Read Global - Shelf Unbound - October/ November 2021

Page 1

OC TOBER / NOVEMBER 2021 FEBRUARY/MARCH 2021

READ

GLOBAL ISSUE

FEATURING

Yewande Omotoso Jon McGregor Khadija Abdalla Bajaber

WHAT TO READ NEXT IN INDEPENDENT PUBLISHING


OUR STORY

S H E LF

U N B O U N D

M A G A Z I N E All we wanted was a really good magazine. About books. That was full of the really great stuff. So we made it. And we really like it. And we hope you do, too. Because we’re just getting started.

2

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021


Lamb to the

Slaughter by Pete Delohery A novel about love and cour age, sin and redemption “Iron” Mike McGann is facing the twilight of his prizefighting career. Desperate for his future, he has refused to honor his promise to his wife to quit the ring and start a family. Rufus “Hurricane” Hilliard is the most menacing presence in prizefighting. But behind his menacing ring presence lives a man nobody knows, a complex man who despises his own image. Rufus “Hurricane” Hilliard vs. “Iron” Mike McGann, just another fight shown on The Continuous Sports Network, but by the time it is over the lives of these and many others will be forever different.

“This heartfelt tale makes a powerful emotional impact.” —Blue Ink Starred Review Also in Spanish: El Cordero al matadero Available in print and e-book at Amazon, xlibris, and Barnes & Noble.

w w w. p e t e d e l o h e r y. c o m

3


Shelf Unbound Staff. PRESIDENT, EDITOR IN CHIEF Sarah Kloth PARTNER, PUBLISHER Debra Pandak COPY EDITOR Molly Niklasch CONTRIBUTING EDITOR Megan Lord V. Jolene Miller Christian Brown Alyse Mgrdichian Gabriella Guerra Wyatt Bandt Christina Consolino Michele Mathews Greg Luti Anthony Carinhas FINANCE MANAGER Jane Miller For Advertising Inquiries: e-mail sarah@shelfmediagroup.com For editorial inquiries: e-mail media@shelfmediagroup.com

4

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

WHAT TO R EAD NEXT ?

SIGN UP FOR A

FREE

SUBSCRIPTION TO SHELF UNBOUND W W W . S H E L F M E D I A G R O U P. C O M

SUBSCRIBE

CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF SHELF UNBOUND? Follow us on social!  @ SHELFINDIEREADS  @ SHELFMAGAZINE  @ SHELFMEDIAGROUP


1877: A NORTHERN PHYSICIAN IN SOUTHERN UNGOVERNED SPACES

Colonel Charles Noble is a US Civil War veteran, and an Army surgeon reservist, who is recommissioned by the government eleven years after the war. Extreme violence in the former Confederacy, in anticipation of a national election, has caused President Grant to send additional federal troops to the Southern states. Dr. Noble uses his Army deployment as an opportunity to help heal the wounds and afflictions of Southern US citizens. However, terrorists are determined to counter Noble’s good intentions, as they threaten the civil rights, and the very lives, of all who oppose them.

1918: THE GREAT PANDEMIC Major Edward Nobel’s mission, as a physician, is to help protect American troops from infectious ailments during the First World War. However, his unique vantage point in Boston allows him to detect an emerging influenza strain that is an unprecedented global threat. Noble desperately tries to warn and prepare the country for the approaching horror. Influenza’s effect on the world, nation, and Dr. Noble’s own family unfolds as medical science seeks ways to somehow stop it. Eventually, the 1918 influenza pandemic killed up to 100 million people, and became the worst natural disaster in human history.

1980: THE EMERGENCE OF HIV Dr. Arthur Noble is a brilliant first-year medical resident in San Francisco, who has a stellar career ahead of him. However, all of Noble’s skills are put to the test when he encounters a strange new illness. The ailment seemingly appears out of nowhere, and delivers its victims a most horrible merciless death. Dr. Noble struggles to find answers to the medical mystery, even as many researchers and society refuse to believe that it is a serious public health hazard, or that it even exists.

LEARN MORE AT

WWW.DAVIDCORNISHBOOKS.COM

5


CONTENTS

I N TH IS

ISSUE

SECTIONS 28 Bookstagram 33 Recommended Reading 60 Indie Catalog 66 Book Shelf 124 Indie Bookstore 130 Indie Reviews 144 On Our Shelf

FEATURES 10 Cultural Immersion in Translation: An Interview with Lloyd Peckham By Alyse Mgrdichian

20 The Rise of Children’s and Young Adult Books in Translation By Michele L. Mathews

46 Interview with Yewande Omotoso By Wyatt Bandt

54 Monsters Across Time & Culture: A Conversation with Professor Will Linn By Alyse Mgrdichian 74 Newly Translated Books from Around the Globe By Alyse Mgrdichian

84 Interview with Jon McGregor By Anthony Carinhas

92 Celebrating Women in Translation By Alyse Mgrdichian

108 Interview: Khadija Abdalla Bajaber COLUMNS 50 Girl Plus Book Megan Lord 72 Small Press Reviews Sean Malone 90 Podster Sarah Kloth 106 Pride & Publishing Chrissy Brown 122 Reading on the Run V. Jolene Miller 126 Book Mom Megan Lord 128 Fit Lit Christian Brown

6

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

By Gabriella Guerra

118 Finding Books Far From Home By Wyatt Bandt

140 Idioms From Around the Globe By Greg Luti


A WORD FROM THE PUBLISHER

Reading Global. BY SARAH KLOTH, PUBLISHER

International travel has not really been doable in the last year. So, unfortunately I don't have another great cultural exploration story to share in this issue. Which makes me realize – translated fiction is even more important than ever this year. To keep the world connected while we are all afar, stories like the ones featured in this issue are a great means for doing just that. In this annual Read Global issue, featuring books in translation, we remember that just three percent of books published in the United States are translated from other languages. And yet, these books in translation are our best opportunity to learn about and empathize with our neighbors across the globe. In this issue we celebrate the

beauty and diversity of stories. We have interviews with authors Yewande Omotoso (author of Bom Boy), Jon McGregor (author of Lean Fall Stand), and Khadija Abdalla Bajaber (author of The House of Rust), and many more. Be sure to check out our roundup of new indie translations from around the globe or dive deep into learning about idioms used in literature across the world. Enjoy the issue! 

Belize Maya Ruins 7


THE GREAT CYPRUS THINK TANK

a novel by Larry Lockridge

To grasp Cyprus in its essence both mythic and real, hurry up and join Bart Beasley’s fantastic expedition, as told in this priceless novel by master storyteller Larry Lockridge.” - Takis Kayalis, Professor of Modern Greek Literature, Hellenic Open University; formerly with the University of Cyprus

Mindful of all kinds of disaster, this is a novel of deep comedy, energy, and chastened joy. I strongly advise you to ride out any tsunami on the backs of Lockridge’s sea turtles.” - Maureen N. McLane, author of My Poets and More Anon: Selected Poems

W W W. L ARRYLO CKRI D G E .CO M 8

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021


Talking Drum. By Lisa Braxton

THE TALKING DRUM EXPLORES INTRA-RACIAL, CLASS, AND CROSS-CULTURAL TENSIONS, ALONG WITH THE MEANING OF COMMUNITY AND BELONGING.

9


INTERVIEW

Cultural Immersion in Translation: An Interview with Lloyd Peckham. BY ALYSE MGRDICHIAN

LLOYD PECKHAM 10

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021


F E AT U R E

CONTINUED

Translations come in a variety of forms and levels of complexity, whether they be poems, novels, videogame dialogue, academic articles, or religious texts. To help me flesh out the process of translating religious texts in particular, I had the pleasure of speaking with Lloyd Peckham, lovingly referred to as “Uncle Lloyd” by his students and friends. With a background in translation that has spanned decades, Lloyd lived on the island of New Guinea and raised his children there while working and training in the field of biblical translation. It was a joy to interview Lloyd in person, which is a rarity nowadays. Even though he is recently retired, he continues to value and work towards training translators across the globe. Below is our conversation. COULD YOU TELL ME A BIT ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND IN TRANSLATION?

LP: I think I was born into translation, but didn’t know it. My mother was very linguistically inclined, since she grew up in Brazil speaking Portuguese, French, Spanish, and English. Additionally, translation was the profession of many of my ancestors. My grandfather did it for farmers in Brazil, developing a breed of cattle that could withstand the rigors of the climate. My greatgreat grandfather traveled by covered

wagon in the 1850s, intending to help draft translations for Native American communities. However, when he arrived to find others already doing that, he served the settlers in Oregon instead. Even going back all the way to my 16th and 17th century ancestors, who were French Huguenots, it is clear that I come from a long line of translators. I wasn’t aware of this lineage in my youth. However, when I was only 7 years old, I knew that I wanted to travel the world and bring knowledge of God’s love to other countries. From then on, I always asked my teachers for extra homework. My friends thought I was crazy, but I knew I’d need the extra knowledge for wherever I ended up going in the world. I wasn’t sure where I would end up, but I figured I’d better know about everything. I wanted to know about every country, every people group, and every culture, so when I went to college I majored in anthropology and minored in geography. While I think that my role in translation was inherited, I brought that potential to fruition with intentionality. COULD YOU TELL ME ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCES IN GRAD SCHOOL?

LP: I studied linguistics at the University of Washington and at the 11


F E AT U R E

CONTINUED

University of Texas in Arlington. At that point, I had already spent a couple summers learning an Aztec dialect down in Mexico. So, it only felt natural for me to finish out my Master’s degree by using Huasteca Nahuatl, one of the major Aztec dialects, as my required non IndoEuropean language.

Nancy, the woman I met in college and married, was trained as a nurse. The world of linguistics was new to her, but she ended up taking Greek and other general linguistics courses, and was able to then apply both experiences to her work. However, when she traveled with me as I worked on finishing my M.A., she was inhibited by language. I had lived in South America when I was 14, 15, and then 17 years old, and I had worked as an interpreter on trips to Ecuador, Peru, and Mexico. I was ahead of her in Spanish, the national language, and in Huasteca Nahuatl, one of the local languages. Whenever I spoke either language, she would begin to withdraw. And that’s when I prayed, 12

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

“Lord, you’ve put us together. Please send us somewhere where we can be equally ignorant.” That was the summer of ’76, when Indonesia’s doors first began to open to linguists. Since I was just finishing my Master’s degree, I knew I’d be able to teach in Indonesia through the university and do linguistic research on unknown languages on the side. So, we went where neither of us knew a thing, and we learned Indonesian together. After my wife and I had studied the national language, we decided to go out and learn a local, unwritten language on the island of New Guinea: Mairasi. We then trained some of the locals there to be translators, that way when we were gone, they could continue without us.

But then, as I was in the process of training the local translators, I sampled all the regional diseases. I got very sick with malaria, and had a toxic psychosis


F E AT U R E

CONTINUED

reaction to the malaria medicine. I then got elephantiasis, which I had for the next 18 years. I was told to leave the country and never come back, and it forced me to detach from the village I’d lived in, poured into, and raised my kids in for the past 13 years. It was a very teary departure at the airport, but the locals told me, “We’re not going ABOUT BOOKS to quit.” THE So they kept making rough drafts of translations and sending them to me, whether I was in California or Texas or Singapore or the Philippines. I was able to train and translate in six other Indonesian languages, but was not allowed to go back to the island of New Guinea. The Mairasi people eventually translated the entire New Testament with my distant supervision, and I was so proud of those who had taken the helm. When it came time for the dedication of their New Testament translation, it was arranged for me, my wife, and my kids to be there at one of the villages for the dedication and distribution of the books. We are grateful we were able to multiply by training other people in translation, some of whom are now certified international translation consultants. Our love and knowledge of translation ended up going from me and my family to future generations and their generations, and that is such a blessing

to me.

SO, IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU STARTED PAVING A ROAD, BUT THEN BECAUSE YOU TRAINED PEOPLE, THAT ROAD HAS NOW SPLIT AND STEMMED OFF INTO MULTIPLE DIRECTIONS. THE OUTCOME IS MORE THAN YOU EVER WOULD’VE BEEN ABLE TO DO ON YOUR OWN.

LP: Exactly. And it is so satisfying to see that. Some of the translators that Nancy and I trained have now gone on to train their own children. So, although Nancy and I may not be able to go back to Indonesia, the work of translation for those 700 Indonesian languages goes on in our absence. RIGHT. IN LIFE, I’VE LEARNED THAT THE MARK OF A GOOD

13


F E AT U R E

CONTINUED

LEADER IS THAT, WHEN YOU’RE GONE, THE PEOPLE YOU’VE TRAINED CAN TAKE YOUR PLACE. IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU’VE DONE JUST THAT. AND THE PEOPLE YOU’VE TRAINED WILL TRAIN THE NEXT GENERATION, AND THE NEXT GENERATION WILL TRAIN THE FOLLOWING GENERATION, AND SO ON, AD INFINITUM.

LP: You have caught the key principle. It reminds me of my son. Nancy and I raised three boys, three years apart, starting three years after we got married. All were born on the island of New Guinea, where we were doing Mairasi translations. And the young one decided, after three Bachelor’s degrees in several different disciplines, to be a doctor. So, after obtaining the necessary education, he began applying for residencies. People told him to apply to three or four of them, but he ended up getting invited to around twenty of them and had to turn down others. You know why? When they interviewed him, he’d tell them, “I don’t want to be a doctor. I want to be a trainer of trainer of trainers of doctors in countries that have inadequate healthcare systems.” For example, in both Africa and America, he is currently teaching doctors how to operate an early model of miniaturized ultrasounds at bedside, since they are cheaper to buy, 14

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

easier to transport, and quicker to use. Likewise, I trained to be a linguist and a translator, but instead I trained the local people. Sometimes they only had third grade education, and sometimes they had a college education. Either way, I trained them to be the translators, that way when I was gone they could continue without me.

You cannot let your pride stifle the people you train—let them be better


F E AT U R E

CONTINUED

than you. Don’t ever underestimate anyone. Bring them to the top of their potential. I didn’t go to Indonesia as a translator, I went as a trainer of translators. For example, when I was learning more about the Mairasi language, there was one villager, Benny, whom I was training as an anthropologist. He didn’t have any higher than a third grade education, but I sent him around with a tape recorder to record the community’s folklore, since all the key terms of anything about the spirit world came from these folktales. I wanted to base my knowledge of the Mairasi language on their vast oral literature. So, for two years or so, Benny went around recording, and he would transcribe and sometimes even translate some of their stories into Indonesian. He always wanted to learn, and wanted to get more involved with the translations I was doing. At one point, Benny said: “I’d sure like to help translate God’s book into our own language.” I had an open office policy, and I had a chart on the wall telling which books of the Bible there were, and how many chapters were in each one. So, I helped him practice. He decided to pick two small ones to start with: Jude and 2 Peter. As I would check his translation drafts, he’d

notice that I was looking at another book, separate from the Indonesian texts. When he asked me what it was, I told him that it was Greek, a language that many figures in the New Testament spoke. And Benny said to me, “Well, teach me that too, then.” And right then, I remembered: Don’t underestimate anyone, bring them to the maximum of their potential. So I started teaching Benny Greek, starting with the alphabet, then key words, then key phrases, and Benny just kept going and going and going.

BENNY SOUNDS RESILIENT. WITH ALL OF YOUR EXPERIENCES, COULD YOU TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF WORD CHOICE IN TRANSLATION?

LP: Yes, word choice is so important. Let me tell you a story. A committee was checking the Mairasi book of Mark. The doors and windows of the room were opened, and the people in the community who weren’t involved 15


F E AT U R E

CONTINUED

in the translation came and gathered around, sitting on the dirt or on benches, because they wanted to hear the whole gospel of Mark read in their language. So the committee read through the whole book of Mark, and they came to the word for “cross,” which was “salib,” a borrowed word from Indonesian. However, an inlander, an uneducated man named Reuben, said in Mairasi, “Salib? That is not our word. Isn’t that from the Malay language? Shouldn’t the word just be what we call our chestmeasurement wood?” And the committee started thinking about it.

realize it, so they started listening better to the inlanders, and even began taking dialectal differences into account.

When a Mairasi man dies, an old, broken canoe gets fashioned into a coffin. The men work at shaping a coffin out of a canoe, while the women take the body, wash it, perfume it, and wrap it in new cloth. But the men have no access to the body to measure it, since the women are washing it. So, before they give the body to the women for washing, they get two pieces of stiff reed, measure the deceased’s shoulder width and his height, and then they tie the two measured reeds together in the middle, forming a cross. This is called “chest-measurement wood,” and it is a very common aspect of the Mairasi vocabulary. Reuben was saying to these learned scholars, “Why are you using a foreign word when we could use our own?” And they started to

Loan words from other languages get messy, because they rarely keep their original meaning. This is usually because, instead of being translated, the words get transliterated, resulting in the word taking on different meaning and significance from culture to culture. This leaves room for a lot of error.

16

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

After that point, they made sure to cater the text to the people who would have less access to it, both in vocabulary and in pronunciation. But who would’ve thought about the Mairasi word for “cross” if they hadn’t actually listened to the dialect of the people? The people are hungry for knowledge, and they really want to learn, but they’re having to jump over the hurdle of foreign words, which isn’t fair.

ESPECIALLY WITH WORDS THAT BECOME IMBUED WITH RELIGIOUS MEANING, IT SEEMS IMPORTANT TO STAY TRUE TO THE WORDS’ ORIGINAL MEANINGS, SINCE A MISTAKE COULD CARRY CONSEQUENCES OF MISINTERPRETATION IN A COMMUNITY THAT SPANS FOR GENERATIONS. ALL IN


F E AT U R E

CONTINUED

ALL, THE TRANSLATION OF RELIGIOUS TEXTS SOUNDS LIKE A DANGEROUS GAME OF TELEPHONE.

LP: Exactly. And mistakes have been so often made in non-religious contexts as well, often in French, Latin, or German—when a word gets assimilated into a new culture and is used again and again with its new meaning, its original meaning gets eclipsed. The words take on a different life. Very few cognates (borrowed words) ever truly stay with their original meaning. So, that’s why in my own work and training I steer very clear from transliteration. Whether it be in Islam, Hinduism, or Christianity, so many religious words have been transliterated, like karma, jihad, and baptism. These words all had good, consistent meaning in their original contexts, but as the words got borrowed phonologically rather than semantically, we reinfused meaning into them. THAT’S VERY TRUE. BASED ON YOUR OWN PERSONAL EXPERIENCES, WHAT HAVE YOU FOUND IS THE IMPORTANCE OF FULLY IMMERSING ONESELF IN THE CULTURE THAT THE TRANSLATION IS BEING CREATED

LP: I love this question. I think you got some insight from my previous example of chest-measurement wood. How would I have known about that personally if I hadn’t been through many Mairasi funerals? I wouldn’t know the little cultural things that make the language special, nor would I have been able to coach the translators beyond a very wooden, literal version from Indonesian if I hadn’t immersed myself and become a part of their community. I was given a name by them, and my kids were adopted into their language and culture.

COULD YOU TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHAT BEING GIVEN A NAME MEANS IN THE MAIRASI CULTURE?

LP: Yes, it is such a big a big part of their culture. They are a tuber-based culture, which means that they eat sweet potatoes, taro, and other foods that grow underground. And their word for truth is the same as their

17


F E AT U R E

CONTINUED

word for tuber, because I could look at a garden full of sweet potato leaves and think, “This is a nice garden!” But if I don’t dig in there and actually pull out sweet potatoes, then my assumptions are of no use. Same with people. The whole concept of your name in the Mairasi culture is the essence of who you are. Name is existentially intertwined with your totality of being, so to not have a name is to not exist. When we came ashore for the very first time with our firstborn son, Daniel, just about two months old at the time, my wife and I were seasick. The captain of the boat was at the time holding our little blond son up in the air for all the villagers to see. And out from the crowd runs Philippe, past the shore and through the coral. He grabs our son from the captain’s hands, holds him up in the air, and then gives him a name: Janggauru. Everyone then passed him from one person to the next, celebrating that his core, his essence, was Janggauru, which means “the fertile farmland at the mouth of the one and only river.” They had had an old man named Janggauru who had died, and, to keep his essence and his memory alive, they gave his name to our son. THAT SOUNDS LIKE A HIGH HONOR.

LP: It really was. And I am “Janggaur nambae nani,” which means 18

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

“Janggauru’s daddy.” And my wife is “Janggauru’s mother.” That is how they would always refer to us. They don’t use these other labels, like Lloyd or Nancy or Daniel. There is a multi-faceted naming system within the Mairasi culture. People will have four or five names, and many are earned by their character qualities. So, besides being Janggauru’s daddy, I did accidentally overhear some people, after I’d been there for a while, referring to me with a second name. It was a name that had come up in one of the most sacred folktales, named after the hard core of the ironwood tree: “Sanggere.” It literally means “hard core,” in the sense of resilience. THAT’S VERY INTERESTING— I’VE NEVER HEARD OF PEOPLE HAVING MULTIPLE NAMES. ALSO, CONGRATULATIONS ON RETIRING, THAT IS A BIG MILESTONE! LOOKING BACK, WHAT LESSONS HAVE YOU TAKEN AWAY?

LP: I think that, in the process of helping others learn how to translate and replace me, I became the translation, not just the translator. What I mean is, I became a reflection of God’s love through the work I did. That’s my goal in those I train. If you cannot tell that God is love from my life, then I have failed. However, if you go into translation,


F E AT U R E

CONTINUED

there is one thing you need to be mindful of—you need to be aware of how neglected your kids may feel. I knew about this danger going into the field, so I was very intentional about holding my sons and my wife up as far more important than any work I got done. They’ve always known that they were my priority, and that some lofty goal of publication would never get between us. RIGHT. I THINK THAT WE GROW AS PEOPLE WHEN WE SEE A WAY THAT THINGS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN DONE POORLY

IN THE PAST. WE NOTICE IT, WE RECOGNIZE THAT WE HAVE THE POTENTIAL TO GO DOWN THAT SAME ROAD, AND THEN WE CHANGE THE PATTERN OF HOW THINGS ARE DONE.

LP: Exactly. That has been a con I’ve seen for translators. Same with missionary kids. But I thank the Lord that my boys have become translations as well. Being a translation has been my life and shaped my life, and even if I’m retired, I can still build translations within other people. 

19


F E AT U R E

The Rise of Children’s and Young Adult Books in Translation BY MICHELE L. MATHEWS

20

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021


F E AT U R E

CONTINUED

Growing up, I was an avid reader. According to my mom, my nose was always stuck in a book. A few of the books I read were classics, like Heidi by Johanna Spyri and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne. One of my favorite books from my childhood was Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl because at the time I read it, I was about her age. When I read these books, I never gave it much thought about the fact they are translated books. In fact, all three books have been translated many times over the years since they were first published. As an adult, I read translated books to my two children, and at the time, I had no idea they were. My children loved reading books like The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister (translated by J. Alison James) and Boo and Baa on a Cleaning Spree by Olof Landstrom and Lena Landstrom (translated by Joan Sandin) over and over again.The Rainbow Fish drew them in not only for the illustrations but for the story’s message. And it’s no wonder that it’s sold millions of copies and has been translated in many different languages.

But are translated books really that big of a deal? Sure, they are. Translated books take us to other countries and give us so much more than a story. They teach us about people, cultures, and places we may not know about. They give the authors a chance to be published in other languages around the world. As readers, we get two authors because the translator is, in a way, giving you a new story. Most importantly, a translated book takes a great deal of work to get the story right. The more I learn about translated books, the more I want to see if the number of translated books is on the rise. According to librarian and instructor Annette Goldsmith, “The percentage of translations of all children’s books in the U.S. is probably around four percent now—though this is a very rough figure. Over the last twenty years or so, the figure was more like two percent.” Goldsmith should know all about this increase. She has closely followed this trend since doing her dissertation on the decision-making of U.S. children’s 21


F E AT U R E

CONTINUED

book editors, who are choosing which books from other countries to translate. So if books for children and young adult books are truly on the rise, what is causing this? Goldsmith, who is also a board member for Global Literature in Libraries Initiative (GLLI), says, “There are likely many reasons, but one of them is definitely the use of awards to motivate publishers. So far the new GLLI Translated YA Book Prize has shortlisted roughly twelve titles a year for the last three years, bringing these stellar fiction and nonfiction books, often award winners in their own countries, to the attention of readers in the U.S.” How else do we know translations are on the rise for children’s and young adult books? We can look at the number of submissions for these age groups. For the 2021 award year, GLLI Executive Director Karen Van Drie reported, “Submissions have increased by more than a third this year. That suggests growing publisher interest and commitment to global literature and their recognition of the importance of sharing perspectives from abroad.” 22

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

Based on the comments from Goldsmith and Van Drie, I think it’s clear that translated books for readers under 18 are increasing here in the U.S. But how do we find those books? Goldsmith said, “I would urge readers to check out the GLLI Translated YA Book Prize lists and watch for the announcement of the 2022 awards on April 2, 2022, which is International Children's Book Day and Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday.” She also says we should follow two other awards—the Mildred L. Batchelder Award for the most distinguished translated children’s book and the United States Board on Books for Young People’s (USBBY) Outstanding International Books, a K-12 list that includes translations. She stated, “I have served on all of these award committees, and I know how carefully the selections are made.” After reading translated books as a kid and later as an adult to my children, I’m determined to read even more translated books in the future and support not only the authors but the translators as well. As Goldsmith said, “When you read a translation,


F E AT U R E

CONTINUED

you are looking at the work of two talented writers—the author and the translator—so please name the translator.” So, remember that the next time you read a translated book. And if you’re ready to search for either a children’s or young adult book, here are a few books to get you started. 1) Alya and the Three Cats by Maya Fidawi, translated from Arabic by Mehdi Retnani and published by CrackBoom! Books 2) The Little Bell That Wouldn’t Ring by Heike Conradi, illustrated by Maja Dusíková, translated from German by David Henry Wilson, and published by NorthSouth Books USA 3) Little Fox by Edward Van De Vendel and Marije Tolman, translated from Dutch by David Colmer and published by Levine Querido 4) All’s Happy That Ends Happy by Rose Lagercrantz, illustrated by Eva Eriksson, translated from Swedish by Julia Marshall and published by Gecko Press 5) The Books That Devoured My Father by Afonso Cruz, translated from Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa and published by Young Dedalus

6) The Blue Wings by Jef Aerts, translated from Dutch by Laura Watkinson and published by Levine Querido 7) Reckless by Cornelia Funke, translated from German by Oliver Latsch and published by Little, Brown and Company 8) Here the Whole Time by Vitor Martins, translated from Portuguese by Larissa Helena and published by Scholastic Press 9) Where We Go from Here by Lucas Rocha, translated from Portuguese by Larissa Helena and published by Scholastic Press 10) Fright Night by Maren Stoffels, translated from Dutch by Laura Watkinson and published by Delacorte Books 11) Run for Your Life by Silvana Gandolfi, translated from Italian by Lynne Sharon Schwartz and published by Restless Books 12) Ever After written, illustrated, and translated from German by Olivia Vieweg and published by Lerner 

23


Available at

WW

P U S W.

S ER

O

NIC

E Y L F

R

M O .C 5s e ag r o F

9

Here is the book that so many early readers are going crazy over. It is the TRUE story of the REAL American hero who risked his life in 1947 to fly the X-1 rocket plane through the sound barrier and take the world of aviation into the modern age. The risks were great with some scary ups and downs, but Chuck Yeager was steady and determined and he did it. What is the sound barrier? This book gives a careful explanation. You and your children will never forget this story. See the movie at www.supersonicflyer.com.


a c ow b g n i m o c e B can't be t h at h ar d, oy

can i t ?

It certainly looks easy to Franklyn “Frank” Ellington Seton IV. Smothered by both his overbearing mother and stuffy Maryland Society, Frank escapes to the vistas of his childhood. He will soon learn, however, that the one thing the movies left out was the smell. And the dirt. And the horses. As Frank makes his way through mid-twentieth century America, he searches for a place he truly belongs. And if being an actual cowboy is too difficult, why not try Hollywood?

“With a mixture of nostalgia, melancholy, and heaps of humor, The True Life of a Singing Cowboy will lasso you from the first note.”

AVAILABLE AT


SHERYLL O'BRIEN IS STAKING CLAIM ON THE INTERNATIONAL BOOK MARKET WITH ~~~ TWISTED THREADS ~~~

READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!

“I'll be honest, you surprised me with your ability to write this kind of crime at this level of dark. You are a MASTER at storytelling and, with TWISTED THREADS, You. Had. Me.” ~~~ Andria Flores, Editor

26

www.pullingthreadsnovella.com

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021


Never miss an issue! SIGN UP FOR A FREE SUBSCRIPTION TO SHELF UNBOUND MAGAZINE. SUBSCRIBE

27


AM BO

R

O

OK

K S TAG

S TA

O

G

R

AM

B

BOOKSTAGRAM Each issue we feature a new bookstagrammer highlighting some of their amazing work.

NAME: IVANA FAVORITE CHARACTER:

AS A CHILD, I ADORED (AND ADMIRED) PIPPI LONGSTOCKING FAVORITE GENRE:

LITERARY FICTION, SHORT STORIES, NONFICTION (ESPECIALLY ESSAYS), EXPERIMENTAL FICTION, AND GRAPHIC NOVELS. 28

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

@Readinternationally TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOU. @Readinternationally: My name is Ivana, I’m a literary translator and needless to say, a bookworm for life. I come from a somewhat mixed background (half North Macedonian, half Serbian) and have always been extremely passionate about languages and literature. Getting lost in a different world and gulping down stories was how I spent my time as a child. Learning new things has been another huge motivator for wanting to read books, and I’m still much the same as an adult. I’m UK-based, working remotely, mothering 24/7 and reading books any chance I get. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR BOOKSTAGRAM ACCOUNT AND HOW IT GOT STARTED. @Readinternationally: I started my bookstagram account in June 2020, just as I was returning back to work following maternity leave. At the time, I was buzzing with ideas and enthusiasm — motherhood has truly given me wings — and I needed a creative outlet. 2020 was when the pandemic hit us, however, and add to this the fact that I was pretty much homebound as a mother of an infant, I needed something different. I wanted to share my modest thoughts on the books I was reading, and my only clear intention at the time was to focus on discussing the world and translated literature. WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE INDIE/SMALL PRESS AUTHOR AND WHY? @Readinternationally: Tough question. Too many to name, but here are a few that come to mind: The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli, Manchester Happened by Jennifer Nansububa Makumbi, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, A Lover’s Discourse by Roland Barthes, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, Bluets by Maggie Nelson. 


AM BO K S TAG

O

R

O

K S TAG

@READINTERNATIONALLY

R

AM

BO

SEE MORE BOOK ADVENTURES ON INSTAGRAM

29


E N TER YO U R B O O K ! SHELF UNBOUND

BEST

INDIE BOOK

COMPETITION Shelf Media hosts the annual Shelf Unbound Best Indie Book Competition for best selfpublished or independently published book, receiving entries from May 1 to October 1 each year. In addition to prizes, the winner, finalists, and more than 100 notable books from the competition are featured in the December/January issue of Shelf Unbound.

30

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021


Call For Entries. Shelf Unbound book review magazine announces the Shelf Unbound Writing Competition for Best SelfPublished Book. Any self-published book in any genre is eligible for entry. Entry fee is $100 per book. The winning entry will be selected by the editors of Shelf Unbound magazine. To submit an entry, Apply Online. All entries received (and entry fee paid) will be considered. THE TOP FIVE BOOKS, as determined by the editors of Shelf Media Group, will receive editorial coverage in the December / January issue of Shelf Unbound. The author of the book named as the Best Self-Published book will receive editorial coverage as well as a year’s worth of fullpage ads in the magazine.

Deadline for entry is October 31, 2021.

31


Never miss an issue! SIGN UP FOR A FREE SUBSCRIPTION TO SHELF UNBOUND MAGAZINE. SUBSCRIBE

32

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021


RECOMMENDED READING

EXCERPTS

SHELF UNBOUND’S RECOMMENDED READING Take a bite from your next favorite book.

33


RECOMMENDED READING

The Essence of Nathan Biddle. BY J. WILLIAM LEWIS

Greenleaf Book Group Press | June 2021

On the first anniversary of Nathan’s death, we went to the sea. We may have been looking for the ungraspable image that Melville said is visible in all rivers and oceans, but I didn’t see it. Maybe I wouldn’t have recognized it if it were floating like flotsam on the surface of the water. In any case, I didn’t see the image and I didn’t find the key to it all. We spent two weeks in a little cottage my mother rented, walking on the beach in solemn silence and sitting on the deck in the evenings while the sun sank into the ocean. We talked some about Nathan but not really that much. Neither of us mentioned his death. We had exhausted ourselves in hours of anguished fretting over a death that in any sane world was inconceivable. The ocean didn’t provide any answers but it did envelop us in an almost mystical caressing balm. The beach house stood a couple hundred yards back from the water, built on

34

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

pilings among the sea oats and bordered on the beach side by a large wooden deck. At twilight, when the sun left nothing but an orange tint on the waves, the ocean flooded the deck with a pungent fragrance and gentle gusting breezes. Even in the half-light, you could see the whitecaps cascading along the line of the beach. The hush of the evening was punctuated only by the incessant, rhythmic pounding of the surf like a gigantic heart. The last night we were there, I was sitting on the deck looking absently toward the surf when I noticed a great blue heron standing alone about twenty yards from the deck. The bird stood on one leg at the edge of the area lit by the flood lamp on the beach side of the house. The wind off the ocean moved the lamppost gently to and fro, so that the ring of light on the ground moved back and forth and the solitary fowl was alternately bathed in light and sheathed in darkness. The bird never

moved while I watched him. The light came and went but he just stood there looking wary and maybe perplexed. I still think about that strange, gaunt bird standing on one leg in the pulsing light. It seems unbearably sad to be totally alone and uncomprehending: The heron had no way of knowing and no one to explain why the light came and went or why the ocean throbbed and the wind moaned along the shore. I don’t worry all that much about Nathan’s death anymore, but the bizarre monopode randomly


RECOMMENDED READING

sneaks back into my mind and roosts there like a spirit from another world. Maybe because he first showed up in the summer, the hint of warm weather always invites him to return. He seems always to be lurking in the shadows but in the summer he is a constant intruder, yawking wildly if I try to elude him or chase him away. As far back as I can remember, I have expected summers to be wonderful. I don’t know why I delude myself with that notion but I don’t seem to have any control over it. It begins with a giddy sensation in the spring, and I can feel the anticipation rising inside me like a providential tide. But summer is never anything like the images I create in my mind. Last summer was particularly disappointing. My friend Eddie Lichtman’s father hired us to deliver furniture

again, and I was tired almost every weeknight. Also, Anna was gone the last month and a half of the summer, working as a counselor at a camp. We had not been getting along very well when she left, and then right before school started everything collapsed. She wrote me a letter in early August saying that she just wanted to be friends. I was already getting more and more nervous and strung out worrying about the meaning of things, and I couldn’t make the “friends” thing work in my mind. It was probably an illusion to begin with, but everything had seemed to be pretty much on track. I had been clacking along, more or less trying to stay with everybody’s programs and schedules, and all of a sudden the trestle seemed to give way under me. My last day of work at the furniture store was on

Wednesday of the week before the start of the fall semester. I was tired Wednesday night, so I decided to stay home and read instead of going out. But I really didn’t do much of anything. I fell asleep on the couch. I don’t even remember moving, but I was in my bed Thursday morning. The house was quiet and it was already nine-thirty when I woke up. My mother had left early because she had teachers’ meetings, so I just lay there for a while. I thought about staying in bed all day but, after about thirty minutes, I started getting restless and my thoughts began to roam. 

ABOUT THE BOOK

The Essence of Nathan Biddle is a timeless coming-of-age tale that, as novelist David Armstrong observed, "is like discovering The Catcher in the Rye all over again." Protagonist Kit Biddle is a rising prep school senior who finds himself tangled in a web of spiritual quandaries and intellectual absurdities. Kit's angst is compounded by a unique psychological burden he is forced to carry: his intelligent but unstable Uncle Nat has committed an unspeakable act on what, according to the Uncle's deranged account, were direct orders from God.

35


RECOMMENDED READING

In Hindsight. BY SHARON BONANNO

Advantage Media Group | Dec 2020

It was like being chased by something in the dark. I couldn’t see it, but I knew to be terrified. I was running so fast that I couldn’t get enough air. When the oxygen came, it pierced my lungs and clenched my chest, making it painful to take another breath. At first all that I could think about was moving. Fast. Keeping ahead of whatever it was that was chasing me. I wasn’t thinking about getting away. I wasn’t thinking ahead at all. I was just running and trying to breathe. Eventually my fear evolved into anxiety. I realized that there was no end in sight. Whatever was after me was not letting up, and I couldn’t maintain the pace. Every cell in my body was on the verge of collapse. I had to stop. I was afraid to stop. I wanted 36

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

my limbs to give out. I wanted to collapse. All that I knew how to do was to keep running. I remember that I didn’t sleep that night. Or at least it felt like I didn’t sleep. I fell onto my bed and closed my eyes in the winter-dark early morning, and as soon as I had found quiet, the lights screamed on. When I opened my eyes, Mom and Sharon were standing there in my bedroom. That morning the accosting felt like it had come out of nowhere. It seemed a random attack. In hindsight, I can see the events that brought us all to that moment. I still don’t remember stealing money from my sister a week earlier, although I believe that I did it— cocaine is expensive. I took less than twenty dollars from her wallet while I was visiting and

ran out the door while she was checking her laundry. It wasn’t a lot of money, but it was enough to be noticed—mostly because she was noticing other things. Finally, just the night previous to Sharon and Mom appearing in my room, I’d called Mom at two thirty in the morning. She hadn’t answered. I’d left a message on her answering machine. I had been crying so fiercely that I could barely put words together. I’d told


RECOMMENDED READING

her nobody was there for me, nobody understood me, nobody cared about me. I’d told her that I was alone. I’d told her that I knew she loved me. I’d said that I wanted to die. The truth that I understood later was that I was in a deep depression. I felt sad and alone. So alone. Day after day I had breakdowns. They were constant. I would cry. I would write letters to my sister and Mom. I would pray to God when I went to sleep—“Maybe I don’t have to wake up”— and I didn’t even know if I believed in God. I was too much of a wimp to take my own life. I would look in the Yellow Pages for places where I could get help. I did this every day— the crying, the praying,

the searching. Other than finding and doing cocaine, it became my life. It’s hard to explain how truly terrible it was, how empty and worthless I believed I was. I was unbelievably sad. I went through the motions of life, but I wasn’t there. I was a shell, and the real me shrunk away inside, getting smaller and farther away from the surface so that I was barely there. For a while the drugs made things better, then they only distracted me. Eventually they did nothing but clog my nose. I couldn’t go on.

about myself. I felt like nobody understood me, and I didn’t fit in anywhere. I always felt so alone. Cocaine stopped my head from telling me that I was crazy and bad. It was pretty good medicine until it stopped working. 

The feeling wasn’t new. I felt this way my whole life. All through my twenties, I had thought that there was something wrong with me, but I didn’t think it was the drugs. I knew that I felt bad

ABOUT THE BOOK

You Wonder How Someone Can Let Things Get So Extreme. In Hindsight, So Much Is Clear. Lisa and Sharon are sisters who grew up together in what appeared to be a typical suburban family. After their parents divorced, they lived with their mother in the same house throughout their childhoods and visited their father every other weekend. From the outside, everything looked fine. But by their twenties, their lives diverted radically. While Sharon moved into a career, started a family, and embarked on her adult life, Lisa tumbled in a downward spiral of lying, addiction, depression, and shame. 37


RECOMMENDED READING

Last Words on Earth.

BY JAVIER SERENA TR. FROM THE SPANISH BY KATIE WHITTEMORE

Open Letter | September 2021

In the period just prior to the advent of all the recognition and money and readership, Ricardo’s only toehold in reality apart from Pasquiano’s monthly letters, the only people who validated his status as a writer and confirmed that his authorial identity wasn’t simply a figment of his imagination, were Fernando Vallés and Rodolfo García Huertas. Both men were so different from Ricardo: Fernando was an established, prestigious novelist whose books had already been translated into several languages; thanks to his rapid ascent on the literary scene, early on he started to publish articles in La Vanguardia, in addition to counting on considerable family wealth. In contrast, Rodolfo García Huertas never harbored the same ambitions as either Ricardo or Vallés: he was content for writing to be little more than a pastime, a Sunday treat, an armchair traveler’s fancy.

38

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

At the time, I feared that if those threads of friendship were broken, Ricardo would be lost forever in our tourist town, like a satellite escaping its controls and floating off into the infinite darkness of space, where there were no conjectures about the future and where his voice didn’t echo and every gesture was a juggling trick performed for an audience of none. Ricardo harbored that same terror, as well. One afternoon in July, García Huertas came to Lloret with his wife. We were having paella on a restaurant patio, cocooned from reality by the dazzling sunlight and our dark sunglasses and piles of towels and bathing suits and sand pails. Relaxed after two jugs of sangria, Ricardo’s old friend from Barcelona decided to make a confession. He wore a red-and-white flowered shirt and had smeared sunscreen all over his face without bothering to rub it

in. “I only write in the office now,” he joked, adjusting his straw hat to protect his incipient bald spot from the sun. “Not even that: I just revise the work of professors who need extra income.” He admitted that he was shelving his literary ambitions, mostly because he judged, with chagrin, that his writing wasn’t very good, and I couldn’t help but wonder what remained of the oaths he and Ricardo had sworn when they met in the Raval, when they


RECOMMENDED READING

traded stolen books and created poetry anthologies and co-authored stories. When neither one of them could imagine a future that wasn’t flush with words. Ricardo already knew that his friend had started working at a press that published textbooks, didactic books designed to organize basic knowledge for schoolchildren, books that were not books as they had conceived of them, despite the paper and ink. García Huertas’s admission didn’t come as a surprise, but when Ricardo heard it, he gave a bitter smile that neither his sunglasses nor Patricio’s presence on his lap could conceal. Ricardo had on an even more colorful shirt than García Huertas, with daubs of green and blue and yellow, anarchic brushstrokes that

seemed to mimic a cockatoo’s plumage and a childhood on the Caribbean coast instead of Lima. He took a long drag on his cigarette and seemed to chew the smoke before he exhaled. “You’re doing the right thing,” he said, finishing his espresso and getting to his feet. “Maybe it’s what we all should do: resign ourselves to correcting other people’s work and appreciating it as readers. From a distance.” Sad and solemn as the victim of a sacrifice, a martyr who accepted his fate in the firepit in exchange for the redemption of the very mob that condemned him to death, Ricardo walked toward the sea, in the direction of the little pedal boats. We watched as he and Patricio climbed aboard. From our table on the terrace, we

could recognize Ricardo from the back, and the small shape of Patricio on the bench beside him. Ricardo made a beeline from the shore straight out to sea, hell-bent on motoring as fast as his legs could take them, away from the beachfront restaurant and the swath of swimmers at the water’s edge, away from García Huertas’s admission and the fact that he was down one more companion on his voyage. They were out on the water for close to an hour. We kept watch, unsure if it was another of his halfmad jokes and we should just wait, or if it would be prudent to alert the Coast Guard in case he disappeared over the horizon forever. .

ABOUT THE BOOK

In exile from his home country of Peru, Ricardo Funes embodies the ultimate starving artist. Fired from almost every job he’s held—usually for paying more attention to literature than work—he sets himself up in a rundown shack where he works on writing stories to enter in regional contests across Spain, and foisting his judgements about literature on anyone who will listen as one of the last remaining members of the negacionismo poetry movement. Completely dedicated to an unwavering belief in his own art, Funes struggles in anonymity until he achieves unbridled success with The Aztec and becomes a legend . . . at least for a moment. Diagnosed with lung cancer a few years later, Funes will only be able to enjoy his newfound attention for a short time.

39


RECOMMENDED READING

Among the Hedges. BY SARA MESA TR. FROM THE SPANISH BY MEGAN MCDOWELL

Open Letter | May 2021

It all started on a morning like any other. The alarm clock went off at the same time as always, and Soon lazed under the covers for a while, then dragged herself out of bed, washed her face, put on her track suit. When she went downstairs her parents were drinking coffee and talking in whispers; they went quiet when she entered the kitchen. She mixed a Cola Cao, nibbled on some madeleines. Same as always, says Soon, nothing to make her think that day would be different from any other. She didn’t plan anything, had no way of knowing she was approaching the decisive moment, the moment when everything would change: she left the house and headed down the street, hurrying because she was a little late . . . and then she turned around. She turned around and sped up even more, but in the opposite direction. Not yet knowing what to

40

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

do. Not knowing where she was headed. Not even knowing why or from what she was running. Her heart was pounding hard, but she felt strangely relieved, even happy. She sat down on a bench, took out some notebooks, pretended she was reading over them. After a while she got up, walked to another neighborhood. and sat on another bench, spent another good while there, dissimulating. No one noticed her. Maybe she gave the impression she was older, maybe an underdeveloped sixteen— it happens: some girls develop late, they’re slight and childish alongside their peers, girls among women. She spent the whole morning like that, wandering, until it was time to go home. She calculated the time exactly; her father opened the door for her, and his expression was the same as the day before, the week before: a routine, disinterested expression.

They had lunch together. Her mother came home afterward, asked if she had much homework, if she wanted to go to the store later. Affectionate as always, both of them, not realizing a thing. She’d thought that her face would betray her, but no. Life went on the same whether she went to school or not. She knew then that she never wanted to go back. But there was still the matter of her excuse. If she kept skipping, on the third day at the latest they would call her. house to


RECOMMENDED READING

ask about her. That’s how it always is: teachers chase the students down to make them go to class, even though at heart they’d rather the kids miss school, because it meant less work and calmer classrooms for them. Take Héctor, a repeating student who skipped school all the time, and who, when he did go, only caused trouble. Héctor didn’t have the slightest interest in learning any of what was taught in those classrooms; he wanted to be a construction worker, but he had to wait until he was of legal age to leave school. He spent his time in class climbing on top of desks, throwing spitballs, and smacking his classmates on the back of the head, just out of boredom. Once, he went weeks without showing up, until an inspector

came around and inquired about him and about the school’s measures against his absenteeism. Absenteeism, kids, is punished, he told the other students there, the ones who never skipped, and his tone was very serious, menacing. Her case isn’t comparable to Héctor’s because she is not under suspicion. From the outset she has a credibility that he would never have, since she has always been an obedient, disciplined, and even submissive girl, not at all rowdy—she would be terribly embarrassed, for example, to climb up onto a desk. But, even so, she had to give some explanation for her absence. First she thought about calling in with a made-up excuse, then she considered faking a letter. She looked online and found some forms

to request a school transfer. There were several kinds: she chose the SUT model (Sudden Urgent Transfer). If you thought about it, it really wasn’t so strange: a sudden change in her parents’ jobs or any other unforeseen event could force them to move, those things happen all the time, especially at the start of the year, right? She filled out the form, chose a random school in a nearby city as her transfer, included a fake phone number, and faxed it to her school from the copy shop near her house. So far, the trick was working. 

ABOUT THE BOOK

Soon, who is almost fourteen years old, has been skipping school and spending her days hidden among the hedges in a local park, listening to music and reading women’s magazines. One day, a fifty-yearold man stumbles upon her hiding place, and the two strike up a friendship. He tells her about birds and Nina Simone, buys her soda and chips, and spends almost every day talking with her. As these secrets rise to the surface, the clock is ticking, the weather is growing cold, and the school is untangling Soon’s set of lies, setting up a moment where something has to give.

41


RECOMMENDED READING

Winter in Sokcho.

BY ELISA SHUA DUSAPIN TR. FROM THE FRENCH BY ANEESA ABBAS HIGGINS

Open Letter | April 2021

The wind was sweeping the clouds over the surface of the road. Late afternoon light. Skeletal remains of villages on either side of the road. Cardboard boxes, plastic waste, blue metal sheets. No urban sprawl. Gangwon Province had been left to rot since the war. I told Kerrand to drive faster or we’d be late for the tour. I translated the road signs for him. I’d handed him the keys as we got in the car. I hated driving, I’d never intended to drive him there. It suited him fine. At the checkpoint, a soldier younger than me made us fill in forms. A loudspeaker was delivering instructions on a loop. No photography. No filming. No leaving the marked pathway. No loud voices. No laughing. I handed the papers back to the soldier. He saluted and the fence opened onto no man’s 42

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

land. Gray and beige as far as the eye could see. Reeds. Marshes. Here and there, a tree. It was two kilometers to the observation point. We had an armed convoy as our escort at first. Then it turned off and we were alone. The road started to snake between snow-filled ditches. Suddenly, Kerrand put his foot on the brake and I was thrown against the windshield. “I thought she was going to cross,” he mumbled, his hands clutching the steering wheel. By the side of the road, a woman. Hunched beneath a pink jacket. Kerrand signaled to her to cross. She stood there, not moving, her hands crossed behind her back. He started up again carefully. I could see her in the side mirror, following us with her eyes. She watched us until we disappeared from view round a bend. My throat

was feeling dry from the heater. In the car park at the observation point, the wind whipped our coats against our legs. A smell of cold oil wafted toward us from a tteok stall. Kerrand buried his hands in his pockets, his sketchbook protruding from the right pocket. We climbed the hill as far as the look¬out point. A line of binoculars. For five hundred won, you could gaze at North Korea. I slid a coin in the slot. It was so cold our


RECOMMENDED READING

eyelids stuck to the metal frames. To the right, the ocean. To the left, a wall of mountains. Ahead of us, fog. Not much of a view, but what could you expect in this weather? We went back down to the car park. The old lady we’d seen earlier was there, talkin to the woman selling tteok at the stall. As soon as she saw me she was all over me, talking at me and stroking my cheek with her rough hand. I pushed her away. She whimpered. I clutched at Kerrand, he calmly put his arm around my shoulders. “What did she say?” “We’re God’s children. She thinks I’m pretty.” The woman at the stall pointed to a dumpling floating in the pot. Oil was seeping from its pores,

expelling little bubbles of air. I shook my head. The other woman was still whining. Kerrand drew me toward the car. Inside, I wedged my legs against the heater, rubbed my hands between my thighs. I wasn’t warming up. We headed toward the museum. It was late in the afternoon, I hadn’t eaten since the evening before. A Choco Pie had burst out of its purple wrapper at the bottom of my bag and I began picking at it, one crumb at a time. “When was the last time you were here?” asked Kerrand. “This is my firt time.” “You’ve never been here before? Out of a feeling of solidatiry, I mean?” “Shedding a few tears behind a pair of binoculars?

You call that solidarity?” “That’s not what I meant.” “Tourists are the only ones who come here.” Kerrand didn’t respond. At the museum entrance, inside a sterile box, a woman’s face leaned in, mouth close to the microphone. Five thousand won. “For two?” I asked. A pair of bulging eyes looked languidly up at me. Yes, for two people, she said in English. I choked back the humiliation of not being addressed in my own language in front of Kerrand. A rubber-gloved hand pointed us in the right direction. 

ABOUT THE BOOK It’s winter in Sokcho, a tourist town on the border between South and North Korea. The cold slows everything down. Bodies are red and raw, the fish turn venomous, beyond the beach guns point out from the North’s watchtowers. A young French Korean woman works as a receptionist in a tired guesthouse. One evening, an unexpected guest arrives: a French cartoonist determined to find inspiration in this desolate landscape. The two form an uneasy relationship. When she agrees to accompany him on trips to discover an "authentic" Korea, they visit snowy mountaintops and dramatic waterfalls, and cross into North Korea. But he takes no interest in the Sokcho she knows—the gaudy neon lights, the scars of war, the fish market where her mother works. As she’s pulled into his vision and taken in by his drawings, she strikes upon a way to finally be seen.

43


RECOMMENDED READING

Empty Houses. BY BRENDA NAVARRO

Daunt Books | February 2021

DANIEL DISAPPEARED three months, two days and eight hours after his birthday. He was three. He was my son. The last time I saw him he was between the seesaw and the slide in the park where I took him each afternoon. I don’t remember anything else. Or maybe I do: I was upset because Vladimir had texted to say he was leaving me because he didn’t want to cheapen everything. Cheapen it, like when you sell something valuable for two pesos. That was me the afternoon I lost my son: the woman who, every few weeks, said goodbye to an elusive lover who would offer her sex like some kind of bargain giveaway to make up for his leaving. That was me, the conned shopper. The con of a mother. The one who didn’t see.

44

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

I didn’t see much. What did I see? I comb the warp of visual images for the thread that might help me grasp, even for a second, when exactly it happened. In which moment, which instant, amid which little yelp from a three-year-old body did he disappear? What happened? I didn’t see much. And although I walked among the other park-goers calling his name, I could no longer hear. Did any cars go by? Were there any other people there? Who? I didn’t see my threeyear-old son again. Nagore finished school at two, but I didn’t collect her. I never asked her how she got home that afternoon. In fact, we never discussed whether any of us actually went home that day or if we all disappeared with the fourteen kilos of my son, never to return. To this day, there isn’t a mental

image that can give me the answer. Then, the wait; me in the Attorney General’s Office, slumped on a grubby chair where Fran later came and found me. We waited together, we’re still waiting on that chair, even if, physically speaking, we’re somewhere else. More than once I wished they’d both died. I would look in the bathroom mirror and imagine I was seeing myself crying over


RECOMMENDED READING

them. But I wouldn’t cry, I’d hold back the tears and put my calm, collected face back on in case I hadn’t got the act quite right the first time. And so, turning back to the mirror I’d ask: Dead? What do you mean they’re dead? Who’s dead? Both of them? Were they together? Are they actually dead or am I just imagining this to help me cry? And who are you, the one telling me they’re dead? Which of the two? And the only reply I’d get was me, standing in front of the mirror repeating: Who’s dead? Please, tell me someone has actually died, anything to fill this void! Then, faced with an echoing silence, I would answer myself: Both of them, Daniel and Vladimir. I lost them both at the

same time, and both of them are still alive, somewhere in the world, without me. It’s the last thing anyone ever imagines: waking up one day shouldering the weight of a missing person. What is a missing person? It’s a ghost that haunts you, like some kind of schizophrenic delusion. I never wanted to be one of those women people look at in the street with pity, but I did regularly return to the park, almost every day to be exact. Nagore often followed me there. I’d sit on the same bench and retrace my movements: phone in my hand, hair in my face, mosquitoes buzzing around me. Daniel with his one, two, three steps and dopey smile. Two,

three, four steps. I looked down.Two, three, four, five steps. Right there. I look up in his direction. I spot him and go back to my phone. Two, three, five, seven … no steps. He falls. He gets up. Vladimir in my guts. Two, three, five, seven, eight, nine steps. And me behind each one of them, every single day: two, three, four … And only when Nagore would glare at me, mortified because I’d be standing between the see-saw and the slide, right in the way of all the children, only then would it click: I had become one of those women people look at in the street with pity, and with fear. 

ABOUT THE BOOK Daniel disappeared three months, two days and eight hours after his birthday. He was three. He was my son. Empty Houses unfolds in the aftermath of a child’s disappearance. His mother is distraught. As her life begins to unravel, she is haunted by his absence but also by her own ambivalence: did she even want him in the first place? In a working-class neighbourhood on the other side of Mexico City another woman protects her stolen child. After longing desperately to be a mother, her life is violently altered by its reality. Alternating between these two contrasting voices, Empty Houses confronts the desires, regrets and social pressures of motherhood faced by both the mother who lost her child and the new one who risked everything to take him.

45


INTERVIEW

Interview with Yewande Omotoso Author of Bom Boy BY WYATT BANDT

46

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

An architect and writer, Yewande Omotoso received the 2012 South African Literary Award for First-Time Published Author with her book Bom Boy, and for good reason. Yewande creates characters that brilliantly reflect important and timely themes such as discrimination, loneliness, and hope while grounding them in pithy prose that makes reading a treat. WE ARE ALL INFLUENCED BY OUR BACKGROUNDS—THE PLACES WE GREW UP, OUR FAMILY, THOSE WE’VE ADMIRED OR EVEN STOOD AGAINST. WHERE DO YOU SEE THOSE INFLUENCES INFORMING YOUR WRITING?

YO: I’ve never been able to see neatly where all the influences come from. I’m of three cultures, born in Barbados to a Barbadian mother and Nigerian father, grew up in Nigeria, and then lived in South Africa since I was 12 till now. I remember being read to from a very young age, specifically Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Elliot— my mom reading and the rhythms being emblazoned in my mind. Much older I would say writers such as Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Zee Edgell, and

George Lamming were the writers I was reading in my mid and late teens. Wole Soyinka and August Wilson’s plays. James Baldwin. Aminata Forna. Marie N’Diaye. Not sure if these are influences so much as writers I could read over and over. As I’ve started writing my own novels, Siri Hustvedt has somehow become a writer I really draw from, her attention to art and creativity, the elegant intellectual density, the strangeness. WHERE DID YOU FIND THE ORIGINAL INSPIRATION FOR BOM BOY?

YO: Inspiration too is another fuzzy thing. I wrote ‘Bom Boy’ as my master’s thesis at the University of Cape Town. It was the first novel I’d ever attempted to write. I started off wanting to write about a young boy who was ostracized, lacking connection. He sought it in off-kilter but also violent ways. Initial versions of the manuscript had Lékè kidnapping people believe it or not! But it wasn’t working, and I suppose this speaks to my belief in how the writing happens. I do believe that the story—with all its characters— already exists. And my job is to chisel it out of the stone so to speak. Sometimes I’m wrong—Lékè isn’t a kidnapper or a would-be serial killer—and then I have 47


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

to wrestle with the text, keep chiseling until I find the thing that is true. But my intention was always to write about someone solitary, disconnected, longing for connection, but unable to solve that dilemma. THROUGHOUT BOM BOY, I NOTICED AN EMPHASIS ON SOUND, NOTABLY IT BEING MUTED OR ABSENT ALTOGETHER. I FOUND THIS INTRIGUING BECAUSE IT NOT ONLY TIES IN WITH THE THEMES OF LONELINESS AND SOLITUDE PROMINENT IN THE BOOK, BUT IT ALSO PARALLELS HOW MANY OF THE CHARACTERS COMMUNICATE; THEY OFTEN TALK AROUND THEIR PROBLEMS OR DON’T TALK ABOUT THEM AT ALL. DID YOU SET OUT TO MAKE THESE CONNECTIONS FROM THE START?

YO: Looking at the two novels I’ve written since writing Bom Boy, I think I have an abiding obsession with the solitary figure, the trapped human being inside the somewhat functioning person, all the silences, all the unsaid, the pretenses. I’m obsessed with the possibility of repair—when it’s there and

48

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

when it’s not. I won’t say I “set out” to write this, but it’s what bubbled up when I sat down to write; it’s what fascinates me. Those are the characters I feel compelled towards. I WAS ESPECIALLY COMPELLED BY THE CHARACTER OF LÉKÈ’S FATHER, OSCAR. IN CONTRAST TO LÉKÈ AND MANY OF THE OTHER CHARACTERS, I FOUND HIM TO BE IMPULSIVELY OPEN AND EXPRESSIVE, WHICH ADDS TO THE TRAGEDY OF HIM NEVER BEING ABLE TO MEET OR SPEAK TO HIS SON. COULD YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT OSCAR AND HOW HE CAME ABOUT?

YO: When I started writing Lékè, I had him as someone stuck who eventually becomes unstuck, and curiously, the character that became Oscar was initially imagined as simply an older unstuck Lékè. It was in writing class that someone suggested they might be two different people! One thing I love about my messy writing process is that I am not precious, I took that light suggestion and tried it on—indeed when I separated the characters the story moved. Oscar became Lékè’s father, a man brimming with all the expression and emotion Lékè


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

longs for and lacks. He’s the love Lékè doesn’t get but needs and has to scrounge for as a young adult. YOU’VE ALSO WRITTEN THE WOMAN NEXT DOOR, WHICH I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO READING FOR MYSELF, BUT I HAVE TO ASK: IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE THAT YOU’RE WORKING ON RIGHT NOW?

my writing slips, I don’t feel like the best version of myself. I write because it’s hard, because it feels good and makes sense. It doesn’t always feel like a choice. It’s a compulsion. 

ABOUT THE BOOK

YO: I have a third novel coming out in October—An Unusual Grief published by Cassava Republic. I’m currently working on something that is more autobiographical which feels a departure from my usual fiction. The working title is Family Feeling, and it’s about the meaning of family, the different ways we find family, and what it means to belong. TO CONCLUDE, I WANT TO ASK YOU WHY YOU WRITE. WHAT DRIVES YOU TO TELL STORIES LIKE BOM BOY?

YO: I write like a rash that must be scratched; it feels natural for me to be grappling with the things of this world and others using words and stories. I always feel I’m a better person when I write, and when I fall into spaces where

BOM BOY Abandoned by his birth mother, losing his adoptive mother to cancer, and failing to connect with his distant adoptive father, Leke--a troubled young man living in Cape Town--has developed some odd and possibly destructive habits: he stalks strangers, steals small objects, and visits doctors and healers in search of friendship. Through a series of letters written to him from prison by his Nigerian father, a man he has never met, Leke learns about the family curse--a curse which his father had unsuccessfully tried to remove. Leke's search to break the curse leads him to strange places. 49


NEW TO SHELF UNBOUND!

Shelf Media Group's digital young adult community designed to connect readers with YA authors and books.

50

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021


How Do You Live?. BY GENZABURO YOSHINO FOREWORD BY NEIL GAIMAN

"So this long, long story, for now at least, comes to an end. And now I think I want to ask you a question; how will you live?" This story is a deep one. It’s a two-person narrative, going back and forth between Copper, a 15-year-old boy navigating life after the painful loss of his father, and through journal writings of his Uncle that help guide him through. This book touches on so many aspects of grief, relationships, goals, philosophies and the big pictures of life in general. Having experienced a lot of grief myself, this story really hit in the feels for Copper. The story being told in a pre-war time for Japan was chilling in the sense that we know what was coming for Copper and his friends and country. He is perceptive and notices the foreshadowing and has and idea of what might come, but knowing for sure what does come is just an added layer of emotion when reading this book. A big part of the general message I believe is to notice these signs and act in a way that collectively we can all try to make the world a better place. Ultimately this book pushes for a better world, for a better way of living across the board. Blur the lines of segregation. Stand up for what you truly feel and believe. And don’t always follow the “popular opinion”. These are just a few things I picked up from the message of this book. I believe now it the perfect time for the translation of this novel, would be a great time for it to be turned into a movie, and an even better time for today’s youth to give it a read. Teenage years are formative, this book guides your way of living towards the right path.

WHAT TO READ IN YA FICTION BY MEGAN LORD

Young adult fiction continues to become one of the most popular genres – mostly for adults. Join us each issue to find your next YA read.

HOW DO YOU LIVE? BY LBY GENZABURO YOSHINO

51


G+B RECOMMENDED READ

|

RECOMMENDED AS YOU R N EX T

YA R E A D

HOW DO YOU LIVE ?

Anime master Hayao Miyazaki’s favorite childhood book, in English for the first time. First published in 1937, Genzaburō Yoshino’s How Do You Live? has long been acknowledged in Japan as a crossover classic for young readers. Academy Award–winning animator Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle) has called it his favorite childhood book and announced plans to emerge from retirement to make it the basis of a final film. How Do You Live? is narrated in two voices. The first belongs to Copper, fifteen, who after the death of his father must confront inevitable and enormous change, including his own betrayal of his best friend. In between episodes of Copper’s emerging story, his uncle writes to him in a journal, sharing knowledge and offering advice on life’s big questions as Copper begins to encounter them. Over the course of the story, Copper, like his namesake Copernicus, looks to the stars, and uses his discoveries about the heavens, earth, and human nature to answer the question of how he will live. This first-ever English-language translation of a Japanese classic about finding one’s place in a world both infinitely large and unimaginably small is perfect for readers of philosophical fiction like The Alchemist and The Little Prince, as well as Miyazaki fans eager to understand one of his most important influences. 52

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021


W H AT P E O P L E A R E S AY I N G A B O U T G I R L + B OO K

“Best YA Blogs And Book Reviewers” - URBAN EPICS, BLOGGER AWARDS

“Top 100 Book Review Blogs For Book Readers and Authors” - FEEDSPOT

“The awesome Girl+Book YA book review blog.....I smiled to see Blue Karma recommended for "tom-boys, tree climbers, adventure seekers, and backyard-campers" because I have answered (or still do) to all of these descriptions....The Girl+Book blog continues to make my day.” - J.K. ULLRICH, AUTHOR OF BLUE KARMA

“I Just Read Girl Plus Book’s Review Of Revelation, And It Made My Night!” - ELLERY KANE, AUTHOR OF LEGACY SERIES

53


F E AT U R E

Monsters Across Time & Culture: A Conversation with Professor Will Linn. BY ALYSE MGRDICHIAN

54

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021


Horror, as a form of storytelling, has deep historical roots and is everexpanding in today’s culture. Whether it be movies, books, or some other medium, humans have, arguably, always had a penchant for monsters. The difference, however, comes when we take a closer look at the differing societal interpretations of those monsters. So, what exactly does this look like? To help me flesh out and answer this question, I had the pleasure of conversing with Professor Will Linn, who contributes to series and documentaries as an interviewee and expert mythologist. With a Ph.D in myth and depth psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute, complimented by an undergraduate degree in philosophy, Will teaches courses on myth, storytelling, philosophy, and anthropology at Hussian College—a leading film and performing arts college—where he chairs the Department of General Education. Will is also the founder of Mythouse.org, which offers community conversation and deep dives into various mythological topics, including monsters.

there are in horror and monsters across cultures, it’s important to recognize what they have in common. When asked about the similarities, Will gave a simple yet effective answer: All of the monsters are something to be afraid of. “They represent our different fears,” he states. “Sometimes it’s a fear of the dark, sometimes it’s a fear of the water, and sometimes it’s the fear of a predator. You look at something like Little Red Riding Hood, and there you have the wolf, who is a predator. So, with horror monsters, no matter how old or new, we are seeing our fears personified. The monster isn’t as scary as the fear it represents. And beneath this personification is our relationship with the fear itself, which varies between cultures.” A prime example of this difference can be seen in the way ghosts are presented across the globe. As separate societies, we all have different relationships with the dead, and almost every culture has some kind of a ghost in its mythos. When asked to expound on this, Will states that the different versions of the same monster will often reflect different cultural philosophies.

Before addressing what differences 55


F E AT U R E

CONTINUED

“One of the more overt examples of a ghost revealing a country’s philosophy is the ‘hungry ghost,’ from China,” Will says. “It has a tiny mouth and proboscis neck, through which it has to eat. This creature reaffirms the philosophy of Chinese Buddhism, which believes a person becomes a hungry ghost because they are still clinging to this world and its things. So, it’s greed that you’ve developed during your life that has made you so hungry, which is frowned upon in this tradition. We may all have some version of a ghost, but the ghost stories we tell reflect our different societal values.” Listening to Will talk, I can’t help but think about the differences in how varying cultures approach the concept of feeding the dead. For example, with Día de los Muertos (Mexico), the dead are respected and loved. The living wish to reconnect with those they’ve lost, so they offer the deceased’s favorite foods. However, while there are communities that feed their dead out of celebration and love, there are others that feed them out of fear of evil spirits. Perhaps the reason for this boils down 56

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

to different cultural dispositions towards death itself—the inevitability of it may be a comfort to some, but not so much for others. Observing the same creature within different cultures, like the ghost, not only demonstrates varying societal philosophies, but also reveals a lineage that extends across time. Take the golem, for example. This is one of Will’s favorite creatures: “It originates from a medieval, alchemical Jewish story,” he tells me. “Long story short, the Maharal of Prague creates a creature out of clay and awakens it, usually with the name of God written on a piece of paper, rolled up, then put into the golem’s mouth. The golem of Prague (the original golem) has a lineage stretching both before and after it. There is a long history of stories about creatures that, like the golem, are some kind of un-animated matter that then becomes animated.” This concept is certainly present in earlier stories, like that of Adam and Eve, whose clay bodies are awakened with breath, or Prometheus and the awakening of Pandora.


F E AT U R E

CONTINUED

“The golem,” Will continues, “introduces the mind-body problem. Are the mind and body separate? And if a body is animated, does that mean it has a mind or soul? A good modern example of a ‘golem’ can be found in Fantasia, the Disney movie. When the broom is animated and told to fetch water, it does so mindlessly. This is seen in its inability to stop, which results in a flood. When the Maharal ordered his golem to fetch water, the same scene unfolds. So, with old creatures like golems, there is certainly a lineage, which we continue to see in stories today—from Ex Machina to Age of Ultron.” This makes me wonder, what about the monsters that aren’t just mythical creatures, but are active antagonists? According to Will, the role of antagonistic monsters holds a higher significance in horror than you may think, because they’re the ones who drive the narrative (rather than the protagonists). Following his contributions to a documentary on the film Alien, Will got the opportunity

to learn more about the process of creating the Xenomorph, the film’s antagonistic monster. He also got a few separate opportunities to hang out with Diane O’Bannon, the wife of Dan O’Bannon, who created Alien. Will tells me he learned that “Dan saw the alien herself as the one on the journey, not the protagonists. So, the alien is the one driving the narrative through her own journey, and everyone is just reacting to it. In our own world, we would like to believe that everybody wants to just ‘do good things’— however, the reality is, most times we’re just responding to antagonism rather than protagonism. Monsters are often what set us up to do the right thing, and they give us reason to be protagonists. In particular, protagonism is almost always the most obvious response to the antagonist’s actions, so the antagonists are, in reality, the ones driving the story.” Whether they be fictional monsters or normal humans who do monstrous things, villains help heroes frame their worldview, giving them a reason to fight. In this way, our antagonists are often inversions of our 57


F E AT U R E

CONTINUED

protagonists. This relates to the Jungian concept of “shadows,” which are defined as the things that we actively repress or distance ourselves from. “Our monsters,” Will states, “are often the shadows of our heroes. So, in a very medieval Christian world, you end up with a vampire as the evil figure. Why would that be? Do you see the comparison between the vampire and Jesus? They both go in the tomb and are brought back from the dead, they both drink blood (whether literally or figuratively), they both are symbols of immortality, both have stakes that go into them (into the hands and feet of Christ and into the heart of the vampire), etc. There’s an inversion with them, so while Christ is all about liberating the immortal soul from the mortal body, the vampire will have no immortal soul, but will immortalize the body. So, monsters can end up as a reflection or a shadow of the heroes of our culture.” This is a concept that, even still, we can observe in our modern stories. For example, according to Will, one of America’s most popular modern villains seems to be corrupt, 58

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

excessively powerful superheroes, since our media is flooded with virtuous supers. If you’ve seen The Suicide Squad (2021), you’ll know that there is an inverted version of Captain America, who is shown to be narcissistic and self-serving behind the scenes. Same with The Boys (2019-present). So, the shadow of our values (mixed with the dark, repressed truth of our culture) often makes an antagonist. In the end, monsters, both in stories and in real life, have the potential to bring out the best in people—whether we like it or not, the monstrous ones are the instigators, the ones who spur on our “protagonists,” whether they be fictional characters, real historical figures, or even ourselves. However, I’d like to end this column on a different note, specifically with a call to action. Given the differences between cultural philosophies and priorities, we should read the folklore and watch the horror movies of other countries to learn more about them and better appreciate them. Remaking and westernizing phenomenal international films and stories is a very American trend, one


F E AT U R E

CONTINUED

which belittles the culture and context of the countries from which they originated. This month, as we celebrate all things spooky and grim, let’s be purposeful in appreciating the horror films, stories, and monsters that other cultures have to offer! 

ABOUT WILL LINN, PH.D

Will Linn, Ph.D. is the founder of Mythouse.org and the General Education Department at Hussian College. He has appeared in documentaries and series, including Memory: Origins of Alien, Myths: The Greatest Riddles in History, Mythosophia, and The Myth Salon. Between 2018 and 2019, Will served as the Executive Director of the Joseph Campbell Writers’ Room at LA Center Studios. His consulting and courses—for high school, collegiate, post-graduate, and professional storytellers—are grounded in transformational narrative. You can find Will on LinkedIn.

59


INDIE BOOKSTORE BS

BROWSE

The Indie Catalog Latest releases, award winners, and more!

60

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021


C ATA L OG

SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION

YOUNG ADULT FANTASY

PHOEBE DOUSE: SECRET SOCIETY FOR SPECIAL ABILITIES AND ARTEFACTS

BY L. SAMUELS

Where to Buy: Amazon | Authors Website “The author rounds out her tale with increasing suspense…. a delightful fantasy with a likable and powerful young heroine.” ~ Kirkus Reviews “Samuels delivers a YA novel that expertly weaves themes of troubled friendships, identity, and family changes with an evocative paranormal mystery.” - Publishers Weekly, The BookLife Prize

Grandmother Naan's superstitious stories seem too peculiar and childish to Phoebe Douse. But when surprising and unfortunate circumstances in Texas lead her to accept a timely invitation to attend a remote boarding school, thousands of miles away in Scotland, Phoebe finds that everything is not what she made herself believe. Unwittingly, Phoebe is thrown onto the stage of power and danger as events unfold that reveal the extent of her abilities and Naan's connection to the school. There, Phoebe is introduced to the clandestine world of S3A2 and is forced to decide between her new friends and the promises of power and S3A2 status from the welcoming but strangely mysterious Headmaster Duff. In this first installment of a YA trilogy (for ages 12 and up), Phoebe Douse: S3A2 presents an adventure-filled, coming-of-age novel, with mystery and a touch of the paranormal. There are also themes of selfdiscovery, valuing culture and diversity, and building trust and friendship. ABOUT THE AUTHOR

L. Samuels is a Jamaican-American author and illustrator, born and raised in Texas. Along with writing, L. operates a global education company and loves to travel, spend time with her family, hike, and dance.

61


C ATA L OG

SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION

YOUNG ADULT/COMING OF AGE

HOW THE DEER MOON HUNGERS BY SUSAN WINGATE

Winner Best Fiction In The 2020 Pacific Book Award Mackenzie Fraser witnesses a drunk driver mow down her seven-year-old sister and her mother blames her. Then she ends up in juvie on a trumped-up drug charge. Now she’s in the fight of her life. And she’s losing. How the Deer Moon Hungers is a coming of age story about loss, grief, and the power of love. “Adult and new adult readers will fall headlong into it. No one who picks up this heartrending story will emerge from it unchanged or unmoved. Great for fans of Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper, Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones, Lois Lowry’s A Summer to Die.” –BookLife Review Where to Buy: Amazon | B&N ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Susan Wingate a #1 Amazon bestseller and award-winning author who writes unputdownable, surprising and twisty stories with crackling dialogue that exhibit a rare deftness in style offering up stories that are riveting, original and with a humanity rarely seen in contemporary fiction.

62

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021


C ATA L OG

SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION

FICTION

THE TALKING DRUM

BY LISA BRAXTON

It is 1971. The fictional city of Bellport, Massachusetts, is in decline with an urban redevelopment project on the horizon expected to transform this dying factory town into a thriving economic center. This planned transformation has a profound effect on the residents who live in Bellport as their own personal transformations take place. Sydney Stallworth steps away from her fellowship and law studies at an elite university to support husband Malachi's dream of opening a business in the heart of the black community of his hometown, Bellport. For Omar Bassari, an immigrant from Senegal, Bellport is where he will establish his drumming career and the launching pad from which he will spread African culture across the world, while trying to hold onto his marriage. Della Tolliver has built a fragile sanctuary in Bellport for herself, boyfriend Kwamé Rodriguez, and daughter Jasmine, a troubled child prone to nightmares and outbursts. Tensions rise as the demolition date moves closer, plans for gentrification are laid out, and the pace of suspicious fires picks up. The residents find themselves at odds with a political system manipulating their lives and question the future of their relationships. ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lisa Braxton is an essayist, short story writer, and novelist. She earned her MFA in creative writing from Southern New Hampshire University, her Master of Science in Journalism Broadcasting from Northwestern University and her Bachelor of Arts in Mass Media from Hampton University. Her debut novel, The Talking Drum, was published by Inanna Publications in May 2020.

63


C ATA L OG

SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION

MEMOIR

The World Looks Different Now. On a glorious, if blisteringly hot, Saturday in August 2010, Margaret Thomson's world is suddenly shattered by the incomprehensible news that her twenty-two-year-old son, a medic in the army, has taken his life. In a deep state of shock, Thomson and her husband immediately travel to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where their son Kieran was stationed, in an effort to assist their daughter-in-law. Upon their arrival, though, the couple find themselves plunged into a labyrinthine and, at times, seemingly bizarre world of military rules and regulations. Eventually, after the funeral and the memorial services are over, an even more challenging journey--emotionally as well as geographically--ensues, especially for Margaret, who, as a former journalist, is determined to find out more about the circumstances surrounding her son's death, no matter how high the cost.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR MARGARET THOMSON Margaret Thomson is a journalist and television producer who's reported on a variety of subjects, from Middle East politics to the British royal family. As a radio correspondent for ABC News, she was the first American broadcast journalist to report the end of the Falklands War in May 1982; several years later she became the first radio correspondent to report on the AIDS epidemic in Africa. Upon returning to the United States in 1992, she taught journalism and television production at the University of Memphis.

64

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021


C ATA L OG

SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION

FICTION

Whisperwood: A Confederate Soldier's Struggle. My paternal great-grandfather, Anderson Flowers Temple, died more than two decades before I was born, but he whispered in my ear when I was twelve years old through a narrative of his life written by his youngest son. I was captivated by Anderson’s story of humble roots, struggle against adversity, and search for a true path. At the age of twenty-five, after four years in the Civil War, Anderson vowed that he would never again take up arms. For the rest of his life he helped quarreling neighbors talk through their differences and become friends. Whisperwood is a work of fiction based upon my great grandfather’s lived experiences, a rifleman’s view—not a general’s perspective— on the Civil War. The story focuses on the depravity and addiction of war and Anderson’s hard-earned wisdom about war and honor. The life lessons in Anderson’s story guided me during the Vietnam War when I faced the prospect of becoming a soldier.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR VAN TEMPLE Van Temple was born and raised in Ruston, Louisiana, and graduated from Louisiana Tech University. After a forty-three year career in community development, non-profit management, and city government service in Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Delaware, Louisiana, and Indiana -- he retired to Abita Springs, Louisiana to focus on his lifelong ambition to be a writer, an ambition originally inspired by learning and loving to read. He has written dozens of stories, poems, and published two books.

65


BOOK SHELF BS

SHELF UNBOUND’S

Book Shelf What to read next in independent publishing

SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION

66

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021


OK COULD BE H O B ER UR E! O Y Promote your book in Shelf Unbound in our Special Advertising Section for Authors.

Each issue of Shelf Unbound is distributed to more than 125,000 people in the U.S. and 62 countries around the globe. Our introductory ad rate for this section is $350/quarter page as seen here. Contact publisher Sarah Kloth to reserve your space. sarah@shelfmediagroup.com

67


BOOK SHELF

SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION

Twin Bill

Last Star Standing

Baseball challenges players on and off the field.

Born to a charismatic Indigenous mother and an infamous Australian politician, Aiden has always been an outsider. The Earth barely survived World War III when invaders from another galaxy took over. Determined to bring an end to the alien regime, Aiden joins the underground rebel movement. After being captured, tortured, and executing a daring escape, Aiden learns that there are traitors among the rebellion - and, to make matters worse, they want him dead. Can Aiden carry out his plans to free the world of the alien pestilence? Or will his enemies get to him first?

BY MIKE MCSORLEY

“Payback” offers a chance to even the score for lefty Alan Coltard, but at what price? In “Big Finish” slugging outfielder J.C. Taylor finds his baseball world turned upside down when he’s traded midseason from a contender to hopeless also ran. He’s faced with the choice of playing out the sting or becoming a bigtime player in a whole new role. Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

How The Deer Moon Hungers

BY SPAULDING TAYLOR

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

LIKE US, THE POLAR BEARS

BY SUSAN WINGATE

BY TESS MARSET

MACKENZIE FRASER witnesses a drunk driver mow down her seven-yearold sister and her mother blames her. Then she ends up in juvie on a trumpedup drug charge. Now she’s in the fight of her life…on the inside! And she’s losing. "From the ashes rises the phoenix. As a family descends into an abyss of pain, so Mackenzie fights to discover her own way out of the overwhelming circumstances of her sibling's death."Susan Wingate is gifted at capturing these shifting nuances as events continue to pull characters apart and put them back together like puzzles, albeit in a different way.

Seventeen-year-old Molly needs to figure out how to get her brilliant plan to save polar bears into action while dealing with a few . . . challenges: Phobias + self-doubt; Anxiety + more anxiety; loss of BFF

Available at Amazon.

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

68

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

Hope arrives in the form of Sig, the last-available lab partner, who has an audacious idea for saving the polar bears and--a secret. He accepts Molly as she is, problems and all, and challenges her to follow through on her polar bear rescue plan. She accepts his challenge, putting her well outside her comfort zone. But as Molly and Sig set off to raise funds for the cause, complications threaten to melt the thin ice that keeps Molly from drowning in her own problems.


BOOK SHELF

SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION

Two Tickets to Dubrovnik BY ANGUS KENNEDY

A View From The Languedoc BY ANGUS KENNEDY

Australian wine writer, Andrew Johnston, goes to Dubrovnik to prepare an article for his editor on the wines and wineries of southern Rhône. He meets up with an old Bordelaise wine making acquaintance, Lucien Delasalles, and his step-sister, Niki Menčetić. He becomes embroiled in the murky affairs of Niki and her family and the local police, which leads to his sad departure from the ancient city.

Australian wine writer, Andrew Johnston, is again staying in Europe, this time with his brother, Adrian, for both work and a holiday. During an extensive new wine project from his publisher, he meets up again with a number of his old acquaintances from both France and Dubrovnik, including Niki Menčetić. Whether he can resolve his difficulties with Niki’s life is uncertain.

www.anguskennedybooks.com Available at Amazon, Amazon UK, and Barnes & Noble.

www.anguskennedybooks.com Available at Amazon, Amazon UK, and Barnes & Noble.

To The East

The Final Programme

The book gives a composite picture of what heaven is like based on the eyewitness testimony of nineteen separate accounts. As a result it gives a more complete picture than any other single book does. All of Scripture’s testimony about heaven is confirmed and many more details God never revealed in His Word. Many readers say it’s a great blessing and have bought extra copies to give away.

In this final novel of the Out of Solitude tetralogy, Australian wine writer, Andrew Johnston, is comatose in a hospital in Sydney, Australia after the events of Međjugorje in Bosnia and Herzegovina. His Croatian lover, Niki Menčetić, believes him gone, the victim of a cruel deception by Andrew’s brother, Adrian, and has returned to Dubrovnik. Andrew now has to try to re-establish the rest of his life.

www.anguskennedybooks.com Available at Amazon, Amazon UK, and Barnes & Noble.

www.anguskennedybooks.com Available at Amazon, Amazon UK, and Barnes & Noble.

BY ANGUS KENNEDY

BY ANGUS KENNEDY

69


BOOK SHELF

SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION

Whisperwood: A Confederate Soldier's Struggle BY VAN TEMPLE

A story of one man's struggle of conscience through the bewildering, brutal, and terrifying experience of the American Civil War. Anderson Flowers, a poor, twenty-year-old farmer, leaves his home and sweetheart in the summer of 1861 and walks the twentyfive miles to Kosciusko with his best friend, Dallas, to enlist as a soldier in Company K of the 20th Regiment of the Army of Mississippi. Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Feast of Fates

BY CHRISTIAN A. BROWN

Arnold Falls

BY CHARLIE SUISMAN

Spend time in the funny, oddball village of Arnold Falls, where larger-thanlife characters deal with the smallest of problems. Somehow, it all comes out right in the end. Arnold Falls is a novel that tips its hat to Armistead Maupin and P. G. Wodehouse, creating a world in which food, music, friendship, love, and tending your own garden are connected in surprising ways. Winner of the 2020 IPPY from the Independent Publisher Book Awards Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Journey Into Darkness: A Story In Four Parts, 3rd Edition BY J. ARTHUR MOORE

Morigan lives a quiet life as the handmaiden to a fatherly old sorcerer named Thackery. But when she crosses paths with Caenith, a not wholly mortal man, her world changes forever. Their meeting sparks long buried magical powers deep within Morigan. As she attempts to understand her newfound abilities, unbidden visions begin to plague her—visions that show a devastating madness descending on one of the Immortal Kings who rules the land.

Duane Kinkade was ten years old in the summer of 1861 when raiders struck his farm after his pa had gone to the war; eleven the following spring when he left in search of his father and became a part of the war himself; thirteen the summer he returned home, a veteran soldier after two and a half years of army life and battlefield experience. An intricate blend of fact and fiction, the thread of experience of the fictitious boy soldier runs through the fabric of a very real war and its historic violence as it actually happened.

www.christianadrianbrown.com Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

www.jarthurmoore.com Also Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

70

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021


BOOK SHELF

SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION

The World Looks Different Now

The Talking Drum

On a glorious, if blisteringly hot, Saturday in August 2010, Margaret Thomson’s world is suddenly shattered by the incomprehensible news that her twenty-two-yearold son, a medic in the army, has taken his life. In a deep state of shock, Thomson and her husband immediately travel to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where their son Kieran was stationed, in an effort to assist their daughter-in-law. Upon their arrival, though, the couple find themselves plunged into a labyrinthine and, at times, seemingly bizarre world of military rules and regulations.

The fictional city of Bellport, Massachusetts, is in decline with an urban redevelopment project on the horizon expected to transform this dying factory town into a thriving economic center. This planned transformation has a profound effect on the residents who live in Bellport as their own personal transformations take place.

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

BY MARGARET THOMSON

BY LISA BRAXTON

The Talking Drum explores intra-racial, class, and cross-cultural tensions, along with the meaning of community and belonging.

Automaton Nation

Not All Of Me Is Dust

Automaton Nation is perfect for fans of science fiction where the stakes are high, love is unexpected, and characters survive in a dystopian world.

Not All of Me Is Dust is an account of the cost exacted by living out a high ideal. It tells the story of three members of a particular family: imaginative, highspirited Clara Engle, the youngest, whose childhood fantasies of Christian perfection are realized in the shattering actuality of adulthood; her beautiful, conflicted sister, Kathleen; and her brother, Stephen, a priest and poet. Not All of Me Is Dust is a story of the sacred and secular, of love and separation, of aspiration and failure, and most important, of loss and recovery.

BY CYNTHIA KUMANCHIK

Val Tate, daughter of a prominent scientist, falls in love with robotic Dat against her parents’ objections. Sparks fly between the two as they realize their love is real, although forbidden. The robots’ rebellion pushes the couple closer to-gether as they join their cause.

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

BY FRANCES MAUREEN RICHARDSON

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. 71


Traveling My Way Cannibals to Communists to Dining with the Queen written by James Bruce. Review by Sean Malone, Editorial Assistant with Orange Hat Publishing | Ten16 Press

SMALL PRESS REVIEWS

TEN16 PRESS TEN16 Press, a division of Orange Hat Publishing, housing fiction, non-fiction, YA and poetry books. WWW.ORANGEHATPUBLISHING.COM

“As we’re eating, a man walks by. My guide tells me the man is 76 years old (really old here). I smile. He smiles. His smile shows he is absolutely toothless… I offer some buttered bread and wave to him to sit down next to me… I ask him what the holes in his kina shell necklace represent. The guide asks, and translates: ‘They are for the eight men he has killed and eaten.’ That’s a showstopper! My guide says it’s true. The man looks at me. I offer him more buttered bread, and we all burst into a good laugh.” –Papa New Guinea, 1984

Traveling is truly the most subjective of experiences. The wayward tourist has all too many priorities to consider when visiting domestic or international destinations. Apart from selecting the location, there are various options for how to spend the time. What provides the best “sense” of a new place? Should one focus on the amenities and trappings of the city or on hiking and camping through rugged countryside? What interactions are the most representative of a culture? Whether you’re planning an upcoming trip or would simply like to sample the experiences of an avid traveler, James F. Bruce’s Traveling My Way offers a considerable platter of diverse anecdotes of world travel. While the highest concentration of passages occur in Africa and Asia, the book delivers on its subtitle with a highly eclectic sampling of travel vignettes, taking the reader to six continents across six decades of global encounters. Bruce’s style is informal; the book reads like he is sitting across a table from you at a restaurant or a bar

72

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021


and recounting to you his stories as he remembers them. Bruce clearly has documented his recollections throughout the years and provides wonderful details like hotel rates from decades past, travel mementos (such as a mounted foxtail from a hunt in Ireland), and wonderful photographs. The lattter truly completes the experience; when learning the names of the many charming and memorable people Bruce encountered on his way, the satisfaction is often completed by seeing their pictures upon the turn of the page. There is such a portfolio of cultures and smiles as to render a warm and endearing sensation in the reader, who gets a sense that every effort was made to establish the immersive recollection that the author presents. Traveling My Way is just that: a personalized lens of travel that is anything but general, filled with truly stupendous encounters and many uplifting service missions. Bruce brings light to many tucked away details of the countries that he visits, including lesser-known temples

or pagodas, vibrant classrooms, villages, and communities. He doesn’t do away with any of the travel dust, hardships, or quirks we might find rough or unusual. In the earnest authenticity of each travel journal, one likely will feel that they themselves had accompanied James by the end of it all. 

JAME F BRUCE'S travels have taken him to nearly one hundred countries. He worked in residential real estate in Milwaukee, WI for decades and went on to become president of a real estate company. He holds degrees in marketing (business, John Carroll University, Ohio) and more recently in cultural anthropology and theology from Marquette University in Milwaukee.

ABOUT THE BOOK

TRAVELING MY WAY: CANNIBALS TO COMMUNISTS TO DINING WITH THE QUEEN

James F. Bruce's Traveling My Way tells of the adventures and lessons learned from his worldwide travels. While some of these excursions were spent working with medical missions and charitable ventures, they arose mostly for the sake of adventure alone and the thrill of visiting unusual places and people on this earth. 73


F E AT U R E

Newly Translated Books from Around the Globe BY ALYSE MGRDICHIAN

As we celebrate the beauty and diversity of stories, whether real or fictional, it can be easy to look to the past for examples. However, books are still being published, and stories are still being translated! So, here are 17 indie translations from different countries that have been (or will be) published this year. I had a lot of fun researching for this article, and hope that these books pique your interest as much as they piqued mine. Happy reading!

74

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021


F E AT U R E

CONTINUED

MY BROTHER

Written by Karin Smirnoff & Translated by Anna Paterson Published by Pushkin Press (March 4, 2021) A publishing phenomenon from Sweden: a novel about uncovering family secrets, abuse, trauma, and resilience. Jana is returning to see her twin brother Bror, who is still living in the family farmhouse in the rural north of Sweden. The house is decrepit and crumbling, and Bror is determinedly drinking himself into an early grave. The siblings are both damaged by horrific childhood experiences, buried deep in the past, but Jana cannot keep running. Alive with the brutality and beauty of the landscape, My Brother is a novel steeped in darkness and violence–about abuse, love, complicity, and coming to terms with the past. It's the story of a homecoming without a home: a story of forgiveness.

LAST YEARS ON EARTH

Written by Javier Serena & Translated by Katie Whittemore Published by Open Letter Books (September 21, 2021) In exile from his home country of Peru, Ricardo Funes embodies the ultimate starving artist. Fired from almost every job he's held–usually for paying more attention to literature than work–he sets himself up in a rundown shack where he works on writing stories to enter in regional contests across Spain, and foisting his judgements about literature on anyone who will listen as one of the last remaining members of the ‘negacionismo’ poetry movement. Completely dedicated to an unwavering belief in his own art, Funes struggles in anonymity until he achieves unbridled success with The Aztec and becomes a legend . . . at least for a moment. Diagnosed with lung cancer a few years later, Funes will only be able to enjoy his newfound attention for a short time. 75


F E AT U R E

CONTINUED

SLIPPING

Written by Mohamed Kheir & Translated by Robin Moger Published by Two Lines Press (June 8, 2021) A struggling journalist named Seif is introduced to a former exile with an encyclopedic knowledge of Egypt’s obscure, magical places. Together, as explorer and guide, they step into the fragmented, elusive world the Arab Spring left behind. They trek to an affluent neighborhood where giant corpse flowers rain from the sky. They join an anonymous crowd in the dark, hallucinating together before a bare cave wall. They descend a set of stairs to the spot along the Nile River where, it’s been said, you can walk on water. But what begins as a fantastical excursion through a splintered nation quickly winds its way inward as Seif begins to piece together the trauma of his own past, including what happened to Alya, his lover with the remarkable ability to sing any sound: crashing waves, fluttering wings, a roaring inferno. BLACK BOX

Written by Shiori Ito & Translated by Allison Markin Powell Published by Feminist Press (July 13, 2021) Black Box is a riveting, sobering memoir that chronicles one woman’s struggle for justice, calling for changes to an industry— and in society at large—to ensure that future victims of sexual assault can come forward without being silenced and humiliated. In 2015, an aspiring young journalist named Shiori Ito charged prominent reporter Noriyuki Yamaguchi with rape. After meeting up for drinks and networking, Ito remembers regaining consciousness in a hotel room while being assaulted. But when she went to the police, Ito was told that her case was a ‘black box’— untouchable and unprosecutable. Upon publication in 2017, Ito’s searing account foregrounded the #MeToo movement in Japan and became the center of an urgent cultural and legal shift around recognizing sexual assault and gender-based violence. 76

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021


F E AT U R E

CONTINUED

THE CHILD

Written by Kjersti A. Skomsvold & Translated by Martin Aitken Published by Granta Books (May 6, 2021) A young mother speaks to her second-born child. Since the drama of childbirth, all feels calm. The world is new and full of surprises, even though dangers lurk behind every corner; a car out of control, disease ever-present in the air, the unforgiving speed of time. She tells of the times before the child was born, when the world felt unsure and enveloped in darkness, of long nights with an older lover, of her writing career, and the precariousness of beginning a relationship and then a family with her husband, Bo. A portrait of modern motherhood, The Child is a love story about what it means to be alive and stay alive, no matter how hard the journey.

FOUCAULT IN WARSAW

Written by Javier Serena & Translated by Katie Whittemore Published by Open Letter Books (September 21, 2021) In 1958, Michel Foucault arrived in Poland to work on his thesis—a work that eventually came to be published as The History of Madness. While he was there, he became involved with a number of members of the gay community, including a certain ‘Jurek,’ who eventually led the secret police directly to Foucault’s hotel room, causing his subsequent exit from Poland. That boy’s motivations and true identity were hidden among secret police documents for decades, until Remigiusz Ryziński stumbled upon the right report and uncovered the truth about the whole situation. Nominated for the Nike Literary Award, Foucault in Warsaw reconstructs a vibrant, engaging picture of gay life in Poland under communism—from the joys found in secret nightclubs, to the fears of not knowing who was a secret informant. 77


F E AT U R E

CONTINUED

THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS AN EASY JOB

Written by Kikuko Tsumura & Translated by Polly Barton Published by Bloomsbury Publishing (March 23, 2021) A young woman walks into an employment agency and requests a job that has the following traits: it is close to her home, and it requires no reading, no writing, and ideally, very little thinking. Her first gig—watching the hidden-camera feed of an author suspected of storing contraband goods—turns out to be inconvenient. (When can she go to the bathroom?) Her next gives way to the supernatural: announcing advertisements for shops that mysteriously disappear. As she moves from job to job— writing trivia for rice cracker packages; punching entry tickets to a purportedly haunted public park—it becomes increasingly apparent that she’s not searching for the easiest job at all, but something altogether more meaningful. And when she finally discovers an alternative to the daily grind, it comes with a price. AMONG THE HEDGES

Written by Sara Mesa & Translated by Megan McDowell Published by Open Letter Books (May 18, 2021) Casi, who is almost fourteen years old, has been skipping school and spending her days hidden among the hedges in a local park, listening to music and reading women's magazines. One day, Viejo, a fiftyyear-old man, stumbles upon her hiding place, and the two strike up a friendship. He tells her about birds and Nina Simone, buys her soda and chips, and spends almost every day talking with her. Despite their age gap, there's something childlike about Viejo that leads Casi to believe that he's not like the other men she's encountered, the ‘dangerous ones.’ But Viejo has a number of secrets in his past—all of which would be of grave concern to Casi's parents or any other adult who witnessed one of their rendezvous. As these secrets rise to the surface, the clock is ticking, the weather is growing cold, and the school is untangling Casi's set of lies, setting up a moment where something has to give. 78

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021


F E AT U R E

CONTINUED

WILD ANIMALS PROHIBITED

Written by Subimal Misra & Translated by V. Ramaswamy Published by Open Letter Books (September 7, 2021) Subimal Misra, an audacious experimentalist and self-declared anti-writer, is the master of contemporary alternative Bengali literature and anti-establishment writing. This collection brings together twenty-five stories that record the dark history of violence and degeneration in the Bengal of the seventies and eighties. The mirror that Misra holds up to society breaks every canon of rectitude with unfailing precision. The stories also plot the continuous evolution of Misra’s writing as he searches for a form to do justice to the reality that confronts us. Deeply influenced by Godard, Misra uses montage and other cinematic techniques in his stories, which he himself calls ‘anti-stories,’ challenging our notions of reading and of literature itself.

PILLAR OF BOOKS

Written by Moon Bo Young & Translated by Hedgie Choi Published by Black Ocean (May 18, 2021) This debut collection in English from Korean poet Moon Bo Young insists that you, as a reader, put down your expectations of what should be important or serious. While these poems are about god, death, love, and literature, they are also just as much about a hat with a herd of cows on it, science experiments on monkeys’ attention, the eating of cherry tomatoes, weeping carrots, and pimple popping. The surrealism and humor in these poems allow them to travel far in the span of a stanza. Reading this book is like going on a picnic with your weirdest best friend and asking them what-if questions until the sun goes down–there’s room for everything, from dark anecdotes to funny quips and surprising vulnerability. Skillfully rendered by award-winning translator Hedgie Choi, this is a book that will change the way you think about what a poem can accomplish. 79


F E AT U R E

CONTINUED

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY

Written by Mahsa Mohebali & Translated by Mariam Rahmani Published by Feminist Press (November 30, 2021) What do you do when the world is falling apart and you’re in withdrawal? Disillusioned, wealthy, and addicted to opium, Shadi wakes up one day to apocalyptic earthquakes and a dangerously low stash. Outside, Tehran is crumbling: yuppies flee in bumperto-bumper traffic as skaters and pretty boys rise up to claim the city as theirs. Cross-dressed to evade hijab laws, Shadi flits between her dysfunctional family and depressed friends–all in search of her next fix. Mahsa Mohebali’s groundbreaking novel about Iranian counterculture is a satirical portrait of the disaster that is contemporary life. Weaving together gritty vernacular and cinematic prose, In Case of Emergency takes a darkly humorous, scathing look at the authoritarian state, global capitalism, and the gender binary. JAGUAR’S TOMB

Written by Angélica Gorodischer & Translated by Amalia Gladhart Published by Vanderbilt University Press (February 15, 2021) Jaguars' Tomb is a novel in three parts, written by three interconnected characters. Part one, ‘Hidden Variables,’ by María Celina Igarzábal, is narrated by Bruno Seguer. Seguer in turn is the author of the second part, ‘Recounting from Zero’ (‘Contar desde zero’), in which Evelynne Harrington, author of the third, is a central character. Harrington, finally, is the author of ‘Uncertainty’ (‘La incertidumbre’), whose protagonist is the dying Igarzábal. Each of the three parts revolves around the octagonal room that is alternately the jaguars' tomb, the central space of the torture center, and the heart of an abandoned house that hides an adulterous affair. The novel, by Argentine author Angélica Gorodischer, is both an intriguing puzzle and a meditation on how to write about, or through, violence, injustice, and loss. 80

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021


F E AT U R E

CONTINUED

THE LOST SOUL

Written by Olga Tokarczuk, Illustrated by Joanna Concejo, & Translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones Published by Seven Stories Press (February 23, 2021) The Lost Soul is a deeply moving reflection on our capacity to live in peace with ourselves, to remain patient and attentive to the world. It is a story that beautifully weaves together the voice of the Nobel Prize-winning Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk and the finely detailed pen-and-ink drawings of illustrator Joanna Concejo, who together create a parallel narrative universe full of secrets, evocative of another time. Here a man has forgotten what makes his heart feel full. He moves to a house away from all that is familiar to him to wait for his soul to return.

RABBIT ISLAND

Written by Elvira Navarro & Translated by Christina MacSweeney Published by Two Lines Press (February 9, 2021) These eleven stories from one of Granta’s ‘Best Young SpanishLanguage Novelists’ combine gritty surrealism with explosive interior meditations, traversing the fickle, often terrifying terrain between madness and freedom. In the title story, a so-called ‘non-inventor’ brings snow-white rabbits to an island inhabited exclusively by birds, with horrific results. In ‘Myotragus’ a privileged man’s understanding of the world is violently disrupted by the sight of a creature long thought extinct. Elsewhere in these stories that map dingy hotel rooms, shape-shifting cities, and graveyards, an unsightly ‘paw’ grows from a writer’s earlobe and a grandmother floats silently in the corner of the room.

81


F E AT U R E

CONTINUED

IN MEMORY OF MEMORY

Written by Maria Stepanova & Translated by Sasha Dugdale Published by New Directions (February 9, 2021) An exploration of life at the margins of history from one of Russia’s most exciting contemporary writers. With the death of her aunt, the narrator is left to sift through an apartment full of faded photographs, old postcards, letters, diaries, and heaps of souvenirs: a withered repository of a century of life in Russia. Carefully reassembled with calm, steady hands, these shards tell the story of how a seemingly ordinary Jewish family somehow managed to survive the myriad of persecutions and repressions of the last century. In dialogue with writers like Roland Barthes, W. G. Sebald, Susan Sontag, and Osip Mandelstam, In Memory of Memory is imbued with rare intellectual curiosity and a wonderfully soft-spoken, poetic voice.

THE DANGERS OF SMOKING IN BED

Written by Mariana Enriquez & Translated by Megan McDowell Published by Hogarth Press (January 12, 2021) Mariana Enriquez has been critically lauded for her unconventional and sociopolitical stories of the macabre. Populated by unruly teenagers, crooked witches, homeless ghosts, and hungry women, they walk the uneasy line between urban realism and horror. The stories in her new collection are as terrifying as they are socially conscious, and press into being the unspoken—fetish, illness, the female body, the darkness of human history—with bracing urgency. A woman is sexually obsessed with the human heart; a lost, rotting baby crawls out of a backyard and into a bedroom; a pair of teenage girls can’t let go of their idol; an entire neighborhood is cursed to death when it fails to respond correctly to a moral dilemma. 82

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021


F E AT U R E

CONTINUED

AN I-NOVEL

Written by Minae Mizumura & Translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter Published by Columbia University Press (March 2, 2021) Minae Mizumura’s An I-Novel is a semi-autobiographical work that takes place over the course of a single day in the 1980s. Minae is a Japanese expatriate graduate student who has lived in the United States for two decades, but has turned her back on the English language and American culture. After a phone call from her older sister reminds her that it is the twentieth anniversary of their family’s arrival in New York, she spends the day reflecting in solitude and over the phone with her sister about their life in the United States, trying to break the news that she has decided to go back to Japan and become a writer in her mother tongue. Published in 1995, this formally daring novel radically broke with Japanese literary tradition. It liberally incorporated English words and phrases, and the entire text was printed horizontally, to be read from left to right, rather than vertically and from right to left. In a luminous meditation on how a person becomes a writer, Mizumura transforms the ‘I-novel,’ a Japanese confessional genre that toys with fictionalization. An I-Novel tells the story of two sisters while taking up urgent questions of identity, race, and language. Above all, it considers what it means to write in the era of the hegemony of English―and what it means to be a writer of Japanese in particular. Juliet Winters Carpenter masterfully renders a novel that once appeared untranslatable into English.

83


INTERVIEW

Interview with Jon McGregor. Author of Lean Fall Stand BY ANTHONY CARINHAS

PICTURED: JON MCGREGOR. PHOTOGRAPHY BY CREDIT EMMA LEDWITH

84

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

IN A RECENT INTERVIEW WITH ALEX CLARK IN THE GUARDIAN, THERE WAS A SECTION WHICH CAUGHT MY INTEREST. IT HAD TO DO WITH YOUR TRAVELS TO ANTARCTICA TO WRITE A NONFICTION BOOK DURING YOUR ENROLLMENT AT A RESIDENCY PROGRAM FOR WRITERS IN 2004, BUT THE PROJECT WAS SET ON HOLD FOR SEVERAL REASONS, ONE BECAUSE YOU NEVER ACTUALLY GOT TO ANTARCTICA SINCE THE BOAT GOT STUCK IN A SHEET OF ICE, AND TWO, YOUR WIFE WAS PREGNANT WITH YOUR FIRST CHILD. WHAT CHALLENGES DID YOU FACE CONVERTING A NONFICTION STORY INTO ONE OF FICTION DESPITE THE SETBACKS?

JM: Well, a minor correction – the Antarctic residency was never intended to result in a non-fiction book. I'd gone there on the implicit promise of writing fiction drawn from the experience, an implicit promise it took me seventeen years to fulfill. There were several things that kept the project stalled: the peculiar disappointment of the trip not coming off as planned (I spent a lot of time on a ship, waiting for the trip to begin, and

then it turned out that that had been the trip all along); my doubts about the sense of turning an interesting real-world experience into fiction; the inadequacy of language when faced with the task of capturing or containing or conveying the epic scale and otherworldliness of Antarctica. THE TITLE OF YOUR BOOK IS WHAT DIVIDES THE NOVEL INTO SEPARATE PARTS. IN PART ONE, LEAN, ROBERT “DOC” WRIGHT AND TWO OTHER YOUNG SCIENTISTS TRAVEL TO ANTARCTICA TO CONDUCT RESEARCH. A VIOLENT STORM QUICKLY DEVELOPS, SEPARATING THEM FROM ONE OTHER IN A CLAUSTROPHOBIC SENSE OF SURVIVAL AS THE STORY BEGINS. IN THE SECOND PART, FALL, “DOC” ENCOUNTERS EXTREME HEALTH CHALLENGES THAT USHER HIS WIFE, ANNA, INTO THE PLOT. AS SHE CARES FOR HIM IN THE HOSPITAL, WE FIND PART THREE, STAND, WITH THE TWO OF THEM IN A SUPPORT GROUP WHERE “DOC” RECONCILES THE DAMAGE THE STORM INFLICTED UPON HIS WELL-BEING. HOW DID A

85


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

SEVENTEEN-YEAR GAP CHANGE THE SCOPE OF LEAN FALL STAND? WHAT MADE YOU COME BACK TO IT AFTER PUBLISHING NUMEROUS BOOKS BETWEEN THAT TIME?

JM: The seventeen-year gap was partly the result of the creative challenges outlined above, and partly the result of family life, and partly the result of getting distracted and writing other books along the way. It needed time, I think, to let my ideas about Antarctica settle down and become something far enough removed from what I'd actually experienced. Several times I decided I wasn't going to write the book at all, but each time I went back to my notes and sketches it felt like unfinished business. What finally gave me enough of a jolt to finish the book was the idea of taking one of the men away from Antarctica and throwing him into a very new and very different situation and set of challenges – the life of a stroke survivor. I became deeply fascinated by the challenges of living with aphasia (a condition that limits someone's capacity for language), and by the challenge of writing about that effectively. Of course, getting my head around that challenge took some time... AS “DOC” AND ANNA NAVIGATE

86

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

THEIR NEW LIFE TOGETHER, LIKE ALL MAJOR DISASTERS, ACCIDENTS CAN CHANGE EVERYTHING IN A MATTER OF SECONDS. SINCE THESE TWO SCIENTISTS WERE USED TO LIVING INDEPENDENTLY FROM ONE ANOTHER FOR LONG PERIODS OF TIME, ANNA ENCOUNTERS A DEEP STRUGGLE WITH HER NEW ROLE AS A “CARER.” WHAT DID YOU FIND FASCINATING ABOUT “DOC’S” FRUSTRATION WITH HIS NEWFOUND IMMOBILITY AND THE CHALLENGES HE FACED AFTER DEVELOPING APHASIA?

JM: As a field technician working in Antarctica, Robert "Doc" Wright is someone who has spent his life fixing things. When a piece of equipment is broken, he repairs it or replaces it; when a process is failing, he improves it. One reason the incident he is involved in goes so badly is because his first instinct is to fix it himself, before seeking help. So his response to his stroke is just the same: give me therapy, and I will fix myself. His frustration – and his anger, depression, etc – comes from the fact that recovery after stroke is not a simple process of fixing in this way. Some of the damage cannot be undone. Some of the mobility


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

and communication deficits will remain. There are strategies for adapting and working around those deficits, but Doc takes a long time to recognize that those are different from "fixing" himself. (My hunch is that this need to fix things is more often found in men than in women, and Doc's narrow understanding of his own maleness is a key part of the book, and of his marriage.) ANTARCTICA WITH ITS MINIMAL POPULATION AND EXTREME REMOTE LOCATION, HOW DID THE ISOLATION AFFECT YOUR WORK? DID JOHN CARPENTER’S 1982 THE THING EVER COME TO MIND WHILE YOU WERE MAKING YOUR WAY DOWN THERE? HAVE YOU CONSIDERED A SCI-FI NOVEL AS A POSSIBLE VENTURE? HOW ABOUT HORROR?

JM: That's really interesting. I mean, I can definitely relate to the valuing of solitude and silence; and I certainly get the impression that for a lot of people who work in Antarctica, that's part of the appeal. That comes across in a lot of the Antarctic literature, going right back to the early explorers, but it also features in contemporary accounts. People find value in that space, and that quiet. But at the

same time, that peace and quiet exists within the context of a substantial safety net: the generators (or the paraffin stoves) are running to provide heat and light, the ship will dock at the end of the season to take you home; the aircraft are on standby to get you out in an emergency. If that safety net failed, how would your experience of the solitude and silence then change? I mean, that idea in itself is more than enough sci-fi and horror for me. RESERVOIR 13 CARRIES THE SAME SENSE OF URGENCY AND PACE AS LEAN FALL STAND. A STYLE YOUR READERS PRAISED IN RESERVOIR 13, A STORY CONCENTRATED AROUND THE DISAPPEARANCE OF A 13-YEAR-OLD GIRL AND ITS AFFECTS ON LIFE IN A SMALL REMOTE ENGLISH VILLAGE. LIKE LEAN FALL STAND, YOU PLACE THE READER IN A POSITION WHERE LIFE GOES ON AFTER A TRAGIC EVENT. THIS THEME WAS EXPLORED IN YOUR FIRST NOVEL FROM 2002, IF NOBODY SPEAKS OF REMARKABLE THINGS, AND I THINK MANY OF YOUR READERS REALLY ENJOY THE VIVID

87


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

REALISM PRESENT IN YOUR WRITING AS YOU GIVE LIFE TO COMPLEX CHARACTERS. LIKE YOU, I FIND AVERAGE PEOPLE INTERESTING. CAN YOU TELL US WHY YOU THINK IT'S IMPORTANT FOR PEOPLE TO STEP BACK AND OBSERVE THE WORLD HOW ORDINARY PEOPLE DO? HOW DID YOU MANAGE TO TRANSCRIBE THAT COMPASSION WITHOUT THE TYPICAL EXISTENTIAL PESSIMISM?

JM: I think the key term here is 'complex characters,' rather than 'average people' or 'ordinary people.' I'm pretty convinced that there is no such thing as an average or ordinary person, and that in fact all of us are complex characters with an extremely messy mixture of experiences, understandings, perceptions, relationships, habits, tastes, opinions, and so on; and that most of us have trouble even understanding ourselves, let alone other people. I think that what you refer to as 'compassion' is simply fascination and curiosity. A lot of people – most people? everyone? – have unexpected elements to their lives, and unexpected reasons for doing things. I just always want to know what those things are. I keep asking 88

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

questions. WITH ALL THE BOOKS YOU’VE WRITTEN, IT WOULDN'T BE FAIR IF I DIDN’T REVEAL A FAVORITE IN YOUR COLLECTION. BUT SINCE I HAVE YOU ON THE LINE, I WANT TO TELL YOU HOW MOVING AND POWERFUL EVEN THE DOGS WAS FOR ME. THOUGH I’VE NEVER HAD A DRUG PROBLEM OR BEEN IN RECOVERY, I’VE MET AND KNOWN MANY WHO DID. HEARING THEIR STORIES ALWAYS MOVED ME NOT BECAUSE THEY WERE SAD, BUT THEIR WILLINGNESS TO REVEAL THE TRUTH BEHIND THEIR MISERY BECAME SOMETHING TO LEARN FROM. BUT THE WAY YOU TALK ABOUT THE UNDERBELLY OF OUR CURRENT SOCIETY, ALCOHOLICS, DRUG ADDICTS, THE MENTALLY DISTURBED, AS WELL AS THE ABANDONED AND HOPELESS WHO LIVE IN EVERY TOWN AND CITY ACROSS THE WORLD. SOME OF THE CHARACTERS ARE EVEN EX-MILITARY COPING WITH THEIR POST-TRAUMATIC


ISSUES, BUT THE TAKEAWAY IS HOW BELIEVABLE THE CHARACTERS ARE. WHAT COMPELLED YOU TO WRITE A STORY THAT FOLLOWS A SERIES OF GHOSTS WHO DIE FROM A BAD BATCH OF HEROIN, AND HOW THEY ARRIVED AT THEIR CURRENT SITUATION?

JM: Well, I'm never sure that compelled is the right word... the first starting point was that I heard about a man who died in his flat and was undiscovered for several days, from my then-wife who was working with people struggling with addiction. And the key point about the story was that it wasn't all that unusual. I got to thinking about it, and playing around with various ways of writing the scene. (I was listening to a lot of Godspeed You Black Emperor, I remember, and thinking I could write at the same pace they were playing: loud loud fast slow quiet loud. I couldn't really keep it up.) I did a lot of research about life on the street, and addiction, but kept putting the book away while I worked on other stuff. It was only when I stumbled on the use of the choral voice, and the notion of that choral narrator being invisible in some way, that I found the kick-start I needed to write the book. It was a satisfying technical challenge quite outside the rather bleak subject matter, and that kept me going. It was – and people always look at me strangely when I say this, if they've read the book – a lot of fun to write.

2020 UNLEASHED A BOOM OF CREATIVITY AMONG ARTISTS IN THE INDUSTRY, WHETHER THAT HAPPENED THROUGH MUSIC, ART, OR WRITING DURING THE GLOBAL LOCKDOWNS. CONSIDERING YOU DID EVERYTHING TO PROTECT YOURSELF AND YOUR FAMILY IN THESE UNPRECEDENTED TIMES. HOW DID YOU UTILIZE THE TIME OUTSIDE THE FAMILY SPECTRUM? HAVE THESE TURBULENT TIMES SPAWNED A NEW BOOK OR ARE YOU TAKING THE TIME OFF TO FOCUS ON OTHER PROJECTS OUTSIDE THE WORLD OF WRITING?

JM: There's no big story here, I'm afraid. Like everyone else, we blundered our way through the lockdowns as best we could. With some panic and anxiety in the very early stages, and then with some rapid adaptation to online working and schooling. There were rotas, and colourcoded timetables. We were shielded from the pandemic, mostly: our work easily shifted online, and our jobs were pretty secure. We were able to keep our heads down in a way that many many people were not. Anyway, the point is: writing happened alongside all of that, as it always does. I probably had less time to write than usual, but I got some done. I also got pretty good at table tennis. 

89


RETURN OF PODSTER!

Shelf Media Group's digital young adult community designed to connect readers with YA authors and books.

90

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021


Book Talk, etc. BY TINA & RENEE

A conversational podcast about books and more from two Midwest mood readers who are easily distracted by new releases. Around the World With Books - In Episode 8 of Book Talk, Etc. Tina and Renee share books from around the world! They share what they're loving lately, their latest read, a shelf addition, and have book talk about their favorite books set in countries outside of the US. Listen to the episode to check out their recommendations from reads across the globe including The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World by Laura Imai Messina and Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo.

FIND YOUR NEXT PODCAST BY SARAH KLOTH

Podster is a column for podcast listeners and serves as a curator for the best of known and unknown podcasts.

BOOK TALK, ETC. BY TINA, RENEE

91


F E AT U R E

Celebrating Women in Translation BY ALYSE MGRDICHIAN

Although Women in Translation Month was in August, the celebration and amplification of diverse voices in publishing shouldn’t be confined to a single month. With the theme of this issue being “Read Global,” the topic of writing and translating internationally is applicable, both to the magazine in general and to Women in Translation Month as a whole. I had the pleasure and honor of interviewing seven incredible women for this article—some are writers, some are translators, and some do a bit of both! From Romania and Guadeloupe to Chile and Jordan, I wanted to pull perspectives from global sources, and am excited to share those with you.

92

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021


F E AT U R E

CONTINUED

Whether it be a poem, play, novel, or academic article, the heart of a story is the culture and experience of its author. So, let’s first take a look at the writers in our lineup.

Doina Ruști, a Romanian author, shares with me about how her writing is highly influenced by her Balkan heritage. “My youth was spent during the communist period,” Doina says, “so I got published with difficulty. In the late ‘80s I had written a novel and was trying to publish it. I tried to reach out to all the publishing houses in Romania that I could, but I was not allowed to physically enter the buildings without special papers. It was only after the fall of communism that I was able to publish my stories. Such

experiences have influenced the language of my current novels.” “My themes are varied,” Doina continues, “but there are some obsessions of mine that I return to regularly. Among these, the theme of family reoccurs, as do lifestyles from the past—I have a wellknown passion for the Romanian 18th century, called the Phanariot Era. I am also drawn to recipe books, the daily life of the middle class, and private documents, such as wills, contracts, letters, etc.” Doina reveals that, when her Romanian work is translated into other languages, she tries her best not to think about it. “Translation is like a gamble,” she tells me. “You cross your fingers and hope for the best. Only after the reviews are published are you able to determine if the text was well translated. I have been very lucky to find great translators for my work, most of whom are writers themselves. For example, James Christian Brown is a professor at the University of Bucharest, and is a colleague of mine. I have learned a lot from him in our work together, and he is a very talented translator. In very few cases, a translator will sometimes summarize or rigidly translate word for word, but these cases are rare. I am very 93


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

grateful that I have been able to see my work shared in multiple languages.” In 2022, one of Doina’s earlier Romanian publications, The Book of Perilous Dishes, will be receiving an English translation for the first time. While Doina’s work has been translated into many languages, including Italian, Hungarian, German, Spanish, Serbian, Macedonian, and Chinese, she has found that getting published in English was the hardest for her. In the beginning, she was only able to publish short stories in magazines and anthologies, and one of her novels, Lizoanca, was then published on Amazon and translated there by two young Londoners. The Book of Perilous Dishes is now Doina’s first book to be translated into English by a publishing house that offers wide distribution possibilities. “The novelty,” Doina tells me, “compared to other countries, is that I also have a literary agent, which makes me feel much more confident. The Book of Perilous Dishes is a story that takes place at the end of the 18th century, and revolves around a 15-year-old girl and her occult powers. As the title foreshadows, the novel also brings into question an old culinary book.”

94

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

Gerty Dambury has been writing poems since she was a teenager living in the suburbs of France. She now lives in Brittany, but often comes and goes from the European continent to her native island, Guadeloupe, in the Caribbean. “When I moved back to Guadeloupe for the first time,” Gerty tells me, “the themes of my poems changed completely. I used to write about things like love and people’s living conditions, but the political situation in the Caribbean, especially in Haiti, started inspiring more political poems. The relationship between men and women in my country, the difficulty of being a woman and a lonely mother in the Caribbean, became my first preoccupation.” “Two main themes can be read throughout my plays and poems: the


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

political and economic situation in Guadeloupe, and the history and stories of black women. I tend to be fond of the work that goes unnoticed and underappreciated, because the works that are ‘famous’ lose their impact for me. If a poem or play of mine becomes popular, I worry that it is because it was not disturbing or shocking enough. This is why one of my favorite projects is a play titled Enfouissements, which went unnoticed. This play of mine was impactful and strange and beautiful, exploring loss and guilt, and I’m glad that it was never popularized. It is more special to me as it is now.” Gerty believes that she became a writer when she was a young girl—she loved playing with words, trying to create her own language, and inventing stories that she would then act out alone, hidden in a cupboard. The first time one of her poems was published was in 1981, and her first published play, Lettres Indiennes (translated as Crosscurrents in English), wasn’t edited until 1992. “So,” Gerty says, “Although I have always been a writer, I have only officially been a writer since the ‘80s in my country and since the ‘90s in France. I hope to write more in my native language, though, which is Creole. The colonial situation

between Guadeloupe and France is still the same—French is considered to be the main language on our island. If we want to be read outside of Guadeloupe, we write in French. A lot will need to be done to change this.” Regarding being translated, Gerty holds a positive view. Although she has noticed a few errors when her books are translated, she has been able to have conversations with the translators about it before publication. “Translation is such complicated work,” Gerty states. “The translator has an immediate perception of the words, but not of what is behind the words. The words are nothing without thoughts, life, experience, personal geography, and history. How can a translator catch all this? It requires an immense amount of work, which some (but not all) translators are willing to do. My language in writing is informed by my identity, by French words that aren’t fully French, because Creole is just under or in or beside it. There are phrases that are difficult to translate for someone who does not comprehend all these complexities. Language is such a general word for such an immense world through which a poet or writer expresses herself. It’s important to be translated, though, specifically 95


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

because it opens a door for people to experience another culture they would not have normally gotten to see.” Gerty recently got an English translation of her novel, The Restless (Les Rétifs in French), and has also just finished the French translation of The Black Unicorn, a poetry collection by Audre Lorde (set to be published on October 8, 2021). Let’s meet the next three women on our list who, like Gerty, work in the fields of both writing and translation.

Mariam Rahmani holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from UCLA, and is newer to the world of translation, reporting that she only started because she fell in love with In Case of Emergency (by Mahsa Mohebali). She has been working on this project since 2017, and has found passion in it. “I had never been interested in translation

96

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

before,” she tells me, “but I felt that it was an important work, and that it needed to be translated into English. I am fluent in Persian, so after trying my hand at a chapter and liking the challenge, I tracked Mahsa down to talk about pursuing full publication. The strength of her voice is what struck me, and I was compelled by the prospect of translating an image of Iran that Americans don’t know exists.” On top of the four-year-long process of translating Mahsa’s Iranian novel, Mariam is also in the process of drafting her own debut novel. “My novel follows two Iranian Muslim families in Ohio in the wake of 9/11,” Mariam tells me. “It’s an interrogation of the costs of being American and of the global power systems in which educated, middle class people are all invested to varying extents. I find writing much easier than translating because I am only beholden to my own vision rather than responsible for shepherding that of another author. That said, I’ve learned a great deal from translating Mohebali—her novel is so tightly crafted, and translating it has been a great study in structure.”


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

novellas, short stories, and articles into English in order to offer them more exposure to English-speaking audiences.

Sunyoung Park is an associate professor at USC, teaching East Asian Languages & Cultures as well as Gender & Sexuality. While she was doing her graduate study of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, Sunyoung learned that Korean literature was relatively unknown in the United States. So, she decided to write her dissertation on the subject. Sunyoung’s first translated anthology, On the Eve of the Uprising and Other Stories from Colonial Korea (2010), on which she collaborated with Jefferson Gatrall, stemmed from her dissertation research on colonial Korean literature. Although Sunyoung is a non-native speaker of English, she boldly took on the challenge of translating Korean

“When it comes to theme,” Sunyoung tells me, “my translation projects are shaped by my scholarly research and academic writing. After writing my first monograph, The Proletarian Wave: Literature and Leftist Culture in Colonial Korea, 1910-1945 (2015), I moved on to research in the realm of science fiction and fantasy. While these genres were becoming increasingly popular, they were still largely neglected by Korean critics. In my recent translations, I’ve been trying to showcase the rich and diverse world of these fictional works. I especially appreciate speculative stories that imagine a radically alternative future for minorities in South Korea. For example, Readymade Bodhisattva: The Kaya Anthology of South Korean Science Fiction (Kaya Press, 2019) includes many stories of the kind. I’m very fond of this book, which I co-edited with Sang Joon Park, an archivist and historian of the country’s sci-fi culture. This first anthology of South Korean science fiction was a very collaborative achievement. Although I contributed my own translations to the volume, I discovered through experience how 97


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

rewarding it could be to be an editor.” According to Sunyoung, she plans to step back from translation and take on more editorial roles, like she did with Readymade Bodhisattva. Three more sci-fi titles will be released from Kaya Press within the next few years, which Sunyoung is excited to see. While she will not be personally editing these collections, she looks forward to the advancement of Korean sci-fi and, more broadly, speculative fiction. “When editing or translating,” Sunyoung tells me, “I am most glad when the story takes on a life of its own, receives good responses from its readers, and contributes to bringing recognition to a deserving author. When this happens, I feel like the critical appeal of the original work has been kept alive, even though it is now in a much different language than Korean. Take, for example, On the Origin of Species and Other Stories, by Bo-Young Kim. I was so taken by her story about time travel and a teenage girl’s suicide (Between Zero and One) that I wanted to do a collection of her work. I selected the stories in consultation with the writer, and entrusted its translation to Sora KimRussell, a veteran translator who brought us titles such as The Hole by Hye-Young

98

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

Pyun and The Plotters by Un-Su Kim. She then brought onboard Joungmin Lee Comfort, and the two of them did such marvelous work in rendering Kim’s evocative and highly crafted literary sentences into English. The book just got longlisted for the National Book Awards for Translated Literature, and I’m very happy to see Bo-Young and the translators receiving due recognition for their hard work.”

Lily Meyer is a writer, critic, and translator from Washington D.C. As a Ph.D. candidate in Fiction at the University of Cincinnati, Lily has published both short stories and criticism in various digital and print magazines. Lily began translating from Spanish to English eight years ago. “At first,”


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

Lily tells me, “I was treating translation more or less like a craft exercise, hoping it would improve my fiction and keep my Spanish sharp. However, when I read Claudia Ulloa Donoso’s collection, Pajarito, I loved it so intensely that I felt compelled to translate it seriously, both out of admiration and because I wanted to share it with English-language readers.” When deciding which projects to pick up for translation, Lily reports that she is drawn toward strong voices. In fact, she is currently studying for her Ph.D. exams, and one of the exam areas which she has chosen is that of “swagger” in literature—books that command attention. Stories with that sort of voice and grip are the ones that Lily likes most. “When translating,” she tells me, “I am intimidated by the idea of a book that cannot be broken up into story-sized chunks. So, I usually end up taking on individual short stories, short story collections, or, currently, a novel that is broken up into sections (Kintsugi, by María José Navia). Writing fiction and criticism can be very solitary acts, and I often feel like I have to shield myself from other people’s ideas when

I’m writing. However, translation is the reverse. I have been lucky enough to work with two writers, Claudia Ulloa Donoso and María José Navia, who are, first of all, alive, and second of all, very willing to collaborate with me. Working in tandem with them to create the best possible English-language iterations of their work is a delight, and I have been able to develop wonderful relationships with them.” Now, let’s meet the final two women in our group, whose focus is solely on translation.

Megan McDowell, a Spanish-toEnglish translator, reports always having been a big reader. “I studied English literature in college,” Megan says, “but the books I found myself more interested in tended to be those that had been translated. So, I went deeper 99


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

into that interest after I graduated, and did a year-long publishing fellowship at Dalkey Archive Press. They do a lot of experimental fiction and translation there, and I learned that I really love the experimental stuff. After the fellowship, I decided to learn Spanish, because I was into Argentine and Latin American literature.” “I then did a Master’s at the University of Dallas, and I started translating Alejandro Zambra, a Chilean writer, for one of my workshops there. I think I got really lucky, because the book I translated, The Private Lives of Trees, was published a couple years later, and I’ve been translating Alejandro’s books ever since. I now live in Chile and focus on contemporary Chilean and Argentine authors. I didn’t originally set out to translate only living writers, but I’ve realized that I really enjoy working with modern experimental (but accessible) fiction. I like writers who play with form and genre, and who push the boundaries of what a story can do.” Having translated novels as well as short stories, Megan reports finding both satisfying, but adds that she has a deep love for short fiction. “I love reading stories,” she tells me, “and I

100

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

love translating them. Publishers have traditionally been a little averse to short stories, but that’s the field that some of my biggest writers have focused on. Between all my short story writers, I’ve translated around five collections.” Megan’s most recently published translation is a collection of short stories by Mariana Enriquez, titled The Dangers of Smoking in Bed. Megan tells me, “I feel like I translated the collection in dribs and drabs, because I gradually worked on the collection’s stories for magazines. By the time that it was decided that the whole collection would be published in English, the translation process ended up having more to do with editing than translating, since I had already done most of the work. And actually, The Dangers of Smoking in Bed isn’t even the most recent translation of hers that I’ve done—we are currently working on translating her long novel, Our Share of Night, which is going to come out sometime next year. I’m really looking forward to that book’s release. Readers have loved her short stories, and I think they’ll find the novel really satisfying.” Megan has had great experiences with her writers, and has developed


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

good working relationships with them: “Working with my writers is the best part of my job. Once I translate a writer, I always try to continue with them, if possible. And sometimes it’s not possible, but in many cases I’ve been able to develop those relationships over time and over multiple books. Some of my most important friendships are with the writers I’ve worked with. I’m able to go to them with my language- or culturespecific questions, and they are patient and generous with their answers. For example, in addition to Our Share of Night, I’m also currently working on Alejandro Zambra’s upcoming novel, titled Chilean Poet. It’s a novel about poets, step-parenting, and the families that we choose. Collaborating and negotiating with Alejandro is great, because we’re really good friends and are in constant contact.” Knowing the writer is very important to Megan when she’s picking up a new project, and she likes to listen to the author’s voice. So, whether the writer is a new acquaintance or an old friend, she makes it a point to trade numbers, ask them questions, and have them send her spoken answers so she can hear how they express themselves. “For some reason,” Megan tells me, “after I hear the writer’s

voice, I have them ingrained in my head, and I feel more confident and free when I’m translating.” Another book that Megan has on the horizon is Yesterday, by Juan Emar. It has just been published in the UK (Peirene Press), and will be released in the U.S. next year by New Directions Press. This book is an exception to the rest of the projects Megan has taken on, specifically because the author is dead. “He was a Chilean writer,” Megan says, “and he was quite a character. I started working on Yesterday during my Master’s translation workshop. Doors opened and closed for publication in 2010 and, around ten years later, the doors opened again. The reason why this translation means so much to me is because it is one of the first things I worked on as a professional. I’ve gone back to it and developed it multiple times during my career, and it holds a very special place in my heart because of that. My workshop students sometimes want to work on books that have already been translated, just as an exercise, but I tell them, ‘No, choose something that you love that could someday be published, because you never know!’ For the two things that I worked on in my Master’s program, one was published almost 101


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

immediately, and the other was published more than a decade later. A big part of translation is waiting, so you’d might as well work on something you’re passionate about.”

Nancy Roberts is an Arabic-to-English translator whose interest in Arabic was first sparked in her senior year of college. “My school didn’t offer any courses in the language,” Nancy tells me, “so I found someone to tutor me one-on-one. It wasn’t long before I was entranced by Arabic’s exotic beauty and complexity: from its graceful script to its linguistic structures that were so different from those of my own language. It was actually my passion for Arabic that led to my decision to do a graduate degree in Applied Linguistics from 1980-1981,

102

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

since it would allow me to teach my own language to non-native speakers while, at the same time, continuing to be a student of Arabic by living in the Middle East.” Nancy lived in Kuwait from 1982 to 1987. She initially had some troubles learning the language, since Arabic has tiers. You have standard Arabic, which is what is written and used on television and radio, and then you have the colloquial language, which differs from country to country. “When I first lived in Lebanon, before Kuwait,” Nancy says, “I was good at standard Arabic, but not Lebanon’s colloquial Arabic, so I struggled in conversations. It wasn’t really until I went to Kuwait that I got to practice my Arabic in conversation— they were more accepting of their native language than Lebanon was.” While in Kuwait, Nancy was going through an issue of a young people’s magazine, and she came across a poem she wanted to translate into English. “That’s when a light went on in my head,” Nancy says, “and I knew that I wanted to become an Arabic-English translator. In 1991, I had the chance to complete an M.A. in Arabic, and in 1994 I took the American Translators Association’s accreditation exam. Not


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

long after this I moved to Jordan, where I ended up marrying a JordanianPalestinian, settling, and raising two children.” In terms of fiction, Nancy reports that she gravitates toward historical novels and novels that consciously highlight particular social issues or concerns: “I think it’s partly my personality that dictates what sorts of fiction I gravitate towards—I grew up with the mentality of ‘you should always be doing something useful,’ so I don’t feel so guilty reading a novel if I know that I’m also learning something in the process. I can enjoy fantasy just like anybody else, but I have always loved true stories. I feel like it gives me inspiration that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.”

late Muslim scholar Muhammad Sa`id al-Buti, and given the fact that my husband was well-versed in all things Arabic and Islamic, I dared take on the tome by al-Jaziri. This project took me a year and a half to finish. Then in 2004, I was approached about working with the Institute for Islamic Thought in London, and since then I’ve translated thirteen titles for them, all on Islamic themes. So, I’ve done a lot with them, and they’ve treated me well. Even though I do not practice Islam, I am quite happy to translate Islamic things. I think that giving people a voice is an honorable role, and it doesn’t matter whether I agree with them or not. I’m just a mouthpiece for the writer. The ability to remain neutral in translation is important.”

When it comes to translating nonfiction, Nancy has developed a specialty in Islamic thought, specifically jurisprudence, theology, history, and Islamist groups. “This wasn’t something I had planned on,” Nancy tells me. “I was approached by Fons Vitae Publishing in 2000 about translating the first volume of a huge work by an Islamic scholar, Abd al-Rahman al-Jaziri, on Islamic forms of worship. By this time, I had already translated a book by the

Along with taking on lots of diverse projects, Nancy has also experienced the highs and lows of freelancing: “I’ve done around 40 books. The first three books I did were without a contract and without any money—I just did them out of sheer passion, figuring I’d find a publisher for them later. This was the only way I could really do it, because nobody knew who I was at the time. I had an income from my ESL teaching, and the translation was more of a side thing. But 103


F E AT U R E

CONTINUED

it was through this that, in 2005, I was approached by a publisher who had seen the translations I’d done for free. I wasn’t obsessed with self-marketing at the time, which gave me a lot of freedom—I was able to do the work because it was interesting to me. All the opportunities I received while living in Jordan came to me, rather than me seeking them out. I am incredibly grateful for this phase of my career.

is freelancing, they have to become their whole company. I’ve been feeling the weight of it. On the other hand, I’m not alone—all of us who do freelance work have to learn how to do it. You don’t want to stop loving what you do, though, and self-advertisement can become such an obsession that your work stops being enjoyable for you.”

I do wish, though, that going into translation, I’d had a better understanding of the business aspects of making a living as a translator: the nuts and bolts, essentially. I currently live off of my translating work, and am now living on my own in America, where things are much more expensive than they were in Jordan. I’m trying to learn as much as I can about how to market myself—I’d never learned how to do that before. I’m getting a website created for the first time in my 25 years of being a translator … I feel like I’m doing things backwards, in a way! It has been overwhelming, but at the same time, it’s exciting because I needed a change. I was burned out in some major ways, and now I’m learning about all these different things. Business in America is super brand-focused, so when someone

It was a joy to interview these seven different women and hear about their journeys in writing and translation. To learn more about them on your own time, click the link that is attached to each of their names. A big thank you to these incredible ladies for being willing to have a conversation with me about their experiences. Wishing them all the best as they continue on their professional journeys! 

104

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

............................


Never miss an issue! SIGN UP FOR A FREE SUBSCRIPTION TO SHELF UNBOUND MAGAZINE. SUBSCRIBE

105


How to Talk the Talk in Publishing Circles. by Chrissy Brown | C.A.A.B Publishing

PRIDE & PUBLISHING

C.A.A.B PUBLISHING CAAB Publishing Ltd is a traditional, small, indie company helping unknown authors have a voice and inspiring new writers to take that first step into the world of publishing. WWW.CAABPUBLISHING.CO.UK

You have written a book, well done! But now you are ready to start looking for an agent or a publishing company and suddenly you find yourself lost in a sea of jargon that you do not understand. Here is our handy guide, to help you to understand the wonderful world of publishing a little better. Advance An advance is an agreed upon sum of money paid to an author upfront when they sign a contract for a book to be published by a publishing company. The publisher will then pay no royalties to the author until the advance is paid back by sales of the author’s book. This is called ‘Earning out’. Blurb, Cover Copy, or Back Cover Piece- A short paragraph of text on the back of a book, a small bit of writing that gives the reader an idea of what the book is about. Crossover fiction/Genre crossover- This can mean a young adult book that can also be sold to an adult market, or vice versa. It can also mean a book that crosses genres – Horror/romance or Sci-fi/ comedy. (Genre means the type of book that has been written, there are the three primary genres – Fiction, non-fiction, and children, but these are broken down into subgenres i.e. historical fiction or true life crime, etc.) ISBN - This is the identifying number or ID used for every published book. Each version or format of the book i.e. paperback, graphic adaptation, ebook will have a different unique ISBN. If there are major changes made to a book after publication then it may require a new ISBN, for example. if a book needs some major changes as new facts about an event come to light. Imprint- The name of the publishing company or their sub-company under which a book is published.

106

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

Literary agent- This is a paid individual that is responsible for helping to manage a writer’s career, they will push a book and be a cheerleader for it in the hope of negotiating the best deal with a publishing company. Agents have a wide range of contacts and know where to


best send a book, with the aim of hooking a publishing company. Reputable agents take a percentage of an author’s advance and royalties and do not ask for money upfront. Manuscript- An unpublished or draft version of a book that is submitted to publishing companies or agents. Metadata - Data on every book (price, date of publication, format) which is used to aim it at the correct markets, i.e. those it will sell better in. This can include keywords, like ‘fantasy’ ‘history’ ‘ghosts’ etc to help a story find the right audience. Prelims - The pages in a book before the main text starts. These pages can be things like the title page, a dedication, a piece about the origin of the story, etc. Proof -A rough copy of a book (which has not been proofread) which publishers often use to send to journalists, vloggers, and bloggers for them to review. Royalties - This is the amount of money paid to an author by the publishing company for each book sold. This will usually be a percentage of the RRP or sale price.

RRP - This is the price that the book is recommended to be sold at ‘recommended retail price’ but retail outlets will often discount books or do special deals, so it might not be the same as the sale price. Slush pile- This is an actual pile, or backlog, of unsolicited (this means sent via the writer and not through an agent or third party) manuscripts that have been received by a publishing company and are waiting to be looked through but have not been read yet. Submissions - This is usually what an author will send to a publishing company or agent to get their book noticed. Always look for a submissions page for more information and follow the guidelines given. Synopsis - An outline of what the book is about and what makes it worth publishing. A synopsis will usually be sent to agents or publishing companies to help them decide if they wish to acquire an author’s work. A synopsis should be a little bit longer than the blurb (but no more than a page) and should include the main plot, any themes, main characters, a hint about the ending, and why the book is worth reading. Most agents and publishers will have a submissions page that outlines everything you need to send to them. 

FEATURED BOOK FROM C.A.A.B

THE DROWNING LAND BY DAVID M. DONACHIE The world is drowning. Edan’s tribe has always survived by knowing the land and following its stories.But now their world is changing, and they must change with it, or die. When young fisherman Edan rescues the troll seer Tara from Phelan wolf-touched, he makes a powerful enemy. But Tara’s visions bring them hope that the world might still be saved. Edan must break away from tradition and cross the Summer Lands in search of a new future, but where does that future lie? With Phelan’s wolf clan? With the Fomor sea-devils? Or with Tara’s uncertain hope for salvation? The Drowning Land takes us back eight thousand years to the Mesolithic Period when a lost land, Doggerland, still connected England to France across what is now the North Sea. Inspired by the extensive research conducted by archaeologists over the past two decades, this is a story of our distant ancestors and how they confronted the climate catastrophe that overwhelmed their world.

107


INTERVIEW

Interview: Khadija Abdalla Bajaber

Author of The House of Rust BY GABRIELLE GUERRA

108

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF.

KAB: Both my sister and I are named for our grandmothers. The last grand oath I made was about the octopus. I will eat the octopus, I will not prepare the octopus. I have a temper, so I never get angry. Please never wish me a happy birthday. I don’t know how to ride a bicycle. I like to think I am a pacifist, or I think it in hopes of liking it. It’s not been a full success. Forgetful but unforgiving, unfortunately. Because I am dog hearted, the cat suits me best. What doesn’t kill you will devote itself to a second attempt. I have the dubious honour of being the family’s thesaurus. If a dish is lacking, salt or sugar will nearly always improve it. I am still deeply resentful that the OA got cancelled. HOW AND WHY DID YOU BECOME AN AUTHOR?

KAB: About being an author. Prose was frustrating me badly – I’d decided I would be a poet on the side and that my real calling was editing. I wanted to become an editor – but I was going through a lot, I felt like I’d given up on myself. I needed to start something I could finish. I made a point of writing The House of Rust every day, I’d have gone crazy otherwise. It was this love

letter I suppose, to the things I thought were trying to kill me. I wrote, and wrote– I set it aside when I got a job. Heard about the Graywolf African Fiction Prize deadline maybe a year later, went type typing, things just came together. It’s luck and opportunity, placement and chance. That’s how it happened. Because I needed to believe I could finish something. But the noble answer, yes? I’m a writer. Writing can be joyful, it can make you understand, it can give you courage. I write to understand and to pin in place those things that are very dear to me, that I know I will lose otherwise. I remember interrupting Steve Woodward, my editor, during one of the first Graywolf skype meetings we had with everyone – he was talking about the book and I said, “I’m sorry to interrupt you, but it’s crazy to me that you just said ‘Hababa’.” They were confused for a moment by that abruptness, but I think they could see how it hit me all of a sudden, hearing our word for grandmother being read aloud. I’d never read it in literature, let alone heard someone outside of my community say the word. The things I went hunting for as a kid so desperately are worth preserving for kids who come later. I’m willing to see this book out 109


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

there, even if I get it wrong, even if the one who finds me curses me. I’m protecting what I can understand. WHICH AUTHORS OR OTHER INFLUENCES DO YOU HAVE IN YOUR LIFE?

KAB: The bulk of my reading started and mostly ended with the school library, shout out to Miss Molu! She’ll tell you that that’s where I lived! Some writing exercises advise you try to mimic style – I would do those exercises as a teen, write my detention essays in the style of Catch 22 and other such silliness. But it never stuck, it was always a game, it wasn’t worth sustaining. But no, I can’t say that they’ve influenced me stylistically, or inspired my writing methods – I’ve got enough certainty and pride to say that. What those books taught me was possibility, about communicating deeply, about feeling strongly. What life or love or beauty can mean. They helped me feel strongly about the things I believed made me. Books like that make material and real what might have only been a ghost of a feeling. I’m a big fan of books that know how to create a certain mood. So there are books I’ve enjoyed of course but my real influences are what I’ve experienced of my community and culture, manners, monsters – the long,

110

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

drawling way of writing, the way of going on and on. It’s not in Kiswahili but it has its rhythm, the rhythm of home. I always sound like myself. The things I write in English aren’t necessarily correct, they cannot be understood the English way. You have to be more open otherwise you’ll misunderstand me. I didn’t pursue the classics when it came to reading, so they never inspired my work. There was a long period when I wasn’t reading at all, but I’d practice and practice writing. I always sound like me. I like to think it might change with each story, so I don’t become too set into myself. It’s trickier trying not to change. But it’s always me. More than King Kong or Godzilla or anything, Shadow of the Collosus was great at making me realize the wonder of the monster. Huge monsters. Wise and wild. The Fall by Tarsem Singh – where you’ve got story within a story, where everything was so beautiful and imaginative, I was moved by that too. The idea of vastness. I wouldn’t say these pieces of media influenced the story, I didn’t think of them when I was writing it, but I will always remember the feeling of wonder, of going along for the ride wherever it took you, you went with it willingly. Wonder and terror create an odd kind of peace, so media like that


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

have definitely woken me up to what can be possible, what you can visualize, what you can feel. It’s not always literature, but it made a hell of an impression. HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE CONCEPT FOR THE HOUSE OF RUST?

KAB: I have a poem called Hājar and the House of Rust over at Enkare Review. They’re the same place. It’s a little early to be going too deeply into what I did or did not mean with the concept, I’m willing to discuss it more once the book has been read by a few more people – perhaps even then I’ll say less. But as briefly as I can; I like the idea of it being thought of as a metaphor or a trick, of it being an actual place being doubted as real. The truth is that it doesn’t matter if it’s physically real, if it’s something you can touch. As cheesy as it sounds it’s not the destination. The idea of rust meshes well with the idea of Mombasa, you’ve always got to take care of the grilled windows. The idea of Aisha’s mother – how metal sits close to the sea, sits still, is eaten away, its gets all red and dry and dusty and sharp – it’s ungalvanized. The rot of it is dangerous, as soon as it gets in your blood it’s curtains. It’s sea things, yeah? There are different kinds of courage, one of them is

waking up. I REALLY ENJOYED THE FAMILY DYNAMICS OF YOUR NOVEL. IS THIS TYPICAL OF MOST FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS IN KENYA?

KAB: Thank you, family is very important. It can have its challenges, family isn’t the stone around your neck, it’s your strength. I don’t know about the whole of Kenya, or even the whole of Mombasa, but I know enough to know I’d be lost without my family. If you’re lucky all your relatives and elders are alive, but most of the time there’s always someone missing. A parent, a grandparent, an uncle, an aunt, cousins – we’re big families, we’ve got a lot of people to lose. We have to accept we could lose each other at any moment. We have weddings as often as we have funerals, all the characters have someone missing from their lives. My parents both lost their mothers at a young age. I don’t know what a typical family structure looks like, but there’s always someone missing – I’m lucky my grandfathers were around. That I had them for as long as I did. There’s always someone missing, we remember them whichever way we can. Being good to your family isn’t about appearances, it’s about love, 111


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

it’s what you owe each other, what you owe God. Family always wants the best for you, it’s a blessing to still have your elders to guide you. We’re growing older, we’re losing our elders. I didn’t have a Hababa Swafiya for that elderly female guidance, but I’ve had an army of aunts I love. It can be very rowdy, elders can punish and they can mediate, they can be peacemakers or make very big war, they can coddle and they can push, most of all they love. It can be very noisy and lively, clumsy and awkward, aggravating and forceful – but they guide. Everyone steps up to make sure they nurture that love even when knowing loss. I really wanted Aisha’s family to be lively and animated, to be rather fiercely involved in her life. Aisha is only able to grow by letting her family love her. THE HOUSE OF RUST REMINDS ME A BIT OF THE ODYSSEY AND THE ILIAD WITH THE MAIN CHARACTER, AISHA, GOING ON AN EPIC JOURNEY TO FIND HER FATHER, AND SHE ENCOUNTERS A LOT OF MONSTERS AND SPECIAL CREATURES ALONG THE WAY. DID YOU USE MYTHOLOGIES, FOLKLORE, OR LEGENDS FROM ANCIENT GREEK OR OTHER CULTURES FOR

112

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

INSPIRATION?

KAB: Ah, that’s interesting, and very classic! My knowledge of classical Greece is very limited but I do like the warnings about how even now the nymphs will swim up to boats and tearfully ask for news of Iskander, and if you love to live you must tell them that Iskander is doing very well, that he is in excellent health – otherwise they’ll sink you and kill you in their grief. Alexander is a bit younger than the epics, that’s as Greek as it gets with me. But I’ve always loved monsters, I like legends, myths – I like experiencing terror in a controlled and safe setting, horror movies are great for that. Ghosts are very boring though, I can’t take ghosts seriously. In the comp lab other kids would be constructing their Facebook profiles, I’d be on the internet reading about mythical beasts – I could do that for hours. The monster is only as interesting if the culture believes in it, if it’s taken seriously. Which means I reached for Japan, Vietnam, Egypt and South America, and of course Africa and the Middle East whenever I could find it. Western monsters lack that important element personally, whether it’s because it’s lost to time or pagan traditions fading away. People tell the horror stories to


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

amuse themselves, but there’s no belief, that real terror – that air of whispering something dangerous in a daring place, it’s not there with Western monsters. Or at least that’s how I’ve experienced it. If they’re not real to the people who’re meant to fear them, they cannot come alive enough for me. I made most of the monsters up. There’s real monsters mentioned in passing such as Nunda, Eater of Men and hooved buibui woman, but I avoid going into detail. There’s figures and mythologies I want to explore in future, like the kingmaking gazelle or Liongo Fuma. Every culture has some kind of sea monster. I drew on the culture here to create my own. When I was writing it they were very clear in my mind, I didn’t hesitate or stop to draw up options for the monsters. I knew the first monster was a long serpent, big eyed, sleek and grating, failed courtier type – the second was a hoarder of ships, a voice-stealing sea-grave, selfish, perhaps the cruelest of all of them. The third is pale like the mjiskafiri, curved like a hook, enormous, rotting, shark king, a devourer. They jumped to my mind almost fully formed. I told it linear, each time I met a monster, there they were immediately, whole. Even their stories, their reasons for being, all

their grandstanding – it came so quickly to me. Grandstanding and lengthy storytelling is very Mombasa, very Coast. The monsters highlight Aisha’s anxieties, prod at her fears, make fun of her and make light of her. She changes her approach and adapts, until she settles into herself and finds her true voice. They don’t let Aisha pretend without punishing her pretence. They all serve their purposes, it’s important that the second half of the retrieval mission gave her a second meeting with the first two monsters, to highlight what changed and what was at risk of staying the same. They are all Coastal in heart. In what they represent. The dreads, the fears, the anxieties they stir up. What they consider courteous, what they believe to be rude. What they think they’re owed. The manners they do or do not have, it’s all Swahili. Then you have characters like Almassi who are more obviously based off the cultural touches of Mombasa and its multitudes of cultures – it shows in his dress, the hat is traditionally worn by the shepherdesses of Hadhramawt, the bougainvillea to me is the bloom of Mombasa – Yasmini and vilua are all well and good, but it is bougainvillea that makes my heart very fierce. The kikoi, the sandals, the black piko that splits his 113


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

throat. Dressed like the old men who play karata down in town, where my own mother’s father used to play cards. I liked being able to bring all these elements together to create this Swahili prince of monsters who likes sweet things and is rather haughty, petty and somewhat mildly irresponsible. The style, the taste, the mood, it’s homegrown – that’s my home. So, the monsters are mine – or ours, they are indisputably Coast. . YOU USED A CAT AS AISHA’S GUIDE FOR HER JOURNEY. BIRDS ARE ALSO PROMINENT IN YOUR NOVEL. DO THESE ANIMALS HAVE SIGNIFICANCE FROM YOUR UPBRINGING?

KAB: What is Mombasa without its stray cats and rowdy crows? You find them everywhere. The crows wake you up more noisily and quarelssome than any cockerel, I love how they gather and gossip, how they fight and hold grudges. Cats are always slinking around the corner, inviting themselves into restaurants and kitchens and homes. They don’t have homes of their own, the whole world is their home. Cats and crows, they’ve got a long memory, they keep the sharpest grudges. Both steal and scavenge, both are beyond domestication,

114

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

both belong very fiercely to their own natures and will not share their counsel with us. The stray cat is too wild to forget where it comes from, perhaps after a long courtship it will sit nicely in your house and let you give it milk, but it will leave when it wants to leave – no one will govern its comings and goings, the stray cat. The stray cat can be a solitary creature, but the crow – a crow without a clan cannot survive, the crow must have a family. Both cat and crow are nomadic, they go where they must go. Both have in their nature a particular mischief and a particular cunning. I have been a friend or an ally to both cats and crows, who you must know, hate each other. My dealings with crows feel like a fever dream trying to explain. My dealings with the stray cats, that is too precious to me to share. They owe us absolutely nothing so beautifully. I love it the crows they’re out there causing a ruckus and being irritating as hell, it lets me know where I am and my place in the world. The cats yowling in the night. That’s Mombasa kelele, which is the best kelele.

THERE IS A LOT OF RESPONSIBILITY AND PRESSURE PUT ON AISHA FOR BEING A YOUNG GIRL. IS THAT COMMON


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

FOR CHILDREN IN KENYA OR AFRICA TO HAVE A LOT OF RESPONSIBILITY AT A YOUNG AGE?

KAB: How strange, I don’t see it as a great deal of responsibility. There’s honour in the work Aisha does, they’re normal responsibilities – it’s a joy to be of service to your family and community. In fact, Aisha has it easier than other girls of that time – she only has to take care of her grandmother and her father, who take care of her. My mother is impressed that Aisha makes such fine kaimati, she jokes that she wishes I was half the help around the house that Aisha is! The chances of that happening are low. Aisha has added pressure because her grandmother (Hababa Swafiya’s sister), had a child out of wedlock – Aisha’s mother Shida, so in terms of prospects for her future such as marrying well and having a good name, Aisha has the cards stacked against her. She can’t just be good, she has to be perfect. You live in a house, you do your best to help out, not to earn your keep but because you want to take care of the people you love. Aisha has a lot of chores maybe, but she takes comfort in them, she even escapes into them – they’re a sanctuary, they’re a way of hiding. Until she can’t hide

anymore. Aisha has enough freedom to go running around Mombasa, and despite the scandal of her mother’s birth and despite Hababa guiding her towards being a good woman, Hababa doesn’t punish Aisha for her oddness the way you’d expect someone else to. She wants to make sure that Aisha is happy, but Aisha can’t be happy because she doesn’t know what she wants and she has a tough time communicating it when she does understand a little of it. Hababa Swafiya has to do all this guesswork and try really hard to keep the family afloat and make sure Aisha grows up to be a good person, a person with no regrets. Everyone in the family struggles with shame, shame for not being enough, shame for failing, shame for choosing wrong, for not acting – Hababa Swafiya, Ali, even Zubeir. There’s pressure which might make some of them disappear into their work. The circumstances are unfair, the pressure is unfair, but the actual work is honest and worthy. Not something to be pitied. WHY IS READING INTERNATIONAL/GLOBAL WORKS OF WRITING IMPORTANT?

KAB: Reading ‘global’ means running the chance of having to look yourself in the face, confronting yourself in a way maybe the books you’ve gotten used to 115


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

won’t let you, the books in which you’re the standard, books in which you’re comfortable. Regardless of whether literature is ‘global’ as a reader you have to come to understand who the intended audience is, the reader thus manages their expectations on whatever they imagine they might be entitled to. Being able to read books from different parts of the world, and knowing your place in that audience, and your place in the history the story is drawing from, takes a lot of intelligence and awareness, and it’s a way of exercising that, especially if you’ve gotten very comfortable with a reality where you’ve always had access, you’ve always been centered, you’ve always been the standard and you’ve never had to wonder what not being it is like. I didn’t write the book because I wanted to prove that diverse literature is important, to prove anything to anybody. Did I write my book to educate? No. Is my audience a neutral, raceless, faceless audience? No. It doesn’t mean I hate you or that you can’t enjoy or shouldn’t enjoy my work. I’m letting you into my house, take off your shoes. Some things might be familiar or unfamiliar, you might not like it at first, maybe not at all. The reader must adjust their palate, developing it is not my problem and it certainly isn’t my purpose.

116

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

THE PAST FEW YEARS HAVE BEEN ESPECIALLY HARD FOR THE WORLD. WE’VE GONE THROUGH A LOT OF HEAVY THINGS RECENTLY. DO YOU THINK PEOPLE WILL OR ARE READING MORE BOOKS THAT ARE DIFFERENT FROM THEIR CULTURE TO HELP UNDERSTAND THE WORLD WE LIVE IN A BIT BETTER?

KAB: I don’t know the data, I won’t speculate. Whoever has managed everything enough to continue to find enrichment in reading and in writing, that’s wonderful – it’s not been that way for me. I know when times were tough for me before the pandemic my go to was always fiction that didn’t take itself too seriously. I think people have had to be by themselves, because of quarantine – at home, if they’re alone or they’re with family, you really end up re-evaluating everything about work and life. Sometimes you clutch at the familiar and normal, sometimes you explore – I noticed it happening a lot with food, I’m not sure I can say for certain that I’ve observed it with books. I don’t have the data for either.


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

I hope it’s not been terrible for you. Staying at home hasn’t always meant rest. It’s not been an extended vacation, it’s been house arrest and anxiety. In the beginning of the pandemic when we thought this would all blow over it was nice to have the family together in one house, and you’d have all these plans to do things that you didn’t get to do before. I’d been home for a while before it started. Then people started dying, kept dying, funerals, worry – how could anyone relax enough to read then? I did more reading before the pandemic than I did during. I’ve been distracted, I’ve been worried sick. I’ve had plans to read, I’ve spoken them before, but it’s been hard as hell to do it. I’m staring at a whole shelf of books I got recently, they’re meant to help me escape, they’re meant to help me read my way into being a better writer. I’ve read very little of them. I’m healthy, I’m safe, I’m blessed and privileged to be so – but I’m not rested enough, at peace enough, to escape so easily. I get so deep in my worry for my loved ones, I get so deep in myself. In some ways we are too fixed in this place, the danger isn’t over. I recently left home, I’m somewhere where I’m meant to have time to do more writing – but I find myself missing my family, I find myself distracted in the

same exact ways, worried in the same ways. It’s hard but I make sure to be grateful, I know it can always be worse. 

ABOUT THE BOOK

THE HOUSE OF RUST The House of Rust is an enchanting novel about a Hadrami girl in Mombasa. When her fisherman father goes missing, Aisha takes to the sea on a magical boat made of a skeleton to rescue him. She is guided by a talking scholar’s cat (and soon crows, goats, and other animals all have their say, too). On this journey Aisha meets three terrifying sea monsters. After she survives a final confrontation with Baba wa Papa, the father of all sharks, she rescues her own father, and hopes that life will return to normal. But at home, things only grow stranger. 117


F E AT U R E

Finding Books Far From Home. BY WYATT BANDT

118

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

It’s impossible for me to pinpoint the day I became fascinated by the Far East, most notably Japan. If I could point to a single reason for it, it would have to be my maternal grandparents. Their home was littered with Japanese decorations, vestiges from when they lived on the U.S. military base in Sagamihara. It was something I loved about holidaying there, the komainu on either side of their TV, the pale tapestries hung behind their worn leather recliners, the sliding paper doors that sealed the adult dining table off from the rest of the kids during Thanksgiving. The only thing I didn’t like was how I wasn’t allowed to touch any of it. And, because of what they started, I stumbled upon one of the most significant books I’ve ever read. In late 2018, I was mulling around the bookstore portion of a conference I was attending when a dust jacket caught my eye. In a sea of gloss and way too many primary colors, this cover’s subtle design stood out. The dust jacket was made of translucent rice paper, featuring the kanji in gold. The book itself was a commentary on Shusaka Endo’s Silence, a Japanese historical novel that is considered a masterpiece by many, something I didn’t learn until later. After paging through it, it

seemed to be well-written and it was about Japan. That was all the reason I needed, so I purchased the commentary, ordered Silence online, then promptly forgot both on my shelf for the next six months. When I finally read Silence, I realized that it was one of the most significant books I’ll probably ever read. It profoundly changed my perspectives of faith, love, and weakness, and years later, I still think about it on a weekly basis. Silence may not be for everyone as it’s deeply theological, with the plot focusing on a Jesuit priest in the hostile environment of 17th century Japan, but even if you’re someone who doesn’t subscribe to any religion, it has a lot to offer. The writing is elegant even after translation, and I was frequently stunned by Endo’s ability to add layers of nuance with a single sentence. Beyond the more obvious religious themes, you can learn about the culture of Edo period Japan, and the books deals with many other themes, such as judgement, grief, belonging, and indigenous perspectives on imported religion. Because of my experience with Silence, I encourage you to explore literature 119


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

from other cultures. It sparks a curiosity in you and helps you realize how connected we all are as people, that many of our problems are ones others have shared. For me, my interest in Japan led me to something I’d never trade, and we all have something like that we are interested in, though it may be a little closer to home. Because of that, I’ve provided a medley of books from diverse genres and origins to get you a little closer to the book that may change your life forever. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry “Once when I was six I saw a magnificent picture in a book about the jungle, called True Stories.” Despite its childish appearance, The Little Prince is deceptively mature French novella. It reads similarly to one of Aesop’s fables, covering themes of love, loss, and friendship, but it never feels judgmental or cerebral. Many others beside me adore this novel, 120

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

making it one of the best-selling and most translated books ever published. Censoring an Iranian Love Story by Shahriar Mandanipour “In the air of Tehran, the scent of spring blossoms, carbon monoxide, and the perfumes and poisons of the tales of One Thousand and One Nights whisper together." Due to Iranian censorship, many of Shahriar’s stories were originally rejected. However, like the author in Censoring an Iranian Love Story, Shahriar continued to write. Known for its comedy, intelligence, and at times ‘avant-garde’ formatting, this story is about two lovers and the people and systems that stand against them. Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang “At the age of fifteen my grandmother became the


INTERVIEW

CONTINUED

concubine of a warlord general, the police chief of a tenuous national government of China.” Jung Chang covers three generations of family history, relating first her grandmother’s and her mother’s stories, then her own. It candidly displays the brutality and struggles that Chinese citizens have endured as well as the heartwarming moments found alongside the hard times. A Country Under My Skin by Gioconda Belli “With each shot I fired my body shuddered, the impact reverberating through every last joint, leaving an unbearable ringing in my head, sharp and disturbing.” A Country Under My Skin is about a Nicaraguan woman who abandoned her well-to-do life to join the Sandinistas, eventually becoming a core figure within it. From her time in the revolution, to her poetry, to her role as a mother, Gioconda writes about all aspects of her life in her raw and poetic style.

That Deadman Dance by Kim Scott “Once upon a time there was a captain on a wide sea, a rough and windswept sea, and his good barque was pitched and tossed something cruel.” Written by a descendent of the Aboriginal Noongar people, this is a story about the early contact between European settlers and the Noongar. The story of That Deadman Dance parallels the many others we’ve heard about colonizers and indigenous groups, and it is rich with cultural history and vivid prose.

121


GLOBAL READS. BY V. JOLENE MILLER

READING ON THE RUN Binge reading on the run because everything else can wait. ABOUT THE COLUMNIST

In Alaska, I’m a behavioral health instructor by day and a Ph.D. student by night. When I’m not teaching, I have my nose in a textbook or a scholarly article. These days, my writing is nonfiction and my puppy, Omar, is lucky if I can spare ten minutes to play fetch. I still carry a book in my purse because I hope to get a few minutes to read. Fifteen minutes before dawn, in between assignments, or right before falling into bed. Reading is my resting place.

122

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

This fall, I’ll be reading a new book. I don’t have the typical feelings about immersing myself in this one. You won’t find me caressing the cover in anticipation of getting a break from the day job so that I can read a few pages. There is a high probability that I will not be anxiously mentally debating which character is my favorite. I’ll be highlighting sentences and looking up vocabulary words, but it won’t be the same. My book of (forced) choice is Applied Statistics I by Rebecca Warner. Have you read this? If so, did you do well with the concepts? Are you perhaps interested in tutoring me? I joke—sort of. Math, in any form, is not my thing. I remember being in early elementary school and being clueless as to why my answers did not align with the teacher’s answers. We used the same numbers. We used the same formula. There was a crossed signal somewhere between my brain and what my pencil put on the page. As I approach the start date of this next semester, I won’t lie. I. am. Nervous. The stakes are higher. Well, maybe not higher, but the big picture looms larger in my mind. Failing this course would mean money spent without reward. It would mean delaying the gratification of finishing this degree program on time. Let’s face it, retaking the course is an unpleasant thought. While contemplating my future read (and stressing out about it in the process), I recalled a book quote that helped calm my frazzled mind. (Don’t you love when that happens?) Ironically, a few years ago, during another


postsecondary degree adventure, Helena María Viramontes’ book Under the Feet of Jesus was added to my assigned reading list. From page 1, this book, the characters, the imagery had me, hook, line, and sinker. I felt the characters’ angst. I was transported to their location and era. If you aren’t familiar with this novel, let me introduce you. Don’t worry - no spoilers here! Petra and her common-law husband are Mexican immigrants. They are migrant laborers in California working in the fields with their children. Their story is one of courage, determination, and resilience in a land where they were separated from family… And, that’s all I’m going to say about that! Trust me; it’s a must-read! Anyway, in one scene of the book, Petra tells her partner, Perfecto, that there’s this thing she has to do. Like, she has to. There is no other option for her. But Perfecto, knowing what’s at stake, says she can’t do this thing. Petra’s reply is eloquent and firm. “Tell me to go to the devil,” Petra replied, “tell me I’m crazy. But don’t tell me that. Don’t tell me I can’t.” Isn’t that a stunning reply? It’s the kind of quote you want to frame and hang in the

room where your biggest challenge lies. Perhaps, next to your desk, where that Statistics textbook sits? Just an idea. Thankfully, Petra’s wisdom permeated my frantic mind. After just one day, I stopped listening to the Intro to Statistics podcast at the gym and returned to my favorite Spanish education podcast. ¿Que tal? Los libros son una magia excepcionalmente portátil. --Okay, so I had to use a translator app on some of those words, but they still ring true! Books are uniquely portable magic. Not only did Under the Feet of Jesus magically transport me to the fields of California, its contents transported me out of my panic-filled mindset. They returned me to a calmer version of myself. Books are magic like that. I challenge you to explore a book this week. Explore someplace magical. Get to know a new culture. Learn about new places and different people. If you aren’t sure what to read, consider one of these: The Culture Map: Breaking the Invisible Boundaries by Erin Meyer or Book of Peoples of the World: A Guide to Cultures by Wade Davis, K. David Harrison, and Catherine Herbert Howell. If those aren’t your style, consider Under the Feet of Jesus...or perhaps Statistics I? We can start a book club together….As long as you’re leading the discussion, I’ll take notes!  123


Raven Bookstore. LAWRENCE, KS

F E AT U R E D I N D I E B OO K S TO R E

FIRST, GIVE SOME BACKGROUND INFORMATION ABOUT YOURSELF AND RAVEN BOOKSTORE. RB: The Raven was founded in 1987 as a specialty mystery-only bookstore, and has since expanded to be the only new generalinterest bookstore in Lawrence, Kansas. In 2021, after 34 years at our original location, the Raven moved to a newly-renovated 1865 storefront on historic Massachusetts Street. I, Danny Cain, moved to Lawrence in 2014 to get an MFA in poetry from the University of Kansas. While working on my degree, I got a part-time Raven bookseller job and fell in love with the place, so much so that I bought it upon graduating with my degree. WHY DID YOU, OR THE OWNERS, DECIDE TO OPEN A BOOKSTORE? RB: Since I'm not the original owner, I can't speak for them, but I'm fairly certain the original owners (Pat Kehde and Mary Lou Wright) were huge readers of mystery books and they saw a space for a store that celebrated that genre in our city. They were both at the point in their careers where 124

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

they were ready to work in a field they were passionate about. WAS A BOOKSTORE A MAJOR NEED IN YOUR AREA? RB: Lawrence in particular is a literary town, with a long line of great writers and artists, plus an artistic culturally-engaged population. Their amazing support for us over decades is a pretty strong indication that we're filling a need. WHAT KIND OF READING TRENDS DO YOU SEE WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS? RB: I'm consistently amazed at the resilience of print books. How many times have we decided the internet would kill the book? But the paper book continues to sell, and to sell with surprising robustness. No matter what happens, people still turn to books. In terms of smaller trends, nonfiction and fiction have been taking turns as the dominant sought-after books for us, and this year it seems to be swinging back to fiction. We've also been selling a lot more Sci-fi and


F E AT U R E D I N D I E B OO K S TO R E

poetry, both of which are things to celebrate.

community work going away either.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE THE MOST ABOUT OWNING AND WORKING IN AN INDIE BOOKSTORE?. RB: My favorite part of my job is easily the great team of booksellers I get to spend every day with. I'm proud to be surrounded by these folks, and I'm constantly amazed by their ideas, energy, and passion.

HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO YOU TO HAVE NOVELS AND OTHER TYPES OF LITERATURE OF DIFFERENT CULTURES, BACKGROUNDS, AND COUNTRIES IN YOUR BOOKSTORE? RB: So important! We have one of the few translated literature subscription programs in the country, for instance. Publishing has been dominated at all levels for too long by a toonarrow range of voices. It's an urgent problem that requires big change. One bookstore in Kansas trying to correct that via loving, adventurous curation won't fix the industry, but it will, hopefully, get our community to pick up a broad and exciting range of books from all kinds of voices. Multiply that by the thousands of indie bookstores across the country, and maybe we can get somewhere.

WHAT DO YOU THINK THE FUTURE OF INDIE BOOKSTORES WILL LOOK LIKE? RB: I think indie bookstores have all had to come to terms with existing at least a little bit online, whether that's selling books online, running a bookshop page, or expanding their social media presence while their stores were locked down. I don't see that going away, but I also don't see the traditional in-person

125


IF YOU CAN’T FIND THE WORDS – READ TO THEM. BY MEGAN LORD

BOOK MOM A little bit of everything from a scatter-brained, book-loving Mom.

ABOUT THE COLUMNIST

I am the mother of an adventurous and exhausting but amazing toddler boy that runs my life. I spend a ridiculous amount of time reading mind numbing children’s books over and over again because he has his select favorites… But when I do get time to read (or listen) I love reading and listening to a variety of genres. I get the most time to indulge in books of my choice during what I like to call “wind-down baths” once a week.

126

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

I know this issue is focused on Global Authors and Books – but I’m going to get a little more personal with you readers this time around – death/loss. A very good friend of mine lost their 6-year-old son early July of this year. It was unexpected with a 4 day stay in the hospital in a medically induced coma before the ultimate heartbreak. By day 2, my friend was at a loss for words. She wanted to keep talking to him, but she didn’t know what else to say. So, she asked me to bring some books to the hospital that she could read to him. Knowing I have a 4-year-old son with similar interests, she knew I would be able to send some of my son’s books on topics like dinosaurs and science. Choosing the books was so hard knowing the circumstance but sharing books with them was the least we could do. I was happy to be able to do just anything to help. When you can’t find words but need to fill silence – read. My family has experienced a lot of loss in the past 3 years – meaning my son had experienced it all with us. We lost my grandfather, a huge part of mine and therefor my sons’ life, late 2018. During the unforgettable year of 2020, we lost our family cat, Donald Driver, my son’s favorite animal in the entire world, very unexpectedly. We lost my grandmother that summer, and then we lost a close cousin, again very unexpectedly, that fall. We followed this rough year with one of the hardest losses of them all, young, sweet Finley, in 2021. In order to help my son process and understand the loss of my grandpa whom he was very close with – we


purchased a book called “Something Very Sad Happened: A Toddler’s Guide to Understanding Death” by Bonnie Zucker. When we purchased the book, we had no idea how often it would be read and how important it would become as a tool to get through the hard questions and days to come. The book had the words we didn’t. It was able to explain the parts that hurt too bad to try to explain on our own. We were still processing grief ourselves each time – but we knew it wasn’t fair to try to shelter and no answer the questions a smart, inquisitive, perceptive little boy had. He was learning about death and loss so much earlier then we ever wanted him to, but he needed to understand what it meant. And this book was able to navigate us through those trenches with him.

All in all, the point I’m trying to make is life gets hard sometimes, and when it does it can be very difficult to find the right words for the littles in your life. Books can help fill that void. Books can help navigate conversations and emotions and direct healthy processes. There are books for kids for nearly any subject, any circumstance, any event you may have a hard time with otherwise. Let books be your parental resource through the trenches. Let them be the masterpiece they are when you can’t find the words to say in the dark. 

During the mid 3’s (I like to call it my son’s three-nager stage), we got the book “I Am Stronger Than Anger” by Elizabeth Cole for our son. This book helped us open the conversation about processing emotions and dealing with tantrums. I’d be lying if I said it was a miracle cure for the mood swings – but it helped him understand when he was starting to feel mad. He would take deep breaths and say “I am Stronger than Anger” sometimes when he would feel himself building up to a meltdown. While the emotions of our now 4 year old seem to be overpowering that now, at least we know he understands the feeling and the concept of choosing how he reacts, even if how he chooses to react isn’t always the calmest. 127


Global Reads.

BY CHRISTIAN ADRIAN BROWN

FIT LIT Body, Mind and Quill

ABOUT THE COLUMNIST

Quadragenarian fitness model, lifestyle coach and bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Feast of Fates, Christian A. Brown received a Kirkus star in 2014 for the first novel in his genrechanging Four Feasts till Darkness series. He has appeared on Newstalk 1010, AM640, Daytime Rogers, and Get Bold Today with LeGrande Green. He actively writes and speaks about his mother’s journey with cancer and on gender issues in the media.

128

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

One of the best stories I’d ever known before it became a global video game and Netflix sensation, was The Witcher, by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. I’d say that it’s one of the defining dark fantasy tales of our era, up there with Moorcock’s Elric of Melnibone saga—although different in scope and themes. Likewise, Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist entranced me with its surreal, psychedelic and mystical allure. The common thread between these stories? They’re all from international authors. People talk a lot these days about diversity, and yet we—the colloquial we, not you or I, necessarily—seem to spend our days affixed to social media, watching people parade their eccentricity or failures on TikTok. Although for such a “global” stage, our online realities are remarkably curated, pared down by Zuckerbergian algorithms to reveal an insular and exceedingly domestic world. For all our globalization, we have somehow become further entrenched in national pastimes and identity. I worry about the generation of children weaned on that one-flavoured gruel.


I can’t imagine a world where I wasn’t exposed to Rainer Maria Rilke’s thoughtful poetry, Haruki Murakami’s philanthropic insights, or the beautiful, political rage of Mariama Bâ. I have become richer from this knowledge, from partaking in each of these author’s thoughts and experiences. I cannot imagine a classroom where these works aren’t shared, or a generation growing up without knowing these differing perspectives. Much like psychological resilience, I believe we develop mental fortitude by exposure to ideas and cultures. The goal is not to eliminate our original identity, or to adapt ourselves entirely to these new ideas. The goal with multicultural integration has been—in my approximation as a biracial gay man with family in all corners of the globe—to take what pieces work, what insights make sense to us in our lives, and

to build ourselves better from that wisdom. There is nothing to fear from this process of exploration and growth. And in literature, especially, you can explore these ideas free of judgement—lest you take your observations to Twitter and God help you with the mob there. But in private contemplation, you can and should explore the words, languages and stories of others. After all, that is what the human experience is about: connecting, learning and sharing our pains and joys. —C 

129


BOOKS IN REVIEW BR

SHELF UNBOUND’S

Books In Review Self-Published & Small Press Book Reviews

SPONSORED BY

130

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021


Floating Underwater.

A du lt

BY TRACY SHAWN

Tracy Shawn’s second novel Floating Underwater, set in a small California town on the Pacific Coast, takes readers on an utterly absorbing, heartfelt journey of grief, loss and, ultimately, redemption and hope Paloma Leary and her husband Reed are both reeling from her third miscarriage. Paloma prefers not to chance another pregnancy and seeks to adopt, but her husband, who lost his father at a young age, wants a biological child of their own. Paloma herself lost her mother to schizophrenia when she was a girl and also an older sister who was kidnapped, so she has other, unresolved issues besides her multiple miscarriages.

PUBLISHER: TURBULENT MUSE PUBLISHING

In addition to these very real losses, Paloma also suffers from visions: She knew she would miscarry before she lost their baby, for example. She works as a floral designer, but her real calling is her care and tenderness for her neighbors, especially her boss’s grown daughters, Serena and Tatiana.

Serena and Tatiana are both talented artists, but Serena is either mentally ill, magically visionary or both. Paloma grapples with her relationships with them, as well as those of her critical mother-in-law and equally critical and controlling best friend. As the story unfolds, Paloma discovers her strengths, comes to accept that her visions can be a gift, not a burden, and changes the way she interacts with friends and relatives. Because she heals herself, she can now also help others, including her very grounded husband. “With ever-so-wary footing, they managed to tiptoe above the most traumatic stories beneath their lives.” Mystical and magical realism permeate this women’s novel, and Amy Harmon fans would embrace Shawn’s adept storytelling. The author delivers spot-on dialogue, believable and enchanting characters, and surprising twists. It’s easy to imagine the novel as a talked-about book club selection (in fact, there’s a list of questions at the book’s conclusion). Poignant and beautiful, Floating Underwater leaves readers yearning for a sequel and another look at these captivating characters.  131


Slaves of the One They Chose to Obey.

A du lt

BY SHINETE CHRISTINA MAUNZE

This memoir relates how abuse, greed, blame, lies, and misplaced trust decimated a family. A native Zimbabwean, Shinete Christina Maunze is one of 13 siblings raised to believe in the power of Apostolic “prophets,” witch doctors, and diviners generally bent on seeking power and control for their own gain. Maunze converted to Catholicism as a young woman, in 1973. But her large family remained Christian in name only, and regularly consulted witch doctors, seeking to poison or kill rivals, cheating spouses, and ungrateful offspring. In fact, the author believes the event that began her family’s downfall was when seven village men, envious of her father’s success as a woodcarver, paid to have him poisoned. Chapters focus primarily on individual family members who fell victim to manipulation or purchased the intervention of “folk healers.” These include Meg, a manipulative in-law who denied her own epileptic son anti-seizure medicine because his illness allowed him to “contact” spirits and the undead, and the author’s niece, Chanel, who died after a self-administered abortion after her mother refused her suitor and had his family cursed. PUBLISHER: AUTHORHOUSE

After decades of warning her family to follow a righteous path and being ignored, the author feels vindicated, citing a paraphrased quote from St. Paul [Romans 6:16]: “[W]hen you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves to the one you obey.” This is a heavy-handed cautionary tale of blind faith as well as the author’s rationalization for her family’s discord. The story isn’t told chronologically, and Maunze’s rambling accounts make for an “I told you so” diatribe that can be wearying, confusing and often misleading. Adding to the reading challenges, her own religious agenda, punctuated by frequent sermonizing, routinely interrupts the narrative flow. At its heart, however, the memoir is a revealing look at contemporary Zimbabwean culture. It may appeal to readers interested in Africa and the role of religion there.  132

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021


Tokyo Zangyo.

A du lt

BY MICHAEL PRONKO

American ex-pat Michael Pronko’s fourth book in his stellar Detective Hiroshi series opens with a high-level executive waking up naked on the roof of his company headquarters across from Tokyo Station, then falling to his death. The executive’s company is Japan’s largest advertising agency, Senden Infinity, which is about to expand into international markets. The victim, Shigeru Onizuka, was set to transfer to the New York office. Detective Hiroshi Shimizu is a forensic-accountant-turnedhomicide-detective who looks for financial causes for crimes. Hiroshi’s team, including a crusty veteran detective, former sumo wrestlers and an indispensable young woman assistant, is back to solve this case. Readers learn early on that the dead man supervised Mayu Yamase, who killed herself by jumping from the same spot three years before, after working 100 hours of overtime in one month (the Japanese word for overtime is zangyo, hence the book’s title). The media covered her suicide as a case of karoshi, death by overwork, which happens in Japan. PUBLISHER: RAKED GRAVEL PRESS

Shimizu and his team eventually link the case to Mayu’s suicide. The bad guy isn’t hard to figure out, but the novel’s real villain is Japan’s corporate culture of overwork and saving face. Pronko has lived in Japan for over 20 years and runs a website about Japan’s jazz scene. He slips his appreciation for the music into his immersive narrative. He also includes references to Japanese traditional culture and writes evocative passages about restaurants where the cops like to eat, including this one about entering a noodle shop: “Inside, the rich flavor of boiling ramen and meaty broth enfolded them. It was calming and mouth-watering, like entering a kitchen and a steamy bath at the same time.” The story and its message for corporate culture is compelling and undeniable, and Pronko’s appreciation for Japan is palpable. His writing is crisp and always engaging. After this latest engrossing story, readers will be eagerly awaiting the series’ fifth installment. 

133


Bom Boy.

A du lt

BY YEWANDE OMOTOSO

Yewande Omotoso’s debut novel Bom Boy (pidgin for ‘baby boy’) is a story about grief, loneliness, and a hunger for belonging. Lékè is markedly a misfit from the outset. Near silent and anxious, Lékè struggles to connect with those around him, preferring to read atlases on his bedroom floor or garden with the only person who seems to understand him, his adoptive mother Jane. But when he is ten, Jane loses her battle against cancer, and Lékè disappears inside himself. As an adult, Lékè is estranged from society, a topic of gossip at his workplace and living in a rented garage. He frequently schedules doctors’ appointments despite nothing being wrong with him and stalks women at the mall, vaguely knowing that he is starved but not knowing for what. It isn’t until he is given a series of letters from his father whom he has never met that Lékè begins to confront his fears. Though Lékè is the main character, we also see the world from several other perspectives—primarily his birth and adoptive parents. Because of this, Bom Boy is able to explore PUBLISHER: topics such as racism, poverty, and grief, which wouldn’t CATALYST PRESS have been possible if it focused on Lékè alone. The different perspectives also serve to underline the core theme of family history and how one can be bound by or move beyond it. One of the best qualities of Bom Boy was how the prose—notably the dialogue—was concise but expressive. A great example of this is one of the opening scenes in which Jane and her husband Marcus argue while they’re getting ready for bed about how to raise Lékè. She smoothed balm over her lips and the mint brought her back to the room, to her husband. She turned to address him. “I don’t think you should force him. Not unless he looks like he’s actually having fun.” “Fun?” Marcus scowled. “That’s a long way away, dear. I’m just trying to get the boy to act normal.” Jane shook her head and Marcus raced to defend himself. “I don’t mean it like that, you know what I mean.” Jane sighed. She studied him, noticing a slight paunch where he leaned over the book in his lap which, ignoring her gaze, he now opened and pretended to read. Just this brief snippet captures so much of what is great about this novel. The scene is incredibly mundane, yet it reveals important details about the characters without explicitly saying how they feel. This level of subtext persists throughout the novel, and the reader is expected to make connections of their own, to interpret and understand character dialogue as they would in real life. The only criticism I have for is that the ending felt rushed, leaving less room for the methodical pacing and character development that I’d grown to enjoy. That said, Bom Boy is still a short and refreshing novel that I very much recommend, especially if you love character-driven writing.  134

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021


The House of Rust.

A du lt

BY KHADIJA ABDALLA BAJABER

The House of Rust by Khadija Abdalla Bajaber tells the epic journey of Aisha trying to find her father who went missing while fishing. She embarks on an adventure filled with monsters, a talking guide cat, and also her responsibilities as a family member and young adult in her everyday life. The House of Rust is a beautifully written piece of work. Every sentence flows so effortlessly into the next. At times, it is as if you are reading a poem. The imagery is fantastic. The reader is fully immersed in Aisha’s journey. You can feel the amount of pressure others and herself put on her. You can feel her fears, and her courage. PUBLISHER: GRAYWOLF PRESS

This novel gives hints of The Odyssey and The Iliad. Aisha must overcome challenge after challenge. Face her fears up front. She isn’t just on a journey to find her father, she is also finding her true self along the way. There are many elements to this story. There are magical creatures that are tied into real life that help Aisha throughout the novel. There is also the element of family relationships. Aisha has many decisions to make as a young lady that deal with her home life. Her journey helps her find these answers. Readers will find themselves sympathizing and empathizing with Aisha. Readers will relate with our hero. We all want to do what is right without compromising who we are as a person and what we believe in. She will become a close friend to you as you watch her grow into her own. The House of Rust is a fantastic, immersive story that many will enjoy and relate to. 

135


Young Blood.

A du lt

BY SIFISO MZOBE

Considered both coming-of-age novel and fresh crime fiction, Young Blood by Sifiso Mzobe was originally published in 2010 by Kwela Books, a South African publisher. The author, a journalist from Umlazi, South Africa, brings the story of Sipho Khumalo to life with sparse, honest language that draws the reader in. Sipho, an impressionable seventeen-year-old from a caring family, admits to his parents that school is not for him, that “nothing in class” makes any sense but that dropping out does. Despite his parents’ urging to stay in school, Sipho leaves for a year and embarks on a dark journey into a life of crime. In Umlazi, becoming a part of the crime scene is easy, as stealing cars permeates the very culture Sipho was brought up in. Being the son of a mechanic, he takes PUBLISHER: to the “job” easily, and soon, he is caught in the snare CATALYST PRESS of stolen BMWs and large sums of money. He flits from party to party, easily lies to his girlfriend and family, and witnesses countless acts of violence. “I knew I was saying goodbye to my childhood, embracing manhood from a different angle,” Sipho says. But Sipho is not immune to the emotional toll his choices place upon him. When he stands witness to a murder at point-blank range, Sipho recognizes his actions are wrong. “I lost my mind completely,” he says. After being dropped off at home, he shows the reader his unease with the crimes: “I rushed inside, pretending to attend to a runny stomach. I tiptoed to my room, pulled the covers over myself, and fell asleep fully dressed.” And much later in the book, after meeting with his uncle about possibly moving pills, Sipho looks in the mirror at his reflection and thinks, “From ear to ear, a dry, joyless grin was on my face.” Young Blood is not a book for the faint at heart. Mzobe’s journalistic training manifests in each meticulous detail that paints a harrowing portrait of crime life in Umlazi, and hijackings, cold-blooded killings, and drug and alcohol use leap from the page. But at the heart of the book lies another message, one about friendship, family, community, and the value of education. It’s this message that leaves the reader hopeful.  136

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021


Disruption: New Short Fiction from Africa.

A du lt

BY VARIOUS AUTHORS

Short stories are my first love when it comes to literature. There is something raw about them. Compared to longer works, they have so little to hide behind. Their flaws are much more easily apparent, and they are able to explore ideas that may not convert well to long-form prose. So, when I had the chance to review a collection of shorts, I jumped on it. Disruption: New Short Fiction from Africa is collection of twenty-one short stories that were submitted for Short Story Day Africa 2020. There were two requirements: entries had to be between 3,000 and 5,000 words in length, and had to focus on ‘disruption.’ From an escaped pet octopus to the Earth’s crust collapsing to an invasion of religious zombies, these disruptions have quite a range, and they often serve as backdrops to portray the human spirit. The beautiful and the ugly, grief and hope, warnings from our past and for our future—Disruption captures all of this. PUBLISHER: CATALYST PRESS

Of the stories in Disruption, there were some clear standouts for me. I was fascinated by the premise of “Before We Die Unwritten” where greed for an unobtanium-adjacent material caused the world to collapse. It felt all too real, a town council deciding if the 0.001% chance of a catastrophic ecological chain reaction was worth the potential profit. “Laatlammer” was great example of worldbuilding, with its OPTIC system (Opt-In Communism) and its characters needing to use mandatory hashtags in conversation, like #antibiotics, so the government can monitor them. Written from a child’s perspective, it delivered on an enjoyable plot while tackling themes of poverty, economic disparity, and hope. “Shelter” was easily my favorite story in the collection. It does an excellent job of taking the ‘what if ’ of hypothetical future and intertwining it with the daily life of someone living in that world. The simple storyline of a mother racing with her child to a storm shelter was elevated by the subtle worldbuilding and the character’s perspective. After sitting at the front of my mind for two weeks, I came back to “Shelter” and read it again, and I was even more impressed the second time by the author’s skill. The stories in this collection are a call to continue hoping. As long as we move forward and continue to survive on this earth, there is still time for healing, both for the earth and ourselves. But, in the meantime, if you’re in need for some levity, philosophizing, or anything in between, consider picking up a copy of Disruption. 

137


How Do You Live?

A du lt

BY GENZABURŌ YOSHINO

When Genzaburō Yoshino sat down to write How Do You Live? he could not have known the enormous impact the book would have on his native Japan. Recognized as “a crossover classic for young readers” that tackles politics, science, ethics, history, and more, the book has been updated and republished multiple times since its release in 1937 and has finally been translated into English by Bruno Navasky. How Do You Live?—both a coming-of-age novel and lesson book all in one—features two voices: fifteenyear-old Honda Jun’ichi (known as Copper) and his uncle. The story begins two years after the passing of Copper’s bank executive father, when Copper and his mother have moved from a mansion in the city to a modest house in the suburbs. Copper, though intelligent, observant, and self-aware, grapples with PUBLISHER: life and all the changes it has to offer. His uncle, who ALGONQUIN BOOKS frequently visits Copper and his mother, has a hand in helping Copper navigate those changes successfully by imparting life lessons mainly via the writings in his notebook. The beauty of this book lies in the simplicity of the words that ultimately weave complex, profound, and poignant statements about humanity. “It’s not often that two people need to settle an argument with violence,” one of Copper’s professors says. And his uncle, sometimes quoting Copper’s father, presents gem after gem: “You can’t become a great man without having great thoughts”; “You must attend to the things you feel in your own heart, the things that move you deeply”; “If your regrets help you to really learn an essential thing about being human, that experience won’t have been wasted on you”; and “There is nothing more beautiful than people nurturing goodwill toward their fellow beings.” On every page, lessons abound. Had this book been presented solely in epistolary format, it would have risked sounding preachy. But with Copper’s narrative interwoven, readers are shown the lessons instead of simply being told. We experience Copper’s kindness toward his friend Uragawa, understand the importance of courage, and feel the impact of broken promises. Readers learn that, like Copper, one thought must guide us on our journey through life and its many stages: “How will you live?”  138

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021


The Dangers of Smoking in Bed.

A du lt

BY MARIANA ENRIQUEZ, TRANSLATED BY MEGAN MCDOWELL

Short stories are my first love when it comes to literature. Based in Buenos Aires, Mariana Enriquez contributes to several newspapers and literary journals both fiction and nonfiction. With a degree in Journalism and Social Communication from the National University of La Plata, Mariana has been writing since 1995. The Dangers of Smoking in Bed is her first collection of short stories, and a second translation from a 2017 book, The Things We Lost in the Fire. What makes this anthology so appealing is how quick the horror alters reality and your worst nightmare without warning. A standout collection in the horror genre, every piece is haunted by death and self-destruction. Defiantly not for the faint of heart. In, Kids Who Come Back, I found myself immersed in a world of missing children, street urchins, and runaways. A story packed with so much detail it qualifies as a novella. Like Enriquez's previous work, she travels deep into Argentina's socio-political context, extracting how far the human mind will go when creativity has no bounds. Enríquez pulls all the stops to showcase violent fetishes and sadomasochists the way David Lynch did in his seminal 1992 film, Fire Walk with Me. PUBLISHER: PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE

I also loved, Meat, a tale about a rockstar with a bizarre fascination to make teenagers around the world obsessed with him. But when two girls’ fierce devotion boil over, they mysteriously become hellbent on shocking the world. Another exceptional story, The Cart, is about a drunken slum-dweller who leaves behind an accumulation of misfortune when he gets in a fight with a neighbor...forcing him to abandon his cart of junk. Simple I know, but you'll have to read it to learn what stared the argument in the first place. With as many stories packed in this slim book, they’re all so fresh and natural it becomes impossible to turn away from the creep-factor present on your shoulder longer after a story’s been read. Another fascinating venture Mariana offers her readers is an examination of female desire, and how society is secretly obsessed with fear, disappearance, and death. Despite the graphic element, it was fascinating to see how all the characters were kept in-tune without losing momentum. Enríquez does exactly what gothic storytelling must do, and that’s putting the supernatural in places you never knew it could exist. I highly recommend The Dangers of Smoking in Bed to anyone looking for some modern macabre. Even the translator, Megan McDowell, marvelously kept the atmosphere for an English-speaking audience.  139


F E AT U R E

Idioms From Around The Globe. BY GREG LUTI

Idioms are one of the few universal principles in language that unites us all. In different countries around the world, it is idioms that we all use as a way to understand our world and communicate with each other. Why do we do this? Can’t we just say we are tired instead of saying we had a long night or that we woke up on the wrong side of the bed? There is no such thing as a long night since every night is the same number of hours, and you can’t actually have a good or bad side of a bed. It’s not like the bed has feelings. We all know that, taken literally, idioms are not as fun or creative. Can you really be better late than never? No, Tame Impala, you can’t. You can’t really call it a day because there is no phone number to call the sun to let it know you want the day to end. We could do view idioms as literal phrases and be a pain in the butt, but that is kind of boring and can become increasingly frustrating if you are that guy. Not appreciating idioms is not appreciating ourselves. We are, as idioms suggest, all poets at heart, using our words, not only to describe our world but to make it a little bit more interesting too. Here is a list of idioms from around the world that you may not be familiar with.

140

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021


England – Taking the mickey. The English have this saying when they make fun of each other. If you said this in America, you’d have a few blank stares coming your way. Some would think that you are talking of the famous mouse that bears the same name. No one would think you are making fun of them.

say that taking the mickey sounds weird and offensive. I’m not sure who is going to be offended by that, but I am sure that someone will. French - Coûter les yeux de la tête costs the eyes in your head Gruesome imagery aside, this French idiom means that an item is too much money.

Stop taking the mickey out of him. American equivalent – Stop being a downer. England – Biting more than you can chew This one is quite popular over here on the American side of the world too. Unfortunately, this is never used in a good situation, though. It’s not like you are bragging about taking the biggest bite at the dinner table (although I don’t know why you would do that); you are saying that you did too much and are now in a bad spot. If you want to avoid the idiom comparison altogether, you could just say you are quoting Frank Sinatra and act like that bad spot you are in was all a part of your plan. American equivalent – We use this one in America quite a lot. Hopefully, not too much. Of the two British ones, I like the one that I actually have used before. Yeah, I still

If I said this in a store, people would be confused. First off, they don’t speak French, and neither do I, so the whole situation would be uncomfortable. Then I’d claim that the item that I want would cost the eyes in my head. My luck, the store clerk would assume I have on my contacts and think nothing of my rejection of their item. American equivalent – It costs an arm and a leg. I wonder if there is an idiom for an item even more expensive than the eye item. Like you would say, “this costs the eyes in my head and an arm and a leg.” The thing is so expensive you needed to say two idioms to get your point across—basically, college loans. French - Ne rien savoir-faire de ses dix doigts - not knowing how to do anything with ten fingers This French phrase means that somebody is 141


completely useless, which if you are like me, you don’t have to think too hard to name that person. You only have ten fingers, so if you can’t do anything with them, you are out of luck. An American equivalent would be to call someone a Butterfinger. A Butterfinger is a person who drops everything. It isn’t exact, but it is pretty close. Of course, if you really wanted to make a point with someone, you can call them a Butterfinger who can’t do anything with their fingers. That seems harsh, though. American equivalent – Butterfinger I gotta say that the last one was my favorite phrase so far. I like describing someone useless as bad with their hands. It comes across as an idiom you could say to the useless person, and they wouldn’t know that you are talking about them. Germany - Die Daumen drücken press the thumbs When I heard this, I looked at my thumbs and wondered why I would ever want to press them. That’s strange. However, this option is much better than the last one where I was talking about my eyes in my head. I will never say this in German or English because no one would know what I was talking about. I wouldn’t even get suggestions either, like with the other options. 142

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

American equivalent – Cross your fingers. I didn’t notice how many idioms involved the human body. I am running out of body parts here. German - Lügen haben kurze Beine – lies have short legs I like this one. This has a good ring to it, in English, that I could find myself saying this to someone when I feel that they have lied to my face. It is short, no pun intended, succinct and easily understood. I am actually upset that this one is not more common in America. American equivalent – We could say this phrase in America. I haven’t heard many say it, though. China - bù jīng yī shì, bù zhǎng yī zhì – wisdom comes from experience This is actually one that I can use if I were to sound smart and wise. My friends would look at me and shake their heads because I said another cheesy wisdom line that is not relevant to anything. If you think this sounds like something from a fortune cookie, then you’re right because I got this in my cookie with my dinner earlier. Also, my lucky numbers are 3, 8, 44, 57, 61. Doesn’t wisdom come from, you know wisdom? I’m just saying I know a bunch of old dudes


with a bunch of time on their hands, and they don’t know much. American equivalent – You would say this in English if you are a shaman, a Wiseman, or just a regular person trying to help someone out. Chinese - jiǎo tà shí dì – to step on solid ground. This Chinese phrase means to stay focused on the basics and fundamentals to proceed with a task. It is very useful advice for people who want to sound smart. Then you realize that the person never spoke of the basics or the fundamentals, and you are screwed. We wouldn’t say this in America, although we do agree with the general principle of pushing through a task using the basic ideas that got you there. My best examples are trust the process or stay the course. Both stress that the individual doesn’t stray too far from their original plan. American equivalent – trust the process or stay the course. I couldn’t include a list of idioms without the guy who practically spoke in them, Shakespeare. Can you imagine him trying to order some fast food? He’d confuse the knucklehead at the drive-through with his meter.

William Shakespeare - wear your heart on your sleeve We all know that one person who says this line proudly as if it is an honor to have such sleeves. They act like this is a part of who they are, and you, or anyone else, can’t stop them from living their life as they want. Run, if anyone says this line to you as a way to describe themselves. And last but not least, let’s give books a little love here too. Here is a famous idiom from a book that is more known as an idiom than anything related in the book. Jekyll And Hyde – From Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde You would call someone Jekyll and Hyde when they act like two different people. I have heard this phrase used so many times in many instances that the book’s story has been lost, but the idea of a dual personality has not. Many understand this idiom without ever even reading Stephenson’s novel, which is quite impressive for him and us. 

143


ON OUR SHELF BS

CHECK OUT

What's On Our Shelf Nobody loves books more than us. We're a team of readers with broad interests and strong feelings about the books on our shelves.

144

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021


ON OUR SHELF

THE INCOMPLETES by Sergio Chejfec (Author) Heather Cleary (Translator) The Incompletes begins with this simple promise. But to try to get at the complete meaning of the day's events, the narrator must first take us on an international tour--from the docks of Buenos Aires, to Barcelona, until we check in at the gloomy Hotel Salgado with the narrator's transient friend Felix in Moscow. From scraps of information left behind on postcards and hotel stationery, the narrator hopes to reconstruct Felix's stay there. With flights of imagination, he conjures up the hotel's labyrinthine hallways, Masha, the captive hotel manager, and the city's public markets, filled with piles of broken televisions. Each character carries within them a secret that they don't quite understand--a stash of foreign money hidden in the pages of a book, a wasteland at the edge of the city, a mysterious shaft of light in the sky.

AT NIGHT ALL BLOOD IS BLACK by David Diop (Author) Anna Moschovakis (Translator)

IN MEMORY OF MEMORY by Maria Stepanova (Author) Sasha Dugdale (Translator)

Alfa Ndiaye is a Senegalese man who, never before having left his village, finds himself fighting as a so-called "Chocolat" soldier with the French army during World War I. When his friend Mademba Diop, in the same regiment, is seriously injured in battle, Diop begs Alfa to kill him and spare him the pain of a long and agonizing death in No Man's Land.

With the death of her aunt, the narrator is left to sift through an apartment full of faded photographs, old postcards, letters, diaries, and heaps of souvenirs: a withered repository of a century of life in Russia. Carefully reassembled with calm, steady hands, these shards tell the story of how a seemingly ordinary Jewish family somehow managed to survive the myriad persecutions and repressions of the last century.

Unable to commit this mercy killing, madness creeps into Alfa's mind as he comes to see this refusal as a cruel moment of cowardice. Anxious to avenge the death of his friend and find forgiveness for himself, he begins a macabre ritual: every night he sneaks across enemy lines to find and murder a blue-eyed German soldier, and every night he returns to base, unharmed, with the German's severed hand.

In dialogue with writers like Roland Barthes, W. G. Sebald, Susan Sontag, and Osip Mandelstam, In Memory of Memory is imbued with rare intellectual curiosity and a wonderfully soft-spoken, poetic voice. Dipping into various forms-essay, fiction, memoir, travelogue, and historical documents--Stepanova assembles a vast panorama of ideas and personalities and offers an entirely new and bold exploration of cultural and personal memory.

145


ON OUR SHELF

TRAM 83 by Fiston

RED DUST by Yoss

Mwanza Mujila (Author) Roland Glasser (Translator)

(Author) David Frye (Translator)

Two friends, one a budding writer home from abroad, the other an ambitious racketeer, meet in the most notorious nightclub--Tram 83--in a wartorn city-state in secession, surrounded by profitseekers of all languages and nationalities. Tram 83 plunges the reader into the modern African gold rush as cynical as it is comic and colorfully exotic, using jazz rhythms to weave a tale of human relationships in a world that has become a global village.

From beloved Cuban science fiction author Yoss comes a bitingly funny spaceopera homage to Raymond Chandler, about a positronic robot detective on the hunt for some extra-dangerous extraterrestrial criminals.

146

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

On the intergalactic trading station William S. Burroughs, profit is king and aliens are the kingmakers. Earthlings have bowed to their superior power and weaponry, though the aliens--praying-mantislike Grodos with pheromonal speech and gargantuan Collosaurs with a limited sense of humor--kindly allow them to do business through properly controlled channels.

THIS COULD HAVE BECOME RAMAYAN CHAMAR'S TALE: TWO ANTI-NOVELS by Subimal Misra (Author) Venkateswar Ramaswamy (Translator)

Subimal Misra--anarchist, activist, anti-establishment, experimental anti-writer--is one of India's greatest living writers. This collection of two "antinovels" is the first of his works to appear in the U.S. "This Could Have Become Ramayan Chamar's Tale" is a novella about trying to write a novella about a teaestate worker turned Naxalite named Ramayan Chamar, who gets arrested during a worker's strike and is beaten up and killed in custody. But every time the author attempts to write that story, reality intrudes in various forms to create a picture of a nation and society that is broken down and where systemic inequalities are perpetuated by the middle- and upper-classes which are either indifferent or actively malignant.


ON OUR SHELF

LIGHTHOUSE FOR THE DROWNING by Jawdat Fakhreddine (Author) Jayson Iwen (Translator)

Presented bilingually, this first US publication of Jawdat Fakhreddine--one of the major Lebanese names in modern Arabic poetry--establishes a revolutionary dialogue between international, modernist values and the Arabic tradition. Fakhreddine's unique voice is a breakthrough for the poetic language of his generation--an approach that presents poetry as a beacon, a lighthouse that both opposes and penetrates all forms of darkness.

THEY WILL DROWN IN THEIR MOTHERS' TEARS by Johannes Anyuru (Author) Saskia Vogel (Translator)

In the midst of a terrorist attack on a bookstore reading by Göran Loberg, a comic book artist famous for demeaning drawings of the prophet Mohammed, one of the attackers, a young woman, has a sudden premonition that something is wrong, changing the course of history. Two years later, this unnamed woman invites a famous writer to visit her in the criminal psychiatric clinic where she's living. She then shares with him an incredible story--she is a visitor from an alternate future. Despite discrepancies that make the writer highly skeptical, he becomes increasingly fascinated by her amazing tale: in her dystopian future, any so-called "antiSwedish" citizens are forced into a horrific ghetto called The Rabbit Yard.

FLOWERS OF MOLD & OTHER STORIES by SeongNan Ha (Author) Janet Hong (Translator)

On the surface, Ha Seong-nan's stories seem pleasant enough, yet there's something disturbing just below the surface, ready to permanently disrupt the characters' lives. A woman meets her next-door neighbor and loans her a spatula, then starts suffering horrific gaps in her memory. A man, feeling jilted by an unrequited love, becomes obsessed with sorting through his neighbors' garbage in the belief that it will teach him how to better relate to people. A landlord decides to raise the rent, and his tenants hatch a plan to kill him at a teambuilding retreat. In ten captivating, unnerving stories, Flowers of Mold presents a range of ordinary individuals--male and female, young and old--who have found themselves left behind by an increasingly urbanized and fragmented world.

147


ON OUR SHELF

THE HOUSE OF RUST

A STAB IN THE DARK

DRUIDS by Tomaz Salamun

by Khadija Abdalla Bajaber

by Facundo Bernal (Author) Anthony Seidman (Translator)

(Author) Sonja Kravanja (Translator)

The House of Rust is an enchanting novel about a Hadrami girl in Mombasa. When her fisherman father goes missing, Aisha takes to the sea on a magical boat made of a skeleton to rescue him. She is guided by a talking scholar’s cat (and soon crows, goats, and other animals all have their say, too). On this journey Aisha meets three terrifying sea monsters. After she survives a final confrontation with Baba wa Papa, the father of all sharks, she rescues her own father, and hopes that life will return to normal. But at home, things only grow stranger. Caught between her grandmother’s wish to safeguard her happiness with marriage and her own desire for adventure, Aisha is pushed toward a match with a sweet local boy that she doesn’t want.

148

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

Facundo Bernal's A Stab in the Dark (Palos de ciego) is a poetic chronicle of the struggles and joys of the Spanish-speaking community in Los Angeles and in the burgeoning border town of Mexicali during the early 1920s. Sharply satirical yet deeply empathetic, Bernal's poems are both a landmark of Chicano literature and a captivating read. Anthony Seidman's energetic translation -- the first into English -preserves the prickly feel of Bernal's classic, down to the last stab. This edition also features the original Spanish text, an introduction by the prominent Mexicali writer Gabriel Trujillo Muñoz, an additional introduction by critic Josh Kun, and a foreword by writer and lawyer Yxta Maya Murray.

Poetry. Translated by Sonja Kravanja. Slovenian poet Tomaz Salamun (1941-2014) is hailed as one of the most prominent poets of his generation, renowned for his impact on the Eastern European avant-garde movement. He authored over forty collections of poetry in Slovenian and English, and this collection exemplifies the best of what he is known for in its experiments with surrealism, polyphony, and absurdism. It's the world we know made completely anew, where City buses / resemble / quiet polite / people. Salamun's unique voice will linger on for years to come in the influence it has left with artists, writers, and readers. This volume is gracefully unified by its commitment to enjambment as a way of rendering familiar narratives suddenly and wonderfully strange.


ON OUR SHELF

THE SILK DRAGON: TRANSLATIONS FROM THE CHINESE by Arthur Sze (Editor)

Arthur Sze has rare qualifications when it comes to translating Chinese: he is an award-winning poet who was raised in both languages. A second-generation ChineseAmerican, Sze has gathered over 70 poems by poets who have had a profound effect on Chinese culture, American poetics and Sze's own maturation as an artist. Also included is an informative insightful essay on the methods and processes involved in translating ideogrammic poetry.

IMPURE ACTS by Angelo

GROVE: A FIELD NOVEL by

Nestore (Author) Lawrence Schimel (Translator)

Esther Kinsky (Author) Caroline Schmidt (Translator)

Ángelo Néstore's poems in Impure Acts are both heartbreaking and an absolute joy to read. I especially love "When I Picked the Wrong Bar." --Hollie McNish

An unnamed narrator, recently bereaved, travels to a small village southeast of Rome. It is winter, and from her temporary residence on a hill between village and cemetery, she embarks on walks and outings, exploring the banal and the sublime with equal dedication and intensity. Seeing, describing, naming the world around her is her way of redefining her place within it. In Kinsky's Grove, winner of the 2018 Leipzig Book Prize, grief must bear the weight of the world and full of grief the narrator becomes one with the brittle manifestations of the Italian winter.

Ángelo Néstore's poetry, his "impure acts," changes the whole cartography of desire with the beautiful perfection of a modern, dream-like demiurge who knows he is in absolute possession of his glory. Poem-temples, poemtraps, gaps in the disquiet for those who will have no better illumination than that which is offered by this dialogue between poet and reader. Communion, I would say, if communion were not sometimes dangerously conflated with religiosity. Poems which, in their exquisite and innovative craftsmanship, already demand a canonical place in our collective memory and anthologies. --Carlos Pintado

149


ON OUR SHELF

TROPIC OF VIOLENCE by Nathacha Appanah, translated from French by Geoffrey Strachan

A potent novel about lost youth and migration by the author of The Last Brother and Waiting for Tomorrow Marie, a nurse in Mayotte, a far-flung, tropical department of France in the Indian Ocean, adopts a baby abandoned at birth by his mother, a refugee from Comoros. She names him Moïse and raises him as her own-and she avoids his increasing questions about his origins as he grows up. When Marie suddenly dies, thirteen-year-old Moïse is left completely alone, plunged into uncertainty and turmoil. In a state of panic, he runs away from home, and sets himself on a collision course with the gangs of Gaza, the largest and most infamous slum on the island.

150

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

WHEN THE WHALES LEAVE by by Yuri Rytkheu, translated from Russian by Ilona Yazhbin Chavasse

Nau cannot remember a time when she was not one with the world around her: with the fast breeze, the green grass, the high clouds, and the endless blue sky above the Shingled Spit. But her greatest joy is to visit the sea, where whales gather every morning to gaily spout rainbows. Then, one day, she finds a man in the mist where a whale should be: Reu, who has taken human form out of his Great Love for her. Together these first humans become parents to two whales, and then to mankind. Even after Reu dies, Nau continues on, sharing her story of brotherhood between the two species. But as these origins grow more distant, the old woman's tales are subsumed into myth--and her descendants turn increasingly bent on parading their dominance over the natural world.

LAKE LIKE A MIRROR by Ho Sok Fong, translated from Chinese by Natascha Bruce

Squeezing themselves between the gaps of rabid urbanization, patriarchal structures and a theocratic government, these women find their lives twisted in disturbing ways. In precise and disquieting prose, Ho Sok Fong draws her readers into a richly atmospheric world of naked sleepwalkers in a rehabilitation center for wayward Muslims, mysterious wooden boxes, gossip in unlicensed hairdressers, hotels with amnesiac guests, and poetry classes with accidentally charged politics-a world that is peopled with the ghosts of unsaid words, unmanaged desires and uncertain statuses, surreal and utterly true.


ON OUR SHELF

MY PART OF HER by

FAUNA by Christiane Vadnais

THE SKY WEEPS FOR ME

Javad Djavahery, translated from French by Emma Ramadan

(Author), Pablo Strauss (Translator)

by Sergio Ramirez (Author), Leland H. Chambers (translator) (Author)

For our unnamed confessor, the summer months spent on the Caspian Sea during the 1970s are a magically transformative experience. There, he is not the "poor relative from the North," but a welcome guest at his wealthy cousin Nilou's home and the gatekeeper of her affections. He revels in the power of orchestrating the attentions of her many admirers, granting and denying access to her would-be lovers. But in a moment of jealousy and youthful bravado, he betrays and humiliates an unlikely suitor, setting into motion a series of events that will have drastic repercussions for all of them as the country is forever transformed by the Iranian Revolution a few short years later.

In a near-future world ravaged by climate change, who will win in the struggle between humanity and nature? A thick fog rolls in over Shivering Heights. The river overflows, the sky is streaked with toxic green, parasites proliferate in torrential rains and once safely classified species humans included - are evolving and behaving in unprecedented ways. Against this poetically hostile backdrop, a biologist, Laura, fights to understand the nature and scope of the changes transforming her own body and the world around her. Ten lush and bracing linked climate fictions depict a world gorgeous and terrifying in its likeness to our own.

In this Nicaraguan noir (the first in a series), Inspector Dolores Morales and Deputy Inspector Bert Dixon former Sandinista guerilla fighters now attached to the Narcotics Unit of the National Police investigate the disappearance of a young woman after the discovery of an abandoned yacht and a wedding dress. As the mystery widens the two inspectors and their ad-hoc team are brought face to face with drug smugglers from the Cali and Sinaloa cartels. With tension and irony, Sergio Ramirez (A Thousand Deaths Plus One; Divine Punishment) portrays an unsettled and impoverished Central American country struggling in the 1990s to retain the shreds of its revolutionary ideals.

151


Never miss an issue! SIGN UP FOR A FREE SUBSCRIPTION TO SHELF UNBOUND MAGAZINE. SUBSCRIBE

152

OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2021


Culture is the name for what people are interested in, their thoughts, their models, the books they read and the speeches they hear.”

– WALTER LIPPMANN

153


OC TOBER / NOVEMBER 2021

SHELF UNBOUND WHAT TO READ NEXT IN INDEPENDENT PUBLISHING WWW.SHELFMEDIAGROUP.COM