November, 2018

#NBCCLeonard: Joan Frank on Lydia Kiesling’s “The Golden State”

by admin | Nov-16-2018

The John Leonard Prize, our annual award based on member nominations and chosen by a panel of member volunteers, is awarded for the best first book in any genre. In advance of the announcement, we're inviting members to contribute appreciations of titles under consideration. (If you're interested in doing so, please email nbcccritics@gmail.com with the subject line Leonard.) Below, NBCC member Joan Frank writes on Lydia Kiesling's debut novel, "The Golden State" (MCD).

Lydia Kiesling's astonishing debut novel, "The Golden State," sneaks up on you, but quickly cozies right into your lap, heart, mind—suddenly becoming urgently, deliciously necessary. Daphne, a young San Francisco mother with a secure but (tragicomically realistic) suffocating university job, juggles that job alongside care of Honey, her vibrant sixteen-month-old daughter, whilst worrying for the fate of her husband, Engin, a Turkish filmmaker whose green card was wrongfully confiscated in San Francisco Airport and who now languishes near relatives in Turkey, awaiting the untangling of a hopeless hairball of red tape. Daphne is increasingly stressed by his absence, the avalanche of chaotic duties pressing on her, and the uncertainty of everything.

She goes AWOL.

Tossing little Honey into the car, Daphne drives to her late grandmother's mobile home in a tiny (fictional) northern California foothills town called Altavista. There she'll meet a few old-timers, a handful of bitter secessionists angling to create an independent state called Jefferson out of California's northern half (this part is based, folks, on the actual), and a mysterious, elderly woman traveling alone named Alice, who'll figure importantly in Daphne's and Honey's immediate futures.

Cell service up there is lousy. So are the local eateries.

What pushes this story irreversibly into your heart is its unflagging, gorgeous energy, its sensuous settings, and (delivering these) its raw, funny, smart-as-hell Voice—that of a gifted young woman hyper-attuned to modern absurdities, whose sentences mass and hurtle and scrimmage like a freeway car pile-up. Very much of this narrative describes, blow-for-blow, the fast-forward pitching machine also known as the nonstop mothering of a very small child:

“I give her a string cheese but I panic at the first stoplight remembering that it's a choking hazard in a moving car and first I scrabble my hand back ineffectually and then I pull over before the entrance to the highway so that she can eat the string cheese under supervision, but I have ruined it, and she throws the cheese and cries, and she cries all the way over the bridge and into the customary gridlock by the IKEA, the clogged highway branching off into miles of parking. I smell the foul bay-mud around the base of the bridge, and look across the water to Angel Island and the container ships making their placid hulking way through the Golden Gate and I say “look look look Honey, big boats, BIG BOATS” but she is still crying forty minutes after we've left the house and she is still crying forty minutes after that.”

She had me at “string cheese.”

You'll want to travel with Daphne, have drinks with her, coffee. You'll want to know how on earth she got through it. In fact, she'll show you: each antic, catastrophic, wondrous day of ten days—including an extended sprint (pop-eyed, bearing down on the pages) through a near-symphonic climax—after which you'll never want to leave either Daphne or "The Golden State" again. Thank you, Lydia Kiesling. Please write that next book soon.

Joan Frank is the Northern California author of eight books of fiction and a book of collected essays about the writing life. She frequently reviews literary fiction for the San Francisco Chronicle.                    

#NBCCLeonard: Laurie Hertzel on Tara Westover’s “Educated”

by Laurie Hertzel | Nov-15-2018

The John Leonard Prize, our annual award based on member nominations and chosen by a panel of member volunteers, is awarded for the best first book in any genre. In advance of the announcement, we're inviting members to contribute appreciations of titles under consideration. (If you're interested in doing so, please email nbcccritics@gmail.com with the subject line Leonard.) Below, NBCC board member and autobiography chairman Laurie Hertzel writes on Tara Westover's debut memoir, "Educated." (Random House.) This review originally ran in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Tara Westover grew up on a mountainside in Idaho, a daughter of Mormon survivalists. She and most of her six siblings were born at home and had no birth certificates, no Social Security numbers. The government didn't know they existed, and that was the way their father wanted it.

The family stockpiled food, guns and gasoline in preparation for the End Times. Tara never attended school but spent her childhood working in her father's junkyard and helping her mother brew homeopathic remedies to sell.

Tara's father was sadistic and domineering, and her older brother Shawn (a pseudonym) assaulted her repeatedly - choking her to unconsciousness, dragging her by her hair, jamming her head into the toilet - to punish her for sassing, or for her "whorish" ways (such as talking to a boy).

Westover recounts all of this in her fascinating memoir, "Educated," which is about growing up in a violent, chaotic home, and then breaking away from it. It is also about the deep, innate pull of family - the need to be loved and protected by one's parents, even when that is beyond possibility.

Westover was a remarkably determined child. "I wanted to get away from the junkyard and there was only one way to do that ... by getting a job," she writes. "The trouble was, I was eleven." She starts babysitting, and then bagging groceries, but always her father pulls her back to the junkyard, a dangerous place where one brother was seriously burned, and another was badly injured in a 20-foot fall.

At age 16, inspired by an older brother, she buys textbooks, somehow teaches herself enough algebra and trigonometry to pass the ACT and heads off to college.

She was still woefully ignorant - she had never heard of the Holocaust, she thought Europe was a country, and her writing style was "oddly formal and stilted," inspired, as it was, by the only reading material she knew: the Bible, the Book of Mormon and speeches by Brigham Young.

With support from professors, and her own steely will, this feral girl graduated from Brigham Young University and went on to attend the University of Cambridge in England and, eventually, earned a doctorate from Harvard University.

The memoir is divided into three parts - childhood, college and present-day. The most powerful section is the first, which Westover writes from the point of view of herself as a girl. She recounts her bizarre life dispassionately, as though it was perfectly ordinary, and it is that sense of normality that gives this section its power.

Part Two is about Tara's awakening: As she begins to understand the world around her, she begins to realize that she's a freak.

It is the third section that is the most difficult to read - the least polished, the most painful, perhaps because it is the most recent. It lacks distance, both temporal and emotional. Many of the events she relates are as yet unresolved, because, as she says, she wanted to write "in the chaos of events still unfolding, not in the calm of resolution."

This might not have been the wisest decision.

Although her father grew increasingly erratic and Shawn increasingly violent (he killed the family dog with a knife while Shawn's son watched, screaming, and then pressed the bloody knife into Tara's hand as a warning), Westover traveled home to Idaho repeatedly, hoping always that her family would accept her new life and that Shawn and her father somehow would have changed.

This terrible, vulnerable hope - this desperate need to be part of her family despite everything - is the saddest part of the book. Westover seems not to understand that her family is less family than cult, and that free will and free speech are not part of the equation. She is heartbroken when her older sister - who also was terrorized by Shawn - first confides in her, then shuns her. She is heartbroken once again when her mother refuses to see her. And still she goes back.

In the end she seems to accept that in order to be her own person, she must break with her family. But the rawness of this last section suggests that despite her amazing transformation and this powerful book, Westover's remarkable education is not yet complete.
 

#NBCCLeonard: Hamilton Cain on Tommy Orange’s “There There”

by admin | Nov-14-2018

The John Leonard Prize, our annual award based on member nominations and chosen by a panel of member volunteers, is awarded for the best first book in any genre. In advance of the announcement, we're inviting members to contribute appreciations of titles under consideration. (If you're interested in doing so, please email nbcccritics@gmail.com with the subject line Leonard.) Below, Hamilton Cain writes on Tommy Orange's debut novel, "There There" (Knopf). 

The expatriate Gertrude Stein, whose writing emulated her close friend Picasso’s art, famously said of Oakland, California, her hometown, “There is no there there,” which has come down to us through the years as a kind of Cubist ars prosaica. One interpretation considers Stein’s declarative sentence a nostalgic elegy: The town she remembers – “there” – no longer exists, degraded by time and economic downturns. Another interpretation is more cynical, dismissive, a flick of the hand at Oakland’s lack of a soul–it ain’t there.

Set in Oakland, There There, Tommy Orange’s assured, devastating debut, confronts faceted meanings of place as well as how and why past, present, and future converge. From James Welch to Louise Erdrich to Sherman Alexie, Native novelists have explored the alienation and agonies of the reservations, where extreme poverty and alcoholism link arms as if in a tribal dance. The experiences of urban Indians have remained largely under the radar.

There There goes there: Its Native characters are exposed to the same radioactive prejudices as on Alexie’s Spokane “rez,” but also stare down other threats. A member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, Orange roams among perspectives, fleshing out his characters, whose stories eventually braid together, and lending heft to history. He opens with a stirring prologue that impressionistically recounts notorious events in Manifest Destiny, from the Pilgrims’ possible poisoning of Indians at an early Thanksgiving feast t0 the Sand Creek massacre of 1864: “The Indian head in the jar, the Indian head on a pike were like flags flown, to be seen, cast broadly.” He then shifts into his story proper, which turns on a present-day lead-up to the annual Oakland powwow, building spine-knotting suspense. This will not end well.

In There There we meet an indelible cast that includes Tony Loneman, afflicted with the “Drome” (i.e., fetal alcohol syndrome); Octavio Gomez, hatching out a murderous scheme; two middle-aged sisters, Opal Bear Shield and Jacquie Red Feather, reckoning with secrets from their past; and Opal’s adopted grandson, Orvil, whose immersion among Indians at the powwow highlights Orange’s lyrical gifts as well as his gimlet-eyed exploration of the divided Indian psyche: “There are hundreds of dancers in front of him. Behind him. To his left and right. He’s surrounded by the variegation of color and pattern specific to Indianness . . . geometrically sequenced sequin shapes on shiny and leathered fabrics, the quill, bead, ribbon, plume, feathers from magpies . . . He is an old station wagon at a car show. He is a fraud.”

A culture at war with itself, the atrocious persecutions of Native peoples, a prose so finely cut it slices the soul like a razor -- these are the elements that Orange seams together. His characters lodge in our minds and hearts, and never leave. They try and fail to love. They lick their wounds. They hold down jobs. They get drunk. In spite of all the pain Oakland is their own reservation; they’re forging their fates there, lives blooming and moldering among cracks in the city’s pavement. Brilliant and beautifully crafted, There There heralds an auspicious literary career. 

Critical Notes: Octavio Solis, Zachary Leader, Abby Geni & Mary Gabriel’s ‘Ninth Street Women’

by Taylor Anhalt | Nov-12-2018

Reminder: It’s time to volunteer for the John Leonard Award committee! Join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #NBCCLeonard, and visit our Facebook page to check out the list of candidates generated by the board. Want to write about a favorite? Contact us at nbcccritics@gmail.com about contributing, and learn more about volunteering for the Leonard committee on Critical Mass on our website. 

Reviews & Interviews

In this week's Critical Notes/Works in Translation series, curated by NBCC board member Lori Feathers, Rachael Nevins reviews Yannis Ritsos' Diaries of Exile

Julie Phillips reviewed “Born to be Posthumous” by Mark Dery for 4Columns.

Theodore Kinni wrote an essay on the year’s best management books for Strategy+Business Magazine.

Barbara Spindel reviewed David Blight's “Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom” for the Barnes & Noble Review.

Rebecca Kightlinger published three book reviews in Historical Novels Review, Issue 86 (November 2018): “Captain Swing and the Blacksmith” by Beatrice Parvin, “The Fallen Architect” by Charles Belfoure, and “The Girl They Left Behind” by Roxanne Veletzos, which was an Editor's Choice for November 2018.

NBCC VP/Online Jane Ciabattari's Lit Hub column this week featured Zachary Leader's five literary lives, coinciding with the publication of the second volume of his biography of Saul Bellow, which begins with the publication of Herzog. Her November BBC Culture column includes new novels by Helen Schulman, Indra Novey, and NBCC award winner Jonathan Lethem, plus an intimate memoir from Elaine Pagels.

Yvonne Garrett reviewed May-Lee Chai's "Useful Phrases for Immigrants" and Kim Sagway's "Mina" for The Brooklyn Rail. She also reviewed Stephen Walsh's "Debussy: A Painter in Sound" and Aeham Ahmad's "The Pianist from Syria: A Memoir" for Publishers Weekly.

For the Our Man in Boston, Robert Birnbaum interviewed photographer Abelardo Morell, with his recent publication, “Flowers for Lisa.” He also reflected on the masterpiece composition, “Lush Life,” taking notice of a haunting song and performance by Greg Porter. Lastly, Birnbaum wrote about the malignancy of Anti-semitism.

Jenny Shank reviewed Tara Westover's "Educated" for High Country News, "America is Not the Heart" for America, "The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock" and Chelsey Johnson's "Stray City" for Dallas Morning News, and also interviewed Fatima Farheen Mirza for Dallas Morning News.

K. L. Romo reviewed Brenda Novak’s romantic suspense novel “Before We Were Strangers” for BookTrib, and Jeffrey Layton’s espionage thriller “The Faithful Spy” for The Bill Thrill magazine.

Adam Carroll reviewed Octavio Solis’ “Retablos: Stories From a Life Lived Along the Border” for The Millions.

NBCC board member Laurie Hertzel interviewed Alexander McCall Smith for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, where she is senior editor for books. She also reviewed Richard Beard’s memoir, “The Day That Went Missing,” and wrote her weekly column on why teenagers don’t read as much as they once did.

William O'Rourke reviewed “Flannery O'Connor and Robert Giroux: A Publishing Partnership” for the National Catholic Reporter in the October 5-18 print edition and the October 24, 2018 web edition.

Julia M. Klein reviewed Haruki Murakami's "Killing Commendatore" for the Forward. She also reviewed Jane Sherron De Hart's "Ruth Bader Ginsburg" for the Forward.

Edward Guiliano published a comprehensive review of studies from 2004 through 2017 of Lewis Carroll’s life and art in “Dickens Studies Annual: Essays on Victorian Fiction.”

Hamilton Cain reviewed Mary Gabriel's ”Ninth Street Women” for the Barnes & Noble Review.

Tayla Burney reviewed Liane Moriarty's new novel, "Nine Perfect Strangers," for the Washington Post.

David Cooper reviewed "The William H. Gass Reader" in New York Journal of Books.

Wendeline O. Wright reviewed Stephen King’s “Elevation” for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Denise Low, poet and critic, reviewed Hadara Bar-Nadav’s “The New Nudity”  in the online edition of Rain Taxi and Joseph Harrington’s “Of Some Sky” in New Letters.

John Domini reviewed “The Hospital,” by Ahmed Buoanani, in The Brooklyn Rail.

Meg Waite Clayton's monthly “Listen In” for the San Francisco Chronicle reviewed Barbara Kingsolver's “Unsheltered,” Brené Brown's “Dare to Lead,” and Rebecca Traister's “Good and Mad.”

Ian P. Beacock reviewed Deborah Coen’s “Climate in Motion: Science, Empire, and the Problem of Scale” for The Atlantic.

Tara Cheesman reviewed Anne Serre’s “The Governesses” for Vol. 1 Brooklyn.

 

Other News

Pam Munter’s memoir, “As Alone As I Want To Be,” was just published by Adelaide Books and is available at Amazon—and soon at a bookstore near you.

Denise Low’s book “Shadow Light” (2018) won the Red Mountain Press Editor's Choice Award.

NBCC members note: Your reviews seed this roundup; please send items, including news about your new publications and recent honors, to NBCCCritics@gmail.com. With reviews, please include title of book and author, as well as name of publication. Make sure to send links that do not require a subscription or username and password.​ We love dedicated URLs. We do not love hyperlinks.


NBCC Reads: Rachael Nevins on Yannis Ritsos’ ‘Diaries of Exile’

by Rachael Nevins | Nov-07-2018

What are your favorite works in translation? That's the question that launched this summer's NBCC Reads series, which draws upon the bookish passions of NBCC members and honorees. We're posting the last batch this month. (Previous NBCC Reads series dating back to 2007 here.)

Beginning in the fall of 1948 and toward the end of a five-year civil war, Greek poet Yannis Ritsos was arrested and sent to a detention center for political prisoners on the island of Lemnos. So began four years in prison camps, during which time Ritsos found (as he recommended decades later to a friend) “therapy or salvation” in his work. Along with other poems and many letters, Ritsos wrote the three Diaries of Exile while on Lemnos and in the much larger, harsher re-education camp on Makronisos to which he was moved in 1949. The diaries were published in Greece in 1975, after Ritsos endured another period of banishment and house arrest, and have been translated into English by Karen Emmerich and Edmund Keeley (Archipelago Books, 2013).

The poems in the diaries are brief and have no titles other than the date of their composition. Recurring images—thorns and barbed wire, sunset and night, the sun and the moon, cats and mice, cigarettes, windows, the wind and bitter cold, overcoats and blankets—attest to the narrowness of experience in prison. Ritsos’s speaker witnesses his own and others’ grief, anguish, sense of tedium, and alienation, but never complains or indulges in self-pity. Rather, the speaker accepts things as they are, including the longing and desolation with which he infuses things, as in the first stanza of the first poem:

There are so many thorns here—

brown thorns, yellow thorns

all along the length of the day, even into sleep.

I love how quickly the actual thorns in the first two lines become metaphorical thorns in the third. “I want to give objects a meaning / they don’t have,” confesses the speaker toward the beginning of the second diary; yet I trust the meanings he gives things. Though the meanings may not reside in the things themselves, they reveal his care for them, as well as his own continuing emotional engagement with the stuff of life, however limited it may be, and however much suffering it may comprehend.

The stool has its patience.

The rain comes

washes the birds’ tiles

assumes the weight of the unspeaking.

The toothbrush is sad like all things.

The poems in the third diary, written on Makronisos, are bleaker—full of warnings, dread, and death, such as

Your mistake is that you don’t want to die.

But maybe the dead feel hunger too.

and

Manolis used to say:

everything’s going to be fine.

His heart said so.

 

Manolis

down in the deep water

with the blind seaweed.

Unlike Manolis, the poems in Diaries of Exile make no hopeful claims. Nevertheless, their very existence testifies to the possibility of spiritual survival in extremity.


Rachael Nevins is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer whose poetry, essays, and book reviews have appeared in Rattle, Brooklyn Poets Anthology, Literary Mama, Hazlitt, Publishers Weekly, and elsewhere. She teaches Online Advanced Poetry for The Writers Studio.

Critical Notes: #NBCCLeonard Award, Member Reviews, and More

by Mark Athitakis | Nov-04-2018

Reminder: It’s time to volunteer for the John Leonard Award committee! Join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #NBCCLeonard, and visit our Facebook page to check out the list of candidates generated by the board. Want to write about a favorite? Contact us at nbcccritics@gmail.com about contributing, and learn more about volunteering for the Leonard committee at our website. 

Recent member reviews and essays:

Former board member and Balakian recipient Scott McLemee wrote about Leo R. Chavez's “Anchor Babies and The Challenge of Birthright Citizenship” for Inside Higher Ed.

Asa Drake reviewed Ada Limón's “The Carrying” for the American Poetry Review.

Jenny Bhatt reviewed Akil Kumarasamy’s story collection “Half Gods” for PopMatters.

Maya Payne Smart interviewed Kiese Laymon regarding his memoir “Heavy” for Kirkus Reviews.

Matthew Jakubowski wrote an experimental story-review of Mexican author Cristina Rivera Garza’s novel, “The Iliac Crest,” for Full Stop.

Former board member and Balakian recipient Steven G. Kellman reviewed Zachary Leader's biography of Saul Bellow for the Forward Magazine.

VP of Membership Anjali Enjeti reviewed four books about women's anger for Rewire News, and spoke with author Glory Edim for Newsday.

Kevin O’Kelly reviewed Shane Bauer’s “American Prison” for the Christian Science Monitor.

Board member Mark Athitakis wrote about PBS’ Great American Read for the Washington Post.

Frank Freeman interviewed Andre Dubus III for America Magazine.

John Domini reviewed Jeff Jackson’s “Destroy All Monsters” for the Washington Post.

NBCC member Claude Peck reviewed Colm Toibin's “Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know” in the Star Tribune.

Katharine Coldiron reviewed Tommy Orange's “There There” for the Times Literary Supplement.

Kathleen Rooney co-wrote an essay with Logan Berry about the poetry of Aase Berg for the Poetry Foundation.

Paul Wilner interviewed poet/musician Larry Beckett about his new novel in verse, “Amelia Earhart,” for Zyzzyva.

Dan Cryer reviewed Susan Orlean’s “The Library Book” for Newsday and John Wray’s “Godsend” for the San Francisco Chronicle

Kelly Flynn reviewed Tasha Coryell's "Hungry People” for Empty Mirror.

Nathaniel Popkin wrote about Timothy Morton’s “Being Ecological,” Donna Haraway’s “Staying With the Trouble,” Almir Surui’s “Save the Planet,” and Alexis Shotwell’s “Against Purity” for Public Books..

Tim Riley reviewed Saul Austerlitz’s “Just a Shot Away: Peace, Love, and Tragedy With The Rolling Stones at Altamont” for TruthDig.

For Foreword Reviews, NBCC Emerging Critic Letitia Montgomery-Rodgers reviewed Heather Rose’s novel inspired by Marina Abramović, “The Museum of Modern Love”; photographer Ryan J. Bush’s “The Music of Trees”; Mary Ann Esposito’s latest cookbook, “Ciao Italia: My Lifelong Food Adventures in Italy”; Kelly J. Beard’s memoir, “An Imperfect Rapture”; and Jane Yolen’s instructive short story collection, “How to Fracture a Fairy Tale.”

Tobias Carroll wrote about the new edition of Thomas Ligotti's “The Conspiracy Against the Human Race” for the Cleveland Review of Books.

Robert Birnbaum interviewed George Pelecanos for Our Man in Boston.

Member news:

On The Seawall, Ron Slate’s 11-year old book review site, has relaunched as a redesigned online literary magazine with new writing across genres and commentary.

Michelle Bailat-Jones’s second novel, Unfurled (Ig Publishing), was published on October 23. The novel received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly.

Former NBCC board member (and Balakian winner) Ron Charles is among the judges for this year's Story Prize.

NBCC members note: Your reviews seed this roundup. Pease send items, including news about your new publications and recent honors, to NBCCCritics@gmail.com. With reviews, please include title of book and author, as well as name of publication. Make sure to send links that do not require a subscription or username and password.​ We love dedicated URLs; we do not love hyperlinks.

October, 2018

NBCC Reads: Soniah Kamal on ‘Angaaray’

by Soniah Kamal | Oct-31-2018

What are your favorite works in translation? That's the question that launched this summer's NBCC Reads series, which draws upon the bookish passions of NBCC members and honorees. We're posting the last batch through Nov. 7. (Previous NBCC Reads series dating back to 2007 here.)

In 1932 India, four Muslim Indian authors—Sajjad Zaheer, Ahmed Ali, Rashid Jehan and Mahmud-uz-Zafar—complied a collection of their short stories, Angaaray. Angaaray literally means flames as well as the verb to inflame. Inflame their stories did for Angaaray was banned and the authors feared legal action. Never-the-less, Angaaray was to be a crucial game changer for Urdu Muslim literature as well as the impetus for The Progressive Writers Association. However, it wasn’t until 2014 that an English translation of Angaaray appeared and I was finally able to read it.

Translated by Professor Snehal Shingavi in simple, direct language, the ten stories in this collection are exciting. What had these four writers exposed to cause scandal? The oppression of women, class conflict and, crucially, religious hypocrisy in Muslim culture. The Muslim world I know practices prudery in matters gynecological and sexual and yet here was Rashid Jahan’s play ‘In the Women’s Quarters’ about a wife whose annual childbirth has caused her uterus to lapse, a problem she gets fixed for her husband’s gratification, who yet demands she find him a second wife. Mahmud-uz-Zafar, in his lone contribution, 'Virility,' depicts a well educated man whose need to prove his manliness leads to devastating consequences for his already ill wife.

I was enthralled by the stories which address religion for, in contemporary Pakistan, where the blasphemy law is alive and kicking, no one dares critique faith let alone satirize it. In his story, 'A Night of Winter Rains,' Ahmed Ali’s protagonist, a mother whose children are starving, offers the following judgment on God:

Does God even exist or not?... He is very cruel and extremely unjust…. God? He is just an excuse, just a con. The patronizing consolation of remaining in poverty, a futile hope in desperate times, the means of remaining content in times of trouble. God? Just a smokescreen.  

The diamond in this collection, and one that most emboldens my own work, is Sajjad Zaheer’s 'A Vision of Heaven.' In this story, a cleric declines sex with his willing wife in lieu of hugging to sleep his Quran and, consequently, he has a wet dream about angels and the Good Book. The Quran and wet dream conjoined and Zaheer’s story is emblematic of the buttons Angaaray pushes in polite society.  

Also in Professor Shingavi’s translation are contributor biographies and photos, notes on the scandal as well as his translation choices. The appendices include a police document booking the collection and Mahmud-uz-Zafar’s letter aptly named ‘Shall We Submit to Gagging?’ What the magazine ‘Fire: Devoted to Young Negro Artists’ (1926), with works by Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, and Wallace Thurman was to the Harlem Renaissance, so is Angaarey to Urdu Literature.  Far from a relic of a time past, I believe Angaarey remains an essential read, one ground breaking in 1932 and, unfortunately, its concerns are just as relevant today.


Soniah Kamal's novel 'Unmarriageable: Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice in Pakistan,' is forthcoming from Penguin Random House. For more see http://www.soniahkamal.com/

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