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Literature

24 Jun 2014
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Sid Dulaney leaves his cheating girlfriend behind in Massachusetts and returns home to Tucson, Ariz., in Sunland, Oregon writer Don Waters’ hilarious first novel. Sid had worked as an itinerant teacher, but finds himself jobless in Tucson, where he spends his time looking after his beloved grandmother, Nana. He starts crossing the border to buy 88-year-old Nana’s medications more cheaply in Mexico. When Nana’s fellow residents at the Paseo del Sol retirement community ask him to do the same for them, he becomes a prescription drug-runner for grateful senior citizens. “At first,” Sid explains, “I had trouble accepting the little amounts people could pay me for delivering drugs. My problem was that I liked these old folks too much. I liked their unending kindness, their teary eyes and their crazy fashion sensibilities. … Very few people had the time to sit down, prepare a pot of tea, and talk to…
20 Jun 2014
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Most people who think of Portland, Ore., today picture charismatic bridges spanning the sparkling Willamette River, cozy coffeehouses and brewpubs on rain-slick streets, and passionate environmentalists bicycling to farmers markets. But behind the scenes, Portland in the 1990s teemed with crack-dealers and users willing to sacrifice home and family for a night’s partying. And if you were African American, according to author Mitchell S. Jackson, life could be a specific sort of hell fraught with racial profiling and a lack of educational and employment opportunities—unless you were very, very good at basketball. “Let them quit screaming your name,” he writes of young black athletes in his debut autobiographical novel, The Residue Years, “and worse-case you just might rob a bank (who gets away with that?), just might hatch a (hand to God this happened) flawed murder-for-insurance plot. But maybe it’s just here. In my city. Not yours.” The Residue Years…
17 Jun 2014
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Welcome to Oakpine, a fictional small town on Wyoming’s eastern plains where four high school pals reunite in 1999, after 30 years spent leading very separate lives. In his latest novel, Return to Oakpine, award-winning author Ron Carlson tells a moving but quiet tale about a group of regular guys who don’t say much to each other as they try to figure out where their lives have gone to so far—and where they’re headed now. Two of the characters have never left Oakpine: Craig, a second-generation hardware-store owner, and Frank, proprietor of the Antlers bar and a novice microbrewer. Two are returning: Mason, a disillusioned Denver lawyer, and Jimmy, an accomplished New York City writer with AIDS who’s come home to die. In a subtle, bittersweet farewell to Jimmy, the friends decide to reconstitute Life on Earth, their not-so-hot high school garage band, in order to enter a Battle of…
02 Jun 2014
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Ex-Red Sox pitcher Pete Hurley comes to Bozeman, Mont., to start a new life after a series of tragic mishaps that left him publicly shamed in Massachusetts. "Just as I was about to get over the incident that ended my baseball career," he explains, "a drunken accident left this young girl paralyzed, and I was in the news again." He moves to Montana to live near his sister, Danielle, the only surviving member of his immediate family, and to learn how to build a house. The gradual cracking of Pete’s limited awareness is the primary thrust of High and Inside, Russell Rowland’s new novel. Pete, who narrates the story, thinks he suffers from bad luck, but his friends know better, and the reader realizes it as well in the first chapter, when Danielle tells him, "Please try not to drink too much while you’re here." But Pete can’t stay out…
23 May 2014
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Local author Harold Gershowitz has written a book with Jewish characters before. His first title, Remember This Dream, told a story of Polish Jews who immigrated to America. Now he’s back with his second book, Heirs of Eden, a political and historical romance. Heirs of Eden is set in 1949 in Washington, D.C., and follows the love story of Noah, the son of Orthodox Jewish grocery-store owners, and Alexandra, a Christian from a family of Palestinian refugees. Noah spots Alexandra after his bar mitzvah; Alexandra’s family crossed paths with Noah’s family, leading to a friendly invite to the bar mitzvah. A deep love unfolds between Noah and Alexandra that goes beyond religion, culture and origins; the prologue calls it a “lovers of peace” story. Of course, since the story is set right after the Israeli War of Independence, conflict is undeniable, as the two families struggle, and their children enter…
15 Apr 2014
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It’s unthinkable that kids in America would ever be allowed to play “slaves and masters,” writes Walter Echo-Hawk, but we don’t see anything wrong with Junior strapping on the trusty ol’ cap-shooters for a game of “cowboys and Indians.” Echo-Hawk, a Pawnee tribal member and lawyer who has toiled for 35 years in federal Indian law, has written a provocative book that examines the tragic and continuing effects of colonial conquest and its resulting “settler” mindset. He does this without ever scolding his readers and succeeds in pointing a way toward eventual healing. In the Light of Justice shines its light onto often-overlooked issues, explaining that what many whites think of as history—a bygone era of treaty-making, frontier warfare and taming the West—is, to most Indian people, actually current events. S. James Anaya, a human-rights investigator for the United Nations, agrees. In his foreword to the book, Anaya writes that,…
17 Mar 2014
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We all remember our first job—perhaps an entry-level gig in fast food or retail. However, John Kevin Scariano had a very different experience: His first job was at a sewage-treatment plant in Chicago. He’s written about that experience in his new book, Marsh Township Sanitary District. The book begins in 1975. Scariano—now a resident of Albuquerque, NM, who works at the University of New Mexico's School of Medicine—at the time was a high school graduate looking for work, so his father phoned a friend, a superintendent with the Marsh Township Sanitary District. The book’s back cover has a quote that sets things up nicely: “Because I was unable to participate in World War II, as it had ended three decades before, my father decided the next-best experience in which I could fully attain manhood would be to spend two summers working in a sewage-treatment plant south of Chicago.” The details…
14 Mar 2014
Doug Peacock, author of Grizzly Years and Walking It Off, once walked point as a polar-bear guard on an Arctic expedition, armed with only a homemade spear. He still loves large predators and new territory, and in his latest outing, he asks us to accompany him on “the greatest adventure” ever—the peopling of the New World. Roughly 20,000 years ago, scouts on a ridge in Beringia got their first glimpse of the “unending wild country that encompassed two continents uninhabited by humans.” Some 5,000 years later, at the very end of the Pleistocene, the climate changed; oceans rose; and the Bering land bridge flooded. The formerly ice-barred interior of the Americas opened, allowing passage south. “I can’t think of a richer, wilder, more-perilous time to live,” Peacock writes. There are parallels as well as vast differences between that time and ours, Peacock says. He is curious about how Homo sapiens…
07 Mar 2014
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Thompson Grey abandons his Indiana farm in 1858 and joins a caravan of pioneers trekking west along the Santa Fe Trail in Gary Schanbacher’s accomplished new novel, Crossing Purgatory, a moral Western that questions what any decent human being owes another amid the harsh conditions of the American frontier. After Thompson’s wife and sons die of diphtheria while he is away on a fruitless mission to seek an advance on his inheritance, he plunges into deep mourning, blaming himself for being absent when his family became ill. In grief and guilt, he tramps west, a man with his “spirit out of fix,” and with no plan in mind—until he encounters a caravan led by Captain Upperdine, a shrewd businessman who guides groups of potential settlers across pioneer trails and trades with Indians, homesteaders and prospectors along the way. Upperdine sees the taciturn wanderer as an asset, a competent and honorable…
13 Feb 2014
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Many people have a hard time understanding and grasping transgenderism—and a local woman, Kaitlin Sine Riordan, is trying to change that by telling her story with her book, Bondage of Self. Born a boy, Riordan was raised in Richmond, Va., by a father who was extremely self-disciplined and into bodybuilding, and a mother who was a housewife. During her childhood, she found herself confused about her gender identity. She describes a moment, when she was 6 years old, on a shopping trip with her mother: She was playing with dresses in a clothing store. When her mother said she would tell Riordan’s father, she disciplined herself by bashing a toy rifle against her legs, leaving big, purple welts. It turns out that her father was cold and indifferent to the whole matter. Riordan also shares details about her life as a teenager—revealing a person in serious pain. She played basketball…