Category Archives: Literature

“Why Am I Like This?”: An Interview with Chelsea Martin

By Bryan Woods

There’s no writer like Chelsea Martin. Authors are often praised for their singular voices, and while Martin’s is certainly unique, it’s not just the way she tells a story, or which details she chooses to include or omit that makes her writing so distinctive, it’s the inner workings of her brain. She’s always been one of the funniest writers on my bookshelf, one who is able to write stories that are simultaneously hilarious and tragic, but her new essay collection Caca Dolce raises the stakes substantially. Continue reading

A Middle Class Childhood in the Middle East: Brigitte Findakly and Lewis Trondheim’s Poppies of Iraq

By Nathan Scott McNamara

Illustrations of old radios fill one sequence of Brigitte Findakly’s graphic memoir Poppies of Iraq. Findakly writes that after the fall of the monarchy, when Iraq was declared a republic, the people of her country often tuned into an Arabic radio show broadcast from Israel, the only source of uncensored news about the Iraqi government. The program ran for over 20 years and was strictly banned: “Those who listened to it ran the risk of stiff prison sentence,” Findakly writes. “The show was a favorite and everybody tuned in.” But Findakly, at 11 years old in 1970, wasn’t everybody; an illustration depicts her sweetly smiling in bed with a radio on the pillow beside her, listening to Voice of America for English pop songs. Continue reading

Three Questions for Sarah Rafael García Regarding Her Short-Story Collection, SanTana’s Fairy Tales

By Daniel A. Olivas

As a college classmate of mine, Bruce Handy, notes in his new book, Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult, fairy tales, “in their original, unadulterated, 120-proof versions, are so gruesome and bleak, even barbarous, as to raise the question whether they should be thought of as children’s literature at all.” Continue reading

An Interview with Orlando Ortega-Medina, Author of Jerusalem Ablaze

By Cleaver Patterson

Orlando Ortega-Medina is an award-winning short story writer who practices US immigration law in London. He told me recently that he enjoys the diversity his two career trajectories bring. His debut collection, Jerusalem Ablaze: Stories of Love and Other Obsessions, was nominated for Britain’s acclaimed Polari First Book Prize. Ortega-Medina and I spoke recently about his life and work. He will be hosting a discussion at Diesel Books in Los Angeles on August 31. Continue reading

Postmortem: Jane Austen and Repealing the Affordable Care Act

By Susan Celia Greenfield

For now, it appears the Republican Senators’ attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act is dead. But key provisions (like cost-sharing reductions for insurers) remain in doubt, Vice President Pence has said, “We won’t rest until we end […] ObamaCare,” and Trump still wants to sabotage the law.  In July, the vast majority of Republican Senators were prepared to do just that. Continue reading

Christine Granados Brings Together Mexican-American Writers for a Literary Pachanga at the Historic Tia Chucha’s

By Pamela Avila

On the 4th of July, Christine Granados landed in the San Fernando Valley with her latest collection, Fight Like A Man and Other Stories We Tell Our Children. The Southern California leg of her book tour included a reading at Skylight Books on July 5 and another at Tía Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore in Sylmar on July 8. At Tía Chucha’s, she was joined by Jesus Treviño, Alicia Gaspar de Alba, Andrea Gutierrez, and Alyssa Granados.   Continue reading

Conversing with Thoreau: An Interview with Laura Dassow Walls

By Bob Blaisdell

Laura Dassow Walls is an English professor at the University of Notre Dame and the author of The Passage to Cosmos: Alexander von Humboldt and the Shaping of America, Seeing New Worlds: Henry David Thoreau and Nineteenth-Century Natural Science and Emerson’s Life in Science: The Culture of Truth. In this year that marks Thoreau’s 200th birthday, we exchanged emails about the writing of her new and first-rate biography, Henry David Thoreau: A Life. Continue reading

My Time Between Drivel and Inspiration: A Letter to Elie Wiesel from a Former Student

By Tom Stern

Dr. Elie Wiesel
New York, NY
July 23, 2016 

Dear Dr. Wiesel,

I don’t know how to do this. And I’m embarrassed to admit that. Because I am a writer. This we shared. And in ways that I suspect very few people do. Like a constant fever. And a compass. Somehow both at once. Even so, I simply don’t know how to articulate what it was that you taught me. Continue reading

How to Fall in Love with a Love Story

By Katy Hershberger 

My husband and I met at work, and for two years we kept our relationship a secret in the office. When we tell people that, they imagine it as exciting and sexy: sneaking around for in-office trysts. But in truth, hiding our relationship was stressful and annoying. We lied to our colleagues, stood in awkward silence in the elevator, locked down our Facebook privacy settings, and entreated friends and family to never post a photo of us together. But when people listen to the story, our lives become most interesting as a Secret Office Romance, less so as just our lives. The reality isn’t always the best story. Continue reading

Barret Baumgart: Navigating Climate Change with a Map of Dead Ends

By Landon Bates

I first met Barret Baumgart in 2007, when we were both undergraduates at U.C. Berkeley. Years later, when I was entering the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program, Barret had just graduated from it. He was waist-deep in the writing of this book. I’d sometimes see him around Iowa City in the evenings, after he’d spent 12 or 14 hours at his computer, having eaten little more than rice covered in barbeque sauce. He’d seem both rundown and wired, high from some discovery he’d made during the day’s research. The product of this labor is China Lake: A Journey Into the Contradicted Heart of a Global Climate Catastrophe. Continue reading