Short story in “A Public Space”

A Happy New Year to all my friends and readers! My short story, “Nazaré,” has been published in the rather eminent literary journal A Public Space. The journal has been in print since 2006. It partners with the brilliant Graywolf Press, one of the best indies around, and publishes some excellent writers. Actually, one of…

Writing as the Practice of Freedom: Banned Books Week 2020

Salman Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses came out in 1988. He spent the next ten years in hiding. Ayatollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, didn’t approve of Rushdie’s portrayal of Mohamed, and pronounced a fatwah, a death sentence, on the author. The fatwah was eventually lifted after Khomeini’s death (although officially fatwahs can only…

Review of “Perdido: Sierra San Luis” by Michael P. Berman

When the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V asked Mexico’s conqueror, Hernan Cortes, what Mexico looked like, Cortes crumpled a piece of parchment, threw it on the floor, and said, “Mexico.” Mountains, bluffs, peaks and ridges.   Five-hundred years later, Michael Berman, longtime photographer/adventurer and teller of the tale above, is trekking through the mountains of Sierra…

Black and Blue: The Uses of Anger

1. Nina In 1963, the singer Nina Simone was so angry she wanted to go out and kill somebody. The civil rights activist Medgar Evers had been murdered in June and four months later four little black girls died in the bombing of the Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Nina Simone’s husband and manager…

Two new pieces published in The Bored Friday Project: Volume 5

“The Bored Friday Project” is an independent journal of original artwork, photographs, poetry and prose collated and edited by Curtis Pink. Volume Five, which came out in July 2020, is dedicated to the Black Lives Matter movement. It contains excellent work by the likes of Heather Steinmann, Matthew Leonard Brown, and Laura Ramnarace, and two…

“How to Pronounce Knife” by Souvankham Thammavongsa

A phoneme is a single sound, the smallest unit of language. But the way a phoneme is pronounced can contain a world of information about a speaker’s race, nationality and social status. The title story of How to Pronounce Knife hinges on the pronunciation of the silent k. It’s an authorial trick that serves as…

Books in the time of Coronavirus

I think of genuinely great novels less as books and more like giant monoliths on the side of the road. They’re cultural landmarks with historical freight. As we pass them by, we measure not just them but ourselves. For me, the North American fiction canon consists of about ten novels that have stood the test…

“Kafka in a Skirt: Stories from the Wall” – by Daniel Chacón

Daniel Chacón begins his latest collection of short stories with a metafictional device. He tells us how to read the book. We can read the stories in order or skip around, following themes. The device is borrowed from Julio Cortázar’s Rayuela (translated as Hopscotch), a masterpiece in 155 chapters, the final 99 of which can…

“All the Dreams We’ve Dreamed” by Rus Bradburd

This superb and harrowing book chronicles the life of Shawn Harrington, a charismatic college basketball star who becomes a victim – albeit a survivor – of Chicago’s gun violence. Harrington was recruited in 1995 from Marshall High School, Chicago, by the author, Rus Bradburd, who at the time was coaching at NMSU. When Harrington got…

“The Collector of Leftover Souls: Field Notes on Brazil’s Everyday Insurrections” by Eliane Brum, translated by Diane Grosklaus Whitty

The philosopher Theodor Adorno once stated that the condition of truth is to allow suffering to speak. Brazilian journalist and novelist Eliane Brum does just that in The Collector of Leftover Souls: Field Notes on Brazil’s Everyday Insurrections, a compassionate trek through Brazil’s peripheries, where the poor and the marginalized reside. As she mines favelas…