The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin (Algonquin)
“Fikry is a bookseller with a small shop in a sleepy island resort town off the coast of Massachusetts. He’s a bit cantankerous, but with good reason: his wife, the ‘people person’ of the relationship, has recently died and his prized possession, a rare copy of Tamerlane, has gone missing. Despite those losses, there’s one strange addition, a baby girl left on his doorstep with an explicit request for Fikry to take her in. Zevin’s novel offers the reality of both death and rebirth, held together by the spirit of the bookstore. It’s a romantic comedy, a spiritual journey, and if you include the chapter openings, a collection of short story criticisms as well. In short, it’s a celebration of books and the people who read them, write them, and sell them.”
– Daniel Goldin, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
Review by Josh Poppie (Jan. 2014)
I am reviewing A Long Way From Chicago, by Richard Peck. I consider it a historical fiction or humorous book with several themes.
This book is a compilation of several stories about two kids, Joey and Mary Alice Dowdel, going to see their grandma for a week during every summer for seven years. Each visit is different in its own special way. Some of the stories include: the catching-in-the-act and revenge on four prankster kids; an illegal fishing trip; and, a wrestling match between two of the oldest men alive. Joey, the narrator, says Grandma Dowdel becomes a different woman every year.
The book takes place in Illinois’ Piatt County. I like the writing style especially because it involves a lot of funny similes and interesting vocabulary. Although it takes place in the Midwest, it has a very Southern feel to it.
I’d recommend A Long Way From Chicago, by Richard Peck, to anyone who likes humor or old-time stories from the Great Depression era.
Please watch for our new reviews in 2014!
The New Arcana by John Amen and Daniel Y. Harris (Aug. 20, 2012) stretches the fabric of poetry with an experimental twisting of photos and art. Presented in five sections, this work takes on a theatrical style through its characters, dialog and often outrageous banter. It is a work of art that will challenge the reader to pay attention and think beyond conscripted poetry.
John Amen is the author of three collections of poetry: Christening the Dancer (Uccelli Press, 2003), More of Me Disappears (Cross-Cultural Communications, 2005), At the Threshold of Alchemy (Presa, 2009), and THE NEW ARCANA (NYQ Books, 2012). His work has appeared in numerous journals nationally and internationally and been translated into Spanish, French, Hungarian, and Hebrew. In addition, he has released two folk/folk rock CDs: All I’ll Never Need (Cool Midget, 2004) and Ridiculous Empire (2008). He is also an artist, working primarily with acrylics on canvas. Amen travels widely giving readings, doing musical performances, and conducting workshops. He founded and continues to edit The Pedestal Magazine.
Daniel Y. Harris is the author of Hyperlinks of Anxiety (Cervena Barva Press, 2012, forthcoming), THE NEW ARCANA (with John Amen, NYQ Books, 2012), Paul Celan and the Messiah’s Broken Levered Tongue (with Adam Shechter, Cervena Barva Press, 2010; picked by The Jewish Forward as one of the 5 most important Jewish poetry books of 2010) and Unio Mystica (Cross-Cultural Communications, 2009). He is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee. Some of his poetry, experimental writing, art, and essays have been published in BlazeVOX, DENVER QUARTERLY, European Judaism, EXQUISITE CORPSE, The New York Quarterly, In Posse Review, The Pedestal Magazine, Poetry Magazine.comand Poetry Salzburg Review.
Sept. 6, 2012, Kindle Edition
“Joe” is a thrilling and fast-paced story that weaves together the threads of imagination, technology and eclectic relationships into an artisan’s novel that is impossible to put down. Steve Rubin’s writing style is uniquely his own – giving an insight into his characters that keeps the reader deeply involved to the last page. This novel is a great read – so much so that the Kindle App will remain on our “other” reader devices – just in case Mr. Rubin writes a sequel…
Review by: St. Bride’s Literary Group (October, 2013)
Joe Elliot is an aspiring novelist who’s latest effort is a fictional tale of technological marvel: a system of computers, satellites and machines that scans the entire planet. It’s called ‘W.E.B.’ The‘Worldwide Electron Band’ and it tells the operator everything about anything or anyone. The ultimate ‘Big Brother’ machine.A wealthy, eccentric artist reads an early draft of ‘W.E.B.’ and decides that she wants to build one; a smaller, personal version to create ‘the ultimate piece of modern art’ a system that scans visitors and can tell them anything, even the most minute details, about their lives. Others begin to spy on the system as it is being built. Their equipment creates conflict, inadvertently spawning a whole new type of artificial intelligence which brings others into the mix, men who are not interested in the art and only seek control over the technology. A laugh-out-loud funny, unique, character-driven story. Agent and publishing inquiries welcome.
The Conditions of Love traces the journey of a girl from childhood to adulthood as she reckons with her need to break from society’s limitations and learns to reconcile with her fate and transcend the past.
“Can this wise, funny, quirky, poignant novel really be Dale Kushner’s debut? She got everything just right—characters who you will never forget and a palpable yearning for love that you will feel in your gut. Bravo!“
-Ann Hood, author of The Knitting Circle and The Red Thread
“An immaculately written, enthralling and passionate debut.“
-Margot Livesey, author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy and Eva Moves The Furniture
Kushner has a divine understanding of the ties that bind people in relationships.The Conditions of Love is rife with truths about man’s equally selfish and selfless need to experience love in its many forms. Eunice might be the central player, but the hero of this tale is Love. Eunice experiences many kinds of loss. Before and after each misadventure she seeks solace in the stable relationships of her past and present: Mr. Tabachnik, a kind neighbor; her adopted guardian, Rose; Sam, a misguided role model. Although she may often be lonely, Eunice does not experience the destitution of abandonment.Kushner’s writing consists of equal parts reverence for the human condition and sympathy for the pain that is a necessary part of that condition. This novel is an engrossing read and difficult to put down.—Kitty Drexel, EDGE (full review » )
With her debut novel, The Conditions of Love, poet Dale M. Kushner has created a layered examination of love in all its forms and how it impacts and shapes one girl in the late 1950s and early 1960s from childhood to maturity.. . .This is a book that begs to be read slowly. Kushner’s history with poetry serves her well. Her prose causes the reader to slow down and relish the words. She utilizes the five senses throughout the book, which gives the reader a sense of real intimacy with Eunice. She beautifully recounts the physical act of Eunice’s neighbor, Mr. Tabachnik, putting on an opera record, and then she tops it by describing the powerful music washing over a young Eunice.The Conditions of Love is an engaging story written in a lyrical style. It’s a stunningly self-assured novel for a debut, and it leaves the reader hoping that Kushner will write a second.—Josh Mallory, Bookreporter (full review » )
The Conditions of Love is the debut novel of Dale M. Kushner, a poet and writer in Wisconsin. It moves slowly and gingerly during its opening section when Eunice is a preteen, and it might easily be viewed at the start as a coming-of-age book for a younger set of readers. But by the end of that section, when facts-of-life shocks begin to strike, it turns into a moving, at times jolting, saga.Kushner’s scenes, like her characters, are expertly sketched, vivid and memorable. . . . Engrossing to the end, this is a fine first novel.—Kendall Weaver, The Associated Press (full review » )
Eunice grows up fighting for love from the people who should love her unconditionally but is bolstered by love from unexpected sources…Eunice is a lonely, artistic girl who grows into a temperamental young woman whose strength and capacity for love belie her tough upbringing. This is poet Kushner’s first novel, and her roots show; passages describing even the bleakest Midwestern landscapes are artfully drawn. A coming-of-age story that wonderfully combines literary style with heartbreaking plot twists and still manages to be uplifting——Booklist
A teenage girl endures fire, flood and the loss of her parents in this bracing, oddly uplifting debut.Kushner seems to have taken more than a few lessons from Joyce Carol Oates about both crafting a novel with a broad scope and putting female characters through the wringer. But there’s also a lightness to Eunice’s narration that keeps the Job-ian incidents from feeling oppressive—she’s observant, witty and genuinely matures across the nine years in which the novel is set… Kushner is remarkably poised for a first-time novelist, offering an interesting adolescent who’s possessed of more than a little of Huck Finn’s pioneer spirit.A fine exploration of growing up, weathering heartbreak and picking oneself up over and over.—Kirkus Reviews
“Can this wise, funny, quirky, poignant novel really be Dale Kushner’s debut? She got everything just right–characters who you will never forget and a palpable yearning for love that you will feel in your gut. Bravo!”—Ann Hood, author of The Knitting Circle and The Red Thread
“In The Conditions of Love Dale Kushner portrays with wonderful empathy a young girl’s journey towards adulthood. Kushner has an amazing sense of character and not only her heroine, the fearless Eunice, but everyone that Eunice encounters comes vividly to life as she struggles first to accommodate herself to her mother’s tumultuous feelings and then to make her own way in the world. An immaculately written, enthralling and passionate debut.”—Margot Livesey, author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy and The House on Fortune Street
“Dale Kushner’s novel The Conditions of Love traces the journey of a girl from childhood to young adulthood as she reckons with her parents’ abandonment, her need to break from society’s limitations, and her overwhelming desire for spiritual and erotic love. At an early age Eunice encounters the difficult truths of loss and disappointment, and through an innate sense of her own worth, she perseveres. At once a fable and a realistic portrait of a sensitive and determined young girl, The Conditions of Love is funny, heartbreaking, and gorgeously rendered. In Kushner’s storytelling readers will find the wisdom of an author who has considered both the formidable depths and the transcendent potential of the human spirit.”—Janet Steen
“Dale Kushner is a remarkable mix of passion and perception. As a storyteller, she has the ability to let the mysterious force of life show itself through the smallest piece of dirt or doubt. Her depth and experience surface through her writing as a wise companion to help us on our way.”—Mark Nepo, author of The Book of Awakening and As Far As the Heart Can See
“I’ve already praised Dale Kushner’s novel to so many friends that they keep asking why they can’t find it in the bookstores yet. I would tell you that it’s the next Housekeeping, but that might imply The Conditions of Love is derivative in some way, which it most certainly is not. Kushner’s novel offers what most readers crave—characters about whom we care very, very deeply, emotions conveyed without irony or shame, beautifully lyric prose, a strong sense of place… and wisdom, that very rare thing in a novel – or real life – wisdom. Even in the toughest market, this book is sure to find many loyal and loving readers.”—Eileen Pollack, Zell Professor and Director of the MFA Program at the University of Michigan, author of Paradise, New York and Breaking and Entering
Book Review: “A is for Activist” by Innosanto Nagara
A is for Activist
by Innosanto Nagara
Kupu Kupu Press, 2012, $15
A is for Activist.
B is for banner, bobbing in the sky.
It’s pretty clear from page one that this is no Cat in the Hat. Billed as a book for the children of the 99%, A is for Activist is the radical vision of Innosanto (Inno) Nagara, a graphic designer and social justice activist from Oakland, California.
Like most parents, Nagara had little trouble finding books with colorful pictures and fun rhymes to inspire a love of words in his young son. But after reading aloud hundreds of tales featuring princesses, knights, and dogs, the absence of progressive themes in children’s books became abundantly clear.
So Nagara decided to rectify the shortage, despite having zero experience as a children’s book author (or any other kind of author, for that matter). The original plan called for limited press run—one copy for Nagara’s son and a few others for close family and friends.
But as it turned out, Nagara was not the only parent hungry for end rhymes featuring revolutionaries and social-justice luminaries. A is for Activist blossomed, as coworkers helped generate content, and a Kickstarter campaign defrayed the cost of development. After seven months of design, writing, revision, and a self-taught course in self-publishing, Nagara produced an ABC book with a decidedly un-Disney outlook.
D is for democracy.
G is for Grassroots.
L- G- B – T – Q
Love who you Choose!
The alliteration and rhymes have the rhythm and fun of standard ABC books, burrowing into little ears and prompting memorization and spontaneous recitation.
“It’s pretty awesome to hear a three year old saying ‘union power,’” Nagara says.
Throughout the alphabet, topics ignored by most toddler tomes at last get their due. Cooperative workplaces. Unions. Feminism. Immigrant rights. The challenging content raises the question whether Nagara considered changing the message, perhaps to appeal to a broader readership.
“Sure, there were moments when I thought, maybe I should change this…but then I thought, why write the book at all if the message was going to be diluted?” Nagara said.
The undiluted message has caught the attention of leading progressive figures, including authorNaomi Klein and her partner Avi Lewis, who proclaimed it “Full of wit, beauty, and fun!” Native American activist and children’s book author Winona LaDuke called it a “fun and vital resource.”
And for all the families out there eager to transmit their values at story time, it is indeed vital. After all, there aren’t too many alphabet books that begin with Activists and end with Zapatistas.
To order, visit aisforactivist.com.
Corey Hill wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas and practical actions. He is the Membership and Outreach Coordinator at Global Exchange. Follow Corey on Twitter at @Newschill.
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- Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth
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Shared via Yes! Magazine
Review by Corey Hill