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Adventures between Dakar, Paris, and Milan
A landmark bestseller in Italy, I Was an Elephant Salesman gives a name and a face to the thousands of anonymous African street vendors in cities across Europe. Through the voice of a thinly veiled first-person narrator, Pap Khouma offers us a chilling, intimate, and often ironic glimpse into the life of an illegal immigrant. Khouma invents a life for himself as an itinerant trader of carved elephants, small ivories, and other "African" trinkets, struggling to maintain courage and dignity in the face of despair and humiliation. Constantly on the run from the authorities, he finds insight into the vicissitudes of law and politics, the constraints of citizenship, national borders, skin color, and the often paralyzing difficulties of obtaining basic human needs. His story reveals a contemporary Europe struggling to come to terms with its multiracial, multireligious, and multicultural identity.
Passionately written and perfectly crafted, Anya Krugovoy Silver's poems help us to view life through a different lens. In I Watched You Disappear, she offers meditations on sickness but also celebrations of art, motherhood, and family, as well as a sequence of poems based on the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm.
Throughout her collection, Silver examines feelings of pain, anger, and urgency caused by a serious illness and presents the struggle to cope in a lyrical and moving way. Never overwhelmed by her own mortality, Silver manages to speak with beauty and grace about a terrifying subject.
In her poems based on Grimm's fairy tales, Silver subtly and surprisingly interweaves retellings of these tales with reflections on life and death. Infinitely touching, engaging, and finely tuned, Silver's poems invite us to look at the lives we love in new and profound ways.
A Collection of Poems
I Will Fly is a collection of 52 poems which bring to life a story of struggle and hope, the struggle of ordinary Cameroonians who daily entertain hardship, and of English-speaking Cameroonians born into a minority population. Disgruntlement leads to protests; but what happens when the protests fail to yield? Immigration and resignation, the latter, at times, becoming an invitation to death. Adventure and romance stand as the lifeline of others. Hope is a constant companion in these situations, inviting all and sundry to desist from giving adversary easy victories.
In "Return of the Heroes," Walt Whitman refers to the casualties of the American Civil War: "the dead to me mar not. . . . / they fit very well in the landscape under the trees and grass. . . ." In her new poetry collection, Jude Nutter challenges Whitman's statement by exploring her own responses to war and conflict and, in a voice by turns rueful, dolorous, and imagistic, reveals why she cannot agree. Nutter, who was born in England and grew up in Germany, has a visceral sense of history as a constant, violent companion. Drawing on a range of locales and historical moments—among them Rwanda, Sarajevo, Nagasaki, and both world wars—she replays the confrontation of personal history colliding with history as a social, political, and cultural force. In many of the poems, this confrontation is understood through the shift from childhood innocence and magical thinking to adult awareness and guilt. Nutter responds to Whitman from another perspective as well. It was Whitman who wrote that he could live with animals because, among other things, they are placid, self-contained, and guiltless. As counterpoint, Nutter weaves a series of animal poems—a kind of personal bestiary—throughout the collection that reveals the tragedy and violence also inherent in the lives of animals. Here, as in much of Nutter's previous work, the boundaries between the animal and human worlds are permeable; the urgent voice of the poet insists we recognize that "Even from a distance, suffering / is suffering." Here is both acknowledgment and challenge: distance may be measured in terms of time, culture, or place, or it may be caused by the gap between animals and humans, but it is our responsibility to speak against atrocity and bloodshed, however voiceless we may feel.
Race, Place, and Discrimination in a Costa Rican High School
While teaching and researching on an indigenous reservation in Costa Rica, Karen Stocker discovered that for Native students who attended the high school outside the reservation, two extreme reactions existed to the predominantly racist high school environment. While some maintained their indigenous identity and did poorly in school, others succeeded academically, but rejected their Indianness and the reservation. Between these two poles lay a whole host of responses. In "I Won't Stay Indian, I'll Keep Studying," Stocker addresses the institutionalized barriers these students faced and explores the interaction between education and identity. Stocker reveals how overt and hidden curricula taught ethnic, racial, and gendered identities and how the dominant ideology of the town, present in school, conveyed racist messages to students. "I Won't Stay Indian, I'll Keep Studying" documents how students from the reservation reacted to, coped with, and resisted discrimination. Considering the students' experiences in the context of the Costa Rican educational system as a whole, Stocker discusses policy shifts that might reduce institutionalized discrimination. Her interpretation of the experiences of these students makes a significant contribution to anthropology, Latin American studies, critical race theory, and educational theory.
The Life of John Jacob Niles
Louisville native John Jacob Niles (1892–1980) is considered to be one of our nation’s most influential musicians. As a composer and balladeer, Niles drew inspiration from the deep well of traditional Appalachian and African American folk songs. At the age of sixteen Niles wrote one of his most enduring tunes, “Go ’Way from My Window,” basing it on a song fragment from a black farm worker. This iconic song has been performed by folk artists ever since and may even have inspired the opening line of Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe.” In I Wonder as I Wander: The Life of John Jacob Niles, the first full-length biography of Niles, Ron Pen offers a rich portrait of the musician’s character and career. Using Niles’s own accounts from his journals, notebooks, and unpublished autobiography, Pen tracks his rise from farm boy to songwriter and folk collector extraordinaire. Niles was especially interested in documenting the voices of his fellow World War I soldiers, the people of Appalachia, and the spirituals of African Americans. In the 1920s he collaborated with noted photographer Doris Ulmann during trips to Appalachia, where he transcribed, adapted, and arranged traditional songs and ballads such as “Pretty Polly” and “Black Is the Color of My True Love’s Hair.” Niles’s preservation and presentation of American folk songs earned him the title of “Dean of American Balladeers,” and his theatrical use of the dulcimer is credited with contributing to the popularity of that instrument today. Niles’s dedication to the folk music tradition lives on in generations of folk revival artists such as Jean Ritchie, Joan Baez, and Oscar Brand. I Wonder as I Wander explores the origins and influences of the American folk music resurgence of the 1950s and 1960s, and finally tells the story of a man at the forefront of that movement.
Field Notes from a Life in Sports
David W. Zang played junior high school basketball in a drained swimming pool. He wore a rubber suit to bed to make weight for a wrestling meet. He kept a log as an obsessive runner (not a jogger). In short, he soldiered through the life of an ordinary athlete. Whether pondering his long-unbuilt replica of Connie Mack Stadium or his eye-opening turn as the Baltimore Ravens' mascot, Zang offers tales at turns poignant and hilarious as he engages with the passions that shaped his life. Yet his meditations also probe the tragedy of a modern athletic culture that substitutes hyped spectatorship for participation. As he laments, American society's increasing scorn for taking part in play robs adults of the life-affirming virtues of games that challenge us to accomplish the impossible for the most transcendent of reasons: to see if it can be done. From teammates named Lop to tracing Joe Paterno's long shadow over Happy Valley, I Wore Babe Ruth's Hat reports from the everyman's Elysium where games and life intersect.
The last of four novels that preceded Machado de Assis's famous trilogy of realistic masterpieces, Iaiá Garcia belongs to what critics have called the Brazilian author's "romantic" phase. But it is far more than that implies. Like his other early works, Iaiá Garcia foreshadows the themes and characters of Assis's most masterful novels.
Iaiá Garcia intertwines the lives of three characters in a subtly and wryly developing relationship. While the youthful Iaiá is growing into womanhood, a tentative love affair occurs between the aristocratic Jorge and the prideful Estela. This affair is afflicted by ironic shifts of fortune and in time the maturing Iaiá becomes a rival for Jorge's attentions. Assis's portrayal of the relationship among these three characters is a perceptive study of uncompromising pride, thwarted love, jealousy, misunderstanding, bewilderment, and attainment.
As the translator, Albert I. Bagby, Jr., contends, the story of Iaiá, Jorge, and Estela reflects the formula that Assis saw as fundamental to human life: "Will and ambition, when they truly dominate, can struggle with other feelings, but they are the weapons of the strong, and victory belongs to the strong." In Assis's view success comes to the strong and failure to the weak. But both inhabit a world that is neutral-neither helping one nor hindering the other. The outcome of events in Iaiá Garcia may not seem entirely optimistic, but neither is it pessimistic. And Mr. Bagby concludes, "Perhaps to understand the optimism of Assis one needs only to be... a hard, pragmatic realist.... "
Whether hard realists or unregenerate romantics, readers of this novel will find it a compelling tale of love lost and won. Like his earlier translation of Assis's The Hand & the Glove, Mr. Bagby's English rendering of Iaiá Garcia from the original Portuguese is done with both accuracy and sensitivity.