Angela Flournoy’s debut novel The Turner House (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) was published this spring and has met with much acclaim, becoming a May 2015 Indie Next pick and garnering a stellar review in the New York Times. Set in Detroit in 2008, the book tells the story of a large family who must decide what to do with the house they grew up in. The home holds individual meaning for each sibling and also reflects the fate of the black working class in the city, and it’s now worth a fraction of what their ailing mother still owes on the mortgage. Flournoy, who is from California, drew inspiration for the novel from her father and his 12 siblings, who were all born and raised in Detroit.
An Interview with Amy Jo Burns, Author of Cinderland, Belt Magazine
Amy Jo Burns is the author of Cinderland, a memoir about coming of age in a small town in Western Pennsylvania while carrying the burden of a lie. When Burns was 10, her popular piano teacher, Howard Lotte, was accused of molesting his female students. All of the girls under his instruction were questioned, and those who came forward were smeared by the many people in town who didn’t want to believe them, even after Lotte confessed. When it was Burns’ turn to tell what happened to her, she made the choice that a number of other girls did. She kept quiet about the groping that had occurred. She wanted to remain beloved by the town whose community and rituals meant so much to her, but the cost of her silence was high, leaving her feeling isolated and constrained as she performed the pageantries of high school life. Written in a lyrical and lucid style, Cinderland is both clear-eyed and elegiac about growing up in an economically hard-hit community whose groupthink tendencies and insularity provide some comfort from adversity as well as cause harm.
The Sunday Rumpus Interview: Chloe Caldwell, The Rumpus
. . . Her new novella Women (SF/LD, 2014) features a young protagonist who has her identity shaken when she moves to a new city and she falls in love for the first time with a woman, Finn, who is much older and involved in a long-term relationship. Not long after the two discover their mad passion for each other, the tensions start to mount, and Women details the way the narrator rides out the pain. Caldwell and I discussed the book by swapping emails and a text document.
The Sunday Rumpus Interview: Sarah Einstein, The Rumpus
. . . The winner of the 2015 AWP award for creative nonfiction, Mot recounts Sarah’s trips to visit her friend once he moved west, as well as the difficulties with her job and marriage that she was facing in her own life. Beautifully written, Mot vividly evokes quotidian parking lots, campgrounds, and scenery and explores complicated, omnipresent moral questions about what it means to give, take, offer, need, and befriend in a way that will make it a reference point for me for years to come. “That reminds me of Mot,” I keep thinking, whether I’m reading about the refugee crisis or the Illinois budget impasse or a friend’s interpersonal conflicts. Einstein and I conducted this interview by email.
. . .A critical stance can sometimes make it difficult to move through the world unencumbered by self-consciousness, or can come with its own set of blinders. So I’ve particularly admired how gracefully Moore’s writing on Cambodia presents the complications and contradictions involved with teaching in a country where U.S. involvement contributed to the conditions of a genocidal regime and where U.S. dollars now have an outsize influence on the economy and development. When Cambodian Grrrl came out, Moore announced that it was to be the first in a series of work about the country. She’s been back repeatedly since 2007, and she’s planning subsequent installments that will cover the garment industry and the sex industry, on which she’s been reporting. I‘d been awaiting these books, but what she published next was quite different. This fall, she released Hip Hop Apasara (Green Lantern Press), a collection of lyrical essays and photographs that’s impressionistic rather than journalistic, and that documents, among other things, the emerging public nightlife in Phnom Pehn and the struggle for social justice. The book captures the poignancy a single moment can have when so much is changing, and it highlights the contrasts and constants contained within human nature.
The Sunday Rumpus Interview: Lisa Carver, The Rumpus
. . .Drugs Are Nice fills in some of the blanks left in her earlier relentlessly upbeat (if also gory and obscene) work. She sketches a chaotic upbringing split between a sickly, pill-addicted mother and drug-dealer father who went to prison when she was six. She talks about escaping an abusive relationship with the father of her first child and the reality of raising alone a son born with a chromosomal deletion. But as it turns out, Drugs Are Nice, for all its stripped-back honesty, presents only a fraction of Lisa’s life story. In January, she self-published _________, an untitled book that collects around 80 paintings she created intuitively in late 2010 and early 2011 as part of the effort to recover memories from an early childhood so horrific it’s hard to look at squarely. Through painting and through therapy, Lisa came to recall being abused, molested, and prostituted by her father as a very young girl, and she began to understand the process of disassociating by which she had coped and functioned. In the text accompanying the images, Lisa writes about her diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder and gives interpretations of the paintings.
Six Question Sex Interview with Marie Calloway, The Nervous Breakdown
. . . She also got a book deal with Tyrant House. The resulting volume,What Purpose Did I Serve In Your Life, just came out. Billed as a collection of fiction, the book begins with a story about the narrator having sex for the first time at age 18 and proceeds with accounts of other sexual experiences she had in the next few years, including forays into sex work, hook-ups with older men, S&M sessions, and attempts at emotional connection. These are all told in a voice stripped of judgment and adornment, and they’re interspersed with photos of the author, transcripts of chats and texts, and excerpts of some of the most personal criticism directed at her. It’s a genre bending, compelling, uncomfortable, sexy, and anti-sexy book. The reviewer on Goodreads who picked it up because she heard it spoken of in the same breath ofShades of Grey was hugely disappointed. Here’s what Marie Calloway had to say about fantasy, orgasms, lust, transactional sex, and whether the pursuit of a good lay is always a worthy effort.