Month: January 2020

Book Review: Dear Twin

By Sarah Sheppeck

Are you Asian? Queer? Mixed race? A twin? No? Then Addie Tsai’s debut novel Dear Twin isn’t for you—emphasis intentional.

Don’t misunderstand—there’s broader appeal in this narrative, which also tackles the less niche topics of interpersonal relationships, individuality, and abuse, both emotional and physical. But it’s clear that in this deeply personal young adult novel, fictionalized in part from the bones of her own memoir, Tsai hopes to reach certain young adults—those who identify at a core level with her pansexual, Asian-and-white, daughter-of-a-first-gen-immigrant narrator, Poppy, who can add the additional hyphenate of “identical twin” to her list of particular identities. In fact, Poppy isn’t just a twin, but a mirror twin, meaning that she and her sister Lola (short for Lolita—there are layers to that) have matching-but-opposite physical traits, like a birthmark that appears on the left side of Poppy’s face but the right side of Lola’s.

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How to Promise

By Zach Semel

A few months after I get back from Europe, I’m in the back seat as my dad drives down East 72nd Street toward 2nd Avenue, luxurious building lobbies flashing by in golden blurs.

Thirteen floors up, we knock on their apartment door.  My heels tap anxiously on the hallway carpeting.  The door opens, letting out a dull glow.

“Hi, sweetie,” my grandma says, strained, wrapping me in a warm Columbia-sweatshirt hug.  I kiss her on the cheek.  We put our coats down in the corner.  The living room and dining room are one open space furnished with a long, maroon, leather couch and a wooden coffee table streaked to appear aged.

“How’s Grandpa?” I ask.

“He’s asleep,” she says.

Past the closed door of the quiet bedroom, the bathroom smells barren—no more of that familiar shaving-cream air.  As far as I’m concerned, his lifelong brand was classic Barbasol in the stubby navy-blue bottles—the ones you trip over in the street the day after Halloween.  He had always smelled like it, as if he had just gotten back from a 1980s barbershop.  But he doesn’t use that stuff anymore; my dad got him an electric razor because he’s been cutting his cheeks up so badly.  I see the shampoo he used to use, too—Pert, those bright green bottles like apple-scented cleaner.  The mirror seems dirty now, and they don’t keep many pills in the medicine cabinet, “or he’ll hide them.”

In all the stories I read about Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s or whatever—the disease makes people forget these peripheral things.  Where they put the electricity bills, bank statements.  Where their favorite restaurant is.  Who their children are.  But what I was not prepared for was how he forgot how to take care of himself.

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Concrete: Paintings and Sculptures

By Mario Loprete

Artist Mario Loprete has been inspired recently to work with concrete, both as a canvas for his paintings and as a transformative material for creating sculptural objects.

The reinforced cement, the concrete, was created two thousand years ago by the Romans. It has a millenia-old story, made of amphitheatres, bridges and roads that have conquered the ancient and modern world. Now it’s a synonym of modernity. Everywhere you go and you find a concrete wall, there’s the modern man in there. From Sidney to Vancouver, from Oslo to Pretoria, the reinforced cement is present and consequently the support where the “writers” can express themselves is present. The successive passage was obvious for me. If man brought art on the streets in order to make it accessible to everyone, why not bring the urban in galleries and museums?

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Book Review: The Butterfly Girl

By Laurie Rockenbeck

The Butterfly Girl, Rene Denfeld’s second offering in her Naomi Cottle series, explores what it is to be lost versus invisible in a gritty thriller set in Portland’s Skid Row. Denfeld does a masterful job creating a compelling narrative by alternating views between two main characters—Naomi and Celia.

Naomi Cottle was once a lost child, and her work as a private investigator is focused on finding other children. She comes to Portland to search for her sister and has vowed not to take on any other cases until she finds her.

Celia is a twelve-year-old girl who has run from an abusive home.  It is through Celia’s eyes that Denfeld shows the starkest separation of the two worlds in which these characters live. Naomi is part of what Celia thinks of as day people as opposed to those who live and die on Skid Row. When Celia first encounters Naomi, it is with the same suspicion and loathing she holds for all day people:

The woman clearly did not belong here, not in these days of sea creatures washed up onshore. What happened in the night was meant to stay secret–like what had happened with her step-dad, Teddy. Celia had made the mistake of telling. She had found out that the people of the day don’t want to know what happened in the night.

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TCR Talks with Helen Macdonald

By Kaia Gallagher

Hailed as one of the fifty best memoirs in the past fifty years by The New York Times [1], H is for Hawk catapulted Helen Macdonald to fame as a prize-winning author. Trained as a naturalist, Macdonald is a writer, poet, illustrator, filmmaker, and an Affiliate Research Scholar at the University of Cambridge Department of History and Philosophy of Science. In her best-selling memoir, Macdonald combines the eye of a scientist with the lyricism of a gifted writer as she recounts how she overcame her grief over the death of her father by training a goshawk she named Mabel.

After H is for Hawk won the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize for nonfiction, Macdonald helped make the film 10 X Murmuration with Sarah Wood. In 2017, she narrated a BBC Natural World documentary which followed her as she trained a goshawk named Lupin. A passionate environmentalist and bird enthusiast, Macdonald is currently researching a new book on albatrosses. In this interview, she describes her writing process and her views regarding falconry, environmentalism, and the importance of maintaining a connection to the natural world around us.

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Three Poems

By Jedediah Smith

Does the Wail Diminish?
            elegy for Miles Davis

You were a Hell Hound
howling at the moon
on a moonless night,

had enough bad taste
to believe in your own existence
despite every authority’s proof
.         that you were gone.
Pouring out the empty spaces between notes
like the sacramental wine in a goblet of solid brass
– sounding, like a bell
.         in the bass
                   of an ocean
                                  orchestra.

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Book Review: Nothing to See Here

By Collin Mitchell

Breaking the mold is a difficult thing to do and no one captures the difficulty of this hardship better than Lillian Breaker, the consciously wayward protagonist in Kevin Wilson’s new novel, Nothing to See Here.

As a teenager, Lillian is ambitious enough to get into the exclusive Iron Mountain, “a fancy girl’s school hidden on a mountain in the middle of nowhere,” but at twenty-eight she’s living in her mom’s attic, working two grocery store jobs, and smoking a lot of weed. So, what’s her problem? Her best (and rich and beautiful and scheming) friend, Madison Billings. If this novel isn’t about fate and class, family, the haves and the have-nots, then it’s about friendship and its exploitive little schemes.

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Everybody To Their Own Thing

By Ellen Birkett Morris

CAST
Max Anderson, Age 43
Jack Hensley, Age 72
Jenny Anderson, Age 41

SETTING
The Andersons’ dining room table.
Four chairs surround the table; a place is set at each.

TIME
Present day

(Lights up on Jenny, Max enters and kisses her on her forehead).

MAX: You’re sure you don’t mind company.

JENNY: Not at all honey. It’s been a while since we had someone to dinner. It was…

(She stops herself and furrows her brow.).  

MAX: Dad. We can talk about it. I want to talk about it. It isn’t like someone just disappears when they die.

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