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The thirteen stories in Birds of Paradise Lost shimmer with humor and pathos as they chronicle the anguish and joy and bravery of America's newest Americans, the troubled lives of those who fled Vietnam and remade themselves in the San Francisco Bay Area. The past--memories of war and its aftermath, of murder, arrest, re-education camps and new economic zones, of escape and shipwreck and atrocity--is ever present in these wise and compassionate stories.
In the title story, an aging black singer who performs only Elvis songs despite his classic bluesman looks has his regular spot at the local blues jam threatened by a newly arrived Asian American with the unlikely name Robert Johnson. In Man Under,” two friends struggling to be rock musicians in Reagan-era Brooklyn find that their front door has been removed by their landlord. An aspiring writer discovers the afterlife consists of being the stand-in for a famous author on an endless book tour in Another Coyote Story.” Lonely and adrift in Florence, Italy, a young man poses as a tour guide with an art history degree in Know Your Saints.” And in This Is Not a Bar,” a simple night on the town for a middle-aged guitar student and jazz buff turns into a confrontation with his past and an exploration of what is or is not real.
In his depictions of struggling performers, artists, expectant parents, travelers, con-men, temporarily employed academics, and even the recently deceased, Becker asks the question, Which are more important: the stories we tell other people or the ones we tell ourselves?
Fatti Ashi died. Startling her family and community, she comes back to life just a few hours after dying. Blessing chronicles the life of this Fatti Ashi, a young village girl who from the moment she rejoins the land of the living is faced with both obstacles and opportunities consistent with an attempted mergence of two worlds. From a child who is molded with her fatherís advice to merge ancestral skull worship and Christianity to an underprivileged teenager who falls in love with the alphabet and finally becoming a woman who desires emotional and financial independence, Fatti Ashiís life yields misunderstandings and isolation. As a child in the village, her life is a battleground for family rivalry and religious conflict. As a teenage wife in the city, she befriends a sex worker who encourages her to bring meaning into her life rather than simply living to the dictates of others. She takes up the challenge by embarking on adult education and becoming a breadwinner but is taken aback when her husband requests a divorce. In a search for solutions to save her marriage, she entertains traditional religion, Catholicism and Pentecostalism. Disappointment and desperation lead her to take a deeper look at the situation. Is she to stay married simply for convenience? Is she to continue following religious paths laid out by others, clearly not as beneficial to her? Is she to please society to her detriment? The long journey of self-discovery takes her through scandal and humiliation but in the end, she emerges as a confident, admired and happy woman.
Stories and a Novella
Together, the five stories and novella in this collection follow the lives of first- and second-generation Indian Americans living in contemporary California. The characters share a similar sensibility: a sense that immigration is a distant memory, yet an experience that continues to shape the decisions they make in subtle and surprising ways as they go about the complicated business of everyday living. The collection is anchored by the title novella about a love triangle between an aging, blind writer, his younger beautiful wife, and a young man desperate to start a writing life. Over several months, the three will get to know one another and move toward a moment that will change the lives of each of them forever.
A Romilia Chacon Novel
A child dies on the border between California and Mexico. This is nothing new: immigrants die crossing the border all the time, escaping from poverty and violence in Latin America. They bake in the desert. But this death is different. Someone has taken body parts from the child. FBI Agent Romilia Chacón, a Salvadoran American, follows this case into a world that swallows her with its horror, a world that exists alongside ours, where children are bought and sold like cattle and shipped to men all across the country. The dealers in this blackest of markets have no moral barometer, only the lust for cash. And one among them has taken murder to a level beyond serial killing. Romilia comes to this case already broken: the man she loved and yet had to hunt—drug runner Tekún Umán, a regular on the FBI's Most Wanted List—is gone. Romilia has two friends, her partner Nancy Pearl—who lives a double life between the Feds and the cartels—and a bottle of booze. Romilia's mother is on her back to get sober; her son drifts further away. And the killer is taking away pieces of Romilia's life, day by day.
Reflections on Place by Appalachian Women Writers
Winner of the 1997 Appalachian Studies Award Appalachian Writers Association 1999 Book of the Year Winner of the Susan Koppleman Award of the Popular Culture Association for Best Edited Collection in Women's Studies Joyce Dyer is director of writing and associate professor of English at Hiram College, Ohio."
In Neom the laws of physics are lax and everyone still gets high. The city squares do it so they can keep working nonstop. The hipsters do it so they can accept things as they are and not long for how they want them to be. And, for a thousand years, Alison has done it to cope with the burdens of immortality. If you can’t die, she says, at least you can be as stoned as the living dead.
Gerald Vizenor weaves an engrossing historical portrayal of Native American soldiers in World War I. Blue Ravens is set at the start of the twentieth century in the days leading up to the Great War in France, and continues in combat scenes at Château-Thierry, Montbréhain, and Bois de Fays. The novel contains many of Vizenor's recurrent cultural themes—the power and irony of trickster stories, the privilege of survivance over victimry, natural reason and resistance. After serving in the American Expeditionary Forces, two brothers from the Anishinaabe culture return to the White Earth Reservation where they grew up. They eventually leave for a second time to live in Paris where they lead successful and creative lives. With a spirited sense of "chance, totemic connections, and the tricky stories of our natural transience in the world," Vizenor creates an expression of presence commonly denied Native Americans. Blue Ravens is a story of courage in poverty and war, a human story of art and literature from a recognized master of the postwar American novel and one of the most original and outspoken Native voices writing today. Check for the online reader's companion at blueravens.site.wesleyan.edu.
This tale of wild adventure reveals the dashed hopes of Africans living between worlds. When Moki returns to his village from France wearing designer clothes and affecting all the manners of a Frenchman, Massala-Massala, who lives the life of a humble peanut farmer after giving up his studies, begins to dream of following in Moki’s footsteps. Together, the two take wing for Paris, where Massala-Massala finds himself a part of an underworld of out-of-work undocumented immigrants. After a botched attempt to sell metro passes purchased with a stolen checkbook, he winds up in jail and is deported. Blue White Red is a novel of postcolonial Africa where young people born into poverty dream of making it big in the cities of their former colonial masters. Alain Mabanckou's searing commentary on the lives of Africans in France is cut with the parody of African villagers who boast of a son in the country of Digol.