Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests








Monday, April 12, 2021

MOM IS IN LOVE WITH RANDY TRAVIS From "How to Pronounce Knife" by Souvankham Thammavongsa, recommended by Vinh Nguyen in Electric Literature - 2020


 MOM IS IN LOVE WITH RANDY TRAVIS

From "How to Pronounce Knife" by Souvankham Thammavongsa, recommended by Vinh Nguyen in Electric Literature - 2020


You may read the story and Vinh Nguyen’s comments here 


This is the fifth story by Souvankham Thammavangsa upon which I have posted.  One was from The New Yorker, and four from her debut collection.



Souvankham Thammavongsa has won the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize for her short-story collection, How To Pronounce Knife, her debut work of fiction which examines the immigrant experience.

The Toronto-based author was announced as the latest winner of the award – among the biggest in Canadian literature at $100,000 – during a virtual ceremony on Monday evening, which aired on CBC and streamed online.

“Thank you to my Mom and Dad. Thirty-six years ago, I went to school and I pronounced the word ‘knife’ wrong, and I didn’t get a prize,” Thammavongsa said, after accepting the hand-crafted glass award that was delivered to her front door during the ceremony.

“But tonight, there is one. Thank you.”

How to Pronounce Knife, published by McClelland & Stewart, is a “stunning collection of stories that portray the immigrant experience in achingly beautiful prose,” the jury wrote of the winning book.

“The emotional expanse chronicled in this collection is truly remarkable. These stories are vessels of hope, of hurt, of rejection, of loss and finding one’s footing in a new and strange land.” - from  https://www.scotiabank.com/ca/en/about/perspectives.articles.impact.2020-11-giller-award-announcement.html


“Mom is in Love with Randy Travis” centers on a recently arrived family of Laotian immigrants.  The narrator is the daughter.  On arrival the family got a welcome package including a radio.  We learn the mother, as was common among other Laotian, quickly came to really like country music, even if they could just initially barely understand the lyrics. It was about love, good times and bad, just like Laotian songs.  The mother became obsessed with Randy Travis.  As soon as he can the man buys a record player for her.  Then a TV that can record. She watches all the country music shows.  The husband knows his wife loves Randy Travis over him.  She rarely cooks traditional Laotian food anymore.


Something heartbreaking happens.  The narrator comes back to visit her widowed father years later.  We reflect on the nature of her memories, why was the mother so obsessed with Randy Travis.  Was it because she lost all since of cultural connections ?  We see the father fixes Laotian style food.




Souvankham Thammavongsa - was born in a Laotian refugee camp in Nong Khai, Thailand, and was raised and educated in Toronto. She is the award-winning author of four books of poetry, and her fiction has appeared in Harper’s Magazine, Granta, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, The Best American Non-Required Reading 2018, and The O. Henry Prize Stories 2019.- first appearance. I am very high on her work


Mel u








.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

“Milk Blood Heat” - title story by Dantiel W.Moniz - from debut Collection Milk Blood Heat and other Stories- 2020


 

“Milk Blood Heat” - title story by Dantiel W.Moniz - from debut Collection Milk Blood Heat and other Stories- 2020




“My intention for this collection was to portray the fullness of the human emotional experience, especially when that’s uncomfortable or frightening to sit with. Even in those moments, there can be beauty.” Dantiel W. Moniz


With only ten days gone, April is already a wonderful Month for discovering  new to me Short Story writers who can stand with The best.




How do you Pronounce Knife is the Guilford Prize Winning debut 

collection of Souvankham Thammavongsa. The stories are about Laotian immigrants to Canada, their challenges and struggles.



I followed this up with an initial Reading 

in The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw. Right after my first Reading there was very exciting news.


Deesha Philyaw has won the 2021 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction for her debut short story collection The Secret Lives of Church Ladies.

The collection was chosen for this year’s prize by judges Charles Finch, Bernice L. McFadden, and Alexi Zentner, and was selected from 419 eligible works of fiction by American authors published in 2020 the U.S. and submitted by 170 publishing houses.

“Deesha Philyaw speaks in the funny, tender, undeceived voices of her title characters, who have more in common perhaps even than they know, from love to loss to God,” the judges said in a statement. “In the group portrait that emerges, Philyaw gives us that rarest and most joyful fusion—a book that combines the curious agility of the best short fiction with the deep emotional coherence of a great novel.”


“Heat Blood Milk” by Dantiel W. Moniz centers on The friendship of 

Ava and Kiera:



“This is one of many differences between her and Kiera— that the truth about the two of them changed depending on which mother was telling it—and Ava often wonders if their differences are only because Kiera is white, or if there’s something more. Something beneath the skin. This year she’s become obsessed with dualities, at looking at one thing in two ways: Kiera’s eyes, strange and magic; her own sadness, both imaginary and pulsating.”


We see how they grow closer, race impacts them and their mothers.

We follow their Development for about ten years. Something tragic happens to one of them.


This story is set in Jacksonville Florida.  


DANTIEL W. MONIZ is the recipient of the Alice Hoffman Prize for Fiction, the Cecelia Joyce Johnson Emerging Writer Award by the Key West Literary Seminar, a Tin House Scholarship, and has been named a "Writer to Watch" by Publishers Weekly and Apple Books. Her debut collection, Milk Blood Heat, is an Indie Next Pick, an Amazon "Best Book of the Month" selection, a Roxane Gay Audacious Book Club pick, and has been hailed as "must-read" by TIME, Entertainment Weekly, Buzzefeed, Elle, and O, The Oprah Magazine, among others. Her work has appeared in the Paris Review, Harper’s Bazaar, Tin House, One Story, American Short Fiction, Ploughshares, The Yale Review, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern and elsewhere. She lives in Northeast Florida and currently teaches fiction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


https://www.dantielwmoniz.com/about


I was given a Review copy of Milk Heat Blood.


I highly endorse all three of collections to anyone wanting to read very high quality literature.  I Will be Reading all of their work.


Mel u













Wednesday, April 7, 2021

“How to Make Love to a Physicist” - A Short Story by Deesha Philyaw - from her debut collection, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies


 



“How to Make Love to a Physicist” - A Short Story by Deesha Philyaw - 2020 - from her debut collection The Secret Lives of Church Ladies


I’m deeply honored and thankful to receive the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction,” said Philyaw. “I wrote The Secret Lives of Church Ladies in hopes that Black women would see and hear themselves in my characters who are all, in some way, striving to get free. Winning this award during a time of unconscionable loss, grief, and injustice, I’m reminded just how tenuous our freedom is. I’m reminded of and encouraged by Toni Morrison’s words: ‘The function of freedom is to free someone else.’ On the other side of this time of reckoning and the fight ahead, may we all be free.”




You may read this story here


My Prior Post on a story by Deesha Philyaw,When Eddie Levert Comes


Since my first post on the work of Deesha Philyaw there has been some very gratifying News.



Deesha Philyaw has won the 2021 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction for her debut short story collection The Secret Lives of Church Ladies.

The collection was chosen for this year’s prize by judges Charles Finch, Bernice L. McFadden, and Alexi Zentner, and was selected from 419 eligible works of fiction by American authors published in 2020 the U.S. and submitted by 170 publishing houses.

“Deesha Philyaw speaks in the funny, tender, undeceived voices of her title characters, who have more in common perhaps even than they know, from love to loss to God,” the judges said in a statement. “In the group portrait that emerges, Philyaw gives us that rarest and most joyful fusion—a book that combines the curious agility of the best short fiction with the deep emotional coherence of a great novel.”  From https://www.penfaulkner.org/2021/04/06/announcing-the-winner-of-the-2021-pen-faulkner-award-for-fiction/



My main reason for this post is to encourage all lovers of literature of The highest quality to read her work.  Anyone who ever dismissed Short Stories as not quite serious enough for deep Reading Will be challenged to hold to that opinion.


The narrator is a fortyish African American woman, who teaches art in a 

Public School. We meet her at an academic conference devoted to creating Programs for students of the arts and sciences to see the two disciplines coming together.  She likes to see How many black men are at conferences, with a slight eye to meeting someone that her mother might find acceptable.


She meets a very accomplished physicist.  She likes him but is cautious about rushing into things.  The excitement of the story line is seeing the relationship develop. On first meeting they talk for hours.  She tells him of her work, he reciprocates.  They begin to exchange texts but the man at first has no romantic interest, it seems.


I really hope you Will read this wonderful story.


Deesha Philyaw’s debut short story collection, THE SECRET LIVES OF CHURCH LADIES, won the 2020/2021 Story Prize and was a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction, the 2021 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, and a 2020 LA Times Book Prize: The Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. THE SECRET LIVES OF CHURCH LADIES focuses on Black women, sex, and the Black church, and is being adapted for television by HBO Max with Tessa Thompson executive producing. Deesha is also a Kimbilio Fiction Fellow.   From


https://www.deeshaphilyaw.com/


Mel u








Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Jews and Booze: Becoming American in the Age of Prohibition by Marni Davis - 2012


 



Jews and Booze: Becoming American in the Age of Prohibition by  

Marni Davis - 2012



Finalist, 2014 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature from the Jewish Book Council


Series: Goldstein-Goren Series in American Jewish History


In this very well documented and organized academic history we learn how their relationship to the consumption, manufacturing, sale of Alcohol in America starting about 1820 running up through the end of prohibition in the 1930s shaped the ways in which Eastern European and Russian Jewish immigrants became Americans while preserving their culture.


Much space is taken up with the demands for prohibition of all sales. The driving force behind this was largely Protestant women who felt alcohol destroyed families. Davis shows us how there are

a very old Jewish traditional ways in which the consumption of wine was nearly mandated. Jews in Europe were heavily involved in making not just Kosher Wine but whiskey.  They continued in the occupations they knew when they moved.  Many set up hotels and restaurants in which selling alcohol was a big part of the profit. We learn a lot about the business side of selling liquor in America by Jews and others.  


Anti-alcohol groups began to tie in the sale of alcohol to anti-Semetic perceptions of Jews as preying on The weakness of men.  They are seen as behind rise in brothels and saloons.  Black men were seen as being totally used by Jewish merchants while black women worked as prostitutes.  Davis goes into lots of details on Atlanta.


We see How prohibiting the sale of alcohol did not stop The trade, just changed tbings.


Millions of Jews moved to America from 1850 to about 1915 or so. From Davis we can understand a bit more of How they became Americans.


I highly enjoyed this unique book. 






Marni Davis is a historian of ethnicity and immigration in the United States. She is the author of Jews and Booze: Becoming American in the Age of Prohibition (New York University Press, 2012), which was a finalist for the Sami Rohr Prize in Jewish Literature. An essay by Davis appears in Chosen Capital: The Jewish Encounter with American Capitalism (Rutgers University Press, 2012). She received her Ph.D from Emory University, and taught there for a year before joining the faculty at Georgia State.

Davis is currently researching and writing about the immigrant experience and the immigration debate in the American South in the years between Reconstruction and the liberalization of American immigration policy in the 1960s. She is particularly interested in the role that immigrants’ ethnic enclaves, both residential and entrepreneurial, played in Atlanta’s development as an economically booming and racially segregated New South city.

Davis offers undergraduate courses on immigrants in the U.S. (HIST 4225), modern Jewish history (HIST 3680), and the history of alcohol (HIST 4990). The graduate students under her advisement have done research projects on Cuban immigrants in Atlanta, anti-Catholicism in Progressive-era Georgia, and African-American medical education in Georgia at the turn of the century. - from Georgia State University 

 






















Monday, April 5, 2021

Rasputin’s Daughter by Robert Alexander - 2006 - A National Best Seller


 Rasputin’s Daughter by Robert Alexander - 2006 - A National Best Seller


Grigori Rasputin


January 21, 1869, Pokrovskoye, Russia

Height: 6′ 4″

Assassinated: December 30, 1916, Yusupov Palace, Saint Petersburg, Russia

Spouse: Praskovia Dubrovina (m. 1890–1916)

Children: Maria RasputinVarvara RasputinaDmitri Rasputin

Grandchildren: Tatyana SolovievMaria Solovieff - Wikepedia



In February i read an exciting well researched historical fiction on last few days of The Romanovs.  The Kitchen Boy focuses on Yekaterinburg when The royal Family is captive up to their execution on 16–17 July 1918.  


The Kitchen Boy is structured as if it were a tape recording of a man, now 98 and living in Chicago who at age 14 was in Yekaterinburg (romanized as “Ekaterinburg” serving as a kitchen boy to Tsar Nicholas and his family while they were held captive by the communists.



 Rasputin’s Daughter focuses on a late Romanov person famous through her father. There is a lot of background information in the  novel.  We see the ways Rasputin comes to be very important to The Imperial Family. He is a figure common in Russia, a “mad monk”.  His daughter Maria tries not to be stuck in his shadow.  He has a well deserved reputation for using his contacts to abuse women sexually. Alexander offers lots of scenes verifying this, some near x-rated.


Highly placed figures want to eliminate Rasputin.  Seemingly only he can cure rhe royal Heir when he seems close to dying from hemophilia.  This gives him great power over the royal Family.


We learn about this from the daughter.


I found this book interesting but suggest you start with The Kitchen Boy first.


“For over forty years Robert Alexander has been traveling to Russia, where he has attended Leningrad State University, worked for the U.S. Government, and traveled extensively. For nearly twenty years he was a partner in a very successful St. Petersburg company that operated a warehouse and customs clearance center, dental clinic, and Barabu, chain of espresso-wine bars with locations at The Hermitage and the Fortress of Peter and Paul.

Alexander was inspired to write his first book when he was followed by the KGB. Since then he has penned some twenty-four books, including mysteries, thrillers, children’s fiction, and historical novels. He has also authored popular mystery games, written for television, and created mysteries that appeared on the back of 15 million boxes of Total Cereal.  His first historical novel of revolutionary Russia, The Kitchen Boy, was a New York Times bestseller, and is being produced for film. Mr. Alexander speaks frequently to book clubs and can often be heard on the radio.  Born and raised in Chicago, Alexander currently makes his home in Minneapolis.” - from the Author’s website 


http://robertalexanderbooks.com/









Friday, April 2, 2021

“How to Pronounce Knife” - A Short Story by Souvankham Thammavongsa -The Title Story from her Debut Collection.- 2020


 “How to Pronounce Knife” - A Short Story by Souvankham Thammavongsa -The Title Story from her Debut Collection.- 2020




Souvankham Thammavongsa has won the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize for her short-story collection, How To Pronounce Knife, her debut work of fiction which examines the immigrant experience.

The Toronto-based author was announced as the latest winner of the award – among the biggest in Canadian literature at $100,000 – during a virtual ceremony on Monday evening, which aired on CBC and streamed online.

“Thank you to my Mom and Dad. Thirty-six years ago, I went to school and I pronounced the word ‘knife’ wrong, and I didn’t get a prize,” Thammavongsa said, after accepting the hand-crafted glass award that was delivered to her front door during the ceremony.

“But tonight, there is one. Thank you.”

How to Pronounce Knife, published by McClelland & Stewart, is a “stunning collection of stories that portray the immigrant experience in achingly beautiful prose,” the jury wrote of the winning book.

“The emotional expanse chronicled in this collection is truly remarkable. These stories are vessels of hope, of hurt, of rejection, of loss and finding one’s footing in a new and strange land.” - from  https://www.scotiabank.com/ca/en/about/perspectives.articles.impact.2020-11-giller-award-announcement.html


Today’s story, “How to Pronounce Knife” is The fourth Short Story by Souvankham Thammavongsa upon which I have posted. Along with rest of The Short Story World, i have fallen Under her spell, enthralled by her stories centering on Life experiences of Laotian  immigrants in Canada. The central characters are sometimes children in elementary schools or women largely alone.  Back home, The immigrants had good positions, secure and respected.  Now they work at mindless factory jobs struggling to support their famlies.


English is naturally one of big challenges, the children often Help their parents.  In School. A Young girl fails to get a Prize because she does not know The “K” in knife is Silent.  We see her father, trying to maintain Family leadership, teaching her to pronounce The word as if The K was active. He reasons why would it be in the word just to be Silent.  We see The Young girl struggling to do well in school.


In several stories we Will see How Laotian women use The interest native born men have in them to get further along. We see the strain on marriages.


Souvankham Thammavongsa - was born in a Laotian refugee camp in Nong Khai, Thailand, and was raised and educated in Toronto. She is the award-winning author of four books of poetry, and her fiction has appeared in Harper’s Magazine, Granta, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, The Best American Non-Required Reading 2018, and The O. Henry Prize Stories 2019.- first appearance. I am very high on her work and plan to post on all Her Short Stories in How to Pronounce Knife, her debut 

collection.


Mel u













Thursday, April 1, 2021

The Reading Life Review - March 2021


The Reading Life Review - March 2021-







Column One


  1. Cynthia Ozick - USA -very vital author on Jewish and Holocaust Subjects
  2. Serena Zabin - USA - historian of The American Revolution - first appearance 
  3. Helen Oyeyemi - UK. Gothic and Occult Writer - First Appearance


Column Two



  1. Souvankham Thammavongsa - was born in a Laotian refugee camp in Nong Khai, Thailand, and was raised and educated in Toronto. She is the award-winning author of four books of poetry, and her fiction has appeared in Harper’s Magazine, Granta, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, The Best American Non-Required Reading 2018, and The O. Henry Prize Stories 2019.- first appearance. I am very high on her work and plan to post on all Her Short Stories in How to Pronounce Knife, her debut collection.
  2. Steve Wade - Ireland - I  have been featuring his work for eight years now.  Author of Debut Collection - In Fields of Butterfly Flames
  3. Junichiro Tanazaki - Japan. Great Writer


Column Three


  1. Erskine Caldwell - USA - Historian. First appearance
  2. Penelope Fitzgerald - UK. Nine novels, Booker Prize Winner
  3. Pat O’Connor - Ireland - first apperance -Pat O’Connor lives in Limerick in the southwest of Ireland. He was a joint winner of the 2009 Best Start Short Story Competition in Glimmertrain, and in 2010  he was shortlisted for the Sean O’Faolain International Short Story Prize. In 2011, he was shortlisted for the RTE Francis MacManus Award for radio stories, and won the Sean O’Faolain Prize. In 2012 he was shortlisted for the Hennessy New Irish Writing Award and the Fish Short Story prize.  In 2013 he was longlisted for Over the Edge New Writer of the Year


Column Four


  1. Catherine MnNamara -  Catherine McNamara grew up in Sydney, ran away to Paris to write, and ended up in Ghana co-running a bar. On the way she lived in Milan, Mogadishu and Brussels, working as a translator, graphic designer, teacher, art gallery director, shoe model, mother. The Cartography of Others was a finalist in the People’s Book Prize (UK) and won the Eyelands International Fiction Award (Greece). Pelt and Other Stories was a semi- finalist in the Hudson Prize (USA) and longlisted for the Frank O’Connor Award (Ireland). Her short fiction has been Pushcart-nominated and published widely. Catherine lives in a farmhouse in northern Italy. Featured many times
  2. Amor Towles - USA - author a Gentleman in Moscow and Rules of Civility. Love his work


The Reading Life is a multicultural

book blog, committed to Literary Globalism


Home Countries of Authors


  1. USA - 4
  2. UK - 2
  3. Ireland - 2
  4. Canada - 1
  5. Japan - 1
  6. Australia - 1


Six of The eleven authors are women. Seven have been previously featured.  All but two are still with us


In March 3 novels were featured, 2 novellas, 4 Short Stories and two works on American History.


Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests




Blog Stats


As of today our posts have been viewed 6,292,293 times 


There are 3894 posts online.


In March, nine of The Top ten posts were on Short Stories, two by Tagore 


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Reading Life plans 

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Comments


My great thanks to Max u for his kind provision of Amazon Gift Cards.


To those who leave comments, you Help keep me going.


I thank Ambrosia and Oleander Bousweau for their long term support and friendship


The Last 12 months have not been easy for those of us deeply committed to The book Blog World.  I see better times coming for us.


I Will be Reading  along with Buried in Print through The Short Stories of Alistair MacLeod