The Secret History of Kindness

THE BOOK: The Secret History of Kindness: Learning From How Dogs Learn

PUBLISHED IN: 2015

THE AUTHOR: Melissa Holbrook Pierson

THE EDITOR
: Amy Cherry

THE PUBLISHER: W. W. Norton

 SUMMARY: The training modality known as “positive reinforcement” or “clicker training” is based on the law of operant conditioning, which B. F. Skinner—one of the most unfairly maligned scientists of all time—codified in 1938. He described how behavior is acquired; it turns out to be exactly the same for every creature, whether pigeon or person. This may not be an especially popular fact, but it is (and was) scientifically provable. I became as interested in the bigger story of behaviorism, and why its findings are so resisted in a society that often prefers punishment even if it is ineffective, as I was in demonstrating how the use of rewards in modifying behavior unlocks the joyous miracle of how we learn best—in a happy state. I think it’s one of the great stories of our age.

Image result for Melissa holbrook Pierson + The Secret History of Kindness + photo

THE BACK STORY: The genesis of the book, on which I worked on and off for a decade, was the day we brought home a particularly unruly, and ferociously smart, border collie puppy. I had no idea how to shape her behavior in order for her to live successfully more than five minutes in the human world. By chance I hired a trainer who was an early adopter of clicker training, which was just starting to take off in the early 90s. In addition to teaching me the beautifully rich language in which dogs communicate, she led me on a journey of learning—all the way from Skinner to today’s greatest practitioners of behaviorism and to what I came to believe is the ethics of teaching the way our brains were built to learn: kindness is morally right, and it also happens to be most effective. Win-win.

WHY THIS TITLE?: I had originally wanted to title the book “B. F. Skinner’s Baby,” which I loved for its play on one of the most common misapprehensions about the psychologist coupled with the fact that positive reinforcement IS Skinner’s “baby.” But that would have skewed the contents toward the science story, while my publisher thought the dog angle was more salable.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT?  It’s not only about dogs; they’re essentially the portal into a discussion of the brain, behavior, and society. The book’s subjects mirror my own experience of encountering them. People who like understanding how things work—here, the mechanisms of behavior—will, I hope, find it interesting. As much as people who want only to understand how their dogs work.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“This book reads like a novel, but it is deep science, too. A gifted and witty writer, Pierson uses a reporter’s eye to inform us of a quiet, ever-spreading transformation in society, away from force to kindness.”—Karen Pryor, author of Don’t Shoot the Dog

 “Explores the philosophical intricacies of animal behavior, training, and human perceptions of control and empathy, leading the reader to think carefully about what truly motivates companion animals to obey human commands.”—Publishers Weekly

AUTHOR PROFILE: The most common, and natural, question people ask when hearing that someone is a writer: “And what do you write?” Enough words to make a book sounds smart-aleck, but to me it’s the only answer. I actually feel intense dread about the inevitable question, no matter how many times I’ve been asked, because I can’t answer it in the way people expect: I write about anything that interests me. I write about passion, with passion. (I hope.) Every one of my books is pretty different, and when you throw in the anthologies I’ve either edited or been included in, the subject gap grows wider. My first published piece was about movies. I review books, and I write personal essays. I’ve published poetry. I’ve covered history, sociology, visual arts, travel. So the answer to the question is either an endlessly long list, to increasingly perplexed looks, or else it’s “I write about whatever grabs me and won’t let go.”

AUTHOR COMMENTS:
I won’t say I didn’t intend this book to be “just” about dogs, as they’re deep enough for a thousand worthy books, but I wanted this book to transcend the subject of dogs. I hoped to show that in our treatment of them, we reveal ourselves most profoundly. Our prejudices, our shortcomings, our capacity for truth and sometimes our fear of it. I wanted it to sort of be about everything. That’s what writing is to me: a roadmap of connection.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Melissa-Holbrook-Pierson/e/B000APT0EC/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_4?qid=1551052584&sr=8-4

LOCAL OUTLETS: Rough Draft Bar & Books, Kingston, NY; Golden Notebook, Woodstock, NY

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

PRICE: $26.95 originally, but now often discounted!

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: melissahpierson@gmail.com

Weather Report, March 11

Image result for border collie photos free(Photo from Freerangestock.com).

Our currently featured books, “The Hawkman,” by Jan Rosenberg LaForge and “Made in Detroit,” by Marge Piercy, can be viewed by scrolling down below this post, along with the First Tuesday Replay. Or, click the author’s name on our Authors page.

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UPCOMING ON SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, MARCH 12-18.

“THE SECRET HISTORY OF KINDNESS: LEARNING FROM HOW DOGS LEARN,” BY MELISSA HOLBROOK PIERSON.

Writes Melissa: “The genesis of the book, on which I worked on and off for a decade, was the day we brought home a particularly unruly, and ferociously smart, border collie puppy. I had no idea how to shape her behavior in order for her to live successfully more than five minutes in the human world. By chance I hired a trainer who was an early adopter of clicker training, which was just starting to take off in the early 90s. In addition to teaching me the beautifully rich language in which dogs communicate, she led me on a journey of learning—all the way from Skinner to today’s greatest practitioners of behaviorism and to what I came to believe is the ethics of teaching the way our brains were built to learn: kindness is morally right, and it also happens to be most effective. Win-win.”

“THE COUPLE WHO FELL TO EARTH,” BY MICHELLE BITTING

These meditations, cosmic-toned, yet utterly visceral, demonstrate Michelle Bitting’s continuing growth and power as a poet of love, loss, the daily and deeply human experience, together with a maturing eye to understanding greater mythological tropes. Woven throughout her contemplation of the terrible beauty and struggle of family dynamics, corporeal desire, the injustices and revelations of life in the 21st century, thrums a vital connectivity to the mystic and mythological strains of the past, newfangled to the present in a way that ultimately sheds light on what it is to be alive and conscious of who we’re called to be. To read Michelle’s poetry is to take a wild, passionate ride through the rubble of the quotidian, to be shocked by sensual discovery and awakened to a relentless curiosity for both the surreal and historical. These poems travel—an expansion in service of communion with the world, confrontation and acceptance of self.

“THE NATURE OF TRUTH,” BY SERGIO TRONCOSO

Sergio says of his novel: “I grew up poor along the United States-Mexico border, but I ended up at Harvard and then at Yale. This was quite a leap in so many ways: psychological, cultural, linguistic and ultimately philosophical. I studied philosophy at Yale as a grad student, and I often noticed that the debates, which on the surface sought the truth, were often laced with rivalry and hate and even obsession. Hume said much the same thing, the pursuit of philosophical truth is not just about anything ‘objective,’ but is also suffused with emotions and prejudices. I also wanted to write a novel about identity, where someone is ‘half-here and half-elsewhere’ and is trying to find out where he belongs. So Helmut Sanchez, this half-German, half-Mexican student was my vehicle to explore these philosophical topics about the pursuit of truth, how it can become obsessive and how it can even undermine ‘doing the right thing.’”

The Hawkman

This week’s other featured book, “Made in Detroit,” by Marge Piercy, can be found by scrolling down below this post, along with the First Tuesday Replay. Or click the author’s name on our Authors page.

THE BOOK: The Hawkman: A Fairy Tale of the Great War.

PUBLISHED IN: June 5, 2018

THE AUTHOR: Jane Rosenberg LaForge

THE EDITOR: Cherrita Lee, Kayla Church, Dayna Andersen

THE PUBLISHER: Amberjack Publishing

SUMMARY: A great war, a great love, and the mythology that unites them. The Hawkman: A Fairy Tale of the Great War is a lyrical adaptation of a beloved classic.

Set against the shattering events of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, at the tale’s heart are an American schoolteacher — dynamic and imaginative — –and an Irish musician — homeless and hated — who have survived bloodshed, poverty, and sickness to be thrown together in an English village. Together they quietly hide from the world.

Too soon, reality shatters their serenity, and they must face the parochial community. Unbeknownst to all, a legend is in the making — one that will speak of courage and resilience admits the forces that brought the couple together even as the outside world threatens to tear them apart.

THE BACK STORY: The Hawkman is based on the Grimms’ fairy tale “The Bearskin.” https://www.pitt.edu/~dash/grimm101.html

WHY THIS TITLE: The Hawkman is named for its protagonist, who has become monstrous after his experiences in World War I.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: The Hawkman is historical fiction with fairy tale elements, though it is not a stereotypical fairy tale. The cost of rescuing maidens, of procuring magic and man and animal transformations, is as daunting as the nightmarish events depicted.

REVIEW COMMENTS: “LaForge’s writing is ethereal, and her elements of magical realism are beautifully interspersed throughout the novel…a refreshing change from the more familiar stories of “Cinderella” or “Sleeping Beauty.” — Kristen McQuinn, Historical Novel Society

AUTHOR PROFILE: Jane Rosenberg LaForge was born in Los Angeles to a pair of political and news junkies. Her early career in journalism took her throughout California, Maryland, and upstate New York. She enrolled in a graduate creative writing program in order to write a novel based on a court case she covered. Her studies led to a career as a college English instructor and writing literary criticism. She is also the author of four poetry chapbooks, two full-length poetry collections, and a memoir, An Unsuitable Princess: A True Fantasy/A Fantastical Memoir (Jaded Ibis Press). She lives in New York with her husband, Patrick; daughter, Eva; and their cat, Zeka.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: More information is available at jane-rosenberg-laforge.com

SAMPLE CHAPTER: (Provide link). https://www.edelweiss.plus/?fbclid=IwAR2B8PuikQ_vvXfR3ZnIhlNdT6FpjyHNCgua2zGkN4jP8QNu1adIxE-otZU#sku=1944995676&page=1

LOCAL OUTLETS: Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Hawkman-Fairy-Tale-Great-War/dp/1944995676

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amberjack Publishing: https://www.amberjackpublishing.com/the-hawkman

PRICE: $15.95

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: http://jane-rosenberg-laforge.com/contac

Made in Detroit

THE BOOK: Made in Detroit.

PUBLISHED: Hard Bound published in 2015, Paperback in 2017

THE AUTHOR: Marge Piercy

EDITOR: Ann Close.

PUBLISHER: Alfred A. Knopf

SUMMARY: “The poems in Made in Detroit range from descriptions of the Detroit of my childhood to my current life on Cape Cod. They reflect my deep appreciations of the natural world to elegies for lost friends and relationships, my Jewish heritage, and the ironies of today’s politics.

Marge PiercyThe poems are written in graphic, unflinching language about the poor, my peer group of poets, the suicide of dolphins and other nature commentaries, and my beloved cats. I write about my unique celebration of Jewish holidays, my marriage, and the small pleasures of daily life.

THE BACK STORY:  The poems were written over a period of time that I can’t even pin down, furthermore, Detroit was much in the news when I put the book together.

WHY THIS TITLE? The title comes from the realization as I grow older that many of my attitudes were formed from my growing up in Detroit and by what I saw and experienced there.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? The poems are clear and accessible to all readers, which is perhaps why it went to a second printing so quickly. My poetry seems to appeal to poetry lovers, fans of my political nature, my Jewish poetry, and those who have become loyal followers of my writing over the years.

REVIEWS

From the Washington Post, by Elizabeth Lund: “Marge Piercy’s Made in Detroit traces the personal and poetic evolution that has made her one of the most esteemed and enduring writers of the past four decades.”

From Booklist, by Donna Seaman: “Writing poignantly of social injustice, Jewish holidays, marriage, and age, Piercy, frank, caustically witty, and caring, generates suspense, drama, and arresting images…”

From Rain Taxi Review of Books, by George Longenecker: “Above all, Piercy writes lines that are so beautiful they bring tears…”

AUTHOR PROFILE: I have published 19 poetry collections, recently MADE IN DETROIT [Knopf]; 17 novels including SEX WARS. PM Press reissued VIDA, DANCE THE EAGLE TO SLEEP; they brought out short stories THE COST OF LUNCH, ETC and MY BODY, MY LIFE [essays, poems]. I have read at over 500 venues here and abroad.

I write a weekly Blog on my website, margepiercy.com. I’ve lived in Detroit, of course, and also Chicago, Brooklyn, Brookline, Cambridge, Manhattan (twice) and Paris. I moved to the Outer Cape in 1971 and have lived here, in the woods, ever since.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: The review excerpts are about all that can be said about a poetry collection.

SAMPLE POEM

The scent of apple cake

My mother cooked as drudgery

the same fifteen dishes round

and round like a donkey bound

to a millstone grinding dust.

My mother baked as a dance,

the flour falling from the sifter

in a rain of fine white pollen.

The sugar was sweet snow.

The dough beneath her palms

was the warm flesh of a baby

when they were all hers before

their wills sprouted like mushrooms.

Cookies she formed in rows

on the baking sheets, oatmeal,

molasses, lemon, chocolate chip,

delights anyone could love.

Love was in short supply,

but pies were obedient to her

command of their pastry, crisp

holding the sweetness within.

Desserts were her reward for endless

cleaning in the acid yellow cloud

of Detroit, begging dollars from

my father, mending, darning, bleaching.

In the oven she made sweetness

where otherwise there was none.

WHERE TO BUY IT:

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Independent Booksellers.

PRICE

Hardbound $27.95, Paperback $19.95

CONTACT THE AUTHOR

margepiercy.com

email: hagolem75@gmail.co

First Tuesday Reply, March 5

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 “Author” page, then on that author’s name.

THE BEAUTY SHOP by [Henderson, Suzy]“THE BEAUTY SHOP” BY SUZY HENDERSON.

England, 1942. After three years of WWII, Britain is showing the scars. Circumstance brings three people together, changing their destinies and those of many more.

John ‘Mac’ Mackenzie of the US Air Force is aware of the odds. He has one chance in five of surviving the war. Flying bombing missions through hell and back, he’s fighting more than the Luftwaffe. Fear and conscience stalk him on the ground and in the air.

Shy, decent and sensible, Stella Charlton’s future seems clear until war breaks out. As a new recruit to the WAAF, she meets an American pilot on New Year’s Eve. After just one dance, she inconveniently falls in love. But when her handsome airman survives a crash, her battles have just begun.

Dr Archibald McIndoe, New Zealand plastic surgeon, is on a mission to rebuild burned and injured fighters – their faces and their minds. Under his care, members of The Guinea Pig Club overcome disfigurement, pain and prejudice to learn to live again. His methods are unusual but so is this scale of warfare. Based on a true story, The Beauty Shop is a moving tale of love, compassion and determination against a backdrop of wartime tragedy.


“METALLIC DREAMS,” BY MARK RICE

Long-haired Scottish metal vocalist Spark MacDubh drops dead on a snow-covered street of his native Bronzehall, only to be jolted back to life by what he describes as “lightning from Heaven”. After Spark’s resurrection his sanity is stretched thin. During waking hours he receives instructions from mysterious deities. At night he is haunted by a Devil who wields ultimate power over the music industry, promising musical success on one condition: acquisition of musicians’ souls. Unwilling to sacrifice his soul or those of his bandmates, MacDubh comes up with an alternate route to stardom: put the Devil out of business. The idea is far from practical. For starters, it requires a trip to Hell, and only the right music can open the gateway to that dimension. Catch-22? More like Catch-666.


“WAKE ME UP,” BY JUSTIN BOG

Wake Me Up began as a meditation on psychological stress and depression in men in their middle ages. Research helped me flesh out the father in the story, what he was trying to fight against in his own nature. His son and wife play heavily in his thoughts and he fails to realize he’s losing control. At the same time, his son is struggling with his own identity as a fifteen-year-old in a small college town in conservative Montana. He becomes the victim of a bullying attack by four of his classmates. From his coma, this teenager begins to tell the tale of secrets held for generations by his family. He floats above the action, privy to everyone’s thoughts and actions around him. He’s trying to heal, and hopes to confront injustice upon doing so, if he wakes up at all.

 

“HALLOW BE THY NAME,” BY AMY McLEAN.

It has been two years since Lucy Hallow first saw the spirit of her deceased nephew, and, having come to terms with her role as Spiritual Messenger, it is time for her to step up to the next level. Assisted by her spirit guide Naiche, the son of a Chiricahua Apache Chief, and clairvoyant Audrey Maurice, she must open up her gift to help others.

During the spiritual evenings held at Hallow House, Lucy’s coffee shop in Hampstead, she meets Jennifer Healy, a young woman who has recently lost her fiancé in a road accident. When Lucy is introduced to a Victorian spirit named Serafina DuPont, she realises that there is a strong connection between the two lives. To discover this link, however, she must closely observe the stories that unfold around her, as not everybody is as innocent as they seem.


Twin Oaks by [Palmer, Melissa]“TWIN OAKS,” BY MELISSA PALMER

Melissa writes: “It is, in essence, every neighborhood. Every person can look down their street at all the “perfect” houses and know that behind the closed doors are all the secrets we all try so hard to hide. There’s also a few underdogs readers will fall in love with and root for, not in the standard go team way but in the way that grabs us at the insides. There will be a connection to a lot of the residents of the neighborhood, whether it’s Wilma Womack and her dog, Piggy, the poor baby saddled with a mother more interested in China patterns then in the gender of her child, or the guy who’s just trying to figure out where his life went wrong. “


“COURAGE, ENDURANCE, SACRIFICE,” BY CHAROTTE HARRIS REES

This is a biography of three generations of American missionaries to foreign countries. Starting in 1875 and covering a span of almost 100 years, three missionary families exhibited bravery, endurance, and sacrifice when their very lives were at risk. William David Powell and his wife, Mary Florence Mayberry Powell, were missionaries to “Wild West” Texas then Mexico – going into Mexico right after another missionary was murdered.

From one reviewer: “Rich in historical facts, this biographical work of three generations of missionary work in one family…vividly depicts the courage, endurance, and sacrifice of those pioneering missionary workers in faith. In this well-researched book the author offers a good picture of the true nature of missionary work…For readers interested in the modern history of China curing the most turbulent period of its history this book provides useful insights.”

Weather Report, March 4

Fist Statue The fist statue in DetroitBig Fist, Detroit sculpture (Dr. Stock photo).

Our currently featured books, “The Ringer,” by Jenny Shank, “Raking the Dust,” by John Biscello and “What the Mouth Was Made For,” by Katherine Riegel, 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, MARCH 5-11

“MADE IN DETROIT,” BY MARGE PIERCY

Without question, Marge Piercy is among the most prolific authors we have featured on this site (snowflakesarise.wordpress.com), having published 19 poetry collections and 17 novels, a body of work that has led her to more than 500 readings around the U.S. and beyond.

Of “Made in Detroit,” she writes: “The poems in Made in Detroit range from descriptions of the Detroit of my childhood to my current life on Cape Cod. They reflect my deep appreciations of the natural world to elegies for lost friends and relationships, my Jewish heritage, and the ironies of today’s politics.

“The poems are written in graphic, unflinching language about the poor, my peer group of poets, the suicide of dolphins and other nature commentaries, and my beloved cats. I write about my unique celebration of Jewish holidays, my marriage, and the small pleasures of daily life.”

“THE HAWKMAN: A FAIRY TALE OF THE GREAT WAR,” BY JANE ROSENBERG LaFORGE.

A great war, a great love, and the mythology that unites them. The Hawkman: A Fairy Tale of the Great War is a lyrical adaptation of a beloved classic.

Set against the shattering events of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, at the tale’s heart are an American schoolteacher — dynamic and imaginative — –and an Irish musician — homeless and hated — who have survived bloodshed, poverty, and sickness to be thrown together in an English village. Together they quietly hide from the world.

Too soon, reality shatters their serenity, and they must face the parochial community. Unbeknownst to all, a legend is in the making — one that will speak of courage and resilience admits the forces that brought the couple together even as the outside world threatens to tear them apart.

The Hawkman is based on the Grimms’ fairy tale “The Bearskin.” https://www.pitt.edu/~dash/grimm101.html.

FIRST TUESDAY REPLAY

This week, we will re-visit “Metallic Dreams,” by Mark Rice, “The Beauty Shop,” by Suzy Henderson, “Hallowed Be Thy Name,” by Amy LcLean, “Courage, Endurance, Sacrifice,” by Charlotte Harris Rees, “Wake Me Up,” by Justin Bog and “Twin Oaks,” by Melissa Palmer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ringer

This week’s other featured books, “Raking the Dust,” by John Biscello and “What the Mouth Was Made for,” by Katherine Riegel, 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 Ringer by [Shank, Jenny]THE BOOK: The Ringer

PUBLISHED IN: 2011

THE AUTHOR: Jenny Shank

THE EDITOR: Judith Shepard of the Permanent Press

THE PUBLISHER: The Permanent Press in New York.

SUMMARYThe Ringer tells the story of Patricia Maestas, the Mexican-American wife of a Mexican immigrant killed by police, and Ed O’Fallon, the officer who shot her husband, whose sons end up playing in the same competitive youth baseball league in Denver.

Jenny Shank

THE BACK STORY: The Ringer is my first novel to be published. The story is fiction, but it was inspired by two strands of my upbringing. I grew up in Denver during the city’s era of court-ordered busing for racial integration. I attended schools that were either predominantly Mexican-American or predominantly black, and I draw on that experience for my characters and setting. The Ringer was also inspired by growing up immersed in youth competitive baseball culture. I think I spent half my childhood on baseball fields. I was a pretty good softball catcher–I made the All-City Denver team one year. My brother was an excellent baseball player, as were other members of my family. (My cousin became a professional baseball player and is currently the head pitching coach for the Chicago Cubs.) I wanted to write a story that conveyed the intensity of that subculture.

WHY THIS TITLE: I originally called my novel Mile High, after my home town of Denver, where it’s set. My agent and editor didn’t like the title, so we came up with this. I like this title now because it refers to Ray Maestas, the young pitcher at the heart of my story, who I feel represents the hope at the center of a bleak series of events.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: I wanted to write a book that would capture my hometown, Denver, and that would respond to a police shooting that divided the community. I tried to write a story that didn’t cast blame, but instead treated everyone involved in the situation with love, respect, and generosity.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“Shank’s first at-bat as a novelist is a hit.” – Kirkus Reviews

“An entertaining and suspenseful tale with a compelling climax.” – Library Journal

“Shank debuts promisingly with this dramatic story that barrels toward a well-handled climax.” – Publishers Weekly

“Newbie novelist Jenny Shank knocks it out of the park with her first book, The Ringer.” – 5280 Magazine

The Ringer is a quintessential American story that deftly and compassionately examines the nuances of race, culture, and religion in contemporary society—and it does so with heart, wit, and playfulness.” – Image Journal

Library Journal:

“Every first novel has the potential to seize the interest of a wide readership when it combines these elements: a young baseball player seeking solace on the field for the loss of a father killed by police in a botched drug raid; a veteran Denver police officer (and baseball coach) scarred by a life-ending and life-changing split-second decision; and the women-mother/widow and the wife-who seek to move forward with their lives. Add to the mix a fragile history of urban ethnic discord, rivalry and then unity in a common pursuit, and the fact that no truth ever remains hidden. The result is an entertaining and suspenseful tale with a compelling climax. For diamond fans and those who enjoy a well-written contemporary novel.-G.R.”

Kirkus Reviews:

“Salvador Santillano dies on the shabby bedroom floor of a suspected drug lair, shot by Ed O’Fallon, a police officer: a by-the-book SWAT raid at the wrong address.

More died that day than an innocent man. Gone is reconciliation between the hardworking Santillano and his dedicated wife, Patricia, a nurse. Patricia has been dismayed by Salvador’s unbending attachment to his family in Mexico, and his refusal to stop sending money there. The shooting also may have killed O’Fallon’s career. It certainly wounded his emotional stability and his family life. And then there is the city of Denver, with Hispanic activists suspecting the shooting was racially motivated. Shank gets into the head of the hard-charging police officer and uncovers his anxieties, and she draws Patricia as a proud woman fearful that her pride contributed to Salvador’s death. That death and its aftermath are the bricks of the story, but the game of baseball drives the narrative. Both families are involved in youth leagues. Ed has been relegated to girl’s T-ball because he grew too intense coaching boys. However, his sons, Jesse and E.J., play on a championship team, and Salvador’s son, Ray, is a coveted pitching prodigy. As the season progresses, Ray, using his mother’s maiden name, ends up pitching as a “ringer” for the O’Fallon boys’ team in state and regional games. Patricia realizes early that the O’Fallons are involved, but she realizes too that baseball, Salvador’s passion and Ray’s love, might save her son from being seduced into street-gang life. Ray’s precarious hold on his own emotions falters when he discovers the man who killed his father watching from the bleachers. While some may think O’Fallon deserved one more chapter, considering the depth of his transformation, the author carries her novel to a believable conclusion, with skillful tightening of the emotional tension along the way.

Shank’s first at-bat as a novelist is a hit.”

The Onion A.V. Club:

“Good writing is about making the right choices. In The Ringer, first-time novelist Jenny Shank displays an unerring sense of direction while steering her book through rugged emotional terrain with a deft touch and obvious skill…She succeeds by avoiding the cheap plot devices, emotional pandering, and easy answers that plague even more seasoned writers. Instead, she delivers an excellent novel in her first at bat.” – Eric Hevenor

Publishers Weekly:

“Shank debuts promisingly with the dramatic story of two families upended by an accidental police shooting. Denver police officer Ed O’Fallon is wracked with guilt after he guns down a man during a drug raid; Patricia Maestas, meanwhile, is instantly made a widow and single mother. Their narratives are equally engaging: as Ed’s marriage buckles under the weight of his feelings of guilt, Patricia struggles to keep her 12-year-old son, Ray, out of trouble. What keeps Ray off the streets is baseball–the same sport Ed’s sons are devoted to. When an investigation reveals the warrant for the fateful raid had the wrong address, Patricia and her family become a symbol of the wrongs suffered by the Latino community. The novel comes to a full boil after Patricia and Ed discover one another’s identities through their sons’ baseball teams…The narrative finds its groove…and barrels toward a well-handled climax.”

5280 Magazine:

“Newbie novelist Jenny Shank knocks it out of the park (pun intended) with her first book, The Ringer. The dramatic story, set against the backdrop of a Little League championship, follows two Denver families from different cultures–opposing teams off the field, but teammates during the game–who are forced to deal with the tragic repercussions of a deadly mistake. Shank has a knack for writing prose that’s both artful and detailed, and is bound to have a rewarding career as a novelist: This book was a semifinalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.” – Anna Bergquist

Dallas Morning News:

“Shank’s portrayal of O’Fallon is compelling and believable. She builds a tight, palpable tension between him and his wife as he tries to keep it together after the shooting. And the author shines when talking baseball, as in this scene about Ray: ‘Then the ump told him he had three pitches left and he started to throw heaters, pitches that whistled into the catcher’s mitt with a snap. You’d need a real right fielder for this kid, someone who could sprint well enough to snap foul pop-ups — you couldn’t use it as a filler position because if any right-handed batter managed to make contact they’d likely be behind it and send the ball off down the first base line.’

Ray, with his dead father and his dreams of baseball, emerges as the most compelling of the characters. You can’t help but root for him.”

Boulder Daily Camera:

“The novel seamlessly weaves the two characters’ tales together through alternating chapters, highlighting their respective emotions as division engulfs the city… It’s a compelling story that explores cultural and economic divisions, even as it makes clear they can be bridged through the most unexpected of circumstances.”

Cathy Langer, lead buyer, Tattered Cover Book Store, interviewed on Colorado Public Radio about her summer reading recommendations:

“I’d like to recommend The Ringer. It’s a new novel by Jenny Shank, it’s her first novel. It takes place in contemporary Denver. It’s the story of two families. One is the family of a police officer who kills a man in a no-knock raid—they’ve gone to the wrong address and an innocent man is shot down by the police. It’s the story of the two families, what happens to them, how they end up meeting through their sons’ baseball. It’s wonderfully written, and you really see a lot of Denver in it. She knows Denver well, and there are a lot of landmarks in it that you’ll recognize, and there’s also a lot of baseball. So if you’re a baseball fan you’ll enjoy reading this one. It works very well because it deals with true life and with what families do and how they carry on after tragedy, and it’s a really beautiful story.”

Jonathan Evison, author of West of Here, writing for the Algonquin Authors’ Favorite Books of 2011 Blog:

“As good as Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding is (and I wrote a blurb for it which started with the word “spectacular”), The Ringer may be even better. Like Harbach’s Fielding, baseball serves only as a framing device for this promising debut about such durable American themes as race, class, and family.”

Billings Gazette:

The Ringer by Jenny Shank is a fine first novel and a great read for fans of baseball, presenting fast-paced action with lots of heart thrown in…As it reaches the explosive climax, this skillfully paced story presents a superb balance between a driven plot and the deeper connections underlying vengeance, anger and redemption.

In addition to creating a gripping set of events, Shank asks us to consider that, in the end, passion, commitment and heroism can apply to parenthood and the career of a dedicated policeman as well as to baseball. In this affecting novel, there is no such thing as a routine play.” – Kate Manley

AUTHOR PROFILE:

Jenny Shank grew up in Denver, Colorado, and earned degrees from the University of Notre Dame and the University of Colorado. Her novel The Ringer (The Permanent Press, 2011) won the High Plains Book Award in fiction, was a finalist for the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association’s Reading the West Book Awards, was a Tattered Cover Book Store Summer Reading 2011 selection, and was a finalist for the Book Pipeline competition.

Her stories, essays, satire, and reviews have appeared in The Atlantic, The Guardian, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Onion, Poets & Writers Magazine, Bust Magazine, Prairie Schooner, Alaska Quarterly Review,Michigan Quarterly Review, The Toast, Barrelhouse, High Country News, PBS MediaShift, The Rumpus, 5280, The Huffington Post and The McSweeney’s Book of Politics and Musicals (Vintage, 2012). One of her stories was listed among the “Notable Essays of the Year” in the Best American Essays, three of her stories were nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and one received Special Mention in the 2018 Pushcart Prize anthology. She’s won writing awards from the Center of the American West, the Montana Committee for the Humanities, SouthWest Writers, and the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund.

Jenny Shank was the Denver/Boulder Editor of The Onion A.V. Club for six years, and for four years she was the Books & Writers Editor of New West, which was named “Best Literary Blog” in the Westword Best of Denver issue. She was a Mullin Scholar in writing at the University of Southern California. She has taught creative writing at the University of Colorado, the Lighthouse Writers Workshop, and the Boulder Writing Studio, and she is on the faculty of the Mile High MFA at Regis University in Denver. She lives in Boulder, Colorado with her husband, daughter, and son.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: (Provide link). There was one up, but it looks like it’s no longer online—I think you can see a few pages on Amazon.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Signed copies of The Ringer are in stock and available at a discount at Book Bar in Denver. You can also ask for it at the Tattered Cover:

https://www.tatteredcover.com/book/9781579622145

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT:

https://www.amazon.com/Ringer-Jenny-Shank/dp/1579622143/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1299102043&sr=8-1

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/ringer-jenny-shank/1101713171?type=eBook

https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781579622145

PRICE: $29

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: www.JennyShank.com

Or @jennyshank on Twitter.