The U.S. and Original Sin

What was the original sin of the United States? It was what the European settlers did to the Native American populations. They massacred them; enslaved them; removed them from ancestral lands either by force, coercion, or guile; gave them smallpox-infested blankets; and enclosed them in ‘reservations.’ “Ah, but …,” say the pedants, “that was before it…

“All They Will Call You” by Tim Z. Hernandez

In 1948 there was a plane crash in Los Gatos Canyon, California. In the plane were 28 undocumented Mexican workers who were being deported, and four Whites – the pilot, co-pilot, stewardess, and immigration agent. Nobody survived. The papers carried the names of the four Whites, but the Mexicans at first went nameless. The Whites…

“Apocalypse How? An Existential Bestiary” by Adrienne Celt

This book is about as offbeat as it gets. Apocalypse How? sits somewhere between Beckett, Sartre, and an Aardman Animations cartoon, and the good news is it’s brilliant. The book consists of stand-alone cartoon strips, four panels each, starring all the animals of the ark. The twist is that they talk and think as if they’re…

“Here there is no why”: on re-reading Primo Levi

Desperate times call for great books. Primo Levi, a Jewish prisoner arriving at Auschwitz, is thirsty. He reaches to break off an icicle with which to sate his thirst and a guard snatches it away. Levi asks, “Warum?” (Why?) The guard replies, “Hier ist kein warum.” (Here there is no why.) If This Be A…

“Another Door Calls” by Elise Stuart

Elise Stuart’s debut collection shimmers in the rain, gets snagged on the cholla, frees itself in the night winds, and goes rolling down a flooded arroyo. This terrific collection couldn’t have been written anywhere but New Mexico, Stuart’s spiritual home. Her familial roots lie elsewhere, but her narrative voice and sensibility reside firmly in the…

“Damnificados” wins Independent Publisher Book Award

Damnificados has won the Independent Publisher Book Award for Multicultural Fiction. This year the organizers received more than 5,000 entries. They must have some voracious readers on their panels. In the organizers’ own words: “Each year since 1996, the Independent Publisher Book Awards competition has identified a reading list of progressive, thought-provoking books, the kind…

Twelve New Books with Social Justice Themes

1. Decolonization: A Short History by Jan C. Jansen and Jürgen Osterhammel (Princeton University Press) Decolonization examines the consequences of European, Japanese and American decolonization from World War I to the 1990s. It details the dramatic collapses of long-established imperial regimes, some in peace, others in a torrent of blood, and describes the long shadow cast…

“We the People: Stories from the Community Rights Movement in the United States” by Thomas Linzey and Anneke Campbell

“Communities are saying to the government and corporations, “We’re no longer willing to be fracked, poisoned and polluted.” They are mobilizing against a system of law that empowers corporations over communities … Communities are saying this is not acceptable, it’s not sustainable, it’s not democratic, and it’s going to change.” (Chad Nicholson, consultant for Grant…

“The End of Imagination” by Arundhati Roy

“Terrorism is the symptom, not the disease.” (Arundhati Roy, The End of Imagination) Arundhati Roy is a superhero. She wears a sari instead of a cape. She has written one novel – The God of Small Things – and it won the Booker Prize. She is an award-winning screenwriter and an award-declining dissenter. She is…

“Damnificados” named a finalist for the Foreword INDIES Book of the Year

This just in from Foreword Reviews: We are pleased to announce Damnificados has been recognized as a finalist in the 19th annual Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards. As part of their mission to discover, review, and share the best books from small, university, and independent publishers, media company Foreword Reviews hosts its annual…

Tucson Festival of Books 2017

Another year, another blockbuster. Once again I missed out on a couple of big names – Colson Whitehead and Michael McGarrity – but there was plenty of consolation in seeing some lesser-known, bright young (and not-so-young) things. I was really looking forward to seeing Adrienne Celt as she’ll be appearing later this year at the Southwest…

The Black Renaissance

A new Black Renaissance is dawning right now. Our literature is stronger than ever. Those great, great writers who came before us all have their heirs. For James Baldwin, read Ta-Nehisi Coates. For Ralph Ellison, read Colson Whitehead. For Zora Neale Hurston, read Toni Morrison. They aren’t like-for-like, but our modern black writers are hugely…