Category: Interview (Page 1 of 5)

TCR Talks with Steph Cha

By Collin Mitchell

Steph Cha is the author of four novels including the Juniper Song mystery series (Follow Her Home, Beware Beware, Dead Soon Enough) and most recently, Your House Will Pay, a highly-anticipated and well-reviewed book about the aftermath of the 1992 L.A. riots and the relationship between the Korean and African-American communities. Steph Cha spoke about the narrative possibilities of crime fiction at the UC Riverside Low-Res MFA December residency. I sat down with her afterward to talk about Los Angeles, Palmdale, writing different races, and a little about food.

The Coachella Review: One of the things I like about your books is your appreciation for Koreatown in Los Angeles. You’re from the Valley. What was your relationship to Koreatown like growing up?

Steph Cha: Koreatown was probably what I thought of as L.A. because we lived in the suburbs and we would go into L.A. for dinner or go to the market because a lot of the stuff was there. My grandma lived in Koreatown, so when we went into Central Los Angeles it was to go to K-Town. It was always a major part of my map of Los Angeles, but I didn’t necessarily know the surrounding areas.

TCR: It has an authenticity to it. Little Tokyo is great. Chinatown is great. But Koreatown is like a functioning city. There are ad agencies, everything…

SC: It’s an ethnic enclave that has become enormous. It must be one of the largest ethnic neighborhoods that are defined that way in the country. It’s huge and it’s sprawling and there are just so many people in it. I guess the San Gabriel Valley has tons of Chinese people now, but nobody is calling that Chinatown. Chinatown is a dinky little area near downtown. But Koreatown kind of has that feel, where the Korean businesses that have popped up were for Korean immigrants, but still cater largely to a Korean population.

TCR: As an Angeleno was there a discovery process when you were writing the Juniper Song series and Your House Will Pay—an opening up of the city that you hadn’t noticed before?

SC: Oh yeah, absolutely. I also feel like I’ve gotten to know the city better since I moved back in 2010 than I did before. I left for college in 2003 and I spent seven years where I would come home for summers and stuff like that. But I wasn’t really living in L.A. in the same way, and I’ve been back for almost ten years now, and getting to know the city as an adult has been entirely different and has coincided completely with my career as a writer. Because I started writing Follow Her Home when I was still at law school [at Yale]and I wasn’t in L.A. for most of that time. By the time I was living here, I was working on selling that novel, and when I was writing my second, third, and fourth novels, I was in L.A. the whole time.

TCR: What was your process with writing Palmdale for Your House Will Pay? You write with a similar admiration for that city as well.

SC: It’s not pretty but I also have a lot of respect for it. I picked Palmdale because I realized, as I was researching and writing this book, that South Central L.A. does not look like it did in the early ‘90s. It’s no longer this place that is majority black and dominated by Korean businesses. That was a very specific dynamic, and in the last twenty-eight years there’s been a massive exodus of black Angelenos to the exurbs. This is something that I have not read a ton about, but it’s very evident to anybody who’s been in L.A. for a long time. I think cost has a lot to do with it. I think also the high crime in those neighborhoods in the early ‘90s. I wasn’t interested in setting Shawn’s family in the neighborhood where they grew up. And since I also had the Korean family situated in the Valley, I wanted to write a story where the root of it was in this very central part of Los Angeles and then these families kind of bounced out to farther away and are drawn back into the center by the end of the book. When I was thinking about neighborhoods for the Matthews family, Palmdale/Lancaster popped up — my husband actually suggested it. We drove into the Antelope Valley and hung out at the mall for a little bit and just observed for a while. It was obvious that there were more black people at this mall than I almost ever see in Los Angeles. The areas that have stayed predominantly black in L.A., even these areas are changing, like View Park, Ladera Heights, Baldwin Hills—areas that are nicer and have a larger percentage of homeowners. But in areas where people are renting, it’s just been this big bye-bye. Another thing that interested me about Palmdale is that it’s a place where people commute to L.A. It’s pretty working class, and a lot of people who live there, their jobs are in L.A., and they’ll commute seventy miles for jobs that don’t pay that much. I thought there was some obvious injustice in that and some concern about income inequality and access to housing.

TCR: You get that with Shawn’s character a little bit—the stress of getting up early, driving a moving truck and having to go all over the place.

SC: I thought there’s a dignity to that drive and the commitment to work and family that has to come with that. One of the reasons people live there is because you can live in a big house that fits all your family members. So the parents, the adults, are taking jobs and doing all this work so they can provide a roof over the heads of children who go to school far away from L.A. I think it’s interesting and it lined up with who I wanted Shawn to be. He’s not a glamorous guy but he’s very dignified and he just keeps his head down and tries to maintain stability.

TCR: Your books are so much about family.

SC: That’s what I find interesting about crime, is that crime is about people, and what people do to each other, and all of that is about family dynamics, who cares about who. I think crime fiction without family feels a little empty to me.

TCR: You talked yesterday about having a conversation with Raymond Chandler. Was Juniper Song a response to that or was she a character you already had kicking around and you finally found a voice for her?

SC: She was a direct response to that. She came out of this idea that I had that I would like to read a book like the ones I ended up writing. I didn’t think I would end up writing books because I didn’t know anyone who wrote books. I just had this strong idea that I would really love to read a book that is like a Raymond Chandler novel but is from the point of view of a Korean American woman and that reflects the L.A. I know.

TCR: Were you writing from a point of frustration over being Asian and female and not seeing that correctly represented or were you also trying to see if you could write something as magical as Chandler in terms of creating a story?

SC: It was definitely both. I don’t think I was that overtly frustrated. Chandler was a product of his time in a very real way. I don’t think he was thoughtless and I don’t think he was unengaged. But he wrote about women in the way that he did. And he wrote about minorities in the way that he did. And I just wanted to update that. It was more of a positive drive than a reactive one. I thought he had such a unique point of view and I wanted to replicate the way he used crime and the PI figure to convey this sense of his city. And that’s kind of what I put into Juniper Song. I wanted her to be somebody with this kind of fun voice who has this mobility that Marlowe had. I couldn’t make her quite as cynical as Marlowe or as detached. The first draft had her much more Marlowe-like, where you don’t know much about her backstory. That was the note I got from agents. Why is she doing any of what she does? I realized that I couldn’t really get away with someone who you know so little about.

 TCR: On that first draft had you developed the backstory with Juniper and her sister?

SC: No, that was one of the last things I did and then I wove it in. But the first go of it, none of that was in there.

TCR: All your books address race and have a multi-ethnic cast.

SC: It’s a necessity when you’re an Asian-American writer. Even if you grow up in a community that’s heavily Korean American or Asian American you go outside. I don’t have days where I don’t see anybody who’s non-Asian. So just by having friends and going to school and living in a city that is not homogeneous, I’m part of a minority. That’s just something that came naturally to me because it wouldn’t make sense to write a book that doesn’t have characters of different races and backgrounds.

TCR: Was it a challenge to write Shawn’s family, to write an African American family and get in-depth with that?

SC: Yeah, it was a huge challenge. It was a challenge in a way that it was not a challenge to write Daphne in Beware Beware or to write Lusig and her family in Dead Soon Enough. Part of that is because in those books you were in Song’s point of view the whole time and so I never had to get into someone’s head who’s from a different background. This was the first time that I entered the point of view of a character who is not Korean American. With Shawn’s family I had to do a lot more research, and because I was not as comfortable at writing a black family in Palmdale having dinner, there was an initial first step where I did a whole lot of research and wrote a draft that was probably heavy on the sociology and less heavy on the family dynamics. And if you read what I actually ended up writing, it’s all family dynamics. I think the challenge of writing people who you are less familiar with is just making them feel familiar.

 TCR: What did you do for research?

SC: I read books about the history of black L.A. I read books about the Latasha Harlins case and the ‘92 uprising. I read a lot of articles and I talked to people who grew up in L.A. Very early on, a friend of mine who’s a black dude in his forties, who went to Latasha Harlins’ high school, stepped up after he saw me do a reading and asked if I wanted to quiz him. So that was super fun and useful. And then after that, just thinking about what feels like family, what feels like the shit that drives people crazy about the people that they live with. Where do I pull in the resentments, where are the differences, where is the love? That’s just stuff I did with the Park family from the beginning. There was a comfort level I didn’t have at first with Shawn, and I think I developed that by feeling more informed. After that it was just about chiseling and making it work.

TCR: The historical stuff somehow puts you in tune with what it would be like.

SC: It’s all there but it’s much farther in the background in this final iteration. But that took a lot of drafts. For the first 30,000 words at least.

 TCR: When you’re writing are you thinking about educating people about Korean American culture?

SC: Yes and no. I’m very conscious of the fact that I want to write about Korean American Los Angeles. It’s not a community that’s been written about a lot in fiction. I would say that my primary goal is to convey that experience. The educational value of it is secondary, I guess, but I think that if people read my books they’ll have insight into a world that maybe they wouldn’t have known about otherwise. It’s an interesting balance because I do think of my books as books that carry meaning and message and they have a heavy social justice component. I wouldn’t say that they’re purely for entertainment. Although I think the reason that I’m able to sneak so much message in there is because they are entertaining.

TCR: In Your House Will Pay, Grace feels like the reader’s bridge to Korean culture, but also to our own natural sense of apathy, that maybe most people have.

SC: I don’t think she’s a bad person. She’s busy with her own shit. I don’t think she would consider herself a self-absorbed person. She’s not narcissistic, but she is somebody who has her own world in her own small circle and she’s very comfortable there and she’s comfortable not thinking about all this stuff.

TCR: Grace’s sister, Miriam is more self-involved in the traditional sense. In a weird way it manifests itself in this profound global world view.  I love some of the lines you had about her mom, something about burying people.

SC: Oh, like burying their heads in the sand. She says, ‘if someone you love does something evil then you become a little evil.’ Miriam is somebody who I think a lot of people find annoying, and she’s supposed to be kind of annoying because you see her through the point of view of the sister who finds her kind of obnoxious. I feel like she’s the person I’m most like in the book. I think there is something a little bit ridiculous about being somebody who’s in a comfortable position in life and getting really involved in social justice and anti-blackness. But I think that’s okay. I think it’s okay to be earnest and a little bit ridiculous. Miriam is self-absorbed and she does take this hardline with her mother but I have a lot of sympathy for her too. I think she’s somebody who means well in a different way from Grace.

TCR: Juniper is a kind of response to the way an Asian female is traditionally depicted. Were you trying to do anything different with Grace?

SC: Writing two Korean American women who are the same age and making them so different was kind of pleasurable for me. I wanted Grace to be  typical in the sense that she’s somebody like many people I know who grew up going to Korean church, had kind of this quiet life, sheltered largely by immigrant parents, who didn’t engage with them on a political level. She’s not a bad person, she’s just in her own bubble. I think it’s a path, that if you’re from a certain kind of immigrant family, that’s the path of least resistance. You go to school nearby, you live at home. Maybe you work for the family business. And I can see how if that’s your life story it makes your worldview very narrow.

TCR: Your House Will Pay did such a great job of showing how Grace’s worldview came to be by showing the family pharmacy and the way her dad reacted to the past and everything.

SC: Yeah, you can tell these people had a very strong investment in keeping her in the dark.

 TCR: No one’s excused in Your House Will Pay. White people—you have the journalist character, a writer, he thinks in abstractions. Blacks are depicted as thugs with Ray, but also good dads. And you criticize Korean culture and Confucian culture as well. Did you try to do that with this book and be fair and get some catharsis out of it? Kind of reveal these things to show us how we’re all the same?

SC: This is something I’ve dealt with in my other books too. If you show people behaving badly and they’re not the representative of their race or their ethnic background or their class background, you can get away with a lot. In my first book, I had five or six Korean American women, and if one or two of them are a piece of shit then it’s okay, because you’re showing a broad range of personalities and human experience. Where you run into trouble is when there’s one Asian person in your book and they’re the Dragon Lady or there’s one black person in your book and they’re out there criming. I think having Your House Will Pay anchored in two characters in such a close way gave me a lot of latitude to do whatever I wanted with the side characters. Grace and Shawn are not perfect either, and I wanted to make sure that they were human and understandable and the people who surround them represent a wide range of what people do. I also wanted to explore this idea that getting involved in the political conversation is not always a choice for everybody. These are people whose personal lives become politicized.

TCR: Was that a goal when you started writing the book in terms of a call to action? At the end of the book it’s basically like, ‘get involved or figure out a way you can get involved.’ Or did that come out as you as you wrote it?

SC: I feel like now when I think about this book it is what I want people to take away. This idea that you don’t get to choose, because I think people think that being involved in politics is a choice rather than that the way you live your life is political. I don’t know at what point I started thinking about Your House Will Pay in those terms. It might have been early, but I also feel like this is the kind of thing that I might have realized when I was halfway through. I knew that I wanted Shawn to be somebody who was exhausted by politics and I wanted Grace to be somebody who was ignorant and that was kind of their starting positions.

TCR: Food is such a big part of all your novels, and with family and eating I felt like that was a large part of Your House Will Pay. Is that something you think about when you’re writing scenes?

SC: It’s funny. It’s not, but I’m so food obsessed and I think so much about what to eat and I think it’s a natural result of spending time of families. They congregate around the dinner table and I think that is one of the commonalities of Shawn’s family and Grace’s family is that they have dinner together and a lot of shit comes up over dinner. I wanted to kind of center this big story in domestic life.

TCR: It was a commonality. You could look at all the differences of the characters and the families but they all made a point to make a thing about food. It was a connecting point.

SC: Yeah, you got to eat.


Collin Mitchell is a student in the UC Riverside Low Residency MFA program and the author of The Faithful, a historical biography of the opera composer, Giuseppe Verdi. He lives in Palm Desert with his wife and son.

TCR Talks with Tembi Locke

By Scott Stevenson

Tembi Locke is an accomplished actor, TEDx speaker, and bestselling author. She has appeared in over 60 television shows and films including The Magicians and NCIS: LA. Her TEDx talk, What Forty Steps Taught Me About Love and Grief, traces her journey as a cancer caregiver. Her New York Times bestseller, From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home, is a Reese’s Book Club x Hello Sunshine pick.

From Scratch is a poignant and transporting cross-cultural love story set against the lush backdrop of the Sicilian countryside, where one woman discovers the healing powers of food and family and finds unexpected grace in her darkest hour.

Tembi is currently on a paperback tour for From Scratch, and will be speaking at Book Soup in West Hollywood tonight (2/4/20, 7pm), and tomorrow at the Palm Springs Cultural Center at noon (2/5/20, 12pm). Tembi will be in Los Angeles, Palm Springs, Houston, Dallas, and Seattle promoting the paperback.

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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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TCR Talks with Catherine Chung

By: Kaia Gallagher

Writing about family and the search for identity, Catherine Chung has published two best-selling novels. Released to great acclaim in June of 2019, her novel, The Tenth Muse, is an intricately layered story about a female mathematician who tries to unlock a mathematical theorem while investigating the mysteries surrounding her identity that were buried in Germany during World War II.

Chung’s first novel, Forgotten Country, was awarded an Honorable Mention for the PEN/Hemingway Award in 2013. It was also listed as one of Booklist’s 10 Best Debut Novels in addition to being recognized by the San Francisco Chronicle and Bookpage.

Chung’s short stories and essays have been published in The New York Times, The Rumpus and Granta. She was the recipient of the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize in Poetry in 2009 and received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in Creative Writing in 2014.

While she was working on The Tenth Muse, she was appointed as a Director’s Visitor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. She currently serves as a fiction editor for Guernica Magazine and teaches creative writing at Adelphi University.

After receiving a mathematics degree from the University of Chicago, Chung worked for the RAND Corporation. She earned her MFA from Cornell University.

In this interview with The Coachella Review, Chung talks about the themes in The Tenth Muse related to female empowerment, gender bias, and the role of women in the field of mathematics.

THE  COACHELLA REVIEW: The title of your book, The Tenth Muse, invokes a Greek goddess who rejects her divine heritage in order to tell stories using her own voice. Why did you select this title and how does it connect to the ways in which the female characters in your novel struggle to be recognized for their talents?

CATHERINE CHUNG: I really wanted this book to engage with and sometimes push back on the kinds of stories I grew up with. Some of the earliest stories I heard were myths and folktales—grand stories about how the world was formed and order was made, and stories about adventure and danger and what we’re allowed to do and get away with and accomplish. A lot of the female characters played the supporting character in the male’s journey: they were the romantic interest, the muse, the mother of the hero. Not always, of course: I found stories about Athena, the war-loving goddess of wisdom, and stories about Artemis the huntress who refused to take a husband and turned everyone who fell in love with her into animals absolutely enthralling. But it was clear in those stories that they were extraordinary, not just because they were immortal, but because their talents and passions were unexpected in part because of their gender.

I wanted the book to pay homage to them, to the gender-expectation-defying characters of my childhood. I wanted also to create a new story about a muse who rejects the expectations put upon her by her birth, and strikes off on her own, and for this muse to be an inspiration to my narrator. That’s why the tenth muse is there, and the book is titled after her.

TCR: In The Tenth Muse, you have incorporated stories about well-known women mathematicians with others who are fictional. How does this blending of real-life stories into your fictional account help enhance the story?

CC: I thought the real-life stories of these women mathematicians who overcame so much to pursue this totally unexpected passion of studying mathematics were fascinating. Mathematics doesn’t sound like something you’d marry to do, but Sofia Kovalevskaya married her tutor because he promised to take her to Germany to study. Sophie Germain posed as a schoolboy to get lecture notes. She taught herself languages to read math textbooks. It’s extraordinary, and important and humbling for me to remember, that before I imagined a character who would single-mindedly overcome immense obstacles to accomplish so much, that these women had already done so in real life.

TCR: Throughout The Tenth Muse, you have described the language of mathematics and the reason why mathematicians are drawn to work on still unsolved formulas. Was it your hope that more people would appreciate the beauty and mystery of mathematics?

CC: I grew up in a math family, so I’ve always been convinced of the beauty and mystery of mathematics. It’s been a bit of a shock the number of people who told me after my book came out that they’d always hated the subject. I had just sort of assumed everyone had a secret burning desire to think about and talk about how mind-blowing certain mathematical ideas are, like the idea of infinity and different sizes of infinity, or what makes a number imaginary versus real. This book was a bit of a love letter to those ideas and the people who live them.

TCR: The protagonist in The Tenth Muse faces significant gender bias as she attempts to become an academic mathematician in the late 1970s. Why did you choose to situate your novel in this time period? As someone who studied mathematics in college, do you believe the barriers for women mathematicians have improved since that time?

CC: She actually comes of age as a mathematician in the 1960s, and I think I chose that time for a number of reasons. First, she was born in America right after WWII which was important for the plot regarding how her American war veteran father and Chinese mother met, but also because I was really interested in the way that American science changed because of the tremendous exodus of European scientists and academics out of Europe and into America as a result of the war. I was also really interested in the way that education changed for women in the 1960s. Women weren’t allowed into most Ivy League schools until 1969. The Civil Rights movement and Title IX meant that was a time of such tremendous change and potential for women academics, who were given chances they’d never had. I do think the barriers for women mathematicians have changed a great deal since that time, thank God. At the same time, I think the barriers are still significant, maddeningly so.

TCR: The protagonist in The Tenth Muse, Katherine, shares your name (Catherine) albeit with a slightly different spelling. Are there other ways in which you have blended autobiographical details about your own life into the narrative?

CC: Not really! I feel like if you ask any Catherine-with-a-C they’ll tell you how different we are from the Katherines-with-a-K, and vice versa. It was partly an inside joke with myself, just because everyone assumed my first book was autobiographical, and I thought who would think this book about a math genius in her 70s would secretly be about me? It was also partly born out of another inside joke with myself. When I was a child I loved Anne of Green Gables so much, and she broke my heart by announcing in one of her books that she was glad another character was a Katherine-with-a-K because “a K is so much more alluring. A C always looks so smug.” And so I always had a lifelong fascination with these other Katherines, these alluring Katherines with their glamorous, incredible lives. So I thought why not write about one?

TCR: As the protagonist in The Tenth Muse, Katherine struggles to learn about her lost parents and to find her place in the world. Who are the other writers you admire who have also dealt with themes of “otherness” and disconnection?

CC: William Faulkner. Ray Bradbury. Alexander Chee. Virginia Woolf. James Baldwin.

TCR: In addition to your two books, Forgotten Country and The Tenth Muse, you are a poet and have also published a number of short stories and essays. What has been your experience as a writer in exploring these different narrative forms? Which of these narrative forms do you prefer?

CC: Poetry is my first true love, but it seems somehow I grew away from it as I grew older. I’m always hoping I’ll find my way back to its embrace (as a writer: I still read it, of course!). I worked on an experimental theatre project exploring the idea of Gretel from “Hansel and Gretel” with my friends the poet Lauren Alleyne, video-artist Tomiko Jones, and composer Sidney Boquiren—I don’t have a preference, I just want to always be working in a way that makes me feel the most free.

TCR: Could you share with us details about your next writing project?

CC: I’m working on a new novel I can’t say too much about, and I also just started working on a new opera “ A Girl and the Stars” with the composer Faye Chiao about a girl who, on a quest to save her home world from the ravages of an ecological disaster, finds her way to a new and dazzling, more technologically-advanced world amid the stars, where she is promptly arrested, and where she will have to make the case that humanity should be saved.


Kaia Gallagher is working on a memoir called Return to Estonia, which explores her connection to her Estonian heritage. She is an MFA graduate at the University of California–Riverside’s Low Residency program.

TCR Talks With Catherine Ryan Hyde

BY LEANNE PHILLIPS

Twenty years ago, Catherine Ryan Hyde’s novel Pay it Forward became an international best seller. [1] The following year, the film adaptation debuted at number four at the box office its opening weekend. The book also spawned a social movement promoting kindness, optimism, and faith in humankind. Hyde has since published thirty-six books, including a young readers’ edition of Pay it Forward, two dozen novels, and a book of travel photography based on gratitude. Her most recent novel, Have You Seen Luis Velez?, was published in May of this year.[2] A new novel, Stay, will be released on December 3, 2019.[3]

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TCR Talks with Rachel DeWoskin

By Gina Frangello

The versatile writer and former actress Rachel DeWoskin—a member of my Chicago writing group since we were set up on a “blind friendship date” by our mutual close friend Emily Rapp Black—was born in Kyoto and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan. After studying English and Chinese at Columbia University, DeWoskin moved to Beijing to work as a public-relations consultant and ended up all but accidentally becoming a Chinese TV star and sex symbol on the blockbuster nighttime soap opera Foreign Babes in Beijing, which was watched by approximately 600 million viewers. Following this heady and surreal experience, DeWoskin returned to the United States in 1999 and returned to her first love—literature—earning a master’s degree in poetry from Boston University. Her memoir, Foreign Babes in Beijing: Behind the Scenes of a New China, was published by W.W. Norton in 2005; Paramount Pictures purchased film rights and the project is currently in production. DeWoskin has since become the author of five novels: Big Girl Small (FSG 2011) Repeat After Me (Overlook 2009), Blind (Penguin 2014), Some Day We Will Fly (Viking 2019) and Banshee (Dottir 2019). DeWoskin, whose mannerisms are gracious and intense in equal measure, is, in addition to her writing, a devoted mother of two, married to the playwright Zayd Dohrn, a morning exerciser, a fierce friend, and the core creative writing faculty at the prestigious University of Chicago. Who better to dissect the complications and contradictions of a woman, like Banshee’s Samantha Baxter, who “has it all” than DeWoskin, who is both extraordinarily productive while leading an intimate family life?

It was my pleasure to discuss Banshee with Rachel over an email exchange conducted while we were both traveling like maniacs over the summer. Further, as a breast cancer survivor myself, the publication of Banshee feels watershed to me. Transcending facile “sick lit” portrayals of virtuous heroines and “feminist outlaw” labels that eschew serious examinations of women’s own culpability, DeWoskin presents instead a ferocious, lyrical, highly skilled tightrope walk of one woman’s simultaneous emotional disintegration and sexual awakening in the face of a dehumanizing medical industrial complex and a lifetime of seeing male colleagues “getting away” with behavior she would never have considered prior to staring her mortality in the face. What results is one of the most complex, morally ambiguous and intimate stories of body and women’s (still) societally sanctioned roles I have read in recent years. It was my great honor to read and blurb Banshee prior to its publication, and it’s even more exciting to share my conversation with Rachel DeWoskin with TCR readers.

–Gina Frangello 

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TCR Talks With Lyz Lenz

By Leanne Phillips

Author Lyz Lenz’s marriage ended after the 2016 presidential election. Lenz voted for Hillary Clinton, and her husband voted for Donald Trump, and although this wasn’t the reason for the divorce, it was a catalyst after years of signs that Lenz and her husband were different people.

Lenz’s first book, God Land,[1] is part investigative journalism and part memoir. A resident of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Lenz writes about Middle America and how it is changing, particularly with respect to faith and church. At the same time, the book tells the story of Lenz’s life after divorce and her own journey as a feminist and a woman of faith.

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TCR Talks with Matthew Zapruder

By Martin Cossio

Matthew Zapruder is a poet, a teacher, an editor, a translator, and an accomplished guitar player. He is the co-translator of Romanian poet Eugen Jebeleanu’s last collection, Secret Weapon: Selected Late Poems, and editor-at-large of Wave Books (He edited Tyehimba Jess’s 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner, Olio). Zapruder is the author of five collections of poetry—the second of which, The Pajamaist, was selected by Tony Hoagland as the winner of the William Carlos Williams Award—and one book of prose on the art and craft of poetry. He is a professor in the MFA program at St. Mary’s College of California.

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TCR Talks with Tim Murphy

By Scott Stevenson

Tim Murphy is the author of the novel, Christodora, longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal.  It was also named a Best Book of the Year by The Guardian and an Amazon Editors’ Top 100 Books of the Year.  As a journalist, he has reported on HIV/AIDS for twenty years.

Correspondents is his follow-up to Christodora and was an Amazon Best Book in May 2019.

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TCR Talks with Steve Almond

By: Kaia Gallagher

Described by commentators as funny, big-hearted and joyfully obsessive, Steve Almond has been a newspaper reporter, an acclaimed writer of short stories, an essayist and the author of ten books over his twenty-year writing career.

Almond’s published short story collections include My Life in Heavy Metal (2002), The Evil B.B. Chow and Other Stories (2005), God Bless America: Stories (2011), and Whits of Passion (2013). Many of his 150 short stories have been featured in Best American Short Stories, Best American Mysteries, the Pushcart Prize, and Best American Erotica.

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