New Books in Literature

Marshall Poe


Interviews with Writers about their New Books
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1348 episodes

Greg Wrenn, "Mothership: A Memoir of Wonder and Crisis" (Regalo Press, 2024)

A dazzling, evidence-based account of one man’s quest to heal from complex PTSD by turning to endangered coral reefs and psychedelic plants after traditional therapies failed—and his awakening to the need for us to heal the planet as well. Professor Greg Wrenn likes to tell his nature-writing students, “The ecological is personal, and the personal is ecological.” What he’s never told them is how he’s lived out those correspondences to heal from childhood abuse at the hands of his mother.  Mothership: A Memoir of Wonder and Crisis (Regalo Press, 2024) is a deeply researched account of Greg turning to coral reefs and a psychedelic rainforest tea called ayahuasca to heal from complex PTSD—a disorder of trust, which makes the very act of bonding with someone else panic-inducing. From the tide pools in Florida where he grew up, to Indonesia’s Raja Ampat archipelago and the Amazon rainforest, Greg takes his readers on a journey across the globe. In his search for healing from personal and ecological trauma, he dives into both the ocean and the psyche—and finds they have a lot in common. Mothership is one man’s audacious search for healing when talk therapy and pharmaceuticals did little to help. Written with prophetic urgency, Mothership ultimately asks if doses of nature will be enough to save us before it’s too late—and what well-being means in a fracturing society on a dying planet. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Mar 27
Marie Mutsuki Mockett, "The Tree Doctor" (Graywolf Press, 2024)

When the unnamed narrator of Marie Mutsuki Mockett's stirring second novel returns to Carmel, California, to care for her mother, she finds herself stranded at the outset of the disease. With her husband and children back in Hong Kong, and her Japanese mother steadily declining in a care facility two hours away, she becomes preoccupied with her mother's garden--convinced it contains a kind of visual puzzle--and the dormant cherry tree within it. Caught between tending to an unwell parent and the weight of obligation to her distant daughters and husband, she becomes isolated and unmoored. She soon starts a torrid affair with an arborist who is equally fascinated by her mother's garden, and together they embark on reviving it. Increasingly engrossed by the garden, and by the awakening of her own body, she comes to see her mother's illness as part of a natural order in which things are perpetually living and dying, consuming and being consumed. All the while, she struggles to teach (remotely) Lady Murasaki's eleventh-century novel, The Tale of Genji, which turns out to resonate eerily with the conditions of contemporary society in the grip of a pandemic. The Tree Doctor (Graywolf Press, 2024) is a powerful, beautifully written novel full of bodily pleasure, intense observation of nature, and a profound reckoning with the passage of time both within ourselves and in the world we inhabit. Marie Mutsuki Mockett is the author of a previous novel, Picking Bones from Ash, and two books of nonfiction, American Harvest, which won the Nebraska book award, and the northern California book award, and Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye, which was a finalist for the Pen Open Book Award. A graduate of Columbia University in East Asian studies she has been awarded NEA – JUSFC and Fulbright Fellowships, both for Japan. Recommended Books: Royall Tyler, The Disaster of the Third Princess: Essays on The Tale of Genji Emily Raboteau, Lessons for Survival: Mothering Against "The Apocalypse" Martin Puchner, Culture Chris Holmes is Chair of Literatures in English and Associate Professor at Ithaca College. He writes criticism on contemporary global literatures. His book, Kazuo Ishiguro Against World Literature, is under contract with Bloomsbury Publishing. He is the co-director of The New Voices Festival, a celebration of work in poetry, prose, and playwriting by up-and-coming young writers. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Mar 23
The Georgia Review: A Discussion with Gerald Maa and Maggie Su

Gerald Maa has been The Georgia Review’s director and editor since 2019. During his tenure there, the magazine has won the National Magazine Award for Best Fiction as well as Best New Poets, and the Robert Dau/PEN Prize. Prior to this role, Maa was the editor-in-chief of The Asian American Literary Review with Lawrence-Minh Bui Davis. Maggie Su is the associate prose editor for The Georgia Review and the author of the forthcoming novel Blob (Harper 2025). She holds a PhD in fiction from the University of Cincinnati and her short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in The New England Review, TriQuarterly Review, and elsewhere. The Georgia Review has a long, distinguished tradition of publishing writings vetted by a fully salaried staff. In this case, first up in the discussion is the essay “Campus Maximum” by Christopher Kempf. It explores the social justice versus academic freedom tussle that Cornell University found itself dealing with after an African-American student group took over one of the campus’s main buildings in 1969. To say the essay explores town/gown tensions would be to slight the exploration of multiple, conflicted views taken by everybody involved in the unfolding drama. In “Chopping Up the Gun” by Mary Margaret Alvarado witnesses a weapons turn-in program held in Aurora, Colorado where “cars wait, as though for French fries, or absolution.” Having former weapons transformed into sculpture pieces or other objects invites a variety of responses. In L. J. Sysko’s “Inside Lane,” an ominous foreboding exists among a girl’s swim team where the coach kisses a team member without consent, and may be on the hook for worse before losing his job. Finally, in Brian Truong’s “Fake Handbags,” an Asian-American family’s shopping trips to New York City for knock-off luxury goods doesn’t provide a brand halo that can protect the family members from the dad’s angry outbursts. Dan Hill, PhD, is the author of ten books and leads Sensory Logic, Inc. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Mar 22
Jennifer Lang, "Places We Left Behind: A Memoir-in-miniature" (Vine Leaves Press, 2023)

Jennifer Lang's Places We Left Behind: A Memoir in Miniature (Vine Leaf Press, 2023) uses short chapterettes and experimental prose to examine he marriage, commitment and compromise, faith and family while moving between prose and poetry, playing with language and form, daring the reader to read between the lines. When American-born Jennifer falls in love with French-born Philippe during the First Intifada in Israel, she understands their relationship isn't perfect. Both 23, both Jewish, they lead very different lives: she's a secular tourist, he's an observant immigrant. Despite their opposing outlooks on two fundamental issues—country and religion—they are determined to make it work. For the next 20 years, they root and uproot their growing family, each longing for a singular place to call home. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Mar 22
Herbert Gold and Ari Gold, "Father Verses Sons: A Correspondence in Poems" (Rare Bird Books, 2024)

Father Verses Sons: A Correspondence in Poems (Rare Bird, 2024). When the global pandemic forced his ninety-six-year-old father into isolation, filmmaker Ari Gold became concerned that loneliness would kill his father's spirits. As a prolific novelist who began writing in his twenties, Herbert Gold's incredible oeuvre included twenty-four novels, five collections of stories and essays, and eight nonfiction books. So, Ari mailed his father a poem, asking for one in return. Later, Ari's twin brother, Ethan, also got into the game. Thus was launched a lifesaving literary correspondence, and a testament to the bonds of family. The resulting poems are playful, honest, funny, and moving. Secrets are invoked alongside personal - and often painful - history. Ari and Ethan's mother, Herbert Gold's second wife, died in a helicopter crash alongside the famous rock promoter and impresario Phil Graham in 1991. Her ghost roams through the poems and the wonderful archival photos included in full color throughout. In Father Verses Sons, a lushly illustrated "correspondence in poems," ranges across the life, family, and death of a remarkable father. The father and his sons write tenderly of their hunger for connection, about the woman that all three men have lost (a mother, a wife), and about the passion that all three seek. Ultimately, these poems tell a singular story of men bumbling their way towards love. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Mar 20
Céline Keating, "The Stark Beauty of Last Things" (She Writes Press, 2023)

The Stark Beauty of Last Things (She Writes Press, 2023) is set in Montauk, the far reaches of the famed Hamptons, an area under looming threat from a warming climate and overdevelopment. Now outsider Clancy, a thirty-six-year-old claims adjuster scarred by his orphan childhood, has inherited an unexpected legacy: the power to decide the fate of Montauk’s last parcel of undeveloped land. Everyone in town has a stake in the outcome, among them Julienne, an environmentalist and painter fighting to save the landscape that inspires her art; Theresa, a bartender whose trailer park home is jeopardized by coastal erosion; and Molly and Billy, who are struggling to hold onto their property against pressure to sell. When a forest fire breaks out, Clancy comes under suspicion for arson, complicating his efforts to navigate competing agendas for the best uses of the land and to find the healing and home he has always longed for. Told from multiple points of view, The Stark Beauty of Last Things explores our connection to nature—and what we stand to lose when that connection is severed. Céline Keating is an award-winning writer and author of two novels: Layla (2011), a Huffington Post featured title, and Play for Me (2015), a finalist in the International Book Awards, the Indie Excellence Awards, and the USA Book Awards. Her short fiction and articles have been published in many literary journals and magazines. For many years a resident of Montauk, NY, Céline continues to serve on the board of environmental organization Concerned Citizens of Montauk. She is the coeditor of the anthology On Montauk: A Literary Celebration. She lives in Bristol, Rhode Island, and New York City. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Mar 19
Robin Oliveira, "A Wild and Heavenly Place" (Putnam, 2024)

When Samuel Fiddes and Hailey MacIntyre meet by chance in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1878, their worlds appear to be far distant from each other. Samuel lives with his little sister, Alison, in a tenement—the two of them scrabbling to keep themselves fed and clothed. Hailey enjoys a comfortable middle-class life, although the expectations placed on her as a young woman restrict her future not simply to marriage and motherhood but to a union with the “right” man, defined in terms of wealth and prestige. Despite this social gap, Samuel and Hailey form an instant bond after he rescues her younger brother from a near-fatal run-in with a careless carriage driver. Both know that Hailey’s parents disapprove of their friendship, never mind a budding romance, but a mix of attraction and teenage rebellion draws them together. Then fate intervenes. Financial disaster strikes the MacIntyre family just as things start to look up for Samuel and Alison. Hailey’s father decides to move his family to Washington Territory, where he plans to oversee a coal mine. A few months later, Samuel sets off with Alison to follow them. But the Seattle of 1880 is nothing like what any of them expect. It will take a lot of time and effort, it turns out, for Samuel and Hailey to find each other in their wild and heavenly place. Robin Oliveira is the New York Times bestselling author of three previous works of historical fiction. A Wild and Heavenly Place (Putnam, 2024) is her latest novel. C. P. Lesley is the author of two historical fiction series set during the childhood of Ivan the Terrible and three other novels. Her latest book—The Merchant’s Tale, cowritten with P.K. Adams—appeared in November 2023. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Mar 19
Brenda Novak, "Tourist Season" (Mira Books, 2024)

In Brenda Novak's latest book, Tourist Season (Mira Books, 2024), Ismay Chalmers' plans to spend a relaxing summer at the beach are derailed when she discovers the wealthy family she is marrying into is hiding many scandals and secrets. Ismay is ready for a relaxing summer reconnecting with her fiance at his family's luxurious beachfront cottage. But before Remy can join her, a hurricane bears down on Mariners Island. Alone in the large house, Ismay makes a disturbing discovery in Remy's childhood closet. She's not sure what to make of it, but is relieved when the property's caretaker, Bo, checks in on her. Bo's home is damaged, so they temporarily shelter together, and Ismay is comforted by his quiet strength. But the unannounced arrival of a family member puts Bo back at his place and changes Ismay's summer into something other than what she wants -- or ever expected. With so many reasons to feel unsettled, Ismay finds herself turning to Bo, who gives her more than a sense of security; there's something about him that makes her feel alive, stirring her to wonder what life might be like if she chose a different path... As Ismay grows closer to Bo, she begins to hope the reclusive caretaker might eventually let down his guard. But when she finds out that he has secrets, too, she begins to question how well she knows any of the men in her life -- and how well she can trust her own heart. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Mar 17
Scott Alexander Howard, "The Other Valley" (Atria Books, 2024)

Sixteen-year-old Odile is an awkward, quiet girl vying for a coveted seat on the Conseil. If she earns the position, she'll decide who may cross her town's heavily guarded borders. On the other side, it's the same valley, the same town. Except to the east, the town is twenty years ahead in time. To the west, it's twenty years behind. The towns repeat in an endless sequence across the wilderness. When Odile recognizes two visitors she wasn't supposed to see, she realizes that the parents of her friend Edme have been escorted across the border from the future, on a mourning tour, to view their son while he's still alive in Odile's present. Edme--who is brilliant, funny, and the only person to truly see Odile--is about to die. Sworn to secrecy in order to preserve the timeline, Odile now becomes the Conseil's top candidate. Yet she finds herself drawing closer to the doomed boy, imperiling her entire future. A breathlessly moving "unique take on the intersection of fate and free will" (Nikki Erlick, author of The Measure), The Other Valley (Astria Books, 2024) is "a stellar debut, full of heartbreak and hope wrapped up in gorgeous prose" (Christina Dalcher, author of Vox). Scott Alexander Howard lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. He has a PhD in philosophy from the University of Toronto and was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard, where his work focused on the relationship between memory, emotion, and literature. The Other Valley is his first novel. Jan Zwicky, The Long Walk Morgan Talty, Fire Exit Lily Wang, Silver Repetition Chris Holmes is Chair of Literatures in English and Associate Professor at Ithaca College. He writes criticism on contemporary global literatures. His book, Kazuo Ishiguro Against World Literature, is under contract with Bloomsbury Publishing. He is the co-director of The New Voices Festival, a celebration of work in poetry, prose, and playwriting by up-and-coming young writers. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Mar 14
The Iowa Review: A Discussion with Lynne Nugent

Lynne Nugent is the editor of The Iowa Review and the author of a chapbook of essays, Nest, about motherhood and domesticity published by The Florida Review in 2020. She holds a MFA in nonfiction writing and a PhD in English from the University of Iowa. It’s a small world, at times, as the podcast’s host grew up in Northfield, Minnesota, the site of the opening essay “Why I Lie” by Jonathan Wei. That essay opens, as guest Lynne Nugent observes, with a series of declarative sentences that quickly get modified as the author takes on the role of the fallible narrator to make the larger point that society isn’t always as grand as we’re led to believe by documents like the Pledge of Allegiance. A second essay discussed by Nugent takes the iconic status of California as the Golden State down a notch by focusing on rats that plague the sleepless nights of Elizabeth Hall, the author of “Rat Beach.” A third essay covered here, “Bloodlust: A Memoir” by Libby Kurz vividly describes life as a U.S. Air Force trauma center nurse, before pivoting to an enlistment interview and the dark memories it invokes. Dan Hill, PhD, is the author of ten books and leads Sensory Logic, Inc. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Mar 14
Millicent Borges Accardi, "Quarantine Highway" (Flowersong Press, 2022)

Millicent Borges Accardi, a Portuguese-American writer, is the author of four poetry collections, including Only More So (Salmon Poetry, Ireland), and Quarantine Highway (FlowerSong Press). Among her awards are fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Fulbright, CantoMundo, Creative Capacity, the California Arts Council, Foundation for Contemporary Arts (Covid grant), Yaddo, Portuegese National Cultural Foundation, and the Barbara Deming Foundation, "Money for Women." She lives in Topanga canyon. From re-definition to re-calibration, the poems in Quarantine Highway are artifacts to the early and mid-days of the pandemic. Though not specifically labeled as "Covid poems," they strike to the heart of the universal yet individual struggles of solitude, confinement, justice, isolation and, ultimately, self-reckoning. The poems push and pull between the constantly knocking global news cycle to the stillness of a surreal inner world. Find more of Millicent's writings here. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

1h 4m
Mar 12
Parul Kapur, "Inside the Mirror" (U Nebraska Press, 2024)

Parul Kapur's novel Inside the Mirror (University of Nebraska Press, 2024) centers on twin sisters growing up in 1950s Bombay, who aspire to become artists. The family is still recovering from the Partition of India in 1947, especially the twins’ grandmother, who once fought for justice against the British regime. One sister is supposed to study medicine, but she is a talented painter, and other studies education, but she is highly trained in a classical Hindu dance form called Bharata Natyam. They live in a Bengali community in which parents choose their daughters’ husbands and society demands conformity. Jaya’s paintings and Kamlesh’s dancing could destroy their chances of finding a good husband, ruin their father’s career, and affect the family’s standing in their community. Jaya moves out of the house, an aberration not only affects her medical schooling, but also disturbs the bond she has with her twin. This is a beautifully written novel about family, art, British colonialism, and coming of age in a time and place in which women could not easily choose their own paths. Parul Kapur was born in Assam, India and immigrated to the United States with her family when she was seven. She received a BA in English Literature from Wesleyan University and an MFA from Columbia University. Returning to India, she worked for a year as a reporter for the city magazine Bombay, covering social issues, and culture and the arts. A journalist, literary critic and fiction writer, Parul was a press officer at the United Nations in New York and a freelance arts writer for The Wall Street Journal Europe, New York Newsday, ARTnews, and Art in America during a decade spent in Germany, France, and England. Her articles and reviews have also appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Esquire, GQ, Slate, Guernica, and Los Angeles Review of Books. Her short stories appear in Ploughshares, Pleiades, Prime Number, Midway Journal, Wascana Review, and the anthology {Ex}tinguished & {Ex}tinct. In 2010, she founded the Books page at ArtsATL, Atlanta’s leading online arts review, covering the literary scene for four years. She was also a co-founder of the global voices program, showcasing a diversity of authors, at the Decatur Book Festival, formerly the nation’s largest indie book festival. She created programs such as visits to collectors’ homes and artist studio visits for members of the High Museum in Atlanta. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Mar 05
Nayereh Doosti, “The Little One” The Common magazine (Nov, 2023)

Nayereh Doosti speaks to managing editor Emily Everett about her story “The Little One,” which appears in The Common’s most recent issue. Nayereh talks about the many inspirations behind this story, which follows an older Iranian man coming to America, where he feels out of place with his family members, the community, and the younger generations. Nayereh also discusses her time as an intern at The Common, her MFA program at BU, and her brand new Persian translation of Aleksandar Hemon’s The Book of my Lives, out now in Tehran. Nayereh Doosti is an Iranian writer and translator based in Berkeley, California. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Epiphany Magazine, The Massachusetts Review, and Nowruz Journal, among others. She holds an MFA from Boston University, and is a former intern at The Common. Read Nayereh’s story “The Little One” in The Common at The Common is a print and online literary magazine publishing stories, essays, and poems that deepen our collective sense of place. On our podcast and in our pages, The Common features established and emerging writers from around the world. Read more and subscribe to the magazine at, and follow us on Twitter @CommonMag. Emily Everett is managing editor of the magazine and host of the podcast. Her debut novel is forthcoming in 2025 from Putnam Books. Her stories appear in the Kenyon Review, Electric Literature, Tin House Online, and Mississippi Review. She was a 2022 Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellow in Fiction. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Mar 01
John Wray, "Gone to the Wolves" (FSG, 2023)

Kip, Leslie, and Kira are outliers—even in the metal scene they love. In arch-conservative Gulf Coast Florida in the late 1980s, just listening to metal can get you arrested, but for the three of them the risk is well worth it, because metal is what leads them to one another. Different as they are, Kip, Leslie, and Kira form a family of sorts that proves far safer, and more loving, than the families they come from. Together, they make the pilgrimage from Florida's swamp country to the fabled Sunset Strip in Hollywood. But in time, the delicate equilibrium they've found begins to crumble. Leslie moves home to live with his elderly parents; Kip struggles to find his footing in the sordid world of LA music journalism; and Kira, the most troubled of the three, finds herself drawn to ever darker and more extreme strains of metal. On a trip to northern Europe for her twenty-second birthday, in the middle of a show, she simply vanishes. Two years later, the truth about her disappearance reunites Kip with Leslie, who in order to bring Kira home alive must make greater sacrifices than they could ever have imagined. In his most absorbing and ambitious novel yet, John Wray dives deep into the wild, funhouse world of heavy metal and death cults in the 1980s and '90s. Gone to the Wolves (FSG, 2023) lays bare the intensity, tumult, and thrill of friendship in adolescence—a time when music can often feel like life or death. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Feb 29
Tyler C. Gore, "My Life of Crime: Essays and Other Entertainments" (Sagging Meniscus Press, 2022)

In his debut essay collection, My Life of Crime (Sagging Meniscus Press, 2022), Tyler C. Gore brings readers on an awkward visit to a nude beach. A bike-pedaling angel careening through rush-hour traffic. The mystery of a sandwich found in a bathroom stall. A lyric, rainy-day ramble through the East Village. With the personal essays (and three other entertainments) Gore reveals the artistic secrets of his life of crime: a charming wit, compassionate observation, perfection of style, and, over all, a winsomely colorful light tinged with just enough despair. Whether stewing over a subway encounter with a deranged businessman, confessing his sordid past as a prankster, or recounting his family’s history of hoarding, Gore is by turns melancholy, profound and hilarious. The collection culminates with the novella-length essay “Appendix,” a twisted, sprawling account of routine surgery that grapples with evolution, mortality, strangely attractive doctors, simulated universes, and an anorexic cat. My Life of Crime conjures up from the flotsam of an individual life something uncannily majestic: an insomniac contemplation of life in our eternal, twenty-four-hour New York City, infused throughout with its grit, humanity, unexpected romance, and the poignant intimacy of all the lives joined together within it. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Feb 28
Marie-Helene Bertino, "Beautyland" (FSG, 2024)

At the moment when Voyager 1 is launched into space carrying its famous golden record, a baby of unusual perception is born to a single mother in Philadelphia. Adina Giorno is tiny and jaundiced, but she reaches for warmth and light. As a child, she recognizes that she is different: She possesses knowledge of a faraway planet. The arrival of a fax machine enables her to contact her extraterrestrial relatives, beings who have sent her to report on the oddities of Earthlings. For years, as she moves through the world and makes a life for herself among humans, she dispatches transmissions on the terrors and surprising joys of their existence. Then, at a precarious moment, a beloved friend urges Adina to share her messages with the world. Is there a chance she is not alone? Marie-Helene Bertino's Beautyland (FSG, 2024) is a novel of startling originality about the fragility and resilience of life on our Earth and in our universe. It is a remarkable evocation of the feeling of being in exile at home, and it introduces a gentle, unforgettable alien for our times. Marie-Helene Bertino is the author of the novels PARAKEET (New York Times Editors’ Choice) and 2 A.M. AT THE CAT’S PAJAMAS (NPR Best Books 2014), and the story collection SAFE AS HOUSES (Iowa Short Fiction Award). Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Electric Literature, Tin House, McSweeneys, and elsewhere. She has been awarded The Frank O’Connor International Short Story Fellowship in Cork, Ireland, The O. Henry Prize, The Pushcart Prize, fellowships from MacDowell, Hedgebrook Writers Colony, The Center For Fiction NYC, and Sewanee Writers Conference. Her work has twice been featured on NPR’s “Selected Shorts” program. She currently teaches in the Creative Writing program at Yale University. Recommended Books: Tea Obreht, The Morning Side Diana Khoi Nguyen, Root Fractures Chris Holmes is Chair of Literatures in English and Associate Professor at Ithaca College. He writes criticism on contemporary global literatures. His book, Kazuo Ishiguro Against World Literature, is under contract with Bloomsbury Publishing. He is the co-director of The New Voices Festival, a celebration of work in poetry, prose, and playwriting by up-and-coming young writers. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Feb 27
Harry Turtledove, "Wages of Sin" (Caezik SF & Fantasy, 2024)

What if HIV started spreading in the early 1500s rather than the late 1900s? Without modern medicine, anybody who catches HIV is going to die. In Wages of Sin (Caezik SF & Fantasy, 2024), by Dr. Harry Turtledove, a patriarchal society reacts to this devastating disease in the only way it knows how: it sequesters women as much as possible, limiting contacts between the sexes except for married couples. While imperfect, such drastic actions do limit the spread of the disease. The ‘Wasting’ (HIV) has caused devastating destruction throughout the known world and severely limited the development of technology as well, creating a mid-nineteenth century England and London almost unrecognisable to us. This is the world Viola is born into. Extremely intelligent and growing up in a house full of medical books which she reads, she dreams of travelling to far-off places, something she can only do via books since her actions and movements are severely restricted by both law and custom. This interview was conducted by Dr. Miranda Melcher whose forthcoming book focuses on post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with qualitative analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Feb 26
Kate Quinn and Janie Chang, "The Phoenix Crown" (William Morrow, 2024)

Kate Quinn and Janie Chang are independently acclaimed authors of historical fiction, both of whom have previously appeared on this podcast channel. Here they combine their skills to tell a story about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake from multiple points of view. One line follows the story of Alice Eastwood, a botanist whom we meet in London five years after the tragedy. Her perspective is contrasted with that of Gemma Garland, an aspiring opera star whose unique voice can’t quite compensate for the migraines that sideline her just as she’s about to make her mark on the world. The third narrator is a young Chinese-American named Feng Suling (“Susie” to the rich white customers who can’t be bothered to learn her name), with a gift for embroidery and a grand ambition: to escape the arranged marriage her uncle plans for her and reunite with Reggie, the love she has lost. How these three stories intersect and overlap, united by the Phoenix Crown and the man who owns it, I’ll leave for readers to discover. Each chapter is marked by its proximity to the forthcoming earthquake (unknown to the protagonists, of course), but even without that impending threat, the story will draw you in and keep you hooked. Kate Quinn is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of numerous previous works of historical fiction, ranging from ancient Rome to the 1950s. The Phoenix Crown is her latest novel. Janie Chang is the award-winning and bestselling author of four previous historical novels, including The Library of Legends and The Porcelain Moon. The Phoenix Crown is her most recent book. C. P. Lesley is the author of two historical fiction series set during the childhood of Ivan the Terrible and three other novels. Her latest book—The Merchant’s Tale, cowritten with P.K. Adams—appeared in November 2023. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Feb 25
"Michigan Quarterly Review" magazine

Chandrica Barua is the Nonfiction and Online Editor for MQR. A PhD candidate in the Department of English Language and Literature, her dissertation focuses on encounters between imperial objects and colonial bodies in the British Empire, especially in British India. She hails from Assam, India. What draws an editor to a particular essay? In Chandrica Barua’s case, her criteria definitely include: whether the essay is inventive in form (for instance, by being a hybrid or “braided” essay that brings together different topical strands) and if it surprises the reader by where it goes. Also of note are factors like: does it have a compelling title, a strong start, and a satisfying moment of closure? The first of the essays discussed here comes from a special, forthcoming African literature issue. Does Emelda Nyaradzai Gwitimah’s “My Hairdresser Is Dead” have an intriguing title? Absolutely, along with a sense of humor missing in many memoirs. In turn, another African essay, “Side Pieces” by Chike Frankie Edozien, looks at how gay sexual practices both operate outside of marriage norms and yet, in the end, conform to those norms to a degree. From the 2024 Winter issue, we discussed Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach’s “Zombie Tag,” about a Jewish refugee from the Ukraine and her autistic son obsessed with lizards because their identities change through camouflage. Finally, a visual essay, “Enacting Masculinity” by McCain Thomas, uses redacted legislative proposals from four Southern states to show how oppressive and misguided attempts can be to limit the rights of transgender people. Dan Hill, PhD, is the author of ten books and leads Sensory Logic, Inc. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Feb 22
Mako Yoshikawa, "Secrets of the Sun: A Memoir" (Mad Creek Books, 2024)

Mako Yoshikawa's Secrets of the Sun: A Memoir (Mad Creek Books 2024) contains a host of essays about her difficult, brilliant father. Shoichi Yoshikawa grew up in a wealthy family in 1930s Japan, but his mother died when he was five, and he died alone on the eve of Mako’s wedding. He had been a genius, renowned for his research in nuclear fusion and respected at Princeton, until he fell apart. She remembered him being alternatingly kind or violent when bipolar disease gripped him. Her mother packed up and left the house with Mako and her sisters, later remarrying a wonderful man and brilliant chess player who Mako considered the father she always wanted. Mako wants to understand him; why he cross-dressed, why he was so passionate about fusion, why he alienated his daughters so that he hadn’t even been invited to Mako’s wedding. Mako Yoshikawa is the author of the novels One Hundred and One Ways and Once Removed. Her novels have been translated into six languages; awards include a Massachusetts Cultural Council Grant and a Radcliffe Fellowship. As a literary critic, she has published articles that explore the relationship between incest and race in 20th-century American fiction. After her father’s death in 2010, Mako began writing about him and their relationship: essays which have appeared in the Missouri Review, Southern Indiana Review, Harvard Review, Story, Lit Hub, Longreads, and Best American Essays. These essays became the basis for her new memoir, Secrets of the Sun. Yoshikawa grew up in Princeton, New Jersey but spent two years of her childhood in Tokyo, Japan. She received a B.A. in English literature from Columbia University, a Masters in Shakespeare and Renaissance Drama at Lincoln College, Oxford, and a Ph. D. in English literature from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Mako is a professor of creative writing and the director of the MFA program at Emerson College. In addition to her MFA classes, Mako teaches Comedic Lit to undergraduates in Emerson’s Comedic Arts program. She also teaches as often as she can in the Emerson Prison Initiative, a degree-granting program that is based in MCI-Norfolk, a medium-security prison for men. She lives with her husband and two unruly cats in Boston and Baltimore. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Feb 20
Sheila Heti Speaks About Awe with Sunny Yudkoff (JP)

In this fantastic recent episode from our colleagues at Novel Dialogue, Sheila Heti sits down with Sunny Yudkoff and John to discuss her incredibly varied oeuvre. She does it all: stories, novels, alphabetized diary entries as well as a series of dialogues in the New Yorker with an AI named Alice. Drawing on her background in Jewish Studies, Sunny prompts Sheila to unpack the implicit and explicit theology of her recent Pure Colour (Sheila admits she “spent a lot of time thinking about …what God’s pronouns are going to be” )–as well as the protagonist’s temporary transformation into a leaf. The three also explore how life and lifelikeness shape How Should a Person Be. Sheila explains why “auto-fiction” strikes her as a “bad category” and “a lazy way of thinking about what the author is doing formally” since “the history of literature is authors melding their imagination with their lived experience.” if you enjoyed this Novel Dialogue crossover conversation, you might also check out earlier ones with Joshua Cohen, Charles Yu, Caryl Phillips, Jennifer Egan, Helen Garner and Orhan Pamuk. Mentioned in this Episode: By Sheila Heti: Pure Colour How Should a Person Be? Alphabetical Diaries Ticknor We Need a Horse (children’s book) The Chairs are Where the People Go (with Misha Glouberman) Also mentioned: Oulipo Group Autofiction: e.g. Ben Lerner, Rachel Cusk, Karl Ove Knausgard Craig Seligman, Sontag and Kael George Eliot, Middlemarch Clarice Lispector (e.g. The Hour of the Star) Kenneth Goldsmith Soliloquy Willa Cather , The Professor’s House (overlap of reality and recollection): “When I look into the Æneid now, I can always see two pictures: the one on the page, and another behind that: blue and purple rocks and yellow-green piñons with flat tops, little clustered houses clinging together for protection, a rude tower rising in their midst, rising strong, with calmness and courage–behind it a dark grotto, in its depths a crystal spring.”) William Steig, Sylvester and The Magic Pebble. Listen and Read: Transcript: 6.6 Overtaken by Awe: Sheila Heti speaks with Sunny Yudkoff Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Feb 16
Deborah Taffa, "Whiskey Tender: A Memoir" (Harper, 2024)

Today’s book is: Whiskey Tender: A Memoir (Harper, 2024), by Deborah Jackson Taffa, who was raised to believe that some sacrifices were necessary to achieve a better life. Her grandparents—citizens of the Quechan (Yuma) Nation and Laguna Pueblo tribe—were sent to Indian boarding schools run by white missionaries, while her parents were encouraged to take part in governmental job training off the reservation. Assimilation meant relocation, but as Deborah Jackson Taffa matured into adulthood, she began to question the promise handed down by her elders and by American society: that if she gave up her culture, her land, and her traditions, she would not only be accepted, but would be able to achieve the “American Dream.”  Whiskey Tender traces how a mixed tribe native girl—born on the California Quechan (Yuma) reservation and raised in Navajo territory in New Mexico—comes to her own interpretation of identity, despite her parent’s desires for her to transcend the class and “Indian” status of her birth through education, and despite the Quechan tribe’s particular traditions and beliefs regarding oral and recorded histories. Her childhood memories unspool into meditations on tribal identity, the rampant criminalization of Native men, governmental assimilation policies, the Red Power movement, and the negotiation between belonging and resisting systemic oppression. Pan-Indian, as well as specific tribal histories and myths, blend with stories of a 1970s and 1980s childhood spent on and off the reservation. Deborah Jackson Taffa offers a sharp and thought-provoking historical analysis laced with humor and heart. As she reflects on her past and present—the promise of assimilation and the many betrayals her family has suffered, both personal and historical; trauma passed down through generations—she reminds us of how the cultural narratives of her ancestors have been excluded from the central mythologies and structures of the “melting pot” of America, revealing all that is sacrificed for the promise of acceptance. Our guest is: Deborah Jackson Taffa, who is a citizen of the Quechan (Yuma) Nation and Laguna Pueblo. She earned her MFA at the Iowa Writers Workshop, and is the Director of the MFA in Creative Writing Program at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her writing has appeared in The Rumpus, Boston Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, A Public Space, Salon, the Huffington Post, Prairie Schooner, The Best Travel Writing, and other outlets.  Our host is: Dr. Christina Gessler, the creator of the Academic Life podcast. She holds a PhD in history, which she uses to explore which stories we tell and what happens to those we don’t. Listeners may also be interested in this playlist: This discussion of the book A Calm and Normal Heart, with Chelsea T. Hicks The conversation about the book Night of the Living Rez, with Morgan Talty Welcome to Academic Life, the podcast for your academic journey—and beyond! Join us to learn from experts inside and outside the academy, and around the world. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

1h 3m
Feb 15
Garnett Kilberg Cohen, "Cravings" (U Wisconsin Press, 2024)

Garnett Kilberg Cohen’s fourth short story collection, Cravings (University of Wisconsin Press, 2024), contains twelve beautifully-written tales. They each start simply before delving into universal human struggles of love, aging, repercussions, and community. Characters mull over or confront decisions and recognize or bemoan past mistakes. A little girl’s life changes while she’s sneaking olives from the pantry, a woman is plunged back in time while attending the book release of her ex, parents of a disabled child struggle as their marriage frays, the daughter of an ex appears on television, and a woman destroys the reputation of her only friend. The collection is about cravings of one kind or another, but also covers a range of complex emotions that arise over the course of a lifetime. Garnett Kilberg Cohen was born and raised in Ohio and feels a strong connection to the Midwest, a place in her memory that is replete with farms, small towns, car factories and fields of corn and purple clover. As a child, she was paid one cent for every five dandelions she ripped by the roots from her family’s yard. Her favorite drink was a cherry phosphate sipped while twirling on a stool at the marble counter of the village drug store. Yet, she was aware of the secrets and trauma often just below the surface. Cravings is Cohen’s fourth collection of short stories. She has also published a poetry chapbook, Passion Tour and multiple essays in such places as Rumpus, Antioch Review, The New Yorker online and Michigan Quarterly Review. Her honors include The Crazyhorse Fiction Prize, four awards from the Illinois Arts Council, and two Notable Essay citations from Best American Essays. In addition to writing and reading, she enjoys drawing, taking long walks, theater, museums and travel. In recent years, she has been fortunate to travel to far-flung places such as Taiwan, Australia, Laos, Tanzania, Iceland and Mexico. She believes that observation is often the key to understanding and inspiration for writing—even if the travel is just to a new neighborhood in the city where she now lives, Chicago. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Feb 13
Gila Green, "With a Good Eye" (Ace of Swords, 2024)

Luna Levi is an ordinary 19-year-old with extraordinary problems. Her mother's acting career is more important to her than the stage of real life. Her father struggles with PTSD as an ex-combat soldier and is equally MIA when it comes to his daughter. The Levis jump from financial crisis to financial crisis until in one-split second someone enters their lives and throws them into the biggest disaster of all. When Luna tries to warn her mother, she is pushed aside and it's the first hint that her mother has every intention of going full steam ahead with a partner who lies--about everything. This family drama is part crime fiction and part domestic noir. Gila Green's novel With A Good Eye (AOS Publishing, 2024) will make you question: can you ever save anyone but yourself and do any of us ever really leave home? Israel-based Gila Green grew up in Ottawa then moved to Johannesburg before settling outside of Tel Aviv. She is the author of dozens of short stories, three novels and one novel-in-stories: White Zion (Cervena Barva Press), King of the Class (NON Publishing, Vancouver), Passport Control (S&H Publishing) and No Entry (Stormbird Press, Australia).  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Feb 10
"The New England Review" magazine: A Discussion with Elizabeth Kadetsky

The New England Review bills itself as a “snapshot of the literary moment,” which for my guest Elizabeth Kadetsky means great writing, of course, but also work that’s relevant to today and showcases a writer able to get out of her or his own head by getting out into the world at large. Fittingly, this episode jumps in locale from Greece to India to Sudan and, finally, to New York City. In every case, a reckoning is taking place—a chance to ponder objects, people, events to try and grasp their value and meaning. In Greece as explored by Joseph Pearson in “The Island That Eats Its People,” a treacherous local landscape doesn’t prove to be nearly as daunting as the war-torn Syria some refugees the writer encounters have come from. In “Stories: South Sudan by Adrie Kusserow,” the key is realizing that as a NGO worker in Africa and a witness to the trauma-aid being insufficiently offered to refugees relocated to Vermont, she’s an outsider always. The episode also includes two pieces by Kadetsky outside the scope of NER: “The Goddess Complex” about looted art that makes its way from India to NYC, and my guest’s fascination with her own experiences with graffiti bombing and the documentary Downtown 81 co-starring the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and the singer Debbie Harry from Blonde. Elizabeth Kadetsky has been a Fullbright Scholar and serves as a Professor of English and Creative Writing at Penn State. Her collection of essays, The Memory Eaters, was published by University of Massachusetts Press in 2020. Kadetsky is NER’s Creative Nonfiction Editor. Dan Hill, PhD, is the author of ten books and leads Sensory Logic, Inc. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Feb 08
Jo Salas, "Mrs. Lowe-Porter" (Jackleg Press, 2024)

Mrs. Lowe-Porter (Jackleg Press 2024) was an American writer (1876-1963) who, after proving her ability, was contracted by publisher Alfred A. Knopf to translate the brilliant books and stories of Thomas Mann from 1924 -1960. Her flowing German to English translations led to Mann’s growing reputation and helped earn him the 1929 Nobel Prize in Literature. In 1911, she married paleographer Elias Lowe, with whom she had three children and many good years, but he was also another dominating man in her life (in addition to Mann and Knopf). Lowe-Porter wrote numerous stories and one original play that was performed in 1948, but her struggle to write and publish was stymied by convention and the requirements of her time. On a side note, she was also the great-grandmother of former U.K. prime minister, Boris Johnson. Jo Salas is a New Zealander now living in upstate New York. She has a BA in English literature from Victoria University in New Zealand and an MM in music therapy from New York University. As the cofounder of Playback Theatre, an original theatre practice based on personal stories, Jo has published numerous articles and four books including Improvising Real Life, now in 10 translations. Her fiction includes the Pushcart-nominated short story “After,” and the Pen & Brush award winner “Antarctica.” Jo’s first novel, Dancing with Diana, is about a young man in a wheelchair who met the future princess when they were both 15 years old. When she's not reading or writing, Jo is likely to be teaching international students how to enact real people’s stories, playing hide-and-seek with her grandkids, or marching on the street with other social justice activists. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Feb 06
Karen Rigby, "Fabulosa" (JackLeg Press, 2024)

After her prize-winning debut, Karen Rigby returns with a beguiling ars poetica and tribute to the dazzling. From Dior to Olympic figure skating, Bruegel to British crime drama, Rigby’s poems revere memorable art, where “performance masks the hours.” Here, thread galvanizes air. A poem is a diamond heist. And menace and elegance are twin gloves directing each cinematic moment. A book of feminine ardor, teenaged MDD and survival, Fabulosa (Jackleg Press, 2024) embroiders beauty out of ache, raises culturally difficult topics with poise, and helps readers feel seen with elegance and originality. Born in the Republic of Panama in 1979, Karen Rigby now lives and writes in Arizona. Her latest poetry book, Fabulosa, is forthcoming from JackLeg Press in 2024. Her debut poetry book, Chinoiserie, was selected by Paul Hoover for a 2011 Sawtooth Poetry Prize.Karen’s work has been honored by a National Endowment for the Arts literature fellowship, a Vermont Studio Center Fellowship, and an Artist Opportunity Grant from the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council. She is a 2023 recipient of an Artist Opportunity Grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts. Her poetry is published in journals such as The London Magazine, Poetry Northwest, The Oxonian Review, and Australian Book Review. She is a freelance book reviewer and lives in Arizona. Preorder Fabulosa here. You can learn more about Megan Wildhood at Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Feb 06
Teresa H. Janssen, "The Ways of Water" (She Writes Press, 2023)

Josie Belle Gore is only six years old when we meet her in 1908, yet her father has tied a rope around her waist and is lowering her into a dark well to retrieve a dead animal that is poisoning the water. The third daughter of a growing family, Josie has moved with her family from western Texas to Arizona, then eastward again, settling in the New Mexican desert region known as the Jornada del Muerto. Her father, a railroad engineer, spends much of his time away, and it is her mother who holds the family together through poverty, sickness, and drought. From an early age, Josie learns that her lot in life is to subsume her own interests to those of her family. Although she yearns to become a teacher, even mastering basic literacy is a challenge in a region where schools are few and far between, household chores never-ending, and such basic needs as food and water not always met. As her father falls prey to alcoholism, loses one job after another, and repeatedly uproots the family in search of a better future, Josie clings to the principles her mother has inculcated in her—until one day, she realizes that the price for tolerating that life has risen too high. Based on the life of the author’s grandmother, Josie’s story sounds grim, but the telling of it is not. Hauntingly beautiful in its evocation of the American Southwest and Northern Mexico, this novel will draw you in, even as it gives you a whole new appreciation of the hardships that many of our ancestors endured. Teresa H. Janssen, a former language and social studies teacher, writes, hikes, tends a small orchard, and is involved in several educational initiatives. The Ways of Water (She Writes Press, 2023) is her debut novel. C. P. Lesley is the author of two historical fiction series set during the childhood of Ivan the Terrible and three other novels. Her latest book—The Merchant’s Tale, co-written with P.K. Adams—appeared in November 2023. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Feb 06
"Fourth Genre" Magazine: A Chat with Patrick Madden and Joey Franklin Askey

Patrick Madden and Joey Franklin are English professors at Brigham Young University. Madden’s latest book is Disperates (U Nebraska Press, 2020) and Franklin’s is The Writer's Hustle: A Professional Guide to the Creativity, Discipline, Humility, and Grit Every Writer Needs to Flourish (Bloomsbury, 2022). They serve as co-editors-in-chief of Fourth Genre. Two guest voices in this episode means twice the fun, as Patrick Madden and Joey Franklin reinforce as well as diverge somewhat in their essay preferences. Madden is more in the Montaigne reflection vein, whereas Franklin admits he can prefer a narrative-driven memoir approach. Together, we worked our way through three essays from a recent issue of Fourth Genre, one of three magazines that spearheaded a renewed appreciation for the essay form beginning a quarter of a century ago. Both editors enjoyed the surprises that bubble up in Peggy Shinner’s essay, “The Rest Is History,” which explores the conflation of female sexuality and nuclear testing during World War Two and on Bikini Atoll subsequently. Kabi Hartman’s essay “Nipple Day” visits and revisits the circumstances surrounding her own father’s leering behavior, trying to make sense of it all. Finally, on a quieter note is “Garden Hunter” by Joanne Hartman, where the beauty of nature contrasts with parents falling apart physically and between themselves prior to their ultimate deaths. Dan Hill, PhD, is the author of ten books and leads Sensory Logic, Inc. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Feb 01
Cynthia J. Sylvester, "The Half-White Album" (U New Mexico Press, 2023)

Cynthia Sylvester's The Half-White Album (University of New Mexico Press 2023) is a collection of stories, flash fiction, and poems revolving around the journey of a travelling band, The Covers. The stories are songs on the album, beginning with “Live at the House of Towers,” about a woman’s memories of her mother and home. The story of Shima (and her husband Claude) begins with all of her six daughters being taken by missionaries. The 10-year-old youngest, whom she calls The Last One, and the missionaries call Ruth, keeps running away. Shima is afraid because the missionaries will teach them to forget the songs and stories of their people. In Live at the House at the Edge of the World, Ruth is grown and eating dinner with Albert. We meet Margarita, who was born with cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair and a parade of other characters who struggle to love, live, and survive in a harsh world. These are stories of hope and despair, family and banishment, based out west in what was once the wide-ranging country of native American tribes. Cynthia Sylvester is born into the Kiyaa’áanii Clan for the Bilagáana Clan and is an enrolled member of the Diné. She is a native of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her work has appeared in numerous literary magazines. She received the Native Writer Award at the Taos Writer’s Conference. She graduated from the University of New Mexico and received her MFA in creative writing from the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. Cynthia hosts Albuquerque DimeStories—3-minute stories written and read by the author. Hosting DimeStories is a way to give back and foster a writing community. A community of writers is at the core of what she attributes to her success, endurance, and joy in writing. Writing is a solitary endeavor. “So much of what we writers write never sees the light of day.” A DimeStorie, fiction or non-fiction, is a way to have an achievable goal each month (about 500 words) and provides a venue to read the work to a receptive audience. Having a community of writers is important because Cynthia, like many writers, works a “9 to 5.” Her profession for over thirty years has been physical therapy. She comes from a line of “medicine women.” Her mother and aunts were nurses, and she and her sister have health professions. Cynthia’s career in medicine is often reflected in her work as a writer. When not working as a writer or a PT, Cynthia loves to box, take walks with her wife and their dog, Zeus, hang out with friends and family and talk about writing, TV shows, movies, books, sports, what happened last week or last year, whatever if there is a story involved, Cynthia is in her happy place. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Jan 30