"This work is unlike any other, in its range of rich, conjuring imagery and its dexterity, its smart voice. Carroll-Hackett doesn’t spare us—but doesn’t save us—she draws a blueprint of power and class with her unflinching pivot: matter-of-fact and tender." —Jan Beatty

Posts tagged ‘novels’

Monday Must Read! Everything Here Is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee

Thanks and Love to my fierce beautiful cousin, Sherrie McGimsey, for pointing me to this amazing read. Our country’s failure to properly provide services and safety for our brothers and sisters with Serious Mental Illness is a failure to the families who love them as well. They are all our children. 

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Mira T. Lee‘s debut novel, Everything Here is Beautiful, was selected by the American Booksellers Association as one of Winter/Spring 2018’s Top 10 Debut titles. Her short fiction has appeared in journals such as the Southern Review, the Gettysburg Review, the Missouri Review, TriquarterlyHarvard Review, and American Short Fiction, and has twice received special mention for the Pushcart Prize. She was awarded the Peden Prize for Best Short Story byThe Missouri Review (2010), and an Artist’s Fellowship from the Massachusetts Cultural Council (2012).

From Ms. Lee’s website

everything here is beautiful

Two sisters: Miranda, the older, responsible one, always her younger sister’s protector; Lucia, the vibrant, headstrong, unconventional one, whose impulses are huge and, often, life changing. When their mother dies and Lucia starts to hear voices, it’s Miranda who must fight for the help her sister needs — even as Lucia refuses to be defined by any doctor’s diagnosis. Determined, impetuous, she plows ahead, marrying a big-hearted Israeli only to leave him, suddenly, to have a baby with a young Latino immigrant. She will move with her new family to Ecuador, but the bitter constant remains: she cannot escape her own mental illness. Lucia lives life on a grand scale, until inevitably, she crashes to earth. And then Miranda must decide, again, whether or not to step in — but this time, Lucia may not want to be saved. The bonds of sisterly devotion stretch across oceans, but what does it take to break them?

Told from alternating perspectives, Everything Here Is Beautiful is, at its core, a heart-wrenching family drama about relationships and tough choices — how much we’re willing to sacrifice for the ones we love, and when it’s time to let go and save ourselves. 

From Pamela Dorman Books (Viking Penguin), January 2018. 

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from Kirkus Reviews

The tumult of loving someone with a chronic mental illness can exhaust even the most caring person.

Just ask Miranda, elder sister to Lucia, a brash, brilliant journalist whose periodic descent into severe psychosis has taxed their relationship and forced Miranda to confront the limits of family loyalty. Of course, she knows that Lucia can be attentive, charming, and kind, drawing in friends and colleagues—at least until the inevitable delusions take hold. It’s scary stuff. To Lee’s credit, Lucia, the more compellingly drawn of the two siblings, never seems like a psychological case study. Instead, we get inside her head—perhaps even inside her soul—to grapple with the challenges she faces. Her loving first marriage, to an older Israeli East Village shop owner named Yonah, begins and ends abruptly, revealing the magnitude of Lucia’s impetuous nature. Later, she hooks up with Manuel, an undocumented Ecuadoran immigrant working odd jobs in Westchester Country, New York, and has a baby. A move to Ecuador, where Lucia, Manuel, and baby Esperanza live in close proximity to Manuel’s family, is both comforting and stifling and raises questions about the cultural assumptions governing gender, parenting, and assimilation. In addition, what it means to live outside one’s country of origin is explored from both Manuel’s and Lucia’s perspectives. The book also exposes the helplessness of family members wishing to fix a fraught situation; the class dimension of health care delivery; and the rampant misinformation surrounding the treatment and diagnosis of illnesses like schizoaffective disorder. Lastly, vivid descriptions of the gentrifying Lower East Side of 1990s New York City, the heavily immigrant towns along the Hudson River, and several communities in Ecuador ground the characters in distinct locations.

An evocative and beautifully written debut.

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Buy this beautiful, necessary book

everything here is beautiful

Monday Must Read! Juneteenth, Ralph Ellison

How desperately we need Ellison’s wisdom now.

Juneteenth is Ralph Ellison‘s second novel, published posthumously in 1999 as a 368-page condensation of over 2000 pages written by him over a period of forty years. It was originally written without any real organization, and Ellison’s longtime friend, biographer and critic John F. Callahan put the novel together, editing it in the way he thought Ellison would want it to be written.

Ellison’s literary executor, John Callahan, has now quarried a smaller, more coherent work from all that raw material. Gone are the epic proportions that Ellison so clearly envisioned. Instead, Juneteenth revolves around just two characters: Adam Sunraider, a white, race-baiting New England senator, and Alonzo “Daddy” Hickman, a black Baptist minister who turns out to have a paradoxical (and paternal) relationship to his opposite number. As the book opens, Sunraider is delivering a typically bigoted peroration on the Senate floor when he’s peppered by an assassin’s bullets. Mortally wounded, he summons the elderly Hickman to his bedside. There the two commence a journey into their shared past, which (unlike the rest of 1950s America) represents a true model of racial integration.

Buy Juneteenth: A Novel

Learn the History of Juneteenth Here

Juneteenth

Monday Must Read: Laila Halaby, Once in a Promised Land, and a memoir in poems, My Name on His Tongue

One of my favorite writers, one of my favorite novels (a read we need now even more than ever), and a memoir in poems. Laila is one of the writers whose work draws me back again and again.

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Once in a Promised Land: A Novel 

and

my name on his tongue: memoir in poems

laila-halabyLaila Halaby was born in Beirut to a Jordanian father and an American mother. She grew up mostly in Arizona, has traveled a fair amount, and has lived for bits of time on the East and West Coasts, the Midwest, and in Jordan and Italy. Her education includes an undergraduate degree in Italian and Arabic, and two Masters degrees, in Arabic Literature and in Counseling. She currently works as an Outreach Counselor for the University of Arizona’s College of Public Health.

my name on his tongue, Laila’s most recent publication, is a memoir in poems. Her novels West of the Jordan (winner of a PEN/Beyond Margins Award) and Once in a Promised Land (a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Authors selection; also named by the Washington Post as one of the 100 best works of fiction for 2007) were both published by (the phenomenal) Beacon Press. Besides fiction and poetry, she write stories for children, including a (as yet unpublished) book entitled Tracks in the Sand. This is a collection of Palestinian folktales that she gathered from children during the year she was living in Jordan and studying folklore on a Fulbright scholarship.

Laila’s most recent project is a novel that has as one of its main characters an American soldier coming home to the United States after completing three tours in Iraq. The writing and researching of this novel has led to the formation of a creative writing class for veterans.

 

Visit Laila’s Website: http://lailahalaby.net/

 

Buy Laila’s beautiful beautiful books!

my name on his tongue

Once in a Promised Land: A Novel

West of the Jordan

Praise for Once in a Promised Land

‘Sometimes you run out of adjectives. Or the adjectives lose their luster. What if I say that “Once in a Promised Land” is brilliant, insightful, heartbreaking, enchanting — what does that even mean anymore? But this novel is brilliant because the prose glows, sends off heat. Insightful because it allows us to see into a place that most of us don’t know about. Heartbreaking because you can feel the situation that these characters are trapped in. And enchanting because it’s told in the form of a fairy tale that lets us believe that, somehow, these poor souls may be able to rescue themselves.”-Carolyn See, Washington Post

Once in a Promised Land is the story of a couple, Jassim and Salwa, who left the deserts of their native Jordan for those of Arizona, each chasing their own dreams of opportunity and freedom. Although the two live far from Ground Zero, they cannot escape the nationwide fallout from 9/11. Jassim, a hydrologist, believes passionately in his mission to keep the water tables from dropping and make water accessible to all people, but his work is threatened by an FBI witch hunt for domestic terrorists. Salwa, a Palestinian now twice displaced, grappling to put down roots in an inhospitable climate, becomes pregnant against her husband’s wishes and then loses the baby. When Jassim kills a teenage boy in a terrible accident and Salwa becomes hopelessly entangled with a shady young American, their tenuous lives in exile and their fragile marriage begin to unravel . This intimate account of two parallel lives is an achingly honest look at what it means to straddle cultures, to be viewed with suspicion, and to struggle to find save haven.”-Book Sense (Notable Title 2007)

Praise for his name on my tongue

“In her debut poetry collection, best-selling novelist Halaby (West of Jordan) narrates the need of any Arab American to navigate new realities while giving voice to old ones. She writes about her inner feelings and daily experiences in a confessional mode reminiscent of works by Louise Glück. Using narrative style as she passionately interweaves insights about peace, war, family, nostalgia, exile, and sociopolitical conflicts among others, Halaby promotes poetry as both testimony and instrument of change: ‘one thousand /one hundred / one / it doesn’t matter the number / they came / and walked / for peace.’ The tireless search for a sense of belonging drums through most of the poems, as the poet tries to reconcile here with there, her new country with the ancestral homeland. She deploys sarcasm and irony to express her bitterness over the trend of cultural demonizing, and her heritage, with its strong narrative of historical grievances, gives the poems a melancholy tone. VERDICT Halaby transfers her life’s experiences into emotionally touching poems. Recommended for all readers, especially those interested in Arab American literature.”—Library Journal

“Laila Halaby is a necessary poet. The frank, appealing poems of my name on his tongue illuminate complexities and inequities with resonance and power. A wake-up call of a book.”—Naomi Shihab Nye, author of 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East

Read More from Laila Online

Articles

Poetry

“Hair, Prayer, and Men”

Work in Anthologies

 

Hear Laila Read!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIiu0jFcEr4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHplbuS7DrI

 

Happy reading!

Mary

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