Seven Great Banned Books

In celebration of Banned Books Week – Sept 25-Oct 1 – here’s some great literature that governments banned at one time or another. Rather than the usual suspects — Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Lolita, the Harry Potter series (witchcraft!), and pretty much everything Orwell and Solzhenitzyn wrote — I’ve gone for a few of the more…

Brooklyn Book Festival, September 18, 2016

What a great festival! It was my first time. At the opening party for authors, Jacqueline Woodson was honored with an award and she made an excellent speech: humble, articulate and funny. My session was a reading for debut novelists and I was privileged to share a stage with Natashia Deón, R.J. Hernandez, Matt Gallagher,…

Black History in the Smithsonian

This month’s Smithsonian magazine is dedicated to African American history. It’s a special issue to celebrate the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, in Washington. The museum took 101 years to come to fruition. That’s not a typo. It was first suggested by African American Civil War veterans in 1915….

The Perfect Book for Labor Day

“Work. Capitalism. Economics. Resistance.” is a strikingly original book. For a start, it’s written by CrimeThinc. ex-Workers’ Collective. Secondly, its introduction (which is not called an introduction; actually, it’s not called anything) claims: “this book isn’t just an attempt to describe reality but also a tool with which to change it … What qualifies us…

For Shakespeare Fans, Two Sequels by David Henry Wilson

On the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s departure (exit stage left), a treat for all you Shakespeare fans. Playwright David Henry Wilson had the temerity to write sequels to The Merchant of Venice and Othello. What’s more, he pulled it off. How? How could any contemporary writer inhabit Shakespeare’s world and language? Wilson himself asks…

Review of “Damnificados” in World Literature Today

I’m thrilled that Damnificados has just been reviewed in World Literature Today, one of the world’s most venerable literary journals. WLT was founded in 1927, and was originally called Books Abroad. The founder, Dr. Roy Temple House, was Chair of Modern Languages at the University of Oklahoma. House believed that the United States was becoming…

RIP Elie Wiesel 1928-2016

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” (Night) According to the Nobel Prize committee, who awarded him the Peace Prize in 1986, Elie Wiesel was “The Messenger to Mankind.” His experiences as a Holocaust survivor meant he had the worst messages imaginable about…

Ten Great Latin American Novels

It’s all here: magical realism, characters as big as gods, social (in)justice, love and death and the depredations of colonialism. Ten masterpieces from that gorgeous and perennially troubled continent. 1. The War of the End of the World by Mario Vargas Llosa Llosa wrote several great novels – Aunt Julia and The Scriptwriter is probably…

The Most Important Publication of 2016

Nope – it’s not Karl Ove Knausgaard’s Some Rain Must Fall or Annie Proulx’s epic novel Barkskins or even Zero K by the master, Don DeLillo. It’s not the timely tomes Rio de Janeiro by Luiz Eduardo Soares or The Games: A Global History of the Olympics by David Goldblatt. It’s not Postcapitalism by Paul Mason or Thomas…

Rapture – by Sjohnna McCray

McCray’s themes in this first poetry collection are desire, identity and memory. He excavates his past and dredges up images and motifs that form a personal mythology. Many of the poems seem autobiographical. There is a particular focus on the imperfections of the human body: the stump of a father’s amputated leg; “flabby buttocks” and…