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A Novel in Stories
Catina’s Haircut: A Novel in Stories spans four generations of a peasant family in the brutal poverty of post-Unification southern Italy and in an immigrant’s United States. The women in these tales dare to cross boundaries by discovering magical leaps inherent in the landscape, in themselves, and in the stories they tell and retell of family tragedy at a time of political unrest. Through an oral tradition embedded in the stone of memory and the flow of its reinvention, their passionate tale of resistance and transformation courses forward into new generations in a new world.
A woman threatens to join the land reform struggle in her Calabrian hill town, against her husband’s will, during a call for revolution in 1919. A brother and sister turn to the village sorceress in Fascist Italy to bring rain to their father’s drought-stricken farm. In Pittsburgh, new immigrants witness a miraculous rescue during the Great Flood of 1936. A young girl courageously dives into the Allegheny River to save her grandfather’s only memento of the old country. With only broken English to guide her, a widow hops a bus in search of live chickens to cook for Easter dinner in her husband’s memory. An aging woman in the title story is on a quest to cut the ankle-length hair as hard as the rocky soil of Calabria in a drought. A lonely woman who survived World War II bombings in her close-knit village, struggles to find community as a recent immigrant. A daughter visits her mother’s hill town to try and fulfill a wish for her to see the Fata Morgana. These haunting images permeate Corso’s linked stories of loss, hope, struggle, and freedom.
An official selection of The Sons of Italy® Book Club
The nine stories of CAUTION Men in Trees capture the pressure, need, and frequent helplessness of people confronted with intractable reality. As suggested by the collection's epigraph from Superman—"Did you say kryptonite?"—the characters in these stories have reached a point where they realize that parts of their lives are coming undone, and that their own thoughts and actions—or, frequently, the failure to act soon enough—are the cause. Though settings and situations vary, the same sense of overwhelming urgency recurs throughout the collection. The stories reflect a world distressed by conflict and settings fraught with the occurrences of personal violence.
Against the background of the O. J. Simpson trial, a man refuses to assist in a friend's suicide and realizes that he has been avoiding many unpleasant truths about himself and his life. A son faced with his father's debilitating stroke sees that he must ultimately confront the mortality and feelings of grief that he has been concealing. In the title story, the film Bugsy and talk about the disappointing reality of pop-culture heroes set the scene for a husband's frightening confrontation with his own limitations. The shock of stark revelation combines with tightly wound chains of suggestive events to create a collection of gripping, edgy stories about characters who, however battered, survive.
As Morris resides with his family over his Dauphin Street store, enjoys cigars with his Cuban friend Pablo Pastor, and makes "a living not a killing," his tale begins with glimpses of the old Confederacy, continues through a tumultuous Armistice Day, and leads up to the hard-won victories of World War II. Along the way Morris sells shoes and sofas and endures Klan violence, religious zealotry, and financial triumphs and heartbreaks. With his devoted Miriam, who nurses memories of Brooklyn and Romania, he raises four adventurous children whose own journeys take them to New Orleans and Atlanta and involve romance, ambition and tragic loss.
At turns lyrical, comic, and melancholy, this tale takes inspiration from its title. This Romanian expression with an Alabama twist is symbolic of the strivings of ordinary folks for sustenance, for the realization of their hopes and dreams. Set largely on a few humble blocks yet engaging many parts of the world, this Southern Jewish novel is, ultimately, richly American.
Assia Djebar portrays Algeria’s protracted anti-colonial struggle against France through the interlocking lives of men and women in an Algerian mountain town. Written in 1961, one year before Algerian independence, the novel depicts the ways the war transforms the women’s lives and draws them from the private world of the home into the public world of revolution, fighting for their community’s liberation. The book describes a determined Arab insurgency against foreign occupation from the inside out.
Celebrated as the “Dean of Appalachian Literature,” James Still has won the appreciation of audiences in Appalachia and beyond for more than seventy years. The author of the classics River of Earth (1940) and The Wolfpen Poems (1986), Still is known for his careful prose construction and for the poetry of his meticulous, rhythmic style. Upon his death, however, one manuscript remained unpublished. Still’s friends, family, and fellow writer Silas House will now deliver this story to readers, having assembled and refined the manuscript to prepare it for publication. Chinaberry, named for the ranch that serves as the centerpiece of the story, is Still’s last and perhaps greatest contribution to American literature. Chinaberry follows the adventures of a young boy as he travels to Texas from Alabama in search of work on a cotton farm. Upon arriving, he discovers the ranch of Anson and Lurie Winters, a young couple whose lives are defined by hard work, family, and a tragedy that haunts their past. Still’s entrancing narrative centers on the boy’s experience at the ranch under Anson’s watchful eye and Lurie’s doting care, highlighting the importance of home, whether it is defined by people or a place. In this celebration of the art of storytelling, Still captures a time and place that are gone forever and introduces the reader to an unforgettable cast of characters, illustrating the impact that one person can have on another. A combination of memoir and imagination, truth and fiction, Chinaberry is a work of art that leaves the reader in awe of Still’s mastery of language and thankful for the lifetime of wisdom that manifests itself in his work.
The extremely irritable and quick-tempered chieftain, Akendong II has 14 children, all girls, and is saddened by the fact that he has no chopchair, a male heir to his throne. Then news comes to him that his favourite wife has given birth to a pair of twins, boys. He is even more angered by the fact that he has two heirs, a source of trouble for his kingdom. To avoid his wrath, his councillors change the story, sending away one of the boys to grow in hiding. Learning of the truth about his birth 15 years afterwards, the prince in hiding returns, kidnaps the palace prince and demands his full share of the kingdom. His will is done, but at a very great cost to the chief's peace of mind and relationship with his people. This is by far the shortest of Asong's novels and the least complicated by comparison. But the conflicts, the hallmarks of his art are still there, so also is his breathtaking suspense.
Or Woman's Trials and Triumphs
When Laura Curtis Bullard wrote the novel Christine in 1856, she created one of antebellum America’s most radical heroines: a woman’s rights leader. Addressing the major social, political, and cultural issues surrounding women from within an unusually overt feminist framework for its time, Christine openly challenges a social and legal system that denies women full and equal rights. Christine defies her family, rejects marriage, and leaves a job as a teacher to embark on her career, rewriting the script for a successful nineteenth-century heroine. Along the way, she recreates domesticity on her own terms, helping other young women gain economic independence so that they, too, have the autonomy to make their own choices in love and life. One of the triumphs of the novel is the author’s ability to create a sympathetic heroine and a fast-paced plot that intertwines vivid scenes of suicide, destitution, and an insane asylum with theoretical and political discussions—so skillfully that the novel successfully appealed to otherwise hesitant middle-class readers.
Sandra Thompson takes us inside the lives of women struggling to find their places among lovers, husbands and ex-husbands, mothers, and children in relationships where old rules do not apply and new rules have not yet been set.
Thompson’s characters live in a world where dreams often supersede reality and things are not as they seem. Her style is sophisticated and subtle, and we experience her stories almost by osmosis. They stay with us afterwards to question their own realities.
Jude is a Las Vegas casino dealer who barely survived the deadly MGM fire in 1980. More than two decades later, he’s still dealing, a tired, middle-aged man, divorced, struggling with debt, and trying to be a good father to his children. Then he loses his job and his car is totaled in an accident. When an attractive woman friend offers to help him get another job, Jude is happy to go along. Gradually, he realizes that his new job is part of an elaborate scheme to cheat a casino and that his own fate and that of his children depend on his finding the courage and ingenuity to extricate himself.