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Monthly Archives: April 2016

REVIEW: Andrew Solomon’s “Far & Away: Reporting from the Brink of Change: Seven Continents, Twenty-Five Years”

When Andrew Solomon went to Finland to promote The Noonday Demon, his ground-breaking 2001 book on depression, he landed on a leading morning television show.The interviewer, “a gorgeous blonde woman, leaned forward and asked in a mildly offended tone, ‘So, Mr. Solomon. What can you, an American, have to tell the Finnish people about depression?’” the writer recalls in his newest work.“I felt as though I had written a book about hot peppers and gone to promote it in Sichuan,” Solomon jokes in the leisurely and chatty introduction to Far & Away: Reporting from the Brink of Change: Seven Continents, Twenty-Five Years.Clearly this 52-year-old writer, who won an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in 2013, has serious wanderlust. Solomon has traveled to 83 of the 196 recognized nations... Read More →

READ: Marilyn Chin’s New Poem, “Peony”

Hours before accepting her 2015 Anisfield-Wolf award, Marilyn Chin claimed "activist poet" as her mantle:  "I've been writing poetry to right the wrongs of the world, to express my Chinese-American sensibility, to work for this utopian American future." Chin, a professor at San Diego State University teaching this year at Smith College, collected the prize for Hard Love Province, her fourth volume of poetry. Juror Rita Dove praised her work as "icy yet inflamed." Her new poem, "Peony," is featured for some 350,000 subscribers to the American Academy of Poet's digitally-delivered "Poem-A-Day."  This new work continues the elegiac notes found in Hard Love Province, lamenting on the passage of time.Chin explained the origins of "Peony" to the staff at the academy: “In Beijing, a... Read More →

At The Cleveland Humanities Festival, Author Kamila Shamsie Asks “Why Weep for Stones?”

Novelist Kamila Shamsie has a knack for titles.  She called her talk in Cleveland “Why Weep for Stones?” and built it into a riveting meditation on history, art, war and morals.  Readers of her fiction – Shamsie won a 2010 Anisfield-Wolf prize for “Burnt Shadows” – will recognize the thematic confluence at once.Standing in the ornate neo-Gothic Harkness Chapel of Case Western Reserve University, Shamsie drew her listeners into thinking about the political destruction of art, such as the desecration and damage in Palmyra, Syria, amid a civil war that has claimed more than a quarter of a million lives.  Recent reports indicate that some of Palmyra’s irreplaceable ruins have survived the fighting.“What do we celebrate when we celebrate ancient artifacts withstanding... Read More →

Meet Our 2016 Winners

From L to R: Rowan Ricardo Phillips, Mary Morris, Lillian Faderman, Orlando Patterson, Brian Seibert   Rowan Ricardo Phillips’ second book of poetry, Heaven, brims with 38 poems that ask “Who the hell’s Heaven is this?” and then splinters the answers into a night sky’s worth of possibilities. The poet insists on the strangeness of difference. “Lyric steeped in beauty, in exhilaration; when Phillips writes about jazz or the Wu-Tang Clan, the quotidian is lifted onto a plain as mythical and fateful as the battlefields of Troy,” says jurist Rita Dove. While the classics reverberate here, so do references to roosters in Ohio, Led Zeppelin riffs in the basement and bears in Colorado. Phillips, who lives in New York and Barcelona, also writes about basketball and soccer for... Read More →

REVIEW: Mat Johnson’s “Loving Day” Proves A Strong Offering In Racial Satire

by Gary StonumIn electoral politics you must choose one candidate. In identity politics, it is often the same. As Warren Duffy, the African American narrator in the 2015 novel Loving Day, tells his newly discovered teenage daughter Tal, “There’s Team White and Team Black, okay? You probably didn’t even know you were on Team White.”Of course, things are not so simple. Like author Mat Johnson, Duffy identifies as black but looks white, “the human equivalent of mismatched socks.” Repeatedly, he must perform his race in order to fit in. Worse, 17-year-old Tal, who is actually darker than her father, has been raised Jewish since her mother died, and was, as her father puts it, “casually racist.”This may sound like the setup for a 21st century update of a tragic mulatto plot... Read More →
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