July, 2014

Small Press Spotlight: Mitch Kellaway & Zander Keig

by Rigoberto González | Jul-23-2014

Manning Up: Transsexual Men on Finding Brotherhood, Family & Themselves, Transgress Press, 2014.

Mitch Kellaway is a Boston-based transgender writer, editor, and independent researcher. He currently covers queer literature, family rights, and transgender issues for the Advocate.com. His writing has appeared in Lambda Literary Review, Original Plumbing, The Huffington Post, Zeteo Journal, and is forthcoming in the anthologies RE*COG*NIZE: The Voices of Bisexual Men and Best Sex Writing 2015.

Zander Keig, LMSW is an award-winning speaker, outspoken advocate, dedicated mentor and educator residing in Berkeley, CA with his wife. Zander is also co-editor of the 2011 Lambda Literary Finalist Letters for My Brothers: Transitional Wisdom in Retrospect (Transgress Press, 2014).

The most recent issue of The Advocate features Laverne Cox on the cover. The article tells Cox’s powerful and inspirational story, which ends with the assertion that there are “so many trans folks coming forward and saying, ‘This is who I am, this is my story, I will not be silent anymore, I will not be hiding anymore.’ ” It struck me how the transgender narrative in the media is focused on the trans female narrative more than on the trans male one, and how books like Manning Up are doing their part to remind people that transsexual identity and life also include transgender males. But even more importantly, Manning Up opens an important forum for trans males to read about themselves and each other. Is there a resistance by the mainstream media and the population at large to listen to the trans male narrative? What are the challenges for the trans male narrative in becoming more visible and breaking down the misconceptions people have about trans men?

Mitch: Speaking about the US, I think trans male visibility has been playing catch-up to that of trans women ever since the mainstream media sensationalistically broke the story of “Ex-GI Turned Blonde Bombshell” Christine Jorgenson back in the ‘50s. That wasn’t a dynamic decided by trans people, and it troubles me whenever I see the inter-community conversation about trans men receiving less visibility veering towards a “tit-for-tat” with trans women. The popular imagination gravitated to trans women, I believe, largely because of sexist attitudes towards femininity. People simply cannot believe that a “man” would give up his social status to embody a gender ascribed lesser value within patriarchal systems. Further, because of femme-phobic taboos, there is a social sanction against men wearing women’s clothes, making women’s transitions hyper-visible. This is also why, in tandem with the more positive visibility, trans women become the target of more ire and physical abuse.

On the other hand, the mainstream can somewhat understand a “woman” wanting to take up manhood, as indicated, in part by the greater openness towards wearing men’s clothing. On the flipside, patriarchal cultures overall promote news about “men” over that of women; when the media sees trans women as “men” first-and-foremost, this contributes to interest in their stories; ironically, then, even though trans men are men, the fact that we’re often viewed first as “women” makes our stories less newsworthy. So the fact that we’re men makes us less interesting, and the idea that we’re “women” also makes us less interesting.

But, of course, the logic of transition for trans people is not about whether it socially “makes sense” to “want” to be of another gender – which is why it’s so frustrating to come up against these frameworks. The challenge is in breaking out of that paradigm entirely – which, to me means challenging the patriarchal system. One result of this is that men (and women) are allowed more individualistic scripts for understanding their lives, and their journeys towards self-actualization are given value through experience and growth, rather than adherence or resistance to their gender’s status quo. I personally edited Manning Up in this spirit.

Zander: I believe many trans men, especially those of us who transitioned in our 30s, 40s and older, carry within us the remnants of trauma experienced as individuals assumed to be female, and especially lesbian, pre-transition. The weight of living in a sexist, oppressive, marginalizing, discriminatory and misogynistic culture is not easily put aside once testosterone hits our bloodstream. As we simultaneously learn to navigate the world of men and recover from our past traumas, we are, too often, accused of wielding "male privilege," which many of us experience as yet one more form of bias being levied against us without our consent.

I admire the range of personal stories within the anthology. In the foreword, FTM pioneer Jamison Green writes about the contributors: “Their diverse backgrounds, ages, and racial heritage illuminate their journeys, and their histories of physical and socio-cultural obstacles enrich their appreciation of the nuances involved in taking their places among men in their spheres, as well as redefining their relationships to women. And their awareness of their transsexual status, while central for some, is never far from the surface for any of these men, as they reflect on their situations and their passages.” How did you go about collecting these personal stories? I noticed that many of the contributors are writers and bloggers or academics who would be more amenable to writing memoir than those who do not have such relationships to the written word. Why is it critical for the writer to lead the way?

Mitch: Zander started the project and I joined a year later. In many ways, our collaboration is one of two trans men a generation apart, and part of this has played out through Zander’s longevity in the trans movement. He’s the kind of guy that knows everyone, so he asked a lot of his connections to contribute essays, in addition to an online Call for Submissions. This made the collection vastly richer, because not only do we get a greater balance of middle-aged and elder trans men to the twenty- and thirty- something trans men who often dominate public dialogues, but Zander’s positive impact on other men through his activism and previous anthology (Letters for My Brothers) meant several men who had never written before felt inspired to contribute their stories. In other words, this book inspired some trans men to see themselves, even if momentarily, as writers, and as a writer myself, that makes me shiver with pride.

There are narratives in here that wouldn’t have seen light otherwise, from many men who aren’t professional writers or academics, and that feels like a critical contribution as well. While vital, scholarship often doesn’t make trans narratives more relatable or “human” in the ways that storytelling can. Our jobs as editors were then to push our 27 contributors to polish the raw material of their lives into stories – stories that can be retold as community tales, or a youth could see their future in. I personally wanted to push this book beyond the memoir genre, which has become nearly codified as the way trans folks can tell stories, and carries with it conventions that we have internalized, and which oftentimes limit the ways we come to think of and publicly portray ourselves. One way to do this was to take focus away from medical transition, and zoom on social and familial bonds, or to encourage contributions that would drill down under common experiences of male rites-of-passage.

Zander: Each trans man's transition and story is unique, yet too often a monolithic transgender tale is told, mostly from the trans female experience: trans individuals know when they are small children that they were "born in the wrong body." I had no such revelation and know many trans men who never did either. Are we less trans because we discovered our transness in adulthood? I think not. I strive, through my books, to broaden the narrative of what it means to be transgender or transsexual. Anthologies provide the ideal platform for our unique voices to be shared and heard.

Each of the 4 sections in Manning Up is extraordinary in its own way, particularly “Part IV: New Territory” in which the contributors address male privilege and “passing,” and the knowledge that participating in the masculine world comes with the temptation of participating in sexist behavior. I appreciate how these stories are honest about their journeys: making the choice to transition is only one step--albeit an important one--toward self-realization, but transitioning is a life-long process of learning, making mistakes, encountering new challenges as others are overcome. I can envision this anthology becoming an important resource for many people. How else can I supplement my reading list that places trans male identity at the center of the narrative? What books by trans male authors have been particularly important to you that you would like to recommend?

Zander: Ten years ago, just prior to embarking on my transition journey, I read Becoming a Visible Man, written by my mentor and friend, Jamison Green. Through it's pages, I learned about, now forgotten, FTM contributions to transgender history and useful information about medically, legally and socially transitioning from female-to-male. Becoming a Visible Man was the beacon, which helped me navigate my way out from the under limited and biased notions of maleness and masculinity, gleaned during the first 39 years of my life as a female, and into a more authentic life. I recently reread the book and experienced a sense of grief when I realized the invisibility of trans men, which Jamison spoke about, was still very present today. It is my hope that books Like Manning Up and Letters for My Brothers will serve to offer a beacon for others to find their own way to their authentic self.

Mitch: You open a can of worms when you ask a bibliophile for book recommendations…I found myself, and continue to find myself anew, in books. Despite how crucial the advice and communion the Internet provides has been for trans people (I’m already working on a next book project about this!) I believe literature will always perform a special function. It goes back to that need each community has for storytellers. While I’ve read a handful of trans memoirs, I’ve gravitated towards more experimental forms, more creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. These are arenas where trans writing has largely been kept out by mainstream publishers, but the emergence of small presses is changing the tide.

Right now I’m really enjoying Thomas Page McBee’s Man Alive – which might be described as memoir, but is really a lyrical story about manhood. Some more of my favorites: Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics ed. by tc tolbert and Trace Peterson (Nightboat Books); The Collection: Short Fiction from the Transgender Vanguard ed. by Tom Leger and Riley McLeod (Topside Press); The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You by S. Bear Bergman (Arsenal Pulp Press). I’ve just picked up T Cooper’s Some of the Parts after several high recommendations.

I found “Part III: Family Man” to be quite moving and revelatory in terms of how each contributor spoke to the ways loved ones adapted to his transition. It really does prove that love is unconditional, which is a refreshing contrast to stories of rejection or hostility--which still happen, but if they dominate the “coming out” narrative they instill fear and anxiety more than peace and courage. I suppose that LGBTQ literature in general bears that responsibility: to communicate the individual experiences, positive and negative. Though as this anthology proves repeatedly, it’s not always one or the other--binaries are no longer the standard, we inhabit a complicated and ever-expanding gray area. After having shaped this project, in what areas of the trans male experience do you hope to see more exploration or conversation?      

Zander: I believe that most people tend to occupy the "ever-expanding gray area" you speak of, yet what I have encountered along my journey from female to male, is that other people's assumptions of who you are can trump your own sense of yourself in other people's eyes. What one believes about you becomes their reality of who you are. For instance, as a trans man with an extensive lesbian and queer activist history, I remain partnered with the same woman I was with pre-transition, which now results in people concluding that I am no longer queer and possibly even "binary reinforcing," which confounds me. This statement was uttered by a person I had never even met in person. They came to their own conclusion and acted as if it were correct. I had no say in the matter. I would like to foster more exploration and engage in dialog centered on deconstructing the notions that people have regarding what makes one "not trans enough" AND "too trans.”

Mitch: Experiences from trans men of color. Zander and I worked hard to make Manning Up a diverse project; indeed, he and I are both biracial Latino men. And overall I’m quite pleased with the reflections contributors have on the intersections of race, ethnicity, masculinity, and transition. Highlights would be “Dimension Z” by Rayees Shah, “Always Moving Forward” by Shaun LaDue, “Sculptor” by Willy Wilkinson, “Not a Caricature of Male Privilege” by Trystan Cotten and “New Territory” by Jack Sito. These essays definitely nuance the idea of transitioning into a “shared manhood” (much like feminists of color have complicated the idea of “shared womanhood”). Trans men don’t all transition to just become “men,” which was one of the projects’ cornerstone concepts. They become black men, white men, queer men, straight men, working class men, affluent men, fatherly men, single men, spiritual men, etc. etc. All of these mean different things when filtered through social and intimate, familial lenses.

One major boon of the growth in transgender literature—which, as you suggest, is an overall aim of LGBTQ literature--is that we get to tease out these complexities in lives that will be popularly portrayed as monolithic unless we provide counter-scripts.

Roundup: David Mitchell’s Twitter story, Roxana Robinson, Maureen McLane, Patricia Lockwood, & More

by Jane Ciabattari | Jul-21-2014

Your reviews seed this roundup; please send items to NBCCCritics@gmail.com. Make sure to send links that do not require a subscription or username and password.

Balakian award winner Parul Sehgal, NBCC fiction award winner Colson Whitehead, NBCC finalists Zadie Smith, Elif Batuman and Teju Cole,  NBCC pro bono angel Lauren Cerand, Rachel Fershleiser,  Maud Newton, Bethanne Patrick, among Flavorpill's 35 Writers Who Run the Literary Internet.

The NBCC Reads new series, "What's Your Favorite First Book Ever?" continues, with NBCC autobiography award winner Darin Strauss on James Joyce, and poet Grace Schulman on a dozen firsts, including Marianne Moore, Amy Clampitt, Phil Schulz, and Hortense Calisher. Not too late to send your choice.

NBCC fiction finalist David Mitchell tweets a new story, #TheRightSort.

NBCC Balakian award winner Katherine A. Powers reviews Kevin Birmingham's "The Most Dangerous Book" for the Barnes and Noble Review."...miraculously and happily," she writes, "'The Most Dangerous Book' is the farthest thing from redundant. Detailed, lucid, and attentive to character, it is a fast-paced, thoroughly absorbing history of Ulysses' coming-to-be, a tale of mishap as much as of triumph."

Authors Guild president Roxana Robinson says the indispensibility of writers is forgotten in the Amazon-Hachette battle.

Former NBCC board member Jessa Crispin reviews "Fifty Shades of Feminism" and "Hard-Core Romance" in her juxtaposition of the 50 Shades phenomonon with modern feminism in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

NBCC board member Rigoberto González on Michael Nava, Ramón Novarro, and a literary breakdown of ethnic and sexual barriers.

NBCC board member Eric Liebetrau reviews Elizabeth Mitchell's "Liberty's Torch" for the Boston Globe: "...she does readers a service by sifting fact from fiction in the creation of one our most beloved monuments, which would continue to “inspire the same sort of emotion and vision that led to her creation in the first place, the potent whimsy that made a young man from a picturesque village . . . [in] France dream that he, too, could achieve immortality.”

NBCC board member Colette Bancroft on James Lee Burke's "Wayfaring Stranger:" "Burke addresses many of the same themes he grapples with in his crime novels: power and corruption, integrity and depravity, America's indelible heritage of violence and oppression and the valor of those who have stood against it."

NBCC board member David Biespiel's new Rumpus poetry column begins, "The wisdom of poetry is a ladder to the underground. The wisdom of poetry is a rope dropped out of the skies. The wisdom of poetry is a passage past the rocks of doubt. The wisdom of poetry is the full receipt of both ancient and contemporary poetic forms."

Mark Rotella reviews Joseph Lucci's "My Two Italies" for NPR.org, concluding, "As for his own sense of being an Italian American, he strikes a bittersweet chord: 'We commemorate our past only to remind ourselves how far we have traveled from it.'"

Former NBCC board member David L. Ulin on Germaine Greer's "White Beech": "gorgeous writing, personal and heartfelt."

Jeff Gordonier's NYTBR review of ‘This Blue,’ by NBCC finalist and former board member Maureen N. McLane: "poems that keep you on your toes."

'Strange and riveting," is Edward Hirsch's response to "Falling Out of Time," the new novel by NBCC fiction finalist David Grossman in the NYTBR.

NBCC finalist Anne Carson's "The Albertine Workout" reviewed by Peter Freeman in Full Stop.

Former NBCC board member Lev Grossman's best-selling The Magicians trilogy coming to Syfy, pilot in the works.

Reader's Digest Books Editor Dawn Raffel's 23 contemporary writers to read.

Ron Charles, NBCC board member and Washington Post Book editor, tweets, "We're using the new Books page in Sunday Arts & Style to cover nonfiction & fiction related to A&E. New column for quirky book news too."

NBCC finalist and former board member Stephen Burt likes the new Patricia Lockwood collection:"It’s always wrong to judge a poem by its retweets, but when a literary work, by a poet not world famous for something else, gets hundreds of thousands of “shares,” “likes” and other such notices online, within weeks of publication, it’s time to ask why."

Clea Simon, reviewing in the Boston Globe, was "not that impressed by Eden Lepucki's "California" "However, I adored Lydia Netzer's "How to Tell Toledo From the Night Sky" And here's her take on Emma Straub's "The Vacationers" for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Denise Low’s book "Mélange Block" reviewed in Brian Burnes’ “Readorama” section of the Kansas City Star. She reviews William Trowbridge, Patricia Lockwood, Kevin Young and Alarie Tennille in her latest Kansas City Star "On Poetry" column.  

Rayyan Al-Shawaf reviews Charles Seife's "Virtual Unreality: Just Because the Internet Told You, How Do You Know It's True?" in the Christian Science Monitor.  Here's his short review of Marja Mills's "The Mockingbird Next Door: Life With Harper Lee," for the Chicago Reader. 

Maureen Corrigan's take on "The Mockingbird Next Door": "Rather than warmed-over gossip, what "The Mockingbird Next Door" does offer is a rich sense of the daily texture of the Lee sisters' lives."

And NBCC board member Carolyn Kellogg writes about Harper Lee's puzzling reaction to Marja Mills' book in a letter to the press: " 'Rest assured, as long as I am alive any book purporting to be with my cooperation is a falsehood,' it reads. Lee, the 88-year old author of "To Kill a Mockingbird," signed the typed letter."

Grace Bello recommends Tiphanie Yanique's first novel, "Land of Love and Drowning" --"a family saga told with sensual prose"--as a summer read in Guernica.


NBCC Reads: What’s Your Favorite First Book Ever? Grace Schulman’s Dozen

by Grace Schulman | Jul-17-2014

"What's your favorite first book by an author ever?" That's the question that launches the seventh year of the NBCC Reads series, which draws upon the bookish passions of our members and honorees. Here's the fourth in this new series. It's not too late to send your critical essay on your own favorite to janeciab@gmail.com.

Wallace Stevens' Harmonium; Hart Crane's The White Buildings. Prose: Richard Hughes' High Wind in Jamaica; Hortense Calisher's In the Absence of Angels; Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man; Richard Yates' Revolutionary Road; Styron's The Long March.  Later poets: Philip Schultz, Like Wings--"a new music, fresh and yet with an ancient resonance, plaintive and yet brightly lit;" Amy Clampitt, The Kingfisher; Alfred Corn, All Roads at Once; Yerra Sugarman's Forms of Gone.  Marianne Moore's Observations (1924) was not her very first, but might count as that -- her first, Poems, was gotten together by Bryher and H.D. and published in London in 1921, to her surprise.

I can't say why I've picked these books. I don't know if I could live without them, but I wouldn't want to try.

Grace Schulman's seventh collection of poems, Without a Claim, appeared on September 10, 2013, from Mariner Books, Houghton Mifflin. She is the author of The Broken String (Houghton, 2007), Days of Wonder: New and Selected Poems (Houghton, 2002), which was selected by Library Journal as one of the “best poetry books” of 2002, and was a finalist for the Phi Beta Kappa Award of that year; and The Paintings of Our Lives (Houghton, 2001), a selection of the Academy of American Poets’ Book Club. Among her honors are the Aiken Taylor Award for poetry, the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, New York University's Distinguished Alumni Award, and a Fellowship from the New York Council on the Arts. Her poems have received three Pushcart prizes. Editor of The Poems of Marianne Moore (Viking, 2003), the authorized edition, she is Distinguished Professor of English at Baruch College, CUNY. Her poems, essays, and translations have appeared widely in journals, here and abroad. Schulman is former director of the Poetry Center, 92nd Street Y, 1974-84, and former poetry editor of The Nation, 1971-2006. She lives in New York City and East Hampton, N. Y. with her husband, Jerome.

Roundup: Karl Ove Knausgaard, Susan Mizruchi, and remembering Nadine Gordimer

by Eric Liebetrau | Jul-15-2014

Your reviews seed this roundup; please send items to NBCCCritics@gmail.com. Make sure to send links that do not require a subscription or username and password.


David Cooper reviews In the Illuminated Dark: Selected Poems of Tuvia Ruebner.

Meredith Sue Willis' latest novel is Love Palace from Irene Weinberger Books.

Clea Simon reviews A.X. Ahmad's The Last Taxi Ride. She also reviews Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

In the Chicago TribuneLisa Guidarini reviews Michael Cunningham's latest novel.

Heller McAlpin reviews The Mockingbird Next Door by Marja Mills.

NBCC board member Tom Beer also reviews Mills' book.

Marion Winik interviews Francisco Goldman for The Nervous Breakdown and reviews Jojo Moyes and John Waters for Newsday.

NBCC board member Steven G. Kellman reviews The Zhivago Affair.

Julia M. Klein reviews Susan Mizruchi's Brando's Smile for the Boston Globe. Klein also reviews Jean Kwok's Mambo in Chinatown.

NBCC board member Walton Muyumba reviews Tiphanie Yanique's debut novel.

Julie Hakim Azzam reviews late reporter Michael Hastings' novel about the Iraq War media coverage, The Last Magazine.

NBCC board member Carolyn Kellogg remembers Nadine Gordimer.

For the Christian MonitorGrace Bello reviews Emily Gould's Friendship.

Morris Dickstein reviews My Cousin Harry: A Jewish Story of the Greatest Generation.

NBCC board member Gregg Barrios reviews The Book of Unknown Americans.

Jim Ruland reviews Brandon Hobson's Deep Ellum.

"The Thrill Is Gone," by Robert Birnbaum. And just in time for the All-Star break, Birnbaum takes a look at a few baseball books.

"The Poetry of Non-Poetry," by Michael Leong.

In her BBC column, NBCC board member Jane Ciabattari examines "F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edith Wharton, Somerset Maugham, authors who created the shady side of the French Riviera."

LISTEN: Dan Kois, David Haglund, and New York Times Book Review editor Parul Sehgal discuss My Struggle: Book One, the Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard’s autobiographical epic.

Linda Wolfe's latest Fab Over Fifty column.

"Stuart Dybek’s stories occupy a territory somewhere between Vladimir Nabokov and Nelson Algren." NBCC board member David Ulin reviews Dybek's stories.

This Week’s Roundup

by Jane Ciabattari | Jul-14-2014

This week's roundup of reviews and interviews by National Book Critics Circle members will be posted in the morning, Tuesday, July 15.

NBCC Reads: What’s Your Favorite First Book Ever? James Joyce’s ‘Dubliners’

by Darin Strauss | Jul-09-2014

"What's your favorite first book by an author ever?" That's the question that launches the seventh year of the NBCC Reads series, which draws upon the bookish passions of our members and honorees. Here's the third in this new series. It's not too late to send your critical essay on your own favorite to janeciab@gmail.com.

This is a hard one.  The Book of John? The Iliad?
Of books that have a known provenance (Sorry, whoever wrote The Two Gentlemen of Verona), it'd be difficult to top Dubliners.
Containing the consensus "Greatest Short Story in English" ("The Dead"); laying down the epiphanic model that has given workshop-know-it-alls workshop ammunition for generations; written when Joyce was 23 years old, this book is probably J.J.'s most beloved (if not best). If he never wrote another book, he'd be considered the greatest Irish fiction writer and the greatest practitioner of the English-language short story. Not bad for a kid out of school (with no MFA).  


A recipient of a National Book Critics Circle Award, the Guggenheim Fellowship, the American Library Association Award, and numerous other prizes, the internationally bestselling writer Darin Strauss is the author of the novels Chang & Eng, The Real McCoy, and More Than It Hurts You, and the NBCC-winning memoir Half a Life. In addition, Strauss has recently been named an opinion columnist at Al-Jazeera America, has written screenplays for Disney, Gary Oldman, and Julie Taylor, and is the Clinical Associate Professor of Fiction at NYU's creative writing program.

Roundup: J.K. Rowling, Lily King, Dave Eggers and the summer’s best debut novels

by Eric Liebetrau | Jul-07-2014

Your reviews seed this roundup; please send items to NBCCCritics@gmail.com. Make sure to send links that do not require a subscription or username and password.


"Rowling spins web of mystery in hall of mirrors." NBCC board member Carolyn Kellogg on the author's latest.

Heller McAlpin reviews Joel Dicker's breakneck thriller The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair.

Julia M. Klein reviews Sue Miller's The Arsonist for the Chicago Tribune. She also reviews Michael Hastings' The Last Magazine for Columbia Journalism Review.

Novelist Mohsin Hamid selects Matthew Jakubowski's experimental review, "honest work," for the Charm Quark award in the 3QD Arts & Literature Prize 2014.

Daniel Dyer reviews Michael Blanding's The Map Thief.

Megan Labrise interviews Mira Jacob, author of The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing, for the cover of Kirkus Reviews. She also speaks with debut novelist Alyson Foster.

Barbara Hoffert explores the summer's best debut novels.

"When you do not allow yourself to follow your impulses, it’s not that you are eluding or destroying those impulses. Instead, you’re converting what was potentially necessary to your imagination into something darker, less stable, and more insidious. Avoidance destroys your creative imagination. Avoidance destroys your ability to write." NBCC board member David Biespiel's latest Poetry Wire.

Rhonda Browning White reviews Jon Sealy's debut novel, The Whiskey Baron.

Robert Birnbaum on the reissue of Frank O'Hara's Lunch Poems.

NBCC board member Jane Ciabattari reviews Lily King's Euphoria.

"Friendship: A Startlingly Nice Novel By A Tough-Girl Blogger." Maureen Corrigan reviews Emily Gold's debut novel.

Benjamin Moser reviews American Crucifixion by Alex Beam.

Eggers' career travels a fascinating path. NBCC board member Mark Athitakis reviews the author's new novel.

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