The Leopard Boy, A Novel

Posted in Books, Europe, Media Archive, Novels on 2016-08-10 01:37Z by Steven

The Leopard Boy, A Novel

University of Virginia Press
January 2016 (Originally published in 1999 as L’Enfant Léopard)
304 pages
Paper ISBN: 9780813937908
Cloth ISBN: 9780813937892
Ebook ISBN: 9780813937915

Daniel Picouly

Translated and Afterword by:

Jeanne M. Garane, Professor of French and Comparative Literature
University of South Carolina

October 15, 1793: the eve of Marie-Antoinette’s execution. The Reign of Terror has descended upon revolutionary France, and thousands are beheaded daily under the guillotine. Edmond Coffin and Jonathan Gravedigger, two former soldiers now employed in disposing of the dead, are hired to search the Parisian neighborhood of Haarlem for a mysterious mixed-race “leopard boy,” whose nickname derives from his mottled black-and-white skin. Some would like to see the elusive leopard boy dead, while others wish to save him. Why so much interest in this child? He is rumored to be the son of Marie-Antoinette and a man of color–the Chevalier de Saint-George, perhaps, or possibly Zamor, the slave of Madame du Barry, mistress of Louis XV.

This wildly imaginative and culturally resonant tale by Daniel Picouly audaciously places black and mixed-race characters–including King Mac, creator of the first hamburger, who hands out figures of Voltaire and Rousseau with his happy meals, and the megalomaniac Black Delorme, creator of a slavery theme park–at the forefront of its Revolution-era story. Winner of the Prix Renaudot, one of France’s most prestigious literary awards, this book envisions a “Black France” two hundred years before the term came to describe a nation transformed through its postcolonial immigrant population.

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My Name is Leon

Posted in Books, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, Novels, United Kingdom on 2016-07-30 01:24Z by Steven

My Name is Leon

Viking (an imprint of Penguin Press)
2016-05-31
272 pages
153mm x 234mm x 19mm
359g
Hardback ISBN: 9780241207086
Paperback ISBN: 9780241207093
eBook ISBN: 9780241973394
Audio ISBN: 9780241976203 (Read by Lenny Henry / 07:51:00)

Kit de Waal

A brother chosen. A brother left behind. And a family where you’d least expect to find one.

Leon is nine, and has a perfect baby brother called Jake. They have gone to live with Maureen, who has fuzzy red hair like a halo, and a belly like Father Christmas. But the adults are speaking in low voices, and wearing Pretend faces. They are threatening to give Jake to strangers. Since Jake is white and Leon is not.

As Leon struggles to cope with his anger, certain things can still make him smile – like Curly Wurlys, riding his bike fast downhill, burying his hands deep in the soil, hanging out with Tufty (who reminds him of his dad), and stealing enough coins so that one day he can rescue Jake and his mum.

Evoking a Britain of the early eighties, My Name is Leon is a heart-breaking story of love, identity and learning to overcome unbearable loss. Of the fierce bond between siblings. And how – just when we least expect it – we manage to find our way home.

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The Daughter of Union County

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Novels, Passing, United States on 2016-07-16 14:35Z by Steven

The Daughter of Union County

Lake Union Publishing
August 2016
432 pages
5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
Paperback ISBN: 978-1503937321

Francine Thomas Howard

Fourteen years after the end of slavery, Lord Henry Hardin and his wife, Lady Bertha, enjoy an entitled life in Union County, Arkansas. Until he faces a devastating reality: Bertha is unable to bear children. If Henry doesn’t produce an heir, the American branch of his family name will die out. So Henry, desperate to preserve his aristocratic family lineage, does the unthinkable.

When Salome, a former slave and Henry’s mistress, gives birth to a white-skinned, blue-eyed daughter, Henry orders a reluctant Lady Bertha to claim the child as their own…allowing young Margaret to pass into the white world of privilege.

As Margaret grows older, unaware of her true parentage, devastating circumstances threaten to shroud her in pain and shame…but then, ultimately, in revelation. Despite rumors about Margaret’s true identity, Salome is determined to transform her daughter’s bitter past into her secure future while Henry goes to extraordinary lengths to protect his legacy. Spanning decades and generations, marked by tragedy and redemption, this unforgettable saga illuminates a family’s fight for their name, for survival, and for true freedom.

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No Telephone to Heaven

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Novels, United Kingdom, United States on 2016-06-23 23:51Z by Steven

No Telephone to Heaven

Plume
March 1996 (Originally published in 1987)
224 Pages
Paperback ISBN: 9780452275690

Michelle Cliff (1946-2016)

A brilliant Jamaican-American writer takes on the themes of colonialism, race, myth, and political awakening through the experiences of a light-skinned woman named Clare Savage. The story is one of discovery as Clare moves through a variety of settings – Jamaica, England, America – and encounters people who affect her search for place and self.

The structure of No Telephone to Heaven combines naturalism and lyricism, and traverses space and time, dream and reality, myth and history, reflecting the fragmentation of the protagonist, who nonetheless seeks wholeness and connection. In this deeply poetic novel there exist several levels: the world Clare encounters, and a world of which she only gradually becomes aware – a world of extreme poverty, the real Jamaica, not the Jamaica of the middle class, not the Jamaica of the tourist. And Jamaica – almost a character in the book – is described in terms of extraordinary beauty, coexisting with deep human tragedy.

The violence that rises out of extreme oppression, the divided loyalties of a colonized person, sexual dividedness, and the dividedness of a person neither white nor black – all of these are truths that Clare must face. Overarching all the themes in this exceptionally fine novel is the need to become whole, and the decisions and the courage demanded to achieve that wholeness.

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For You Were Strangers: A Hanley & Rivka Mystery

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Novels, United States on 2016-06-17 01:24Z by Steven

For You Were Strangers: A Hanley & Rivka Mystery

Allium Press of Chicago
2015
320 pages
6″ x 9″
Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9890535-9-4
Ebook ISBN: 978-0-9967558-0-1

D. M. Pirrone [Diane Piron-Gelman]
Chicago, Illinois

On a spring morning in 1872, former Civil War officer Ben Champion is discovered dead in his Chicago bedroom—a bayonet protruding from his back. What starts as a routine case for Detective Frank Hanley soon becomes anything but, as his investigation into Champion’s life turns up hidden truths best left buried. Meanwhile, Rivka Kelmansky’s long-lost brother, Aaron, arrives on her doorstep, along with his mulatto wife and son. Fugitives from an attack by night riders, Aaron and his family know too much about past actions that still threaten powerful men—defective guns provided to Union soldiers, and an 1864 conspiracy to establish Chicago as the capital of a Northwest Confederacy. Champion had his own connection to that conspiracy, along with ties to a former slave now passing as white and an escaped Confederate guerrilla bent on vengeance, any of which might have led to his death. Hanley and Rivka must untangle this web of circumstances, amid simmering hostilities still present seven years after the end of the Civil War, as they race against time to solve the murder, before the secrets of bygone days claim more victims.

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The Mysteries of New Orleans

Posted in Books, Louisiana, Media Archive, Novels, United States on 2016-06-08 21:47Z by Steven

The Mysteries of New Orleans

Johns Hopkins University Press
June 2002
600 pages
3 halftones
Paperback ISBN: 9780801868825

Baron Ludwig von Reizenstein (1826-1885)

translated and edited by:

Steven Rowan, Professor of History
University of Missouri, St. Louis

“Reizenstein’s peculiar vision of New Orleans is worth resurrecting precisely because it crossed the boundaries of acceptable taste in nineteenth-century German America and squatted firmly on the other side… This work makes us realize how limited our notions were of what could be conceived by a fertile American imagination in the middle of the nineteenth century.”—from the Introduction by Steven Rowan

A lost classic of America’s neglected German-language literary tradition, The Mysteries of New Orleans by Baron Ludwig von Reizenstein first appeared as a serial in the Louisiana Staats-Zeitung, a New Orleans German-language newspaper, between 1854 and 1855. Inspired by the gothic “urban mysteries” serialized in France and Germany during this period, Reizenstein crafted a daring occult novel that stages a frontal assault on the ethos of the antebellum South. His plot imagines the coming of a bloody, retributive justice at the hands of Hiram the Freemason—a nightmarish, 200-year-old, proto-Nietzschean superman—for the sin of slavery. Heralded by the birth of a black messiah, the son of a mulatto prostitute and a decadent German aristocrat, this coming revolution is depicted in frankly apocalyptic terms.

Yet, Reizenstein was equally concerned with setting and characters, from the mundane to the fantastic. The book is saturated with the atmosphere of nineteenth-century New Orleans, the amorous exploits of its main characters uncannily resembling those of New Orleans’ leading citizens. Also of note is the author’s progressively matter-of-fact portrait of the lesbian romance between his novel’s only sympathetic characters, Claudine and Orleana. This edition marks the first time that The Mysteries of New Orleans has been translated into English and proves that 150 years later, this vast, strange, and important novel remains as compelling as ever.

Baron Ludwig von Reizenstein (1826-1885) was born in Bavaria and emigrated to America in 1848. By 1851 he had established himself as a civil engineer, architect, journalist, amateur naturalist, and publisher in New Orleans, where he lived until his death.

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The Gilded Years, A Novel

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Novels, Passing, Women on 2016-06-07 14:42Z by Steven

The Gilded Years, A Novel

Washington Square Press (an imprint of Simon & Schuster)
2016-06-07
384 pages
Paperback ISBN: 9781501110450
eBook ISBN: 9781501110467

Karin Tanabe
Washington, D.C.

Passing meets The House of Mirth in this “utterly captivating” (Kathleen Grissom, New York Times bestselling author of The Kitchen House) historical novel based on the true story of Anita Hemmings, the first black student to attend Vassar, who successfully passed as white—until she let herself grow too attached to the wrong person.

Since childhood, Anita Hemmings has longed to attend the country’s most exclusive school for women, Vassar College. Now, a bright, beautiful senior in the class of 1897, she is hiding a secret that would have banned her from admission: Anita is the only African-American student ever to attend Vassar. With her olive complexion and dark hair, this daughter of a janitor and descendant of slaves has successfully passed as white, but now finds herself rooming with Louise “Lottie” Taylor, the scion of one of New York’s most prominent families.

Though Anita has kept herself at a distance from her classmates, Lottie’s sphere of influence is inescapable, her energy irresistible, and the two become fast friends. Pulled into her elite world, Anita learns what it’s like to be treated as a wealthy, educated white woman—the person everyone believes her to be—and even finds herself in a heady romance with a moneyed Harvard student. It’s only when Lottie becomes infatuated with Anita’s brother, Frederick, whose skin is almost as light as his sister’s, that the situation becomes particularly perilous. And as Anita’s college graduation looms, those closest to her will be the ones to dangerously threaten her secret.

Set against the vibrant backdrop of the Gilded Age, an era when old money traditions collided with modern ideas, Tanabe has written an unputdownable and emotionally compelling story of hope, sacrifice, and betrayal—and a gripping account of how one woman dared to risk everything for the chance at a better life.

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Anna In-Between

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Novels on 2016-05-29 14:44Z by Steven

Anna In-Between

Akashic Books
2010-08-17
352 pages
Paperback IBSN: 9781936070695
Hardcover IBSN: 9781933354842

Elizabeth Nunez, Distinguished Professor of English
Hunter College, the City University of New York

Anna In-Between is Elizabeth Nunez’s finest achievement to date. In spare prose, with laserlike attention to every word and the juxtaposition of words to each other, Nunez returns to her themes of emotional alienation, within the context of class and color discrimination, so richly developed in her earlier novels. Anna, the novel’s main character, who has a successful publishing career in the US, is the daughter of an upper-class Caribbean family. While on vacation in the island home of her birth she discovers that her mother, Beatrice, has breast cancer. Beatrice categorically rejects all efforts to persuade her to go to the US for treatment, even though it is, perhaps, her only chance of survival. Anna and her father, who tries to remain respectful of his wife’s wishes, must convince her to change her mind.

In a convergence of craftsmanship, unflinching honesty, and the ability to universalize the lives of her characters, Nunez tells a story that explores our longing for belonging to a community, the age-old love-repulsion relationship between mother and daughter, the Freudian overtones in the love between daughter and father, and the mutual respect that is essential for a successful marriage. One of the crowning achievements of this novel is that it shines a harsh light on the ambiguous situation of this ruling-class family who rose from the constraints of colonialism to employ their own servants. It is a strength of the novel that it understands that the political truth is not distinct from the truth of the family or the truth of love relationships; they are integrated into a unity in this novel constituting one unbroken reality as they are in real life.

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In Due Season

Posted in Books, Canada, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Novels on 2016-05-29 00:53Z by Steven

In Due Season

Wilfrid Laurier University Press
May 2016
375 pages
ISBN13: 978-1-77112-071-5

Christine van der Mark (1917–1970)

Afterword by:

Carole Gerson, Professor of English Department
Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, Canada

Janice Dowson, Lecturer in English literature and Academic Writing
Simon Fraser University and University of the Fraser Valley

First published in 1947, In Due Season broke new ground with its fictional representation of women and of Indigenous people. Set during the dustbowl 1930s, this tersely narrated prize-winning novel follows Lina Ashley, a determined solo female homesteader who takes her family from drought-ridden southern Alberta to a new life in the Peace River region. Here her daughter Poppy grows up in a community characterized by harmonious interactions between the local Métis and newly arrived European settlers. Still, there is tension between mother and daughter when Poppy becomes involved with a Métis lover. This novel expands the patriarchal canon of Canadian prairie fiction by depicting the agency of a successful female settler and, as noted by Dorothy Livesay, was “one of the first, if not the first Canadian novel wherein the plight of the Native Indian and the Métis is honestly and painfully recorded.” The afterword by Carole Gerson and Janice Dowson provides substantial information about author Christine van der Mark and situates her under-acknowledged book within the contexts of Canadian social, literary, and publishing history.

Christine van der Mark (1917–1970) was born and raised in Calgary. While teaching in rural Alberta schools, she attended the University of Alberta, receiving her B.A. in 1941 and her M.A. in Creative Writing in 1946. Much of her writing expressed sympathetic concern for the Métis of Northern Alberta.

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Pudd’nhead Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Novels, Passing, United States on 2016-05-15 20:52Z by Steven

Pudd’nhead Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins

Broadview Press
2016-05-04 (Originally Published in 1894)
304 pages
5½” x 8½”
Paperback ISBN: 9781554812660

Mark Twain

Edited by:

Hsuan L. Hsu, Associate Professor of English
University of California, Davis

The two narratives published together in The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson and the Comedy of Those Extraordinary Twins are overflowing with spectacular events. Twain shows us conjoined twins, babies exchanged in the cradle, acts of cross-dressing and racial masquerade, duels, a lynching, and a murder mystery. Pudd’head Wilson tells the story of babies, one of mixed race and the other white, exchanged in their cradles, while Those Extraordinary Twins is a farcical tale of conjoined twins. Although the stories were long viewed as flawed narratives, their very incongruities offer a fascinating portrait of key issues—race, disability, and immigration—facing the United States in the final decades of the nineteenth century.

Hsuan Hsu’s introduction traces the history of literary critics’ response to these works, from the confusion of Twain’s contemporaries to the keen interest of current scholars. Extensive historical appendices provide contemporary materials on race discourse, legal contexts, and the composition and initial reception of the texts.

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