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Prisons, Borders, and Global Crisis
Through quirky plots, one-of-kind characters, and more than a few twists, the stories in Big Bend examine gentle-hearted men and their relationships. From made-in-heaven meetings to troublesome liaisons, Roorbach's characters experience romance in unexpected, sometimes disastrous ways.
In "Fog," a teenage boy learns hard lessons about canoes, the Gulf of Maine, sex, and love. A struggling young artist goes home for the holidays in search of succor for the stomach—and heart—with poor results in "Thanksgiving." Other stories recount the ultimately disastrous reunion of estranged friends, an unemployed architect's foolish courting with bad company, and a middle-aged rock star's struggle with the urge to settle down. In the tiitle story, "Big Bend," a grieving widower, troubled by his own waning years, is tempted by a seductively attentive birdwatcher no older than his daughter.
Poignant tales of hauntingly familiar situations, Bill Roorbach's stories are full of heart, romance, edgy humor, and the frequently concealed vulnerability of men.
In prose highlighted by both satire and poignant observation, Ostlund offers characters that represent a different sort of everyman—men and women who poke fun at ideological rigidity while holding fast to good grammar and manners, people seeking connections in a world that seems increasingly foreign. In Upon Completion of Baldness” a young woman shaves her head for a part in a movie in Hong Kong that will help her escape life with her lover in Albuquerque. The precocious narrator of All Boy” finds comfort when he is locked in a closet by a babysitter. In Dr. Deneau's Punishment” a math teacher leaving New York for Minnesota as a means of punishing himself engages in an unsettling method of discipline. A lesbian couple whose relationship is disintegrating flees to the Moroccan desert in The Children beneath the Seat.” And in Idyllic Little Bali” a group of Americans gathers around a pool in Java to discuss their brushes with fame and ends up witnessing a man's fatal flight from his wife.
In the eleven stories in The Bigness of the World we see that wherever you are in the world, where you came from is never far away.
Swordfish, Sailfish, Marlin, and Other Gladiators of the Sea
Literature, Ecology, and Place
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?
From Uncle Tom to Gangsta
This pathbreaking study of region, race, and gender reveals how we underestimate the South's influence on the formation of black masculinity at the national level. Many negative stereotypes of black men—often contradictory ones—have emerged from the ongoing historical traumas initiated by slavery. Are black men emasculated and submissive or hypersexed and violent? Nostalgic representations of black men have arisen as well: think of the philosophical, hardworking sharecropper or the abiding, upright preacher. To complicate matters, says Riché Richardson, blacks themselves appropriate these images for purposes never intended by their (mostly) white progenitors.
Starting with such well-known caricatures as the Uncle Tom and the black rapist, Richardson investigates a range of pathologies of black masculinity that derive ideological force from their associations with the South. Military policy, black-liberation discourse, and contemporary rap, she argues, are just some of the instruments by which egregious pathologies of black masculinity in southern history have been sustained. Richardson's sources are eclectic and provocative, including Ralph Ellison's fiction, Charles Fuller's plays, Spike Lee's films, Huey Newton's and Malcolm X's political rhetoric, the O. J. Simpson discourse, and the music production of Master P, the Cash Money Millionaires, and other Dirty South rappers.
Filled with new insights into the region's role in producing hierarchies of race and gender in and beyond their African American contexts, this new study points the way toward more epistemological frameworks for southern literature, southern studies, and gender studies.
African American Ecoliterary Traditions
Farmers Markets, Race, and the Green Economy
Ida B. Wells, Lynching, and Transatlantic Activism
During the early 1890s, a series of shocking lynchings brought unprecedented international attention to American mob violence. This interest created an opportunity for Ida B. Wells, an African American journalist and civil rights activist from Memphis, to travel to England to cultivate British moral indignation against American lynching. Wells adapted race and gender roles established by African American abolitionists in Britain to legitimate her activism as a “black lady reformer”—a role American society denied her—and assert her right to defend her race from abroad. Based on extensive archival research conducted in the United States and Britain, Black Woman Reformer by Sarah Silkey explores Wells’s 1893–94 antilynching campaigns within the broader contexts of nineteenth-century transatlantic reform networks and debates about the role of extralegal violence in American society.
Through her speaking engagements, newspaper interviews, and the efforts of her British allies, Wells altered the framework of public debates on lynching in both Britain and the United States. No longer content to view lynching as a benign form of frontier justice, Britons accepted Wells’s assertion that lynching was a racially motivated act of brutality designed to enforce white supremacy. As British criticism of lynching mounted, southern political leaders desperate to maintain positive relations with potential foreign investors were forced to choose whether to publicly defend or decry lynching. Although British moral pressure and media attention did not end lynching, the international scrutiny generated by Wells’s campaigns transformed our understanding of racial violence and made American communities increasingly reluctant to embrace lynching.