How do we survive our family, stay bound to our community, and keep from losing ourselves? In All That Work and Still No Boys, Kathryn Ma exposes the deepest fears and longings that we mask in family life and observes the long shadows cast by history and displacement.
Here are ten stories that wound and satisfy in equal measure. Ma probes the immigrant experience, most particularly among northern California’s Chinese Americans, illuminating for us the confounding nature of duty, transformation, and loss. A boy exposed to racial hatred finds out the true difference between his mother and his father. Two old rivals briefly lay down their weapons, but loneliness and despair won’t let them forget the past. A young Beijing tour guide with a terrible family secret must take an adopted Chinese girl and her American family to visit an orphanage. And in the prize-winning title story, a mother refuses to let her son save her life, insisting instead on a sacrifice by her daughter.
Intimate in detail and universal in theme, these stories give us the compelling voice of an exciting new author whose intelligence, insight, and wit impart a sense of grace to the bitter resentments and enduring ties that comprise family love. Even through the tensions Ma creates so deftly, the peace and security that come from building and belonging to one’s own community shine forth.
A new collection of stories from celebrated Kentucky author Gurney Norman
“A beautiful book” … “A remarkable, eye-opening set of stories” … “Brilliantly arranged” … “An exhilarating mirroring of consciousness itself” … “Grand and important, funny and heartbreaking” … “An act of grace”
Allegiance is a brilliant and original set of stories by former Kentucky Poet Laureate Gurney Norman. Spanning forty years of work, Allegiance is an autobiography told through stories—a rich personal journey into Norman’s life, place, and consciousness. In classic short stories, lyrical meditations, folktales, dreamscapes, and stream-of-consciousness writing, Norman imaginatively weaves together the threads of his life. Each story builds on what has come before, “prisms enlarging the effect of the whole …” The stories are humorous and heartbreaking, told mainly in the voice of Norman’s fictional narrator, Wilgus Collier. From his working-class childhood in the coalfields of Appalachia to the center of the 1960s counterculture and back again to Kentucky, Norman’s journey has been a life of many movements. This is a jacketed hardcover edition of Allegiance, featuring a foreword by poet Leatha Kendrick, an author’s note, and an original cover painting by Appalachian artist Pam Oldfield Meade. A selection of nonfiction pieces comprises the book’s epilogue.
Published by Old Cove Press
Honorable Mention, 2006 The Society of Midland Authors Adult Fiction Award
For decades, Richard Stern has been acclaimed as one of the American masters of the short story. Almonds to Zhoof: Collected Stories brings together for the first time forty-nine of Stern's best short works and novellas-from "Dr. Cahn's Visit," which The New Republic praised as "the very best very short story in the English language," to classics like "Teeth" and "Wanderers."
Stern's stories-witty, moving, always full of energy-never sacrifice storytelling to mere elegance or wandering wisdom. This collection demonstrates Stern's astonishing ability to portray people from all walks of life, their flawed relationships to ideas, their sometimes bizarre relationships with lovers and friends, their often brilliant, if skewed, appraisals of themselves. The stories always reflect an abiding compassion for his characters whoever they are and whatever their origins. All exist within the politics and workplaces and bedrooms of the real world. All are incorrigibly human.
American Grief in Four Stages is a collection of stories that imagines trauma as a space in which language fails us and narrative escapes us. These stories play with form and explore the impossibility of elegy and the inability of our culture to communicate grief, or sympathy, outside of cliché.
One narrator, for example, tries to understand her brother’s suicide by excavating his use of idioms. Other stories construe grief and trauma in much subtler ways—the passing of an era or of a daughter’s childhood, the seduction of a neighbor, the inability to have children. From a dinner party with Aztecs to an elderly shut-in’s recollection of her role in the Salem witch trials, these are stories that defy expectations and enrich the imagination. As a whole, this collection asks the reader to envisage the ways in which we suffer as both unbearably painful and unbearably American.
“Elaine Ford’s collection roams the territory between the intellect and the heart. She writes of the human condition with precision, in language that is both grave and conversational. Her characters step out of the real world onto the page, where she develops them quietly, but with compassionate fullness. This writer grips the reader with her keen knowledge of the psyche of individuals-—their motives and secrets—and also with the surprising things that happen to them.”
—Laura Kasischke, judge, Michigan Literary Fiction Awards
Of Elaine Ford’s novel, Missed Connections, the Washington Post wrote that it is a work “of small episodes, of precise sentences, of unusual clarity.” That same clarity proves an unsettling force in Ford’s stories, where precision of prose often belies uncertainties hidden beneath. In the title piece, an American woman in England, embroiled in a relationship doomed to fail, discovers how little she understands about her own desires and impulses. In another story, another American wife, abandoned in Greece by her archaeologist husband, struggles to solve a crime no one else believes to have been committed.
Throughout her stories Ford touches on the mysteries that make up our lives. Each story in itself is a masterpiece of such detail and power as to transform the way we see the world.
In Beth Helms's American Wives, winner of the 2003 Iowa Short Fiction Award, the women inhabit familiar roles—military wife, wealthy widow, devoted mother, lifetime companion. Yet despite their ordinary appearances, these women have deep secrets hidden beneath the thin veneer of duty, devotion, and privilege.
Set in both the United States and abroad, American Wives is about hope and disappointment, failure and resignation, desire and, occasionally, joy. A military wife abroad has a brief and totally unexpected sexual encounter; a wife watches as her husband, obsessed with the au-pair, has an affair instead with her best friend; a young woman finds herself destined to repeat the patterns of her mother's long-hidden infidelities. At the heart of each encounter is the overwhelming need to connect with others“whether they be lovers, spouses, friends, or family”while balancing personal desires. Too often, Helms's characters discover that being true to oneself means sacrificing the ones we love most.
As each woman seeks control of her life, we are reminded of the ultimate hope and possibility that can be found within our most intimate relationships. In subtle, yet convincing prose, Helms beautifully reveals the emotional depths that are reached in moments of true despair and longing.
In her award-winning collection, Elizabeth Oness travels a vast emotional terrain, from the loss of innocence to sexual betrayal to the helplessness of parents before their children. In “Momentum, ” a woman carries the burden of a dead friend's secret for years until she finally decides to reveal it, only to discover that other, darker secrets still lie in wait. “Rufus” follows the quandary of a young man who is forced to choose between the affection of his girlfriend and his compassion for a homeless man who has taken up residence in his car.
Articles of Faith is a collection of stories about silence and the complications that arise when a silence is kept too long or suddenly broken. As one narrator relates, “I knew that life was full of these things which matter so enormously and make us what we are—but remain unsaid because to voice them does not make them go away, and instead shakes everything around us apart. ”
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