not.

“PRETERNATURAL: RECKONING,” PETER TOPSIDE.

“Peter Topside did a fantastic job of setting the stage for the reappearance of some of the first two books’ characters, and I like how the tension is constantly being ramped up as the story progresses. The right amount of tweaking with the pacing and tension can have a significant effect on how surreal a scene appears to the reader and the author had excellent control over both aspects. Scenes were vivid, unnerving, and overall, just how I love them in books in this genre. The characters were well written too, and John Smith’s dark humor was a nice touch to an already memorable character. Other members of the cast had their own unique quirks and personalities, so I was also pleased with the character development. In conclusion, this was an interesting book, and fans of the series are in for a treat.”

Speed of Dark

This week’s other featured book, “Fried Goldfinch,” by Sarah Wyman, can be found by scrolling down below this post, along with the Monthly Replay. Or, just click the author’s name on our Authors page.

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THE BOOK: Speed of Dark

PUBLISHED IN
: 2022

THE AUTHOR:  Patricia Ricketts

THE PUBLISHER
: She Writes Press. As the first hybrid publisher recipient of the 2019 Independent Publisher of the Year, She Writes Press is unique in the world of publishing because they are neither traditional publishing, nor are they self-publishing. As an independent publisher, they bill themselves as a “third way” for authors, and they proudly occupy the gray zone, a much-needed alternative in a rapidly changing publishing landscape. Unlike self-publishing platforms that publish whatever comes through regardless of quality, SWP is a curated press that works with authors to ensure that their books will be well-received in the marketplace.

(Patricia Ricketts)

SUMMARY: Mary Em Phillips has decided to end it all after losing her beloved Mamie, who raised her; her husband, Jack, who has left her for another woman; and her only son, Petey, who has died as a result of a freak bacterial infection. But when Mosely Albright, a black man from Chicago’s South Side, comes to her back door one morning needing a drink of water and seeking directions back to the train, her plans are derailed . . . to the chagrin of Mishigami (so named by the Ojibwe, also known as Lake Michigan), who has been trying to lure Mary Em into his icy depths in the hopes that she will save him.

Mary Em wants nothing more than to end her anguish. Mosely is searching for the love he’s been missing most of his life. And Mishigami—who fears he is dying from rampant pollution and overfishing—seeks a champion.

A story of friendship, survival, connection and the unquestioning power of nature told through three distinct voices, Speed of Dark affirms a love of humanity that transcends all else, including race and background.

THE BACK STORY
:

This novel’s start–an image of Mary Em Phillips seated at her kitchen table–worrisome thoughts swirling overhead–came to me in a flash. So I let Mary Em tell her tale as she travels to downtown Chicago on the train working her way through grief. Then Mosely Albright appeared at Mary Em’s back door. Then Nona Concetta showed up on the train and Gerard appeared on a city street corner. It kept happening. And finally, Mishigami, the beloved Lake Michigan, arrived–full of snarky French expressions and ecological concerns.

The correct answer to the question “how long did it take me to write Speed of Dark” is: “a lifetime.” In real time, though I’d say, off and on for about six years.

WHY THIS TITLE?: This simply came to me–a rhapsody on the theme of the expression speed of light. The novel is about the interrelatedness of light and dark as captured in the yin/yang symbol which exists in Mary Em’s, Mosely’s, and Mishigai’s lives. And, of course, in all of ours.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? 
Speed of Dark‘s uniqueness lies in the character of Mishigami, the anthropomorphized Lake Michigan, champion of his own freshwater needs and richly-enamored suitor of an unsuspecting Mary Em Phillips. That’s a fascinating story! Loaded with flashbacks and a harrowing real-time narrative, Speed of Dark will appeal to readers who love a great storyline, to those who have a fascination with magical realism, and to those who are interested in the ecology of our planet earth.

REVIEW COMMENTS
: “Speed of Dark is a great read, a compelling tale, which examines grief and how humanity, hope, and kindness sometimes prevail against all odds, with even the forces of nature lending a hand. Its wonderfully textured prose will keep you turning pages.”
—Steven A. Jones, producer/director of Mad Dog and Glory and The Harvest

“I absolutely loved it! Such diverse characters come alive, their lives linked in such intricate ways. Ricketts captures the ‘yin-yang’ relationship between joy and sorrow, love and loss, gratitude and guilt. Wonderful insights.”
—T.R. Kerth, author of Revenge of the Sardines and syndicated newspaper columnist The View from Planet Kerth in Naples, Florida, and Huntley, IL

“What a complex story of these characters’ connection to each other and to the natural world! The dialogue is realistic and rich, Mary Em’s inner struggles are vividly compelling.”
—Betsy White, Instagram’s @BiblioBetsy book reviewer and blogger

AUTHOR PROFIL
E:

Patricia Ricketts penned various essays, short stories, poems, and novels during her 30-year career as a high school English teacher. However, her passion really took off when she received a scholarship to the University of Edinburgh for Creative Writing. Since then, she has had short stories published in New Directions literary magazine, Realize MagazineThe Slate, Meta Magazine, The Blue Hour, on the Storied Stuff website, and in NPR’s “This I Believe” segment. She is currently working on her next novel, The End of June. Ricketts currently resides in Chicago with her partner.

SAMPLE: See the Amazon page.

WHERE TO BUY ITAmazonBookshop.org

PRICE: $16.95

CONTACT THE AUTHOR

Learn more about Patricia Ricketts on her website, and connect with her on

 Facebook and Instagram.

Fried Goldfinch

THE BOOK: Fried Goldfinch

PUBLISHED IN
: 2021 

THE AUTHOR:  Sarah Wyman

THE EDITOR
: David Appelbaum

THE PUBLISHER
: David Appelbaum, Codhill Press

Cover Artist: William Bland, Autumn (2018), William Bland Art 

SUMMARY: After a section on animals and other myth-makers, the poet returns to her ekphrastic fascination with 20th/ 21st century visual art. One chapter retells her life story and another collects impressions of immediate perception.

THE BACK STORY
: See below. Most of these poems were written over the past two years.

(Sarah Wyman)

WHY THIS TITLE?: During this time of global coronavirus pandemic and international movements for social justice sparked by racial violence in the U.S. during the summer of 2020, there has been too much intentional or passive destruction of beauty.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? 
Those who like to wed wit to humor, although this book is a bit darker and more self-revealing than intended. 

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“Sarah Wyman’s beautiful poems inhabit the rich shared ground between thoughtful, intimate conversation and a precise, rich lyricism. They interrogate experience, and artworks, and artworks-as-experience. They offer perceptive character studies…. They show us how colors seep and how knowledge of the world can generate deeper knowing. Their sonic music will catch your ear; their self-interrogating wisdom will bring you back to read them again, again. ” — Jeanne Larsen, author of In Search of Terra Incognita, Why We Make Gardens [& Other Poems] and What Penelope Chooses

AUTHOR PROFILE: Sarah Wyman writes on verbal / visual intersections and lives in the Hudson Valley where climbing feet kick dust down to a river-sea. She teaches Comparative Literature at SUNY New Paltz, directs the Faculty Center, and co-facilitates the Sustainability Learning Community. Her poetry has appeared in Aaduna, Mudfish, Ekphrasis, San Pedro River Review, Potomac Review, Petrichor ReviewLightwood, Heron Clan VIIChronogramShawangunk ReviewA Slant of Light: Contemporary Women Poets of the Hudson Valley, and other venues. She published books as well: Sighted Stones (FLP 2018) and Fried Goldfinch (Codhill 2021). 

AUTHOR COMMENTS: Art is an arbiter of culture – never drop the pen for more than a few strokes of freedom. 

SAMPLE:  

A rough-sketched line, a tin’s sharp edge
delineates the domain 
of a lonely sardine who misses her erstwhile mates.
As oil soothes the rounded corners, 
she awaits the cracker or cat’s crunch.

LOCAL OUTLETSInquiring Minds, New Paltz, New York

WHERE ELSE TO BUY ITInquiring Minds; Codhill Press; Amazon, Barnes & noble, etc. 

PRICE: $16.00

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:  

Email: wymans@newpaltz.edu 

Website: https://faculty.newpaltz.edu/sarahwyman/ 

Poetry reading for April 27 at York College.

https://www.york.cuny.edu/events/poetry-reading-by-sarah-wyman

The Monthly Replay

This feature has a two-fold purpose: 1. To allow those recently added to our followers list to discover 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 of the books revisited here, simply click on the “Authors” page, then on that author’s name.


“EVERYONE LOVES YOU BACK,” BY LOUIE CRONIN.

Everyone Loves You Back is a coming of middle-age novel about love and class struggle in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The main character, Bob Boland, is a native Cantabrigian. He’s a mass of contradictions. He’s quirky, crazy about jazz, incapable of keeping a relationship going, and decidedly not ambitious. He’s just trying to keep his job at the radio station where he works, and get some sleep. But he is a kind soul, a good friend, and in his own way, a hero. He meets two very different Cambridge women, one a professor, the other a colleague at his radio station, and has to chose between them and two very different ways of life.

“SILVER GIRL,” BY LESLIE PIETRZYK

Newly transplanted to the big city of Chicago, the unnamed narrator is one of the rare few to leave her small working class town in Iowa, let alone for a “fancy school by the lake.” Deftly, she conceals her deeply troubled past—especially from her charismatic yuppie-in-the-making best friend and roommate. For a while, she assimilates, living a new life not in any way her own. But the mask she wears cannot hide her secrets forever, and at some point she will be truly seen, possibly for the first time in her life. Set in the early 80s, against the backdrop of a city terrorized by the Tylenol killer, a local psychopath rumored to be stuffing cyanide into drugstore meds, Silver Girl is a deftly psychological account of the nuances of sisterhood. Contrasting obsession and longing, need versus desire, this novel delves into the ways class and trauma are often enmeshed to dictate one’s sense of self, and how a single relationship can sometimes lead to redemption.

“LITTLE MOCOS,” BY JOHN PAUL JARAMILLO.

Southern Colorado is home to “little mocos” Manito and his cousin Bea, both curious and sensitive, both tragically doomed and longing to live anywhere else. United in their agreement to escape onion fields and Ortiz family ghosts, the two stumble into their teen years with a stubborn brand of bad decisions and petty crimes. Against the cold and gray backdrop of the looming steel mill, Manito and Bea eventually piece together the unbending reality of their multi-generational family trauma, including an unanticipated close connection to local murderer Raymond “Cornbread” Vigil.

The Ortiz family stories are minimal and elliptical in Little Mocos and reflect heartbreak and bleakness, but they also mirror strength and resiliency. Manito does not simply recover painful memories from his family; he begins to re-envision them. It is how Manito finds his own way to manhood and a glimpse of life outside of the county of orphans.

“WHAT ENTERS THE MOUTH,” BY SARAH JEFFERIS.

This was praised by both Bruce Smith, author of The Other Lover and Devotions, as a book that has a “licked clean, all in, unafraid, vulnerable and startling reckoning I admire,” as well from Ansel Elkins, author of Blue Yodel who wrote, “these are fearless poems –a reckoning of the violence of girlhood rendered with grit and clarity.”

“MY BROOKLYN WRITER FRIEND,” BY GREG GERKE

I’ve often looked askance at author statements in galleries or museums and people who chose to give an in-depth psychology of prose or verse before reading it aloud. In public dissemination, the art is free of the artist, gone baby gone, and the receiver can chortle, fume, or appropriate as is her wont. I can describe this book’s birth because now, like the parent leaving the child with the agency, my responsibility for it ceases, as Maurice Blanchot says, “Reading is not writing the book again but causing the book to write itself or be written—this time without the writer as intermediary, without anyone writing it.”

And so, I will only act as a literary biographer with no hope of heaping criticism onto this distant enterprise and will try to map the book’s coordinates. With a few exceptions, all of the stories after the first section were written within some weeks of each other, during a very grueling winter just after I moved back to Brooklyn six years ago. I remember sitting on a bench in Prospect Park, looking at its Long Meadow covered in snow and ice, and writing some stories in longhand while gloved. Surprisingly, amidst the chill, a man crunched through the park’s icy walkways and sat next to me (there is only one bench facing west on the meadow proper) without comment—out of deference for my act or in awe of the failing puce sun about to be eclipsed by a large tower on Prospect Park West.

“THE SCIENCE OF LOST FUTURES,” BY RYAN HABERMEYER

The Science of Lost Futures is a prize-winning collection full of quirky humor and intelligent absurdity. Drawing on urban legends, internet hoaxes, and ancient medical folklore, these stories full of cage-rattling unusualness go beyond science fiction and magical realism to create a captivating collection of fabulist narratives that revel in the alien and the absurd.


Weather Report, April 25

(Chicago Skyline, photo from Perelli BMW)

Our currently featured books, “An Upside-Down Sky,” by Linda Dahl, “Terroir: Love Out of Place,” by Natasha Saje and “Manhattan my ass, you’re in Oakland,” by Judy Juanita, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.

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UPCOMING ON SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, APRIL 26-MAY 2

“SPEED OF DARK,” BY PATRICIA RICKETTS.

Mary Em Phillips has decided to end it all after losing her beloved Mamie, who raised her; her husband, Jack, who has left her for another woman; and her only son, Petey, who has died as a result of a freak bacterial infection. But when Mosely Albright, a black man from Chicago’s South Side, comes to her back door one morning needing a drink of water and seeking directions back to the train, her plans are derailed . . . to the chagrin of Mishigami (so named by the Ojibwe, also known as Lake Michigan), who has been trying to lure Mary Em into his icy depths in the hopes that she will save him.

Mary Em wants nothing more than to end her anguish. Mosely is searching for the love he’s been missing most of his life. And Mishigami—who fears he is dying from rampant pollution and overfishing—seeks a champion.

“FRIED GOLDFINCH,” BY SARAH WYMAN.

Writes one reviewer: “Sarah Wyman’s beautiful poems inhabit the rich shared ground between thoughtful, intimate conversation and a precise, rich lyricism. They interrogate experience, and artworks, and artworks-as-experience. They offer perceptive character studies…. They show us how colors seep and how knowledge of the world can generate deeper knowing. Their sonic music will catch your ear; their self-interrogating wisdom will bring you back to read them again, again.”

“MONTHLY REPLAY.”

This month, we will revisit “The Science of Lost Futures,” by Ryan Habermeyer, “Little Mocos,” by John Jaramilla, “Everyone Loves You Back,” by Louie Cronin, “What Enters the Mouth,” by Sarah Jefferis, “My Brooklyn Writer Friend” by Greg Gerke, and “Silver Girl,” by Leslie Pietryzk.


An Upside-Down Sky

This week’s other featured books, “Terroir: Love, Out of Place,” by Natasha Saje and “Manhattan my ass, you’re in Oakland,” by Judy Juanita, 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:   An Upside-Down Sky.

PUBLISHED IN: 2022 

 THE AUTHOR:  Linda Dahl 
 
THE PUBLISHER: She Writes Press, a hybrid independent publisher with awesome support for its authors.  
 
SUMMARY:  An Upside-Down Sky is a novel about a group of mostly comfortably-off older boomers. They set off on an exotic trip to the fictional Namyan, a little-known, highly scenic south Asian country teeming with photogenic Buddhist monks and nuns wandering the streets with begging bowls, a vast number of gorgeous pagodas and shrines and smiling, hardworking people. There’s a catch, a long history of extreme political violence, only recently broken, and a hardening of ancient customs into unbreakable taboos. These disparate Americans – straight, gay, white, people of color – confront enigmas, unknowingly break laws, form friendships, have love affairs, spats, physical mishaps. Several get into serious trouble.     

The book weaves together the stories of the travelers and their Namyanese tour guide as they visit this exotic country, the plot anchored by the protagonist’s unexpected realizations. Besides the main character, Lidia, a disheartened Latina artist dealing with an unspecified sorrow are Ed, a retired entomologist who zealously chases down butterflies, killer wasps and several of his fellow tourists who get on his bad side; Clint, a curmudgeonly retired oilman who loves mountains but not people; Haynes, the sole Black person on the trip, there to do research for an extreme political adventure vlog; Mrs. Hills, a nonagenarian lesbian Asia hand; Lars and Catty, old-school Wasps with a bohemian bent; and Thila, the tour guide, longing to experience the world beyond her long-repressed country’s borders. And more – a total of nineteen.  

THE BACK STORY: I began my writing career as a freelance travel journalist in the 1980’s, collecting a raft of memorable characters along the way. Then, a few years ago, after I visited Burma, a.k.a. Myanmar (the fictional Namyan of the book) on a group tour, I couldn’t get this lovely, mysterious and tragic place out of my mind. Two years and four or five drafts later, the book was ready.            

WHY THIS TITLE?:  An Upside-Down Sky may, at first glance, seem to be a benign or gentle title. But I think – I hope – that it suggests a more ominous notion, which most of us have experienced to one degree or another, when an assumption about truth is upended and we find what we took to be real may be a fiction. In this novel’s setting, the characters struggle, according to their lights, to reconcile the peaceable Buddhist veneer all around them with the dark violence of the kleptocracy only recently replaced with a nascent democracy, just as they struggle with – deny, ignore, or confront, and accept – truths about themselves. 

I want to avoid spoiler alerts, but there’s also a scene in the book that clarifies this struggle for the main character, Lidia.  

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT?  I wrote Sky as an entertainment. Graham Greene sometimes wrote what he called “entertainments.” There was nothing light or frothy about these novels, but they were amusing, a highly coveted goal for a writer. I think mature readers want stories that show them as they are, not placid and played-out, but with lasting appetites, engaged in the world and their own dilemmas even as the body protests. This is a story for people who continue to want to know more of this strange, endlessly diverse world we live in.      

REVIEW COMMENTS:  

“Brilliant! Sly humor, pathos, love, snappy dialogue, and unforgettable characters in an exotic setting – I was right there with Linda Dahl’s quirky group of upscale travelers as they aired their prickly personalities and petty squabbles while tromping barefoot through Buddhist temples and shrines. Not just an engaging read, An Upside-Down Sky offers a bonus: a clear-eyed view of the volatile politics and ethnic conflicts of a fictional south Asian country that’s a stand-in for Burma.” — Joan Duncan Oliver, author Buddhism: An Introduction to the Buddha’s Life, Teaching and Practices  

“Dahl’s prose is measured and often lyrical…A rather leisurely novel of a vacation relationship.” –Kirkus Reviews 
 
AUTHOR PROFILE:  I always dreamt of being a published writer someday – a pipe dream, I felt: authors were demi-gods and few of them were demi-goddesses in the 1960’s. So I took a detour that, as it turned out, was good training for hitting the keys. A trip to Mexico as a teenager decided me on a career as a Latin Americanist, maybe as a professor, or in the Foreign Service, I daydreamed. Well, no, but with a degree in Latin American Studies and fluent in Spanish and Portuguese, I became a travel writer in Mexico, the Andes, Brazil and the Caribbean. I sniffed out offbeat museums, restaurants, music, romantic hideaways, characters – and got paid for it! And more to the point, I accumulated a lot of stories. I had another obsession too, a love of jazz. That and my dream of becoming an author convinced me to move to New York, where I worked up the nerve to write my first book. Now in my third act, I have written nine published books and a screenplay. And two children, a shifting cast of animals and what threatens to become an indoor jungle in my retirement apartment near the Hudson River and Manhattan.    

AUTHOR COMMENTS:  Boomers read. A lot. And there are some great books about the whole aging business – a personal favorite is Jane Gardam’s Old Filth trilogy. My 19 characters are, most of them, in the third act of their lives. One question, which I realized only after I’d written the thing, that drove the narrative was this: how will people who just want a vacation, a Disneyfied world, interact with those who remain perennially curious, who want to understand something new, outside their experience? This tension underlies the book, though there is plenty more to be had including, I hope, some fun to be had.  
 

SAMPLE CHAPTER:  

An Upside-Down Sky 

Chapter 1 

Despite a total of sixteen hours of flight time plus several more waiting in airports, Lars Vonderville convinced Catty, his wife, and Lidia De Campos, their old friend, to visit the old part of Gonyang, the capital of Namyan, once they’d showered and changed.  

“But just an hour. One hour,” Catty agreed reluctantly, giving in only because, as an experienced traveler, she knew that if they slept now, they’d be wide awake at two in the morning. Plus, visiting the old, shabby part of Gonyang was not on the itinerary, so this was probably their only chance to see it. Most of it had been destroyed in the Japanese invasion in World War II, but some notable architectural blends of the native and Victorian styles had survived.  

Lidia came too, figuring she should cram in as much as possible during this trip, which she was thinking of as her reentry into the world.  

The traffic on the way to the old part of the city was as terrible as in any big city in the world, even though Namyan, long a pariah state, had only recently rejoined the world economy. Arriving, the crumbling streets teemed with the homeless, just like in their own city, New York. Down-on-their-luck drug addicts and/or crazy souls who squatted in the rubble and dank hallways of neglected buildings. Yes, like New York, above all the New York of their youth, the l970s and ’80s. With the difference that, while Lars and Catty had had to walk past the squalor, they’d lived in tony Upper East Side apartments, while Lidia, in classic young artist fashion, arrived from the Midwest without money or connections, and lived in the middle of the chaos.  

Her dirt-cheap apartment on 102nd and 2nd Avenue had a claw-foot bathtub in the kitchen, the toilet in a closet, a permanently broken lock on the front door of the building, and a super who was drank in his basement lair. But her fifth-floor walkup had great light—a timeless artist’s garret. Lidia accumulated furniture from the street, pots and pans from Salvation Army, and New York stories: a rat she first thought was a stray cat came in the kitchen, a guy in a wife-beater scaled the walls and tried to pry open her window but,  on hearing her scream, fell and broke his leg—best possible ending. Old Gonyang reminded all three, but especially Lidia, of that funky time.  

And just as there is a rose in Spanish Harlem, so too did old Gonyang have its special funky charms. It was Southeast Asia, after all. A charming little girl with raisin eyes held up tiny bananas for sale. Lars forked over some takys for a bunch, not yet sure about the exchange rate. The girl’s eyes widened and an instant crowd gathered around the rich white man.  

“Isn’t this fantastic?” Lars said after schmoozing with them, if you can schmooze with gestures. He strode on in his naturally exhilarated way with his bananas.  

They passed old women sitting easily on their haunches behind piles of oddly shaped, unidentifiable vegetables and silver-black, leathery dried fish. Men minded tables piled with foliage and cones of spices and herbs. “Yoonki, yoonki! they called shrilly to the foreigners.  

“Must be betel nut,” said Lars, who handily knew so many outré things. “Going to give it a try.”  

“Lars, no.” Catty’s pale olive skin was pinched with jet lag. “Please don’t, let’s go.”  

“In a tick.” Lars enjoyed used outmoded expressions. “It’s supposed to give you energy, and God knows I could use some.”  

“What you need is a nap,” Catty snapped.  

Lars took on the bewildered expression he always did when Catty opposed him. “No time like the present!” He peered at his watch. “It’s just two thirty. Plenty of time for a snooze later.” 

“Then hurry up, and please don’t chitchat,” Catty said—looking defeated, as Lars always  chitchatted. 

He stopped before a stall and pointed. “How much?” he asked the vendor, confident that he, like vendors in every part of the globe, would know that much English. “Fif’ takys,” said the delicate-boned man.  

Lars nodded agreement. The man made a show for him, spreading a paste on leaves, sprinkling tobacco and bits of the spice cone, and topping it off with a chopped-up chunk of nut in the middle. He rolled the thing up like a taco and voilà, there was the mood and energy enhancer of South Asia, ubiquitously chewed and spat out, nasty, blood-red dregs staining walls and floors like a lurid, nationwide crime scene.  

Lidia had read somewhere that betel nut was carcinogenic and lots of South Asians got lip, throat, or tongue cancer. But when did people anywhere pay attention to the hazards of mood-enhancing chemicals? Nowhere that she knew of. She debated trying it too, though she still recalled her deep disappointment after trying coca leaves in the Andes, back in the day. All she’d gotten then was a sore jaw, a mouthful of cud, and only the mildest euphoria. Maybe let Lars be the guinea pig.  

Lars had been atypically quick to score the betel nut taco but paying for it was another story. Catty stood to one side, shooting him looks he ignored as he mugged for a growing number of Namyanese. Lars loved to engage with what he called the “salt of the earth” and could go on interminably if Catty would have let him.   

“Lars, pay him now or I’m leaving!”   

He made a small face—the beleaguered husband—and waved to the bevy of watching betel chewers, who heaved with amusement at the very pale, tall, old foreigner in an octagon-shaped straw hat that only rice peasants wore. He’d picked it up at an airport shop that morning.  

They walked away, Lars munching stolidly.   

“Well?” Catty asked, arms folded.  

“Yuck!” He wiped his mouth with his handkerchief. “But there’s something. Probably intensifies as you keep chewing.” 

“You can chew and walk at the same time.” Catty sped up. Over her shoulder, she said, “I insist on getting some rest before dinner!” 

Lars made an effort to catch up.   

“You’ve got red ooze on your chin. It looks like blood,” Catty told him. 

Lars opened his mouth to say something.  

“And keep your mouth closed!”  

“Oh, buck up,” Lars slurred. 

They turned the corner and Lars’s bloody-looking lower face was forgotten at the sight of a group of extremely colorfully dressed women strolling along with their chins poking out from heavy gold coils rigidly encircling their necks and jaws.   

“Hinchaks,” Lars enunciated with effort. “Pershecuted Northern eshnic minority. Orishinally from Mongolia.”   

“How many ways can men—no offense, Lars—think of to constrain women?” Lidia had been mostly silent until now, just taking it all in, feeling as if she was at a carnival. Gonyang was a Tilt-A-Wheel, and here came the clowns. Jet lag—no, life—was bombarding her. “Bind our feet,” she went on. “Remove our clitorises. Strap us into corsets. Throw burkas over us. Look at them!”   

“They don’t shlook unhappy,” Lars slurred.  

“Why would they?” Catty asked rhetorically.  

Lars stopped walking and regarded her. “Go on.”   

“Because they’ve been brainwashed from birth into thinking they’ve got to stretch their necks like a giraffe’s to be beautiful. Lars, don’t do your dim routine!”  

“Let me digesh thish.” He hawked and spit into a nearby bush. “Aren’t we all brainwashed from birth? Morals. Religion. Patriotism. Really, Cat, I must say—”  

But whatever he must say was lost, as they had now come upon members of their “small, congenial group,” as the brochure from Trent & Koss Adventure Tours described its “guests.” The Vondervilles and Lidia had met several of them already at the airport, but that had been a blur.  

“Betsy Hodges,” said a rather large and disheveled woman. “Have you seen the adorable train station? “Oh!” She stared at Lars.  

Everyone stared at Lars. 

“My God, did you get beat up by street thugs?” Ward Wong, small, rather bent but spry, stepped forward. 

“You poor thing!” cried Trudy Wong. 

“We’ll get you to a doctor. The hotel must have one. Or, where is the guide—Thira?” Barton Liu whisked out his phone.  

“Thila,” Catty said. “No! Lars—my husband—is fine. He’s chewing betel nut and the disgusting juice looks like blood.”  

They crowded around Lars. 

“Was that wise?” breathed Ann Boren. 

“Oh, we tried it in Thailand, when Ken was stationed there. Everybody does it,” said Sally Lattimore.  

Colonel Ken Lattimore made a deprecating gesture. “It’s legal.”  

“I’m going to try it,” said Klaus Haynes.   

“There’s a bunsch of vendorsh over there.”  

Klaus nodded and headed where Lars pointed. 

“So what’s it feel like?” asked Ted Leibitz-Kai.  

Franklin Leibitz-Kai tittered. “Are you stoned? Like on weed?” 

“Well, I can’t shay what that feels like. Never tried the shtuff.” Lars chewed on. “Short of like schewing shtobacco with this shing to it. Zhing. Pleasant and dishgusting at the same time, with the shtems and woody bitz and goop. But it feels . . . good. Normally, I’m a beer and wshiskey man,” he added. 

 Presently, they all went their separate ways. Lars and Catty found the bookstore Lars had enthused over while reading the guidebook; he hoped to stock up on histories of the ancient kingdom there. But the store turned out to be a shack that primarily sold Japanese comic books and used paperbacks in English, German, and French.   

 “Well, I’m not surprised—and anyway, we have no room for more books in the apartment,” Catty pointed out with satisfaction.   

“In my shtudy,” Lars protested.  

“Your study is hopelessly crowded,” Catty said. “Let’s go to the train station. That’s actual history. Ten minutes,” she added.  

*** 

The station was a much-photographed mash-up of Victorian depot and Namyanese pagoda that managed to be both monumental and charming. Ghosts of British ladies in crinolines and parasols in the stifling heat with little dogs at their sides, husbands tightly suited, a gaggle of slim Namyanese servants trailing behind. The graceful lines and swirls of the native architecture and people as charming effects to the conquerors of the world.   

“All right, it’s been thirty-seven minutes,” Catty said. “Let’s go.” 

Lars turned. “Where’s Lidia?”  

But she had disappeared.  

LOCAL OUTLETS:  The Lit. Bar, the only bookstore in my neighborhood, the Bronx, New York!   
 

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target online, Indie bookstores   
 
PRICE:  Paperback, $16.95, Kindle, $9.49 
 
CONTACT THE AUTHOR:  

http://www.lindadahl.com 

  

Terroir: Love, Out of Place

THE BOOK: Terroir: Love, Out of Place.

PUBLISHED IN: 2020

THE AUTHOR: Natasha Sajé.

THE PUBLISHER: Trinity University Press, in San Antonio, Texas.

THE BACK STORY: I had been working on a “foodoir” since 2010, but found I could not write “about” food without writing about issues of identity. There’s still a lot of mention of food in the book, and one essay investigates the relationship of taste to education.

WHY THIS TITLE?: The word “terroir” refers to the climate and soil in which something is grown. Natasha Sajé applies this idea to the environments that nurture and challenge us, exploring in particular how the immigrant experience has shaped her identity. She revisits people and literature across her life, including her experiences as the child of European refugees in suburban New Jersey, taken under the wing of a widowed neighbor; a winter spent waitressing in Switzerland; her marriage to a Jamaican man in Baltimore; and finally her marriage to a woman in Salt Lake City. This memoir-in-essays combines poetic lyricism with incisive commentary on nationality, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and class. Reminding us that change is constant in our lives, Sajé asks how terroir creates identity. Throughout, the English language is her most fertile ground.

Natasha Saje

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? If you want to read memoir that looks out from the self to the world.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“Captivating reading… Natasha Sajé’s ranging essay collection explores the nature of the self while shedding light on race, sexuality, nationality, and the meaning of home.” ― Foreword Reviews “Thoughtful essays…will fascinate readers interested in the interplay between identity and place.” ― Publishers Weekly “Combines fascinating personal history with challenging arguments and ideas about identity, writing, race, nationality, sexuality, and more.” ― Book Riot “A complex and full-hearted book. As Sajé grapples with what it means to be a human living in community with other humans, she must also consider complicating questions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, professional and familial loyalties, nationality, and economic class. This is not a book to suggest we are all human and therefore all the same, capable of loving and being loved. Rather, in these pages Sajé struggles with what makes us all different, and what it means when she stands by someone in the face of all that might set her and all others apart.” ― Camille T. Dungy, author of Guidebook to Relative Strangers

From Adam Gopnik, Pen Diamondstein-Spielvogel Award for the Essay, 2021 Judge:

One of the things that was appealing about this book is that’s it very much about, in every sense, the issues of the day: the idea of place, of where we are, how we are located on any map as individuals by ethnic identity, class, gender—all of those things. But rather than being carried forward in a narrowly argumentative way, again, in the classic manner of the essay, Sajé’s work is ruminative. It walks around these issues from the point of view of someone who’s an expatriate, someone who’s an émigré, someone who’s a world citizen, but who’s also concerned with the idea of ‘terroir’, the one place in the world where we belong. And I think the dialogue in her work between a kind of cosmopolitanism that she has along with her self-critical examination of the problem of localism and where we sit on the world, was inspiring to us….Nationality, race, class, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation—she writes about them, not from a distance, but from an exquisite and micro-accented point of view.

AUTHOR PROFILE: Natasha Sajé was born in Munich, Germany in 1955 to parents who were displaced by the events of WWII. Her mother was from Silesia, and her father was from Yugoslavia where he was an officer in King Peter’s army. In 1957, the family emigrated to New York City where Natasha learned the English language from American television and kindergarten class. Except for a three–year stint in South Bend, Indiana, where her father got a job at Studebaker (a distributor of Mercedes Benz cars in the U.S. at that time), Natasha grew up mostly in the suburbs of New York City.

She chose to attend college at the University of Virginia because it was six hours from home and tuition was a bargain. After graduating in three years with a B.A. in English in 1976, she moved to Europe: first to Paris and then to Stuttgart where she worked secretarial jobs, and finally to Grindelwald in Switzerland, where she worked as a waitress. She returned to the U.S. two years later to attend law school but dropped out after a semester and got a job waitressing at the Washington Hilton. There she fell in love with Tyrone Robertson, a chef from Jamaica (by way of London and the British Merchant Navy). A year later she attended the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars (then a one year M.A. program) and afterward returned to waitressing, this time at a Capitol Hill restaurant called 209 ½.

In 1982, Natasha and Tyrone bought a tiny house in Baltimore. She started a catering business, taught composition courses at Goucher College, and worked for the Sterling Silversmith Guild of America (a trade association). In 1987, she began a Ph.D. program at the University of Delaware and worked in their writing center. After a year and half, she entered the Ph.D. program at the University of Maryland. In the interim, she had finally learned that faster is not better when it comes to education, and at Maryland, she wrote a dissertation tracing the rhetorical figure of the coquette through conduct books and novels.

During those studies, she also wrote and began publishing poems that culminated in her book, Red Under the Skin, which was chosen for the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press in 1993. Natasha began teaching in the Vermont College of Fine Arts low–residency MFA in writing program in 1996 and accepted a fulltime job from Westminster College in Salt Lake City in 1998. She and Tyrone moved to Salt Lake City where he ran a catering business after an unfulfilling stint as the executive chef at the University of Utah food service. Natasha’s second book, Bend (Tupelo), was published in 2004, and a year later she received a Fulbright award to teach in Ljubljana, Slovenia. During this time, she got to know her Slovenian cousins and came to love this alpine country of two million people tucked between Austria, Italy, Croatia, and Hungary. After three years of treatment for T–cell lymphoma, Tyrone Robertson died in 2008.

In 2009, Natasha fell in love with her wife Laura Ann Manning, a native Boston sports fan who works in IT for the Veteran’s Administration. A move to Washington, D.C. from Salt Lake City is in progress. Natasha’s favorite pastime is cooking (particularly baking), and she often supplies friends with customized celebration cakes. Her third book of poems, Vivarium, (Tupelo) and a postmodern poetry handbook, Windows and Doors: A Poet Reads Literary Theory (University of Michigan), were published in 2014. In 2020, her book of personal essays-memoir, Terroir: Love, Out of Place, is out from Trinity University Press. 2021 saw the publication of a chapbook of apostrophe poems (Special Delivery) from Diode Editions, and in 2022, Tupelo Press will publish The Future Will Call You Something Else, a full length collection.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: I’m glad my parents are not alive to see the war in Ukraine. Perhaps my book might remind readers about forced displacements and the immigrant experience, and the pitfall of nationalist thinking. Diversity of every kind is the key to a vibrant society—and to peace.

SAMPLE:

From: “The Performance of Taste”

Along with the food section, my favorite parts of the newspaper have always been the columns devoted to ethics, advice, and etiquette. From them—and from the fiction I read—I learned how to be an American, how to be an adult, and how to do the right thing, which, of course, keeps changing. If it is sometimes polite to refuse sweets so as not to appear greedy, other times it is polite to take them and show enjoyment. As a child, refusing food was permissible in what seemed like direct correlation with its desirability. I could say no to chocolate, but not to lamb and green beans. How well I knew the person offering the sweets or the lamb was relevant, as was the time of day, who else was there, and what would happen after the meal. I learned via on-site training, but also by reading: Sue Barton, Nancy Drew, Doctor Dolittle, Little Women. I was Jo, whose ethical dilemmas pit what she wants against what other people need. Thinking about other people first usually results in being liked.

But how to know what others are thinking? In my thirties, I took the Meyers-Briggs personality test and realized that not everyone operated as I did, as an ISTJ. The test, based on the Jungian opposites of introversion/extroversion, sensory/intuitive, thinking/feeling, and perceiving/judging, made me realize that all my life I had been hurting people’s feelings when I said what I thought or did what I wanted. If I am, as Jung said, becoming my best self as I age, mitigating my introversion and quick judgments, I am still sometimes unsure when to hold my tongue. My contribution to conversations should be useful. During one dinner, when I was being interviewed for a job, I told the woman who jogged two hours every morning—while wearing a Walkman—that aerobic activity intensifies acoustic trauma. When I saw a woman at the gym using a machine that my orthopedist thought should be outlawed, I told her what my orthopedist had said. Because the learner in me can never get enough feedback, no matter how negative or inappropriately timed, I make the mistake of thinking that others are like me.

My food snobbery still punctuates my relationship with Laura, although now, years after that Stoneground birthday, our knowledge of each other rarely surprises us. In fact, she now feels free to reject something I’ve cooked—most recently chocolate chip tahini cookies. I thought they were OK, and ate four of them a few minutes out of the oven, but she took one bite, said, “Where’s the butter?” and made a face. The cookies did contain butter, but the tahini masked it; it also made their texture puffy and soft instead of chewy and crisp. It seems Laura has become a food snob, too, although I don’t know if she would perform her snobbery in front of anyone but me, perhaps because of her family. When we went to lunch at an expensive restaurant with her parents, they whispered to her, “This is not our kind of place.” While they earned more money than my parents—Laura’s father owned his electrician business and her mother invested in the stock market—they proudly cling to their working class origins. Eating at an expensive restaurant is (too) conspicuous consumption, while overbuying and then wasting food at home shows their economic privilege in addition to their lack of planning. My parents, on the other hand, did not think of themselves as working class even when they took jobs as cleaners; moreover, having grown up with good food, it was something they expected to enjoy.

The performance of taste signals the mutable entity of class status, but perhaps the important thing is to ask why we perform knowledge in any particular situation. Will it do some good? I’ve learned a lot about literature and a fair amount about food. In fact, I mostly alternate planning what to eat or cook with thinking about what I’m reading, subjects contiguous only in my head. Roasted nectarine crumble. I’m two eyes looking out of a suit of armor. I write because I can’t talk (May Swenson). Broad beans with pickled red onion. We act and walk and speak and talk in ways that consolidate an impression of being a man or being a woman (Judith Butler). The tissue connecting food and words is my worry about the right thing to make or say, balancing my ideas with other people’s feelings.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Best place to get it is through the nonprofit Trinity UP, where the purchase price will support other books, or your local independent bookstore.

PRICE: $18.95.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Natasha has a website (mostly food-related writing) at http://www.natashasaje.com and would love to hear from you via email: nsaje@westminstercollege.edu She’s also on Facebook (the only Natasha Saje) and Twitter @NatashaLSaje

Manhattan my ass, you’re in Oakland

THE BOOK: Manhattan my ass, you’re in Oakland

PUBLISHED IN: 2021

THE AUTHOR: Judy  Juanita 

THE EDITOR: Judy Juanita 

THE PUBLISHER: EquiDistance Press

SUMMARY: Poems of gentrification, racism, feminism, and social justice

THE BACK STORY: Many of these poems are set against the backdrop of rough-and-tumble Oakland, California. Born in Berkeley and raised in Oakland, Judy Juanita joined the nation’s first Black Student Union at San Francisco State and subsequently the Black Panther Party (BPP) during the sixties. She edited the BPP newspaper and worked in the Panthers’ Breakfast for Children program while finishing her BA at SF State. She performed her poetry with LeRoi Jones (who became Amiri Baraka) and thus was a participant in and witnessed the Black Arts Movement. 

WHY THIS TITLE: Oakland and San Francisco have dwindling black populations. While blacks were almost half of Oakland’s population in 1980, their numbers fell to 28% by 2010 and 20% by 2021. Gentrification forced them to move to far-away suburbs, far-distant California towns, or to return to the South. Even more drastically, San Francisco’s black population, a robust 39% when the author lived there during college, is now 3%. 

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT:  This book won the American Book Award 2021. These poems of the urban diaspora of the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Area encompass blues poems, verse and free verse, the sonnet, letter poems, protest poetry and many prose poems. This work follows the urban pastorals of Sonia Sanchez, Gwendolyn Brooks and Amiri Baraka, undercut with the deadpan humor and wordplay of an E.E. Cummings. This feisty, often humorous, and philosophical book this book is not just for Oaklanders. The poems contain wisdom and entertainment for people in Manhattan, Oakland, and everywhere in between.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

From KIRKUS Reviews: Permeated with themes of sexual and racial inequality, this collection of 50-plus pieces fittingly begins with a credo against toxic masculinity, conjuring the Greek figure of Lysistrata. Similarly sexually charged imagery is often featured throughout the volume. These subtle and not-so-subtle erotic performances juxtapose the viciously practical with the beautiful. A classically structured sonnet dissects how “brothers get ferocious when they fuck” while another poem includes the lines “softly pull nipples to hard ripple cord come / after checking for lumps.” This isn’t the only way the work subverts readers’ expectations; the collection often injects bodily disgust or mental discomfort into the pieces to catch the audience off guard. A return home to the staleness of a father-run household is punctuated by a screaming enema. A humorous prose piece about the use of the n-word is made all the more unsettling by the fact that it’s predicated on the death of a Latino man who should not have been uttering the slur in the first place. Keeping readers on edge like this is an effective tactic to drive home the importance of the subjects addressed. One poem considers men needing women to be their props a systemic issue. In another piece, the ethereal imagery of downtrodden egg- and worm-eaters’ rising up to reach a dispassionate white angel remains striking in its symbolism.”

“With the exception of a heart-stirring eulogy for a lost friend, the book often feels the most personal in works that focus on religion. A piece dedicated to the author’s shakubuku mother, the woman who introduced her to Buddhist nam-myoho-renge-kyo chanting, is a portrait of words that skillfully brings the person to life: “She looked like my real mother / thirty years back: their large lips ochre-beautiful petals blossoming beneath their loopy lidded eyes / …her womanscent, / pussy-sharp in pungent spirals.” This same passion can be as heartbreaking as it is wondrous, as in a piece about an ailing father, willing to chant with Juanita at home, who refuses to enter a San Pablo, California, temple as he nears the end. On the subject of Christianity, the volume is considerably more critical, calling out Roman Catholic hypocrisy and seeing Jesus in the legions of white homeless, begging and defecating in the streets. Modern and historical hallmarks of social justice are present throughout, from Donald Trump’s rise and Harvey Weinstein’s crimes to the acquittal of O.J. Simpson, Sarah Palin’s “babymommadrama,” and the Gulf War. The author champions the causes of Hurricane Katrina survivors and examines police victims and tragedies like the fatal shooting of Atatiana Jefferson in Texas…Unsettling, important, and unforgettable poetry.“‘ — From Gail Wronsky. : 

What a distinctive, powerful, undaunted, sane, straight-shooting, de facto feminist voice! I love hearing the voice on these pages.” —Gail Wronsky, Poems for Infidels, Dying for Beauty

From Ishmael Reed: “Oakland can’t get no respect. The towns surrounding it don’t want to be associated with it. Judy Juanita even points to sections of Oakland that don’t wish to be associated with it. Blacks are profiled in the Rockridge section of Oakland, which Juanita calls ‘pretend Berkeley.’ Berkeley is the Whitest city in Alameda County regardless of its radical reputation. A city where one might be profiled even at cultural institutions. Both Juanita and I were profiled at the Berkeley Repertory Theater. In her book Manhattan my ass, you’re in Oakland, Juanita gives the history of Oakland before the expulsion of Blacks from the city by the banks, the police and Jerry Brown. With the invasion of the city by Millennials, will Oakland become Berkeley? Not If Judy Juanita has anything to do about it. Juanita stands up for a city that is more than a place where surrounding cities dump their trash.”  

AUTHOR PROFILE:  An award-winning author, poet, and public speaker, Judy Juanita has long chronicled this country’s contradictions in various genres and has come out on the side of hope. Her work is archived at Duke University’s John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African-American Literaturealongside student activists’ writings from the civil rights movement. Juanita, called “ an elder stateswoman of human rights in America,” was editor-in-chief of the Black Panthers’ newspaper in the late 1960s. Her experiences in Oakland, California, are chronicled in her much lauded, semiautobiographical novel, Virgin Soul (Viking, 2013). A distinguished finalist for OSU’s 2016 Non/Fiction Collection Prize, and Book of the Month at Kirkus Reviews, 2017, Juanita’s essay collection, De Facto Feminism: Essays Straight Outta Oakland, views activism and feminism as it plays out in one writer’s political, artistic and spiritual life. Her newest book of short stories, The High Price of Freeways, will come out in July, 2022 from the Univ of West Alabama’s Livingston Press, where the collection won the Tartt Fiction Prize in 2021.

AUTHOR COMMENTS:

A letter Judy Juanita wrote when asked, did we win the revolution?

I thought of our conversation about who won and whether we won the revolution as I read this article.

We won. These two bright young people are the testament to that: young millennials, look at them.

We won the cultural revolution. She is dark skinned and beautiful, something not celebrated in the decades before the 60s

We won in academia (you yourself, Dr. M., are testament to that); he is a lawyer from Brooklyn, a rarity if impossibility before we busted down the doors with open enrollment.

They are living together, not married. that’s the sexual revolution that gave them permission not to have babies as teens in Bushwick where they first met.

He’s on his Apple laptop: a testament to our youth overcoming the digital divide with the confidence in the American dream that WE gave them even as we were exposing its flaws.

She’s reading Michelle Obama, the First Lady of color, and a beautiful dark-skinned woman.

Winning has meant a lot of things, not the least of which is having choices. This young couple has an abundance of choices.

“The assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.  galvanized the movement and melded all the factions of the Civil Rights Movement together because of the ultimate sacrifice that Martin Luther King, Jr., made with his life. It showed everybody the naked use of violence and power in the United States. If John F. Kennedy’s assassination hadn’t done that, then five years later, the double blow of Martin Luther King’s and then, a few months later, Bobby Kennedy’s assassination revealed that, as H. Rap Brown liked to say then, ‘Violence is as American as cherry pie.’ It exposed the horribly violent underside to American society.”

SAMPLE CHAPTER: (Provide link). http://talkingwriting.com/manhattan-my-ass-youre-oakland

LOCAL OUTLETS: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/Manhattan-my-ass-youre-Oakland/Judy-Juanita/9780971635272

https://www.bookswagon.com/book/manhattan-my-ass-youre-in/9780971635272

https://www.bookdepository.com/Manhattan-my-ass-youre-Oakland-Judy-Juanita/9780971635272

https://www.powells.com/book/manhattan-my-ass-youre-in-oakland-9780971635272,

https://www.fishpond.com/Books/Manhattan-my-ass-youre-Oakland-Judy-Juanita-Shelley-Harper-Designed-by/9780971635272

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: books-a-million, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, 

PRICE: $9.95

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

Weather Report, April 18

Oakland graffiti

Our currently featured books, “The Sensitive Ones,” by Heather Nardi, “Myracles in the Void,” by Wes Dyson and “Easy Does It,” by Brooke St. James, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.

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With this edition of Snowflakes in a Blizzard, we will have topped 1,000 books highlighted since May of 2015. To be honest, I never expected that.

Although this has always been a solo operation, I often use the pronoun “we” because I believe that everyone who has ever contributed his or her work to this project or signed on as a blog follower is now a partner in it. And all of you are appreciated.

I can’t tell you many books may have been sold as the result of their Snowflakes exposure, because I have no way of tracking that. Rather, I think of it as somewhat akin to a dating service — we can set you up with a date, but we can’t guarantee how it will turn out.

The important thing, I believe, is that several thousand people each week will at least know that these books exist, and that’s important.

The biggest challenge for a writer used to be getting published. Now, it’s getting noticed.

As I’ve said before: The good news is, anyone who really wants to get his or her book published can now do so; the bad news is, anyone who really wants to get his or her book published can now do so. In other words, the competition for potential readers has escalated exponentially.

This week’s authors, Linda Dahl, Natasha Saje and Judy Juanita, provide a great example of the variety of writers and work that I’ve tried to feature.

I’m also reminded that the name of this enterprise perfectly reflects its location in far Upstate New York. The prediction tonight is for three to five more inches of snow.

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UPCOMING ON SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, APRIL 19-26

“AN UPSIDE-DOWN SKY,” BY LINDA DAHL.

 An Upside-Down Sky is a novel about a group of mostly comfortably-off older boomers. They set off on an exotic trip to the fictional Namyan, a little-known, highly scenic south Asian country teeming with photogenic Buddhist monks and nuns wandering the streets with begging bowls, a vast number of gorgeous pagodas and shrines and smiling, hardworking people. There’s a catch, a long history of extreme political violence, only recently broken, and a hardening of ancient customs into unbreakable taboos. These disparate Americans – straight, gay, white, people of color – confront enigmas, unknowingly break laws, form friendships, have love affairs, spats, physical mishaps. Several get into serious trouble.     

The book weaves together the stories of the travelers and their Namyanese tour guide as they visit this exotic country, the plot anchored by the protagonist’s unexpected realizations.

“TERROIR: LOVE, OUT OF PLACE,” BY NATASHA SAJE.

The word “terroir” refers to the climate and soil in which something is grown. Natasha Sajé applies this idea to the environments that nurture and challenge us, exploring in particular how the immigrant experience has shaped her identity. She revisits people and literature across her life, including her experiences as the child of European refugees in suburban New Jersey, taken under the wing of a widowed neighbor; a winter spent waitressing in Switzerland; her marriage to a Jamaican man in Baltimore; and finally her marriage to a woman in Salt Lake City. This memoir-in-essays combines poetic lyricism with incisive commentary on nationality, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and class. Reminding us that change is constant in our lives, Sajé asks how terroir creates identity. Throughout, the English language is her most fertile ground.

“MANHATTAN, MY ASS: YOU’RE IN OAKLAND,” BY JUDY JUANITA

This book won the American Book Award 2021. These poems of the urban diaspora of the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Area encompass blues poems, verse and free verse, the sonnet, letter poems, protest poetry and many prose poems. This work follows the urban pastorals of Sonia Sanchez, Gwendolyn Brooks and Amiri Baraka, undercut with the deadpan humor and wordplay of an E.E. Cummings. This feisty, often humorous, and philosophical book this book is not just for Oaklanders. The poems contain wisdom and entertainment for people in Manhattan, Oakland, and everywhere in between.