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42 minutes | 12 days ago
Surviving Genocide: Native Nations and the United States from the American Revolution to Bleeding Kansas: Jeffrey Ostler
Surviving Genocide: Native Nations and the United States from the American Revolution to Bleeding Kansas – Jeffrey Ostler – 9780300255362 – Yale University Press – Paperback – 544 pages – September 22, 2020 – $25 – ebook versions available at lower prices “A landmark book essential to understanding American history, Surviving Genocide is an act of courage. Ostler’s brilliant concept of reconstructing ‘an Indigenous consciousness of genocide’ is significant for its insight into how American Indians understood, discussed, and resisted genocidal threats to their families, communities, and nations. His modern vocabulary of ‘atrocities’ and ‘killing fields’ is not for political effect but appropriate to the brutal reality of Indian policy in American history.”—Brenda Child, Northrop Professor of American Studies, University of Minnesota Even though many of us feel we are familiar with the story of the “settling” of America by Europeans and the dispossession of indigenous people, reading Jeffrey Ostler’s book, part one of a major two-volume history, will educate every single one of us to a better understanding of the full scope of the takeover of a continent by invading Europeans. Conquest and genocide are terms we seem unable to apply to our own history, preferring still a more sanitized version of the centuries long overwhelming of the people who lived here before Europeans arrived in force. Ostler has spent years of research documenting the governmentally sanctioned use of force to remove or kill the indigenous people who were inconveniently in the way of the relentless expansion of the American republic. In this book he documents the losses from the violence – massacres, destruction of habitat and lifeways, diseases and cultural upheaval suffered sequentially by native peoples for hundreds of years as first colonial settlers and then Americans flooded the continent. This volume covers the story of the eastern United States from the 1750s to the beginning of the Civil War that set the stage for the post-Civil War expansion that is perhaps the better known narrative – buffalo, horses, trains, Crazy Horse and the Lakota being so much a part of popular culture imagery. As Ostler shows, the way this played out was not “inevitable” and Manifest Destiny was neither. The indigenous people were outnumbered, but often not out maneuvered or outwitted, and their ability to survive the nightmares of dispossession and attempted genocide is heroic. As Americans, it is sometimes difficult to look at our own history with honesty. It is often said that the “original sin” of America is slavery, but I think we must grapple with the actuality that there are two essentially economic-based social and cultural wounds at the heart of the American project. First, there is the forced dispossession of the people who were on the land itself, and second, the forced migration and enslavement of Africans for the benefit of white Americans and their economic development. We must learn as much as we can about the history of the last five hundred years in North America in an unromanticized, clear-eyed effort to fully comprehend what our forebears did in the course of creating the American dream all of us are allowed thereby to enjoy. The truth in all its complexity should serve as counterweight to the false narratives and self-serving images we choose to live by, all created as a form of ongoing social control. Indigenous people have survived despite the many attempts to extirpate them or to forcibly transform and bend their cultures into the conquerors’ image of what “civilization” looks like. Still, the traumatic effects of conquest need to be recognized, acknowledged and repaired and it would be no small thing to recognize formally that a genocide was in play, with all the social and political results that term carries with it. This book and presumably the subsequent volume in Ostler’s work, should help us move in that direction. The book is well written, hard to put down and completely engrossing; its authoritative and well-researched approach makes it a powerful document and well worth your time to read. I’m grateful for Jeffrey Ostler for taking the time to talk to me about this book and for Yale University Press for alerting me to it. Jeffrey Ostler is Beekman Professor of Northwest and Pacific History at the University of Oregon and the author of The Lakotas and the Black Hills and The Plains Sioux and U.S. Colonialism from Lewis and Clark to Wounded Knee. Buy the book at Bookshop.orgThe post Surviving Genocide: Native Nations and the United States from the American Revolution to Bleeding Kansas: Jeffrey Ostler first appeared on WritersCast.
31 minutes | 2 months ago
Even as We Breathe, A Novel: Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle
Even as We Breathe, A Novel – Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle – 9781950564064 – University Press of Kentucky – Hardcover – 240 pages – September 2020 – $24.95 – ebook versions available for sale at lower prices This has been a good year to read fiction, and I am really pleased to have discovered this author. She is a fine writer whose storytelling is powerful, yet restrained. While this novel has some elements of a mystery, it is really a very personal story about family, love and growing up into the world of western North Carolina during World War II. The book’s main character is nineteen-year-old Cowney Sequoyah, who has grown up in the woods of Cherokee land, raised mostly by his grandmother. The novel is set between the upscale Grove Park Inn, an Asheville resort serving as an internment camp for diplomat prisoners of war and their families. The Inn provides Cherokee men and women with employment off their reservation, and this is Cowney’s first real time away from home. At the core of the story, Cowley is accused of being involved in the disappearance of a diplomat’s daughter and must move back and forth to home as he attempts to understand the basis of the the unfair accusations, and prove his innocence while at the same time wrestling with his newfound love for another young Cherokee, Essie Stamper, and figuring out his complex family history. There is alot going on in this subtle and quietly told novel! And a number of surprises are in store for the reader that bring the story to a remarkable and rewarding close. Even As We Breathe is filled with details and moments that identify the Cherokee tribe and its homeland. The story gives Annette the opportunity to express the meanings of the Cherokee culture as it has survived into the modern world, sometimes still with the values of its people in conflict with the world of white people. A secret room in the Grove Park Inn becomes a place where Cowney and Essie can escape the white world and try to imagine their futures independent of outsider influences. For awhile, it can feel to them that they have a place of their own. But racism and prejudice are constantly present, and both Cowney and Essie must face disappointment, and struggle to define their identities as Cherokees within a complicated environment that does not give them the space they truly need to be themselves. Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle, an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), graduated from Yale University and has a masters from the College of William and Mary. Her unpublished novel, Going to Water won the Morning Star Award for Creative Writing from the Native American Literature Symposium and was a finalist for the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction. After serving as Executive Director of the Cherokee Preservation Foundation, Annette (National Board Certified since 2012) returned to teaching English and Cherokee Studies at Swain County High School. She is the former co-editor of the Journal of Cherokee Studies and serves on the Board of Trustees for the North Carolina Writers Network. “Debut writer Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle lifts the curtain to show us a South we don’t know, revealed through the struggles of Cowney Sequoyah, a young man growing up within the Cherokee Nation of far Western North Carolina, and yet another surprise setting when he takes a job at Asheville’s fabled Grove Park Inn while it is being used by the US military as a place of internment for Axis prisoners of war during World War II. Even As We Breathe is a wonderful novel, complicated as life itself — thrilling, mysterious, and finally, a revelation!” — Lee Smith, New York Times bestselling author of Blue Marlin This novel was impossible for me to put down and is one of my favorite books I have read this year. It was a deep pleasure for me to speak with Annette about this book and her writing. I believe you will enjoy this conversation as much as I did. Purchase Even as We Breathe from Bookshop.org to support independent bookselling. Author’s website here. The post Even as We Breathe, A Novel: Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle first appeared on WritersCast.
35 minutes | 2 months ago
American Gospel, A Novel: Lin Enger
American Gospel, A Novel – Lin Enger – 978-1-5179-1054-9 – University of Minnesota Press – Hardcover – 248 pages – October 27, 2020 – $24.95 – ebook versions available for sale at lower prices I read Lin Enger’s last novel, High Divide, a few years ago and was really taken with his writing and the mythic fictional structures he loves to tell. Storytelling is certainly humanity’s oldest art form. We use stories to explain ourselves to ourselves. Lin seems to breathe storytelling like air. His new novel is very different than his earlier books, at least that it is set more or less in modern times and in northern Minnesota, a place that Lin is completely familiar and comfortable with. American Gospel begins in 1974 while the rest of the country is fixated on the Watergate scandal, on a north woods Minnesota farm, where Enoch Bywater, a self-styled preacher has had a vision of the Rapture. It is all so real for him, he believes that the end of the world is about to be upon us. His millennial dream is shared by his followers, and then as word spreads about the impending end of the world, his Last Days Ranch attracts a polyglot of dreamers and believers in a completely American quest for emergence. Enoch’s son, estranged both from his father, and from Minnesota, is an aspiring reporter with his own dreams and ambitions who is attracted back home by the potential for a big story – and the possibility of reconnecting with his high school love who is now a Hollywood star, the biggest thing to ever happen to their small rural town. And there is still more intrigue involving other characters with their own complex agendas, and the backdrop of the denouement of the Nixon saga. Lin Enger enjoys telling stories that involve men and their fathers. And he is taken with mythological, almost Jungian figures. In this book we have father figures of all kinds – God, the president, the preacher, and even his son. The psychic wounds of America are on full display and the resonance with our current time is unmistakable. Enger is a compassionate and perceptive writer whose prose is clean and clear. He plainly loves to shed light on who we are and what we must do in order to live together as humans in a complex, disparate modern world. American Gospel is a quietly brilliant novel that I hope will find a large audience. Lin Enger grew up in Minnesota and now lives in Moorhead, where he teaches English at Minnesota State University. He’s won many awards for his fiction, which include the novels, The High Divide (2014) and Undiscovered Country (2008). During the 1990s Lin and his brother, the novelist Leif Enger collaborated (as L. L. Enger) on a series of mystery novels for Pocket Books. I always enjoy speaking with Lin. We had a terrific conversation about this book, and much more for this podcast episode. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Author’s website is here. You can buy American Gospel from Bookshop.org.The post American Gospel, A Novel: Lin Enger first appeared on WritersCast.
32 minutes | 3 months ago
The Vanishing Sky (A Novel) by L. Annette Binder
The Vanishing Sky (A Novel) – L. Annette Binder – 9781635574678 – Bloomsbury Publishing – Hardcover – 288 pages – July 21, 2020 – $27.00 – ebook versions for sale at lower prices I did not know what to expect when I started reading The Vanishing Sky. Initially, I was looking forward to reading a book that did not focus on the victims of Nazi Germany, but on Germans themselves. Yet I found that it was much more difficult for me to get into than I anticipated. I am not sure why, but I resisted the book and almost set it aside. I wanted to not like the characters. I wanted to not be sympathetic to them, or their situation, my deep-seated antipathy toward mid-century Germany and its people emerging from my psyche. The Vanishing Sky is about a family struggling to survive at a time when World War II is coming to an end. The focus of the book is on Etta Huber, a hausfrau in a small town, whose eldest son had joined the army and gone to fight in the east, now coming home a broken man, and whose younger son, is dreamier and unmilitaristic child-like, and struggles with the country’s expectations for a German male. At the same time, Etta’s husband is a difficult, quite traditional German man, a veteran of WWI, but who does not know how to act in his stage of life during wartime. Binder is a fine writer who builds a slow burning fire from a few tiny sparks and I found myself fully engaged with her characters, and immersed in their lives as I continued reading this book. The story and the characters bring us face to face with uncomfortable realities. These are humans struggling to find their identities in horrible circumstances, where there is nothing approaching normality. And of course, as it is set in Germany in the very final months of World War II, it is not a typical war novel. The book is about the people on the home front and it becomes impossible to not feel an uncomfortable resonance to our own time. It was truly a pleasure to speak with Annette about this remarkable novel and I will be looking forward to reading her next book. The Vanishing Sky quietly sneaks up on the reader and makes us confront our understanding of ourselves with carefully wrought details and a surprising story line. It’s a rewarding novel that requires attention from the reader that is fully rewarded in the end. “The Vanishing Sky reveals the German home front as I’ve never seen it in fiction… Binder tells her story patiently, like an artist placing tiny pieces into a mosaic; this literary novel isn’t one to race through. But I find it gripping, powerful, and a brave narrative, unsparing in its honesty.” — Larry Zuckerman, Historical Novels Review Annette Binder was born in Germany and grew up in Colorado. The Vanishing Sky is her first novel, inspired by her family’s experiences in World War II Germany. Her collection of short stories, Rise, received the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Literature. Annette has degrees from Harvard, UC Berkeley and the Programs in Writing at the University of California, Irvine. She lives in New England. Author’s website here. Buy the book at Bookshop.org.The post The Vanishing Sky (A Novel) by L. Annette Binder first appeared on WritersCast.
35 minutes | 3 months ago
Why We Revolt: A Patient Revolution for Careful and Kind Care by Victor Montori MD
Why We Revolt: A Patient Revolution for Careful and Kind Care – Victor Montori, MD – 9781893005624 – Mayo Clinic Press – paperback – 192 pages – $14.99 – September 29, 2020 – ebook versions available at lower prices Victor Montori is an incredibly empathetic and kind clinician, whose commitment to creating a better form of health care than we have today in the United States shines through every page of this short, but extremely powerful book. Dr. Montori is an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. He is originally from Lima,Peru, where he went to medical school before coming to America for postgraduate study and staying here to practice medicine. Why We Revolt was originally published as part of the work of his nonprofit organization, The Patient Revolution, and has now been published by the Mayo Clinic, where Dr. Montori is on staff. In the book, he gives us a practitioner’s view of how health care has become corrupted through corporatism and the industrialization of medical care. This conceptual framework resonates for me – modern medicine treats our bodies as products. Dr. Montori points out that our medical/healthcare system makes doctors and patients accountable for “delivering care” instead of systematically supporting the work of caring. Our emphasis on efficiency requires the health care system to process instead of care for people. And that the emphasis on standardizing diagnosis and treatment alike disables the core caring relationship between doctors and other caregivers and the patient. As Montori puts it, the system “offers care for people like you instead of care for you.” The book proposes that we build a health care system that is based not on greed but on solidarity – this is the revolutionary idea at the core of the book, one that is incredibly energizing and moving. Dr. Montori proposes a transformational effort. Why We Revolt was written long before COVID19, of course, but the book clearly predicts how the response to COVID19 would favor the economic interests of medical industrial complex to profit from the pandemic. It also predicted policies that left ill patients away from loved ones, to suffer and die alone. It also predicted how clinicians, patients, and citizens would come together, going beyond personal self-interest and in support of our communities to help and to protect each other, resulting in the production of homemade masks and the nightly celebrations of healthcare professionals in major cities. Why We Revolt very clearly documents how the American healthcare system has become both exploited and industrialized. The United States lags behind many other countries on patient outcomes, as the emphasis in our system is on profit rather than the core values of patient care. There is no question that change is needed and this book is a valuable stimulus and handbook for the change we can make together before the whole system collapses under the weight of capitalism. This book should be an inspiration to physicians, policymakers, and of course to all of us who are patients. There is no question that we can find ways to transform our healthcare system to make it compassionate and humane and affordable for all. Author proceeds from Why We Revolt go directly to Patient Revolution, a non-profit organization founded by Dr. Montori that empowers patients, caregivers, community advocates, and clinicians to rebuild our healthcare system one bit at a time. Dr. Montori has received the Karis Award, a patient-nominated recognition for his compassionate care. A researcher in the science of patient-centered care, Victor and his colleagues have authored over 580 research articles. A full professor of medicine at only 39 years of age, Montori is one of the most cited clinical researcher in the world. Victor is a passionate and powerful advocate for his work and for his ideas, and caregiving and kindness are central to him as a human being as well as a doctor. Speaking with him is inspiring, and I hope that through this podcast, you will enjoy this brief opportunity to hear him speak and yourself be inspired to help bring his ideas to fruition. Buy the book from Bookshop.org to support independent booksellers. Visit The Patient Revoution website for more information about Dr. Montori’s work. The post Why We Revolt: A Patient Revolution for Careful and Kind Care by Victor Montori MD first appeared on WritersCast.
51 minutes | 4 months ago
Writerscast: David Wilk interviews Roger Angell
A couple years ago, in the process of researching the mostly unknown and under-appreciated New Yorker writer Robert M. Coates, I reached out to Roger Angell, who knew Coates during his many years of writing for and working at The New Yorker (and whose mother, Katharine Sergeant Angell White, and stepfather, E.B. White, knew Coates well from the earliest days of the magazine in New York and elsewhere). I wanted to learn as much as I could about Coates, and in the process, had the distinct pleasure of talking to one of the greatest writers of our time. After telling me some interesting first-hand remembrances of Coates, Roger was kind enough to sit or an in-person interview with me in his apartment in New York along with his wife Peggy Moorman. It’s my honor to publish this interview now to celebrate Roger Angell’s 100th birthday. His prodigious, meticulous, and far-ranging memory is a match for his remarkable abilities as a writer. Roger has always lived in New York City, and spent summers in Brooklin, Maine. He graduated from Pomfret School and Harvard University, served in the Air Force in World War II, first as an instructor in machine guns and power turrets, and then, in the Pacific, as an editor and reporter for the GI magazine Brief. In 2014 Roger was inducted into the writers’ section of the Baseball Hall of Fame, and then in 2015 he was deservedly elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. It is impossible to speak about and with Roger Angell without mentioning his writing about baseball, for which he is best known, including the classic books, The Summer Game and Five Seasons: A Baseball Companion, as well as a number of great shorter pieces that appeared first in the The New Yorker. Angell’s earliest published works of short fiction and personal narratives. Several of these pieces were collected in early books, The Stone Arbor and Other Stories (1960) and A Day in the Life of Roger Angell (1970). Roger first contributed to the The New Yorker in March 1944. He began writing about baseball in 1962, when William Shawn, then the editor of The New Yorker sent him to Florida to write about spring training and over the course of several decades produced some of the best baseball books ever written, inspiring countless readers with his brilliant descriptions of baseball games and players, and of course, fans of the game. In a review of Once More Around the Park for the Journal of Sport History, Richard C. Crepeau wrote that “Gone for Good”, Angell’s essay on the career of Steve Blass,”may be the best piece that anyone has ever written on baseball or any other sport”. While Angell has been praised fulsomely for his baseball writing, I’d prefer to think of him as simply one of the better literary stylists of our time. Listening to Roger Angell talk about books, writers and his writing life was one of the great pleasures of my own literary life, which I am pleased to share with you here. Roger turned 100 on September 19, 2020. Happy Birthday Roger! And thank you and Peggy, for giving me the opportunity to speak with one of my literary heroes. “Angell writes about baseball the way M.F.K. Fisher did about food, as a metaphor for life’s complexities of desire, defeat, utility and beauty.” — Phillip Lopate This article in The New Yorker by David Remnick – “Roger Angell Turns 100” – is a must-read piece. 7 Must-Read Roger Angell Books: Legendary essays on baseball, reflections on aging, and so much more. Stephen Lovely, The Archive. List of Roger Angell’s Books A Day in the Life of Roger Angell Five Seasons: A Baseball Companion Game Time Late Innings Let Me Finish This Old Man: All in Pieces Once More Around the Park: A Baseball Reader A Pitcher’s Story: Innings with David Cone Season Ticket Selected Shorts: Baseball, a Celebration of the Short Story The Summer Game Roger Angell Day – Celebrating Roger Angell – a 100th birthday celebration was held at the Friend Memorial Public Library in Brooklin, Maine, August 8, 2020 Photo by Bill Ray The post Writerscast: David Wilk interviews Roger Angell first appeared on WritersCast.
35 minutes | 5 months ago
Helen Zuman: Mating in Captivity [A Memoir]
Mating in Captivity: A Memoir – Helen Zuman – 9781631523373 – She Writes Press – paperback – 248 pages – May 8, 2018 – $16.95 – ebook versions for sale at lower prices When I was in my younger hippie Whole Earth Catalog reading period of life, I became intensely interested in communes and alternative social structures, what are now often called “Intentional Communities.” Such utopian constructs have been in existence in America for many years (think about the Shakers in the 19th century) and the dream of a better way of living together than nuclear families persists to this day. I spent a couple summers on a working farm commune in Oregon, and over the years have studied and thought about the challenges and rewards of these communal work and living communities. Given the stresses that modern corporate capitalism places on individuals and families, it makes sense for us to explore different structures, despite the complexities of living together after the common experience of growing up in much narrower family units. When Helen Zuman graduated from Harvard, searching for a better way to live, she too wanted to learn about and explore alternative intentional communities. After considering a variety of options, and getting a fellowship to study alternative structures, she moved to the North Carolina-based Zendik Farm in 1999. Initially she was unsure of whether it would be the right place for her, but it did not take her long to feel that she belonged. She gave the commune all her money and made the commitment to become a full time, permanent member of what she believed was a meaningful alternative to what the members called “dealthculture” – meaning anyone outside of the group itself. For her, as a inexperienced social being, the Zendik experience, based on sharing work, love, life and sex, made sense. But it turned out that the lived experience of the farm commune was not quite what it seemed, and without realizing it, Helen had become a member of a personal cult run by Arol, the Farm’s matriarch, who manipulated and controlled the members to meet her own needs at the expense of all else. Mating in Captivity is an illuminating and compellingly personal story of how a person can become a member of a cult, so simple, and then how one can escape, so difficult. It’s ironic that the widespread desire for redefining social structures created by the tensions of modern capitalism has so often led to such fraught and misshapen group think. But Helen’s story is actually an optimistic one, as she was able to come through this experience and to make a life for herself that is, in fact, meaningful and defining outside the narrow structures laid down for us by the imperatives of industrial life. This is Helen Zuman’s raw and honest confession and exploration of how a cult works and what it takes for an individual to escape one, and become her truer self. Mating in Captivity shows how cults work and both why people join and how they must escape in order to grow into fully functioning beings. I really admired her honesty throughout, and her storytelling is adept and strong. It’s a terrific memoir and one that readers of all kinds will appreciate. Despite the ways in which things go off the tracks for us all too often, we can and must hope that a meaningful form of communalism is possible. If humans are going to live sustainably on this planet, it is likely a necessary adaptation for us to make. “Just as the Zendik community, a cult, pulled Helen Zuman in and held her, her account of her time there will pull you in and hold you. Her clear-eyed observations of her fellow idealists—and of herself—are honest, compelling, and sophisticated.” –Daniel Menaker, author of My Mistake: A Memoir “How timely, how telling this story of an inexperienced young woman who fell prey to a cult because of the abuse to which she’d been subjected by male strangers. Only within the fold, where there were rules protecting the women, did she feel safe enough to explore her sexuality and learn to love. So she surrendered her possessions, her will, her youth. Read Mating in Captivity as a cautionary tale, one I hope will spark a desire to create a better world for our daughters.” –Leah Lax, author of Uncovered: How I Left Hasidic Life and Finally Came Home Mating in Captivity, which she calls “a cult memoir for smart people” is Helen’s first book. It was named a Kirkus Best Indie Memoir of 2018, was a finalist in Creative Nonfiction for the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses’ 2019 Firecracker Award, and was both first runner-up in memoir and a finalist for First Horizon and Grand Prize honors in the 2020 Eric Hoffer Awards. Other work has appeared in The New Farmers Almanac, in Communities and Livelihood magazines, and on the Foundation for Intentional Community’s website. She was born in London and raised in Brooklyn, and with her husband, Helen currently homesteads near the Hudson River in Beacon, New York. Helen and I had a terrific and broad ranging conversation. I also recommend reading her post, linked above at the Foundation for Intentional Community site. Author website here. Buy the book on Bookshop.org and support independent bookstores! The post Helen Zuman: Mating in Captivity [A Memoir] first appeared on WritersCast.
33 minutes | 5 months ago
Blackwood: A Novel by Michael Farris Smith
Blackwood: A Novel – Michael Farris Smith – 9780316529815 – Little Brown – Hardcover – 256 pages – March 3, 2020 – $27.00 – ebook versions for sale at lower prices This is pretty much a stunningly written book. I discovered the writing of Michael Farris Smith serendipitously through the southern culture magazine, Garden & Gun. I read a short piece they published called “How a Steadfast Pup Helped an Author Find His Voice,” which is just a fantastic work of personal memoir. That one essay prompted me to learn about Smith and to get a copy of his latest book. Yes, this is how literary discovery works today. There are so many good writers in the world, and we are blessed with a plethora of books to read. But at the same time, how do we find out about them? I had not heard of Michael Farris Smith before. Blackwood is his fifth book, and his work has been well reviewed and praised by writers whose opinions I respect. I was surprised I had never run across his work before, and pleased I did. I started reading Blackwood without knowing very much about this writer or his past work, or the kinds of stories he tells. There is no doubt that Blackwood can be pretty dark at times – funnily, it reminded me of the great Netflix series, Stranger Things – though much more powerful in the way that only fiction can convey mystery. It can be scary at times, and there are characters in this book who are just terrible, dangerous figures. I don’t think you have to be a southerner or to have lived in the south at all to appreciate this book, or the kinds of people who inhabit the fictional Red Bluff, Mississippi, but it helps, I am sure, as the landscape and the mysteries Smith explores are very much “of the South” and the pain and suffering that resides in its countryside. That suffering is an integral element of the history of the people and the land that is palpable in this novel. The collection of characters is interestingly diverse, combining a bit of Faulkner with a touch of Stephen King, it seems. I tend to think of this book as a novel of magical realism that taps into a mysterious darkness that inhabits the land itself. It is chthonic – almost literally. There is a part of this novel that is mythic, subliminal, deeply psychic in a wounded way, and the people who live in this strange place have become part of the mystery and part of the land as well. I wondered at times if Smith is telling a story that even he may not fully understand, almost like a Druid priest channeling voices from another reality. The book is very powerful, and that power makes it difficult sometimes to get your bearings, as a reader, you can feel outside the realm of your own experience enough that you must allow Smith’s language to transport you to this other place, and dream alongside and almost within the author’s psyche. Some of the words used by reviewers come to mind – “brutal,” “supernatural,” “startling,”. All are accurate. I felt the pain of this novel deeply. And yes, it is a southern novel, but that should not ever be considered a limitation. This is just a great novel that happens to be set in the south. I am really pleased that I discovered Blackwood and the work of this compelling writer, Michael Farris Smith. I’d like to especially thank the magazine Garden & Gun for doing what they do so well — exploring and expounding on modern southern culture. And thanks to Michael Farris Smith for taking the risk to write this difficult book, and for talking to me about it. We had a great conversation together. “Lurking over Blackwood is a family of itinerant grifters—a version of Faulkner’s Snopes clan, forces of chaos, human kudzu except for the youngest of them, a mysterious boy in whom Colburn sees his young self. As in the best noir, A soul-strangling inevitability hangs over Red Bluff, yet somehow Smith gives his doomed characters a dignity in the face of forces well beyond their control.” Booklist (starred review) Michael Farris Smith website. Buy the book at RJ Julia Booksellers. The post Blackwood: A Novel by Michael Farris Smith first appeared on WritersCast.
31 minutes | 6 months ago
Crooked Hallelujah: Kelli Jo Ford
Crooked Hallelujah – Kelli Jo Ford – 978-0-8021-4912-1 – Grove Press – Hardcover – 304 pages – July 14, 2020 – $26.00 – ebook versions available at lower prices. Kelli Jo Ford’s novel is a deeply rewarding read. Comparisons to the work of Louise Erdrich are inevitable and unavoidable (and Kelli Jo mentioned Louise in our conversation as one of her most important influences.) This is a novel of relationships and family told through the voices of four generations of Cherokee women and to a lesser extent, the men who come in and out of their lives. The narrative weaves together strands of familial cloth into what emerges as a beautiful and compelling pattern that we experience fully as the story is told. At the outset of the book, we are in 1974 in the Cherokee Nation, eastern Oklahoma, where fifteen-year-old Justine is growing up in a family dominated by women – her mother, Lula, and her mother’s mother, Granny. We follow Justine, and her daughter, Reney, through a series of challenges in Oklahoma and Texas and back to Oklahoma, where family and roots call out to her. Kelli Jo Ford is a fine writer, and manages her characters and their stories well. Her intergenerational story is complicated, and the multiple narrative voices take some concentration to follow, but her writing is warm and deft, and we are rewarded in the end by the beauty and depth of her characters and their lives. This family of strong Cherokee women continually face challenges with strength and wisdom. They make the necessary sacrifices for the people in their lives and go on living despite all the difficulties they face. They don’t always get along – these women are real people, not caricatures. They do not always succeed in understanding each other or overcoming the difficulties and challenges they face. There are conflicts over religion and individuality. But these women are bound by blood, heart, and a deeply felt love that carries them forward despite all. I came away from this book with an appreciation for the strength and perceptiveness of Cherokee women. Kelli Jo Ford is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. She is the recipient of numerous awards, a National Artist Fellowship by the Native Arts & Cultures Foundation, and a Dobie Paisano Fellowship. Her fiction has appeared in the Paris Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Missouri Review, and the anthology Forty Stories: New Writing published by Harper in 2012. She now lives in Virginia with her husband, poet Scott Weaver. My conversation with Kelli Jo was her first interview about Crooked Hallelujah. She is a new writer many of us will want to follow in the years to come. Author website here. Support local business. Buy the book from R.J. Julia Booksellers.The post Crooked Hallelujah: Kelli Jo Ford first appeared on WritersCast.
62 minutes | 7 months ago
Publishing Talks: David Wilk Interviews Howard Junker about Zyzzyva
Publishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology, mostly talking about the future of publishing, books, and culture. I’ve spent time talking with people in the book industry about how publishing is evolving in the context of technology, culture, and economics. Some time back, this series broadened to include conversations that go beyond the future of publishing. In an effort to document the literary world, I’ve talked with a variety of editors, publishers and others who have been innovators and leaders in independent publishing in the past and into the present. One of my favorite lines of exploration for Publishing Talks has been a series of conversations with editors and publishers of independent presses and literary magazines. These enterprises are at the core of literary culture. They bring new voices to light, tap into the always changing literary culture, and bring it forward to readers and importantly, to other writers as well. One of the most important literary magazines of the late twentieth and early twenty first century is Zyzzyva: The Journal of West Coast Writers & Artists, founded by Howard Junker in San Francisco as a purely West Coast platform in 1985. Howard and I knew each other in the eighties and nineties when I was involved in literary magazine and press distribution. I’ve always thought highly of Zyzzyva, its look and feel and the breadth and scope of its literary vision. Having a chance to talk for awhile with Howard about the magazine and his own literary output since leaving the magazine in 2010 was a welcome pleasure. He has a lot to say on alot of subjects. I truly enjoyed our conversation and hope you will find it as interesting and rewarding as I did. Howard Junker was born in Port Washington, NY and grew up in Chappaqua, NY. He attended Amherst, Stanford, and the University of San Francisco. Junker has written for many magazines, including Architectural Digest, Art in America, Artforum, Esquire, Film Comment, Film Quarterly, Harper’s Bazaar, The Nation, The New Republic, New York, Newsweek, Playboy, Rolling Stone, The Village Voice, and Vogue. He has also worked as a documentary filmmaker, television producer, construction carpenter, junior high school science teacher, fondue cook, P.R. flack, and technical editor. He founded Zyzzyva in 1985, and edited 90 issues before he retired at the end of 2010. He also edited five anthologies of work from the magazine, including AutoBioDiversity, as well as four Zyzzyva first novels and three Zyzzyva first collections of poems. There is much more about Howard to be found at his website here. Photo above by Dennis Letbetter.The post Publishing Talks: David Wilk Interviews Howard Junker about Zyzzyva first appeared on WritersCast.
40 minutes | 7 months ago
Fenton Johnson – At the Center of All Beauty: Solitude and the Creative Life
At the Center of All Beauty: Solitude and the Creative Life – Fenton Johnson- 9780393608298 – W.W. Norton – Hardcover – 256 pages – March 10, 2020 – $26.95 – ebook versions available at lower prices So much of the pleasure of conducting this podcast for all these years has been (and continues to be) the discovery of new writers and books, that so deeply nurture my inner being. Discovering Fenton Johnson’s writing during the pandemic, where I have been spending most of my time alone or with just my immediate family, has been both apt and especially rewarding. I want to thank my cousin, Fred Hertz, for introducing me to Fenton and his work. I am especially interested in this book, as it is about the inner lives if writers, artists and musicians, their thought processes and creative lives, Fenton Johnson’s perspective on creativity and the artistic journey should resonate with us now more than ever. Fenton is an outstanding writer, whose prose flows like a slow moving brook through the woods. I am really surprised not to have known about his work before now. Now, having read this most recent very personal memoir, I am adding his other works of memoir, and his fiction to my long term reading list. But back to this book. In At the Center of All Beauty, Fenton explores the lives and works of nearly a dozen writers, painters and singers, those he feels most close to in his own life and work. He calls them “solitaries,” and links them to members of his own family, friends he knew growing up, his life, his lovers, his loves. He rightly questions the dominant cultural narrative we all absorb that coupling is the highest and best way to live. Of course there is a long and celebrated tradition in the West of creatives who must separate themselves from others in order to be themselves, and this clearly is a crucial story for anyone involved in trying to create. Fenton devotes chapters to Thoreau at Walden Pond, Emily Dickinson in Amherst, the great Bill Cunningham photographing in the streets, Cézanne repeatedly painting Mont Sainte-Victoire and Zora Neale Hurston, Nina Simone, and several other exemplars of the creative solitary life. Each of these stories relate back to Fenton’s own journey, first growing up in Kentucky near the famous Gethsemane monastery (best known as home to Thomas Merton,) his father and mother, also both solitary souls despite their family lives, and then later living in San Francisco in the time of AIDS, to now, where in late middle age, he finds himself solitary and at peace with all that it means to be both alone and completely connected to the world around him. This book is full of wisdom, of beauty, and of language that helps us go beyond our daily perceptions into our own stories of self and meaning. You can read this book as a narrative or perhaps as well, use it as an inspirational spur to personal meditation on self and beauty. It was truly a pleasure to read At the Center of All Beauty and also to have the opportunity to speak with Fenton about this book. To illustrate life during Covid-19, while we happened to both be in Tucson, Arizona this spring, Fenton delivered the book to me, both of us wearing masks, in the local post office parking lot, and we conducted the interview via Skype, despite being less than two miles apart from each other on the day we talked. Aside from At the Center of All Beauty: Solitude and the Creative Life, Fenton Johnson is the author of three novels: The Man Who Loved Birds, Scissors, Paper, Rock, and Crossing the River, each of which have been reissued in new editions. He has also published two previous memoirs, Geography of the Heart: A Memoir and Keeping Faith: A Skeptic’s Journey among Christian and Buddhist Monks and an essay collection Everywhere Home: A Life in Essays. Geography of the Heart received the American Library Association and Lambda Literary Awards for best LGBT Creative Nonfiction, and Keeping Faith received a Lambda Literary and Kentucky Literary Award in Creative Nonfiction. He was recently featured on NPR’s Fresh Air and writes for Harper’s Magazine. Fenton is professor emeritus at the University of Arizona and teaches creative writing workshops nationally. He is on the faculty of the low-residency creative writing program of Spalding University. Support local booksellers! Buy At the Center of All Beauty from independent bookseller RJ Julia. The post Fenton Johnson – At the Center of All Beauty: Solitude and the Creative Life first appeared on WritersCast.
53 minutes | 8 months ago
Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Mary Gannon of CLMP
Publishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology, mostly talking about the future of publishing, books, and culture. As every media business continues to experience disruption and change, I’ve spent time talking with some of the people involved in our industry about how publishing might evolve as it is affected by technology and the larger context of culture and economics. Some time back, this series broadened to include conversations that go beyond the future of publishing. In an effort to document the literary world, I’ve talked with a variety of editors, publishers and arts professionals who have been innovators and leaders in independent publishing in the past and the present, and continue to explore the ebb and flow of writing, books, and publishing in all sorts of forms and formats, as change continues to be the one constant we can count on. Mary Gannon is the Executive Director of the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses, a now more than fifty-year-old nonprofit that is the primary organization in the US supporting the literary publishing community. There are hundreds of publications of all sizes that benefit from CLMP’s work, some well-established, others that are start-ups, and many others in various stages of growth and development. Some have institutional support, while the majority are supported only by the work of volunteers and readers. Mary is herself a poet, and has worked in the literary community for many years. She well understands the struggles and needs of the community she serves. Before joining CLMP in 2018, she was the Associate Director and Director of Content for the Academy of American Poets, and before that she was the Editorial Director of Poets & Writers, the country’s largest nonprofit organization serving poets and literary writers. Mary has published numerous articles about publishing and the literary field, as well as book reviews in a variety of journals. With her husband, Poets & Writers Magazine Editor-in-Chief Kevin Larimer, she wrote The Poets & Writers Complete Guide to Being a Writer, published by Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster April, 2020. I’ve wanted to talk to Mary for some time about the state of the independent literary community. Now, with the COVID pandemic having such an impact, especially so on the arts (to the point of crisis for many) it’s an important time for a conversation about the current state and future prospects of literary publishing. CLMP was founded in 1967 by writers and editors, including Russell Banks (whom I interviewed in 2018.) It offers a range of services and funding to magazines and literary publishers. Visit the CLMP website for more information or to make a donation in support of its vital work to support independent literary culture. Disclosure: I am currently proud to be a member of the board of trustees of CLMP.The post Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Mary Gannon of CLMP first appeared on WritersCast.
28 minutes | 8 months ago
Anne Enright: Actress – A Novel
Actress: A Novel – Anne Enright – 978-1-324-00562-9 – W.W. Norton – Hardcover – 272 pages – March 3, 2020 – $26.95 – eBook version available at lower prices I think it is pretty safe to say that Anne Enright is one of the best writers of our time. Her writing is so well done that you don’t notice her deft ability to portray characters and tell their stories as if you were present at the time. In some ways, Actress is an unusual novel, structured more like a memoir, albeit a fictional one. The story meanders the way a person might when telling a story about their parents and themselves. Ostensibly Actress is the story of Katherine O’Dell, the narrator’s mother. Norah, the daughter, is herself a writer in mid-career. But as I read the book, it became clear that this book is really about Norah, and while the daughter-mother relationship is central to her story, there are more layers than initially meet the eye here. It’s not so much a fictional portrait of an actress, but a fictional portrait of a writer. Norah, the writer, has spent her life avoiding writing about her mother. Being the daughter of a famous, even notorious actress, is something she has tried not to deal with, even though it is the grounding of her own life story. That her mother ends up in decline is also defining for her. Katherine was a difficult, mercurial, highly private and complicated person. Her daughter, our narrator, is ultimately more like her mother than she wants to believe or accept. In Enright’s telling, the writer tells the story she must tell, even if it is not always the story she wants to tell. Aside from being a terrific writer, Anne Enright is an outstanding conversationalist, making her a great subject for an interview. It’s pretty obvious how much I like speaking with writers about their books, and a conversation with Anne Enright is a joy. I am sure that you will enjoy listening to this interview and you will find this book well worth spending some time with. I had the pleasure to speak with her in 2015 about her last novel, The Green Road, another terrific book. Here’s a link, in case you want to listen to that conversation as well. Anne Enright was born in Dublin in 1962, studied English and Philosophy at Trinity College, Dublin, and studied for an MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. She has written short stories that have appeared in magazines including The New Yorker and The Paris Review. In 2004 she received the Davy Byrnes Irish Writing Award for her short story, ‘Honey’. She has published three collections of short stories. Her novels are The Wig My Father Wore (1995), shortlisted for the Irish Times/Aer Lingus Irish Literature Prize; What Are You Like? which was the winner of the 2001 Encore Award; The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch (2002); The Gathering (2007) which won the 2007 Man Booker Prize for Fiction; and The Forgotten Waltz (2011). Her most recent novel, The Green Road (2015) won the Irish Novel of the Year. Enright is also the author of a book of humorous essays, Making Babies: Stumbling into Motherhood (2004). She lives in Ireland. You can buy Actress online from RJ Julia Booksellers in Madison, Connecticut where it is a current Staff Pick.The post Anne Enright: Actress – A Novel first appeared on WritersCast.
31 minutes | 9 months ago
Arthur Phillips: The King at the Edge of the World
The King at the Edge of the World – Arthur Phillips – 9780812995480 – Random House – Hardcover- 288 pages – $27.00 – February 11, 2020. Ebooks available at lower prices. At Writerscast, there is a strict rule that I only talk to authors whose books I like. So every book that appears here is one that I truly enjoyed reading. Given that fact, it is important to note that Arthur Phillips’ novel, The King at the Edge of the World, is a book I loved reading. It is a great story by a writer in full command of his craft. I hate giving away plot so I won’t even come close to doing that. Suffice to say, this book takes place at the end of the Elizabethan era (the first Elizabeth, that is). It involves a series of events that lead inexorably to a glorious and satisfying conclusion, beginning with the arrival of a Turkish doctor to England as part of a diplomatic mission and going through a series of sometimes unfortunate and even tragic events. What develops from this quiet beginning is what makes this book so pleasurable to read. And it is full of ideas, ruminations, wonderful characters, all woven together to create a fabric that wraps around you like an old and very comfortable shawl. “The book is a delightfully rich fruitcake and an old-fashioned pleasure to read; its plot is an intricate set of intersecting mechanisms and locks and keys, which, when they finally all fall into place, provide the reader with the gawping satisfaction of having been well and truly fooled,” Dominic Dromgoole writes in his review. “Simply writing for the reader’s pleasure seems to be increasingly rare these days, and to pick up a book like The King at the Edge of the World, which contains teasing philosophical and theological ideas within an unapologetic entertainment, is a small mercy for which much gratitude is due.” A New York Times Editor’s Choice selection I’ve spoken to Arthur before. In 2009 – so long ago, it seems – we talked about an earlier novel of his, The Song is You, another wonderful book. Arthur is a distant relative of mine and it is a wonderful thing to have such a terrific writer in the family. Arthur Phillips was born in Minneapolis and educated at Harvard. He has been a child actor, a jazz musician, a speechwriter, a failed entrepreneur, and strikingly, he as been a five-time Jeopardy! champion. His first novel, Prague, was a New York Times Notable Book, and received the Los Angeles Times/Art Seidenbaum Award for best first novel. His second novel, The Egyptologist, was an international bestseller in 2004. His third novel, Angelica, made The Washington Post list of best fiction of 2007 and that paper called him “One of the best writers in America.” The Song Is You was a New York Times Notable Book, and Kirkus wrote, “Phillips still looks like the best American novelist to have emerged in the present decade.” His fifth book, The Tragedy of Arthur, was published in 2011 to critical acclaim, and like its predecessors, and was named a New York Times Notable Book. The play taken from that book received its world premiere reading at New York’s Public Theater in 2011 and became a full stage production in 2013, under the auspices of the Guerrilla Shakespeare Project. His short story, Companionship, was adapted into an opera by Rachel Peters and debuted at the Fort Worth Opera in 2019. The film version of Angelica was released in 2015, and other films based on his work are currently in development. His work has been published in twenty-seven languages. He has written for television, including Damages (FX/DirecTV), Bloodline (Netflix), Tokyo Vice (HBOMax) and he has further television pilots in development. Arthur lives in New York City with his two sons. Reading Arthur Phillips novels is always a deep pleasure for me. Talking to Arthur Phillips about his writing is similarly always a pleasure. Learn more about Arthur Phillips at his website. The wonderful bookstore, RJ Julia, in Madison, Connecticut, carries all the books we talk about here. You can purchase a copy of The King at the Edge of the World from them right here. The post Arthur Phillips: The King at the Edge of the World first appeared on WritersCast.
28 minutes | 10 months ago
Naomi Shulman: Be Kind: You Can Make the World a Happier Place!
Be Kind: You Can Make the World a Happier Place! 125 Kind Things to Say & Do – Naomi Shulman – Illustrated by Hsinping Pan – Storey Publishing – 9781635861549 – Hardcover – $12.99 – June 25, 2019 – ebooks available at lower prices. I learned about Naomi Shulman because of something she wrote a few years ago that has circulated widely. What she said resonated with my own thinking about our responsibilities as citizens: “Nice people made the best Nazis. My mom grew up next to them. They got along, refused to make waves, looked the other way when things got ugly and focused on happier things than “politics.” They were lovely people who turned their heads as their neighbors were dragged away. You know who weren’t nice people? Resisters.” So I went in search of Naomi Shulman online, feeling like this would be someone I’d be really interested in talking to. I discovered she has also written this wonderful kids’ book, Be Kind, and was very happy to set up a chance to talk with her about this book and her thinking about the world. One thing we did address is the big difference between being nice and being kind. Kindness seems like such a simple thing. But it really isn’t. Kindness requires empathy, connection with others, and being genuinely other directed. Kindness is something we all appreciate but recognize as not being generally practiced by so many of our fellow human beings and planetary citizens. Kindness is not passive either, as Naomi points out. Be Kind helps parents and children aged 5 and up learn some simple, action-oriented things they can do in their daily lives to help them become active practitioners of kindness and love. Naomi teaches kids that kindness is much more than being “nice,” to others. Some of the things she demonstrates include standing up for someone or something, engaging in a community, showing compassion toward others (beings as well as humans), and expressing gratitude. The illustrations by Hsinping Pan are absolutely perfect, as is Naomi’s writing. Though it’s small book, there are 125 concrete activities kids and their families can pick and choose from and act out. You can be the first person to say good morning to a friend, or pay someone a compliment, help elderly neighbors with chores, maybe just learning to say hello to an immigrant in their own language, or just sending a card to someone for no particular occasion. Be Kind empowers kids to make the world a better, kinder place, and that is nothing but a good thing. I talked to Naomi about the book, her philosophy of living and teaching, and all sorts of things relating to politics and culture. It was a fun conversation for me, and I hope one that will help all of us during this particularly challenging time. Being kind will help us get through the difficulties of daily life. And that includes being kind to ourselves. Be Kind was a 2019 Mom’s Choice Award Gold Winner “Be Kind is a lovely reminder that every moment can be filled with a thoughtful act of kindness. This beautifully illustrated book gives fresh and meaningful ways that each child — and adult — can make our world a happier place and prove that KINDNESS MATTERS!” — Jill McManigal, cofounder & executive director, Kids for Peace and The Great Kindness Challenge Naomi Shulman lives with her daughters in Northampton, Massachusetts. She’s now a writer and editor, formerly having worked in book publishing at St. Martin’s Press, and was the research editor at Wondertime, a Disney parenting magazine. As a freelancer, she has worked in memoir, fantasy, literary fiction, mysteries, sci-fi and children’s books. You can support local bookselling, which needs your support, by purchasing Be Kind from RJ Julia Booksellers in Madison, Connecticut. They fill online orders quickly – click here to order. More of Naomi’s work can be found here.The post Naomi Shulman: Be Kind: You Can Make the World a Happier Place! first appeared on WritersCast.
37 minutes | 10 months ago
David J. Silverman: This Land is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving
This Land is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving – David J. Silverman – Bloomsbury – Hardcover – 9781632869241- 528 pages – $32.00 – November 5, 2019 – ebook versions available at lower prices There have been a number of books I have read recently (and another I am reading now) that both challenge and retell the founding myths that power America’s beliefs about itself. In particular, I find books like David Silverman’s extraordinary work of historical storytelling, grounded in deep research and a new perspective so powerful, because they make us question and rethink stories and beliefs about ourselves we have come to take for granted. Every culture tells its creation myths, establishing core values through historical story telling, that help shape the shared belief systems of the people who make up that culture. American creation myths tell stories that train our citizens to believe in the essential rightness of European settlement of the “virgin” territory now known as the United States to overlook not only the invasion and displacement of indigenous peoples, but to justify the way those peoples have been cast and treated subsequently by the dominant culture. One of the most powerful of all historical American myths is that of the Pilgrims’ arrival in what is now called Plymouth, Massachusetts. The people who then lived along the eastern coast of America were primarily the loosely confederated Wampanoags, a tribal group that controlled most of what is now coastal Massachusetts and Rhode Island. That creation story suggests that the Pilgrims were the first white people the Wampanoags met, and greeted them with open arms and friendship. In fact, by the time the Pilgrims landed on their shores, the Wampanoags had over 100 years’ experience with Europeans, including fishermen and explorers, and they had just gone through a horrendous five year period wracked by European diseases against which they had no anti-bodies, and their population and culture had been devastated. The Wampanoags, led by their sachem, Ousamequin (Massasoit), greeted this new group of visitors with a deep knowledge and understanding of who these newcomers were and what they might want. And they also had an extremely clear idea of how the Europeans could be positioned to help the Wampanoags in their ongoing territorial struggles with neighboring Massachusetts peoples, and other more distant tribes who frequently attacked them. Europeans came with guns and tools they would reasonably expect to trade with indigenous people in return for food and furs. In March 1621, Ousamequin and the Plymouth colony’s governor, John Carver, agreed on their friendship and made an active commitment to mutual defense. That fall, the English, with the help of the Wampanoag, made their first successful harvest in their “New World.” When Ousamequin and some of his tribe visited Plymouth, they also helped create the “First Thanksgiving.” And the treaty made between the Wampanoags and the English remained functional, despite much friction and miscommunication between the two cultures, for more than fifty years, until King Philip’s War in 1675, when peace ended, and Wampanoags lost most of their power and land. The relationship between Wampanoags and Europeans, then Americans, did not end, however, in the seventeenth century. The Wampanoags survived and have retained their culture against tremendous odds. In this book, historian David J. Silverman illuminates this long, fraught, and difficult relationship, even to modern times, from the perspective of the indigenous people, providing us with a powerfully different view of our history than we typically experience. The story of the Wampanoags, who were among the earliest tribes in conflict with the European invaders, is one that was repeated many times across hundreds of years, with other tribes elsewhere across the North American continent. What the Wampanoags experienced through the last several centuries is a story that can help us all understand a truer picture of our country’s history, one we should all aim to better comprehend. And with a different perspective about our past, perhaps we will be able to create a better present for us all. “David Silverman has crafted a gripping Native-centered narrative of the English invasion of New England. Finally, there is a book that vividly contextualizes the fabled first Thanksgiving, placing Native diplomacy and actions at the very center of the story, along with the warfare, dispossession, and struggle for sovereignty that was very much part of the longer aftermath of first contact. It is a story that continues into the present and a must read for every American.” – Linford Fisher, author of THE INDIAN GREAT AWAKENING David J. Silverman is a professor at George Washington University, where he specializes in Native American, Colonial American, and American racial history. He is the author of Thundersticks, Red Brethren, Ninigret, and Faith and Boundaries. His essays have won major awards from the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture and the New York Academy of History. It was my great pleasure to speak with David Silverman about This Land is Their Land. You can buy the book from RJ Julia Booksellers in Madison, Connecticut – they will deliver! Click here to purchase.The post David J. Silverman: This Land is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving first appeared on WritersCast.
29 minutes | a year ago
Stanley Flink: Due Diligence and the News
Due Diligence and the News: Searching for a Moral Compass in the Digital Age – Stanley Flink – Center for Media and Journalism Studies at Indian River State College – paperback – 978-0-578-60291-2 – 214 pages – $19.95 – 12/7/2019 – ebook editions available at lower prices. I was recently introduced to Stan Flink by a mutual friend. I’d known of him for many years as he was a Yalie of some renown, a journalist for many years who later became the editor of the Yale Alumni Magazine and taught journalism at Yale and at other institutions of higher learning. With his long experience, as a reporter, editor and lecturer, Stan knows and understands the importance of the news media to the functioning of American democracy. Still active at 95 years of age, Stan has worked as a journalist and editor for many years, in many different venues and platforms. Flink recognizes that democracy has no life without truth. In fact, democracy is predicated on there being an educated and active citizenry, that tries to know as much as possible the truth and nature of events and human affairs. In Due Diligence and the News, Stan reviews, succinctly and gracefully, the relationship between the press and American civic life from colonial days to the digital age. In a series of interlocked essays, he demonstrates succinctly and clearly that while opinions may differ, facts are not optional. He discusses the important question of how it can be possible to assure publication based on verifiable facts without curtailing differing opinions. This is a central issue for us all to face – understanding and resolving the difference between fact and opinion. We need both elements to have equal weight in our political discourse, and we cannot dismiss either. Some of the questions he raises include: How can the media restore the trust of the reading/listening public? Is it ever possible for the news media to create mechanisms, like the Hutchins Commission, that can make workable rules of self-governance and professional standards for itself? Can government—international, national, state or local—serve as a watchdog on the media without violating the Constitution? Can the news media, assuming it is truthful, do less than full due diligence in commenting on a public official? These questions are addressed thoughtfully throughout this well-written book, but no one, not even Stan, can answer them conclusively and for all situations. Ultimately, as Stan takes a look forward into the digital age, the age of learned intelligence, he poses what may be as yet unanswerable questions about the future of the press in our fast-changing society. I think we have alot to learn from this book and the questions that Stan provides are ones we should be discussing far and wide as we try to heighten the importance of truth among our fellow citizens. STANLEY FLINK grew up in a New Jersey. He entered Yale University a few months after Pearl Harbor and soon after enlisted in the Army. After service in the Pacific, he returned to Yale to continue his education. He graduated in 1948 and became a correspondent for Time, Inc. in New York and then in California, where he reported on such people as William Randolph Hearst, Richard Nixon, and the first appearances of Marilyn Monroe. In 1958 he transferred to television news at NBC and later CBS. In 1962 he took up a series of assignments in London where he lived for eight years. In 1972 he returned to Yale to become the founding director of the Office of Public Information. From 1980 to 2010 he taught an undergraduate seminar called “Ethics and the Media.” In 1994 he was awarded the Yale Medal. Stanley Flink is the author of many articles and profiles, and among his books are a novel called But Will They Get It In Des Moines? about television, published by Simon & Schuster; and Sentinel Under Siege, an historical analysis of freedom of the press in America, published by Harper Collins. Mr. Flink and his second wife (of 45 years) Joy, live in a retirement community in North Branford, Connecticut, where he still lectures on the media. Through it all, he has never lost his deep affection for golden retrievers. He celebrated his 95th birthday in May, 2019. Watch this video of Stan talking about the ethics of journalism here. Support independent bookselling by buying the book online from our friends at R.J. Julia Booksellers.The post Stanley Flink: Due Diligence and the News first appeared on WritersCast.
31 minutes | a year ago
Fuchsia Dunlop: The Food of Sichuan
The Food of Sichuan (A New and Updated edition of Land of Plenty)- Fuchsia Dunlop – Hardcover – 978-1-324-00483-7 – 480 pages – W.W. Norton – October 15, 2019 – $40.00 – ebook versions available at lower prices. I love cooking and I particularly love cooking Chinese cuisine, and among Chinese cuisines, my favorite has always been Sichuanese. I am by no means an expert chef, but as an educated and somewhat experienced eater and cook, books like The Food of Sichuan are wonderful for me to read and learn from. Now having spent some time with the recipes, I can attest that this is a spectacular book for anyone interested in becoming a better cook of any form of Chinese cuisine. Fuchsia’s writing about traditional Sichuan cookery is illuminating, and her knowledge and awareness the issues facing western cooks make this book a pleasure to work with. And it is a beautifully produced book – so much so that I have had to be extremely careful as I cooked from it, as I did not want to splash soy sauce or hoisin on any of the pages of the book. Nearly twenty years ago, Fuchsia’s first book, Land of Plenty, was viewed by many to be one of the greatest cookbooks of all time. In this new book, Dunlop returns to the region where her own culinary journey began, adding more than 70 new recipes to the original selection and adding new writing as well. The Food of Sichuan offers home cooks the tools needed to make a broad range of Sichuan dishes, ranging from the simple to the complex. The book includes beautifully reproduced food and travel photography, as well as Dunlop’s extensive writing about the culinary and cultural history of Sichuan, home of one of the great cuisines of the world. Fuchsia Dunlop is a cook and food-writer specializing in Chinese cuisine. She is the author of the award-winning Land of Fish and Rice: Recipes from the Culinary Heart of China (a collection of recipes from the Jiangnan or Lower Yangtze Region in eastern China), Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking; Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China, an account of her adventures in exploring Chinese food culture; and two other now well-known books of Chinese cooking, Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook, and of course, the aforementioned Land of Plenty. Fuchsia’s writing has appeared in many publications including Lucky Peach, Saveur, The New Yorker, and Gourmet. In the US, she has won four James Beard awards and was named ‘Food Journalist of the Year’ by the British Guild of Food Writers (GFW) in 2006. Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper won the IACP Jane Grigson Award in the US, and the GFW Kate Whiteman Award for Food and Travel in the UK. Most recently, Land of Fish and Rice won the 2017 Andre Simon Food Book of the Year award. She is a restaurant consultant in London, and has also consulted and taught Chinese cookery for companies including Williams Sonoma and Marks and Spencer. Dunlop has spoken and cooked at conferences and events in China, Barcelona, California, New York, Sydney and Singapore, and as part of the Transart festival in Bolzano, Italy. Fuchsia Dunlop grew up in Oxford, England, and studied at Magdalene College, Cambridge University, Sichuan University, and the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. She speaks, reads and writes Chinese. ‘The best writer in the West… on Chinese food’ — Sunday Telegraph ‘Fuchsia Dunlop joins the ranks of literary food writers such as Elizabeth David and Claudia Roden.’ — Independent ‘A world authority on Chinese cooking… Her approach is a happy mixture of scholarly and gluttonous.’ — Observer Food Monthly Support independent bookselling – purchase The Food of Sichuan from RJ Julia Booksellers in Madison, Connecticut, they will send the book to you promptly. Visit the author’s excellent and comprehensive website here.The post Fuchsia Dunlop: The Food of Sichuan first appeared on WritersCast.
40 minutes | a year ago
Kevin Baker: The Fall of a Great American City: New York and the Urban Crisis of Affluence
The Fall of a Great American City: New York and the Urban Crisis of Affluence – Kevin Baker (foreword by James Howard Kunstler) – 9781947951143 – City Point Press/Harper’s Magazine – Hardcover – 176 pages – October 8, 2019 – eBook editions available at lower prices. Kevin Baker has been one of my favorite writers for many years. He authored a wonderful baseball novel, Sometimes You See It Coming, based loosely on the life of Ty Cobb, but set in the modern day. I have read that book at least twice. Later, I was fortunate to work with Kevin on a project for the History Channel, and I have long appreciated his nonfiction history writing as well. When I read his essay in the July, 2018 issue of Harper’s Magazine, where Kevin often publishes on current affairs, called The Death of a Once Great City, I felt strongly that this story needed to be read as widely as possible. Kevin’s perceptive observations about New York City and its modern real estate-based problems, resonated with my own experience of the direction that modern American culture is moving. His piece seemed to me important enough to be made into a book. Harper’s John MacArthur and Lynn Carlson agreed with my thinking, and together with Kevin, we worked out an arrangement for publication of an expanded and enhanced version of Kevin’s original essay to be published in book form by my imprint, City Point Press. I am very pleased to have been able to work with Kevin and Harper’s on what is now called The Fall of a Great American City: New York and the Urban Crisis of Affluence. This is the story of what is happening today in New York City and in many other cities across America. It is about how the crisis of affluence is now driving out everything we love most about cities: small shops, decent restaurants, public space, street life, affordable apartments, responsive government, beauty, idiosyncrasy, each other. This is the story of how we came to lose so much—how the places we love most were turned over to land bankers, billionaires, the worst people in the world, and criminal landlords—and how we can – and must – begin to take them back. I think this is an important story and hope my listeners will agree. I do not usually talk to writers about books I have published myself for Writerscast, as I do not want this podcast to be about the books I publish rather than the books I read. But in this case, since I came to this book through the original essay that I did read, I think it is meaningful to present my conversation with Kevin for your listening enjoyment. Kevin is a terrific writer, and this book presents a strong case for rethinking our approach to modern urban life. New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, and many other cities are all suffering through the same sorts of real estate crises. I was not alone in being moved by Kevin’s piece in Harper’s – the magazine has reported that the original essay was one of the most read of all pieces it has ever published and has “gone viral” online to reach a vast audience. This story affects us all and challenges us to rethink how we approach the public good. Kevin Baker grew up in Rockport, Massachusetts, graduated from Columbia University in New York City in 1980, and since then has earned his living as a writer and editor. Dreamland, part of Baker’s New York‚ City of Fire trilogy was published in 1999, Paradise Alley issued in 2002, and the third and final volume of the trilogy, Strivers Row, was published in 2006. Kevin was the chief historical researcher on Harold Evans’ best–selling history, The American Century, published in 1999. He wrote the monthly “In the News” column for American Heritage magazine from 1998-2007, and has been published in the New York Times, the New Republic, Politico.com, New York magazine, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, and of course, Harper’s magazine, among other publications. He is a 2017 Guggenheim Fellow for nonfiction. Kevin is married and lives in New York City. You can purchase books featured on Writerscast from indie bookseller, RJ Julia. Buy The Fall of a Great American City here. Visit Kevin Baker’s website here. Visit City Point Press here. The post Kevin Baker: The Fall of a Great American City: New York and the Urban Crisis of Affluence first appeared on WritersCast.
37 minutes | a year ago
Christina Thompson: Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia
Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia – Christina Thompson – 9780062060877 – Harper – Hardcover – 384 pages – $29.99 – March 12, 2019 – ebook editions also available at lower prices, varying by outlet. “I loved this book. I found Sea People the most intelligent, empathic, engaging, wide-ranging, informative, and authoritative treatment of Polynesian mysteries that I have ever read. Christina Thompson’s gorgeous writing arises from a deep well of research and succeeds in conjuring a lost world.” – Dava Sobel, bestselling author of Longitude and The Glass Universe I completely agree with Dava Sobel. This is an incredible book, probably the best introduction to the ancient and modern world of the Polynesian people of the Pacific islands you could ever read. She starts with an anecdote of modern Polynesia that aptly sets the scene for the entire story. Thompson is married to a Maori (her first book, Come on Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You, tells the history of the Maori people of New Zealand, who are among the many groups of Polynesians). When she and her husband are in Hawaii about to rent a kayak, the Hawaiian managing the concession tells them it rents for “thirty dollars….but twenty for you, brother.” It’s a striking moment, giving Thompson the opportunity to explain the entire outline and genesis of the book. Polynesians all over the Pacific from New Zealand to Hawaii to the Easter Islands are related to one another. They all instantly recognize the cultural connection, and while many of the lifeways and life skills that existed hundreds or a thousand years ago have disappeared, and European and Asian influences have spread throughout the region, the ocean environment is what it always was. The mystery is, of course, how did the Polynesians navigate the open ocean for over 1000 years to populate the vast majority of the Pacific Ocean? Sea People tells that story brilliantly. Through the course of this deftly written book, Thompson tells us how the earliest identifiable Polynesians settled this vast region. She explores what was once called the “Problem of Polynesian Origins” that fascinated the thinking of many European scientists during the late nineteenth century and into the modern era, where a variety of theories have competed to explain who the Polynesians are and how they got there (from the east or from the west, for example.) This book is a comprehensive telling of history, geography, anthropology, and includes a great deal about the science of navigation. It’s a completely engrossing and riveting read, making it one of the more satisfying nonfiction books I have read in a long time. Christina is a great person to talk to, so knowledgeable and comfortable with her material and never dry or pedantic in her approach to communicating so much of what she knows. It was a pleasure to speak with her for Writerscast. My interview with Christina Thompson about her (wonderful) previous book, Come on Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All can be found here on Writerscast, (originally posted in December, 2011.) Christina’s author website is here. The book is available for purchase from independent bookseller RJ Julia here.The post Christina Thompson: Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia first appeared on WritersCast.
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