I recently sat down with Lebanese author Rabih Alameddine to ask him, among other things, why he wished me blue hair when he signed my copy of An Unnecessary Woman at a reading at the Asian American Writers Workshop last year.
His lovely explanation– plus his the rest of our conversation on translation, creativity, appropriation, Crime and Punishment, Kim Kardashian’s butt, and more– is now online at Words Without Borders.
It really is hard to just pick ten favorite books of the year. I revised my earlier list for PRI. A few new picks, here.
Mark your calendars for September 18th!
I’m thrilled to be hosting an interactive discussion on literature, identity, and geography at the Brooklyn Museum in a special WNYC Brooklyn Book Festival Bookend event.
The event is called Brooklyn Bound: Writing Kings County and it centers around writers past and present who have taken inspiration from the expansive borough.
The evening will feature Evan Hughes, author of Literary Brooklyn: The Writers of Brooklyn and the Story of American City Life), plus three emerging writers whose work focuses on three distinct Brooklyn neighborhoods. Yelena Akhtiorskaya‘s debut novel Panic in a Suitcase is set in the Brighton Beach of her immigrant childhood; Jason Reynolds writes about the pressures of life in Bed-Stuy in his young adult novel When I Was the Greatest; and Mark Chiusano (Marine Park: Stories) examines the far reaches of the borough in his new collection of stories.
See WNYC’s events page for details and tickets. I hope to see you there!
This week’s Daily Beast Hot Reads feature lobstermen and meth dealers off the coast of Maine, a Swiss best-seller’s American debut, and the world’s largest statue of Stalin. Check out my full reviews and stay tuned for more on The Lobster Kings, which is also a pick for The Takeaway Book Club later this summer.
Hear me explain why the new Joshua Ferris novel, To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, made me floss— and why it’s already divided The Takeaway team. If you haven’t read it, now’s the perfect time to pick it up– just in time for The Takeaway Book Club’s discussion in a few weeks.
It’s got baseball, dentistry, online trolls, a made-up religion, and a protagonist who associates oral hygiene with moral seriousness. What more can you ask for in a summer read?
Exciting things are happening with The Takeaway’s book coverage in the coming months.
We’ll be picking six book clubs from different parts of the country and bringing them on air to discuss a new novel. Here I am describing what’s in store and talking about the books we’ll be reading.
And here is a picture of my books-based standing desk. Let the record show that I am dismayed by the whole book-as-fashion-object trend— but I don’t have a lot of shelf space in my office (or a doctor’s note to get a real standing desk).
For National Poetry Month, in April I produced a series of stories on The Takeaway highlighting poems submitted by listeners around the country. The project grew out of the #ThisIsWhere poetry contest WLRN and O Miami held this month for south Floridians; The Takeaway expanded the call for submissions to include listeners around the country, inviting listeners to send us their poems the places that really matter to them.
New Jersey listener Jane Byron described moving to Camden as a young single mom with a dream of revitalizing the city. Worcester, Massachusetts resident Augustine Kanjia wrote about the love he discovered for the city that welcomed him in after he fled war-torn Sierra Leone. A poem from Cathy Wells of east Texas paid tribute to the family land her parents purchased, cleared, and settled together. And in Miami, WLRN listener Eduardo Lis wrote about finding freedom and solace on North Beach as a new immigrant with not much more than a Walgreen’s bathing suit to his name. Hear their stories at: http://www.thetakeaway.org/series/thisiswhere/.
On a bracingly cold morning this March– exactly 50 years to the day after Kitty Genovese’s death– author Kevin Cook and I met on the block in Kew Gardens where Genovese spent her last living hours.
Cook’s new book, Kitty Genovese: The Murder, The Bystanders, The Crime that Changed America looks back at Genovese’s life and death in detail. His investigation focuses in particular on what happened the night she died. Spoiler alert: It’s a little more complicated than what you might’ve heard (or read in that intro psychology course, for that matter).
We also stopped in on some longtime residents of the neighborhood. Carol and Murray Berger moved into a charming home in Kew Gardens in 1957, and have been a vital part of the community ever since. They were kind enough to invite me in and to share their remembrances of how Genovese’s murder transformed the neighborhood’s reputation.
Take a listen to my piece for WNYC here. Check out The New Yorker’s take on Cook’s book here. And see some lovely photos of the Bergers’ home here.
In the brief interval between Polar Vortex I and Polar Vortex II, I somehow I managed to get in a leisurely amble through Queens with Gary Shteyngart.
We met at the Solomon Schechter School of Queens in Flushing and wandered through his old school playground before circling back to his family’s first apartment in Kew Garden Hills. Eventually we made our way to Main Street Cinemas, site of a certain memorable screening of Emmanuelle: The Joys of a Woman.
He told me many more hilarious stories than I could possibly include in this radio segment. But I did my best. Take a listen to A Literary Walkabout in Gary Shteyngart’s Queens and enjoy the slideshow of the author posing in front of his key childhood landmarks. Then go read his memoir, Little Failure.