Monday, July 21, 2014

Author Spotlight: Kate Saller

The Moon in Your Sky: An Immigrant’s Journey Home by Kate Saller

The Moon in Your Sky: An Immigrant’s Journey Home brings to life the remarkable story of Annah Emuge. Growing up in Uganda under the rule of Idi Amin, Annah and her peers faced hardships few of us can imagine. As a young woman, Annah escaped to the United States, only to face more devastating challenges. How Annah overcame the trials she endured in the land she had thought would hold only promise for her and her family is a riveting story of perseverance that will inspire any reader. Annah’s sorrows give depth to the great joys she experiences as she not only survives but triumphs, devoting her life to the suffering of orphans left by the ravages of war in her homeland.   


I had just finished speaking to the Rotary Club of St. Charles, Mis­souri, about my humanitarian work in Africa when a beautiful, stat­uesque black woman approached me. Without prelude she asked me, “Do you know how to get mosquito nets for fifty-four children in Uganda?” This was my introduction to Annah Frances Acam Emuge, the determined and courageous woman who is the subject of this book.
As I came to know Annah, I was amazed to learn about the joys and tribulations of her life. It seemed as if, every time she told me a story from her past, I was incredulous that one human being could have survived it, and yet that was just one part of her story. Annah was the third daughter born to a poor family in rural Uganda in 1959. I wrote her life entirely through her eyes, to give readers a full sense of growing up as a village child in a country being systematically decimated by its maniacal dictator, Idi Amin Dada. As a child and teenager, this remarkable young woman matured and set the course of her life while enduring the kinds of devastations and threats that we have read about in many such accounts of life in twentieth-century rural Africa. What set Annah’s story apart for me was that it is not about an individual overcoming such an existence, coming to the United States, and finding a clear path back to her roots to improve the lives of those left behind; rather, it is the story of a woman who was faced with even tougher challenges here, and of her extraordinary and largely solitary triumph over all of them.
Entwined in Annah’s tale of grace and strength is the sadder story of her husband, who came to this country filled with hopes and ambitions, only to find that they were all beyond his reach. The loss of his dreams, along with the realities of the life he found here, proved to be more than this talented and brilliant man could withstand.
To accurately portray Annah’s life, I created an outline of the book and then had her tape-record her recollections from each period of her life, one section at a time. I took notes from each recording and then interviewed her to fill out my knowledge of that part of her life. After writing each chapter from my notes, I went over the material with Annah to ensure that she felt it was an accurate and complete picture of her life at that time. As this pro­cess progressed, Annah and I realized that I am unusual among her American acquaintances in that I understand and have observed firsthand the life she led in Uganda, sleeping in mud huts and work­ing on the family’s subsistence farm to survive. Through my affilia­tion with the service organization Rotary International, I have been to five African countries, traveling to and staying in rural areas to immunize children, distribute mosquito nets to orphans, and coordinate the placement of filtered wells in poor communities with no access to clean water. In spite of the unbelievable hardships suffered by the people I encountered there, all of them were warm and wel­coming, finding joy in things like the simple act of offering me a crude, handmade stool to rest on in the shade as I worked. It was this same spirit that drew me to Annah when I met her.
Annah did get her fifty-four mosquito nets through Rotary con­nections, and St. Louis-area Rotarians donated the money needed to purchase them. She has now created a 501(c)(3) organization, the Atai Orphanage Fund (, which col­lects donations to help support the children who live in the orphan­age created by her mother. I am a member of the AOF’s board, and we are proud to say that we were able to raise the funds to place a 240-foot bore-hole well on the orphanage’s land in 2010. Although the children sleep in mud huts and live a simple, poor life that dif­fers very little from Annah’s childhood there, they proudly tell any­one who asks that they have a mama in America who loves them. 

All of the author's proceeds from sales of this book will be used to support Annah and the orphans of Atai.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Author Spotlight: Sam Pickering

The University of Missouri Press has three books in print by Sam Pickering, who some years ago gained fame as one of the inspirations for the character of Mr. Keating, played by Robin Williams in the film Dead Poets Society. In his most recent book, All My Days Are Saturdays, he writes about teaching and his recent retirement, visits to various locales, and, as he tell us, "the many people I meet . . . who tell me their stories, small tales that make one laugh and sigh." Also by Sam Pickering from the University of Missouri Press are Indian Summer: Musings on the Gift of Life and Walkabout Year: Twelve Months in Australia. Here he ruminates about a life of writing essays about life.

Vicki’s father bought an old farmhouse in Nova Scotia in 1947, and since marrying Vicki, I have spent summer months in Canada. Last week I watched an old woman with a blue cane shopping for strawberries in Sobey’s grocery in Yarmouth. Flats of strawberries lay displayed on a counter. Atop the flats were wooden boxes, each containing a quart of berries. The woman hobbled slowly past the counter sampling berries. From each of the first three boxes she selected a single berry, eating it slowly and then shaking her head and spitting the green topknot into a scrap of tissue paper. The taste of the berry she removed from the fourth box, however, met with her approval. As she chewed, she nodded. Reaching into the flat, she picked up the box and placed it in her grocery cart.
“Personally,” H. G. Wells wrote, “I have no use at all for life as it is, except as raw material. It bothers me to look at things unless there is also the idea of doing something with them. I should find a holiday, doing nothing amidst beautiful scenery, not a holiday, but a torture. The contemplative ecstasy of the saints would be hell to me.” 
A long time ago, I might have agreed with Wells. Nowadays, observing not only seems good enough but mete and right. Once upon a time I dreamed of legendary faraway places with unpronounceable names. Now I stay at home or, when I travel, wander familiar paths. Yesterday I jogged eight miles along backcountry dirt roads. A haze of bloodthirsty buccaneering deerflies sailed about me, all ready to board my head and shoulders. In past years I studied my shadow on the road and plucked the flies from the air before they unsheathed their sabers. I always bettered the record of the tailor of nursery fame who swatted seven flies in a single blow. During a run I never failed to make at least two of the piratical flies walk the plank every mile, often finishing a run having deep-sixed at least thirty of the one-eyed and peg-legged. Yesterday I ignored the flies and let the boldest settle on my neck and arms. Instead of letting the insects bother me, I looked at the flowers growing on the shoulders of the road, which included flags of blue vetch, sunny two-flowered Cynthia, and woodbine, its blossoms jeweled crowns set with white, pink, and yellow. While constellations of water lilies flickered like stars on the surface of still ponds, balls of bullhead lilies rolled in the currents eddying through slow streams.
A wag recently remarked that the lives of essayists are so dull that in order to enliven their days they eventually start sending themselves e-mails and telephoning their homes and leaving messages for themselves. Some even go bankrupt ordering items they don’t want just so Fed Ex or UPS will rap on the door and disrupt the humdrummery of fitting verbs to nouns and paragraphs to pages. Virginia Woolf once wrote that “a writer’s country is a territory within his own brain.” My country doesn’t fill the atlas. Rarely do I forsake the dirt road for the asphalt highway. Yet my country seems a wondrous place rich with domesticity and good humor—hokey stories that keep me smiling. After a time the lively person slips too easily into the cold grasp of good sense. Nonsense quickens, but it is harder to write. I jog and write in part because I don’t want to settle into an armchair and become one of those rancorous old boys who is not happy unless he is recollecting an aged grievance. Laurence Sterne argued that digressions are the sunshine, the life, and “the soul of reading.” For my part I am a rambler and think digressions are the heart of essays. Yesterday I broke my run to search for snakes, turning over bits of wood and broken fish boxes lying beside the road. I found six red-bellied snakes, small necklaces gleaming with life and, more important, bright with the capacity to make passersby appreciate the beauty of living.
I have written a couple of shelves of books. In them I described the appointments of my days: years when children trod the stage of my life, decades in classrooms, the stacks of many libraries, a few faraway places, and always a lively variety of people. Have I been successful? In my terms, you bet I have been successful. I have enjoyed a rich life and had great fun. Moreover, I’ve perfected the art of writing the unread, and I am now working on writing the unwritten. Last week I received a letter in which my correspondent called me “America’s Most Neglected Literary Treasure.” Of course I immediately carried the letter into the kitchen and read it to Vicki. “It’s always nice to hear from a friend,” Vicki said as she stirred the pea soup she was making. “How did you know the letter was from one of my friends?” I asked. “Oh, come on, Sam. What are friends for if not to praise and exaggerate wildly?” Vicki said. “Now leave me alone. Can’t you see I’m busy with this soup?”

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Author Spotlight: Eugene Webb,2137.aspx

Under the broad umbrella of the Christian religion, there exists a great divide between two fundamentally different ways of thinking about key aspects of the Christian faith. Eugene Webb explores the sources of that divide, looking at how the Eastern and Western Christian worlds drifted apart due both to the different ways they interpreted their symbols and to the different roles political power played in their histories. Previous studies have focused on historical events or on the history of theological ideas. In Search of the Triune God delves deeper by exploring how the Christian East and the Christian West have conceived the relation between symbol and experience. 

Q. What prompted you to write this book?

A. There were several stages in the development of my interest in this topic.  I first came to Christianity myself as an adult with no prior attachment to any religious tradition.  At the time I found the doctrine of the Trinity perplexing, especially because the explanations I was given seemed both abstract and arbitrary.  I subsequently found that many Christians felt similarly.  Later, I decided it would be good to create a course on Eastern Christian traditions for the programs on Comparative Religion and European Studies that I had organized and taught in at my university.  Teaching the histories of both Western and Eastern Christianity I became increasingly aware of differences between them, and I found that most of these were connected in some way with their different ways of understanding this fundamental doctrine.  Since I also found that this was mostly unknown territory to both Christians and non-Christians, I decided a book explaining the differences could be helpful.

Q. What is the Triune God?

A. The Christian doctrine of God as triune--i.e., both one and three--was formulated in the fourth century CE in the Nicene Creed as a way of understanding the relation between God as the source of all that is and God as encountered in the personhood of Jesus of Nazareth and in the life of those who follow him and are incorporated into his life.  The development of that way of thinking about the relation between God and humanity goes back well before the Christian era, however, to early Hebrew biblical images of God breathing life into creation (the root meaning of the word spirit, in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, is breath or wind) and of God calling Israel into a relation of sonship.  The early Christians interpreted Jesus as the one in whom that calling was truly fulfilled, and they believed the animating breath of God, the Spirit, was also uniting them with Jesus in his filial relation to God. 
Over time, the Eastern and Western Christian patterns of thinking about this diverged, with the West following Saint Augustine’s speculation about what there might be three of in the one God, while the East’s pattern of interpretation tended to be based on the story of Jesus’s baptism, with the Spirit descending to “rest upon” Jesus as a voice from heaven proclaims him “my beloved son.”  Few modern Christians in the West realize that the trinitarian creed they call the Nicene Creed is not the original one formulated and affirmed by the ancient ecumenical councils but an altered version imposed in his domain by Charlemagne (to conform the creed to Augustine’s speculations as well as to serve Charlemagne’s own political purposes in his rivalry with the Roman emperors in Constantinople) and that it was at first resisted by the papacy, which did not itself adopt the new version of the creed in Rome until the eleventh century.

Q. How do the Christian East and the Christian West differ in their conceptions of the relation between symbol and experience?

A. In the pattern of thinking that developed among Eastern Christian thinkers, the symbols of Father, Son, and Spirit expressed their experience of living, as they put it, “in Christ”—knowing the Son of God from within and knowing the Spirit as the breath of God moving them from within and raising them into participation in the Son’s life, a process Eastern Christians call “deification” (theosis).  In this way of interpreting them, Father, Son, and Spirit were experiential symbols that articulated in consciousness the three essential dimensions of the mystery Christians found themselves caught up in.
Augustine, on the other hand, in his book On the Trinity, began with the assumption that the doctrine of the Trinity must refer to three “somethings” (aliquid) inside God, and he tried to work out how to connect the biblical images of Father, Son, and Spirit with those.  In his interpretation the biblical images became speculative symbols used to identify a triad of objective components of the one God; they could have no experiential meanings because Augustine believed the experience of fallen human beings in this life could have no direct relation to the inner being of God.  After trying numerous triads to assess their fit, he concluded that Father must name God’s memory, Son God’s intellect or reason, and Spirit God’s will and that, since a will that did not proceed from intelligence or reason would be irrational and therefore defective, this implied that the Spirit must “proceed from the Father and the Son.”  (“And the Son” [Filioque] was the crucial phrase that Charlemagne added to the Nicene Creed to conform it to Augustine’s interpretation.)

Q. What are some other basic differences between Eastern Christianity and Western Christianity?

A. One is that the West adopted Augustine’s doctrine of Original Sin, which was a particular theory of human fallenness that involved both universal inherited guilt and a disposition to sin that is inexorable in this life (which ruled out the Eastern belief in the Christian life as a process of deification).  A further development growing out of that same theory is that “atonement” (which originally meant becoming “at one” with God), came to be thought of in the West as referring to Christ’s crucifixion as payment of the penalty due for sin, whereas in the East Christ’s atonement has been associated with the union of humanity and divinity in the Incarnation, in which, as St. Paul put it, Christ came as a son in order that he might be the first of many brothers (and sisters).
Still another difference was that in the West, after Charlemagne’s empire became broken up among his heirs and their rivals, the Church entered as an independent political power into the ensuing competition to claim the kind of authority Charlemagne had held, whereas in the East, where the Roman empire continued intact until 1453 CE and was succeeded by the Ottoman and Russian empires, the Church was never in a position to strive for such power.  This preoccupation with power has gone hand in hand with a tendency in the West to imagine the relation between God and humanity in terms of a command system entailing rewards and punishments, with Christ at the top of a chain of command in which he is represented on earth either by a ruler like Charlemagne or by popes or by an inerrant scripture.

Q. How have the differences between them manifested themselves in the lives of Christians?

A. It is important to recognize, to begin with, that there is diversity within both Eastern and Western Christianity and that due to influences passing back and forth over the centuries, individual Christians don’t conform consistently to the basic patterns of one or the other.  That being said, the frequently commented tendency of Eastern Christianity toward the mystical and of Western toward the juridical is not inaccurate as a broad description.  Eastern Christians often say that “theology is lived” and tend to look for examples of this in their monastic tradition (Dostoevsky’s portrait of the Elder Zossima in The Brothers Karamazov would be an example).  The Western tradition’s preoccupation with institutional power and its concern with knowing what to do to gain reward and avoid punishment has led to both inquisitions and rigid scriptural fundamentalisms. 
On the other hand, the struggles, both ideological and political, within the Western tradition of Christianity have stimulated valuable intellectual development in recent centuries, whereas that aspect of the Eastern tradition’s life flourished mainly before 1453.  I think both Western and Eastern Christians can recognize that there have been saints (and saintly lives even among people not formally recognized as saints) in both traditions during the whole course of their histories—both before and after they split apart.

Q. How did you first become interested in studying religion?

A. Growing up without a religious tradition but surrounded by a great variety of forms of religion, I first became interested in them because they seemed efforts to address the most searching existential questions: where do we come from, what are we here for, what are the best possibilities for human life?  As an academic study, however, my involvement with religion began rather indirectly.  My degrees were in philosophy and comparative literature, both of which I was also drawn to as ways of exploring such existential questions.  As it happened, after writing a book on religion and literature, The Dark Dove: The Sacred and Secular in Modern Literature, I found myself asked to organize a program on the study of religions in the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington, and I subsequently headed that program and shifted the larger part of my teaching to it.
My reason for being willing to undertake that role was that having studied the way possible visions of life could be explored through logical analysis and through metaphor and narrative, I became interested in the way they could also be concretely embodied and lived, which is what religions try to do.  The reason I have continued to find that a compelling study is that in the history of religions I found both the best and the worst of human possibilities expressing themselves.  I am convinced personally that religion has been and will always remain a powerful force in human life, but that shining as much light as possible on religious traditions may help to prevent their striving toward self-transcending love from being subverted, as so often happens, by the lust for power that Saint Augustine called libido dominandi.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Author Spotlight: Patricia Dunlavy Valenti,819.aspxSophia Peabody Hawthorne: A Life, Volume I, 1809-1847, by Patricia Dunlavy Valenti

Q. What prompted you to write a biography of Sophia Peabody Hawthorne?

A. I first encountered her when I wrote my dissertation on the fiction of Nathaniel Hawthorne. I was intrigued by his pictorial technique; that made me curious about his artist wife, Sophia, and I wondered how she might have influenced his writing. I discovered that she was a professional artist in the first half of the nineteenth century when a woman artist was a rarity in America. She exhibited her work at the Boston Athenaeum. Her mentors were some of the most important artists of her day: Washington Allston, Chester Harding, and Thomas Doughty. She was, in fact, very different from the person described in biographies of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Her life deserved to be presented on its own terms, in her own biography.

Q. How was she portrayed in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s biographies?

A. Nathaniel’s biographies presented Sophia as an amateur, dilettante painter when in fact she possessed the hallmarks of a professional artist. But in terms of her character, the misrepresentation was even more profound, thanks to her husband. Nathaniel had invented a persona for Sophia: the timid, frail “Dove.” This image stuck with his biographers, but in reality she was more practical, worldly-wise, and daring than he.

Q. How so?

A. For example, before they met, she traveled to Cuba--another uncommon activity for young women at that time. There she kept a three-volume, eight-hundred-page journal. This Cuba Journal is an ecstatic, transcendental response to nature, but it also reads like a novel of manners with lively narratives about her experiences, including those with a handsome suitor. Sophia rode horses during the day and waltzed at night, something strictly forbidden to proper young women. Her sister Mary called her a “tinderbox.” This was Sophia as she presented herself in her Cuba Journal, which Nathaniel read before he met her in person. Sophia’s life was radically different from his. He had traveled only as far Niagara Falls; he had been living in a room in his mother’s house for nearly a decade. So though he was attracted to Sophia, she was also a bit threatening. It seems as if he wanted to tame her by referring to her as his “Dove.”

Q. The Cuba Journal must be a fascinating piece of writing if it captivated one of the most prominent writers in American literature. Has it been published?

A. Not on paper, but now it can be read online at the digital archives of the New York Public Library, where it is housed in the Berg Collection. Isaac Gewirtz, curator of that collection, determined that the Cuba Journal should be digitized in order to conserve it and to make it widely available. It had become very fragile, and scholars increasingly want to read it. I was fortunate enough to read the actual Cuba Journal. Sophia really knew how to draw a reader into life on a plantation in Cuba in the early 1830s, so much so that I recall feeling somewhat disoriented when I would leave the library to take a break. It somehow felt wrong that I was really in the middle of the noise and bustle of Manhattan and not in a tropical coffee plantation.

Q. You mention Sophia’s discussion of nature and social life. You don’t mention that she wrote about Cuban politics or slavery on the island. Did she?

A. Sophia believed that Providence would right all wrongs, and she was disquietingly oblivious to the moral evil of slavery. She was certainly on the wrong side of history in that regard. But her sisters and most of her friends were committed abolitionists. Her arguments with them illuminate a painful moment in American history.

Q. Let’s return to the question of Sophia’s influence upon her husband’s writing. Can you say exactly what that was?

A. Nathaniel used his pet names for Sophia—Dove and Phoebe—for characters in two of his novels. That’s an exact, but trivial, example of her presence in his writing. Her more significant influences are far more pervasive and subtle. For example, Nathaniel’s female characters became more sensuous and complex after Sophia entered his life. Where he saw darkness and shadows, she saw light. The tension between their worldviews filtered into his fiction. One of his most famous stories, “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” was written shortly after they married and should be read against the Cuba Journal because that story absorbs the tone of Cuba’s brilliant, lush tropical scenery. I examine this story’s debt to the Cuba Journal in Chapter 20, “More Poison in Thy Nature.”

Q. One reviewer of your book called it a hybrid. Why?

A. Volume I has, and Volume II will have, more literary analysis than most biographies. But literary analysis is essential when dealing with a subject such as Sophia because writing was tantamount to living for her. I mentioned the holdings of the Berg Collection earlier. No author has a greater number of items in the Berg Collection than Sophia, and her manuscripts are found in major collections or in private hands all over the country. The scope of her writing is enormous; it’s not just a source for her biography but a major topic in it.

Q. What else can you hint about the upcoming Volume II?

A. I think there will be some surprises for scholars and general readers alike. After Sophia’s marriage, Nathaniel squelched her artistic career, and she turned her creative energies into raising her children at a moment when the notions of mothering were in flux. The Hawthornes’ storied marital love did not confine Sophia’s passionate affections. She formed deep attachments to men other than her husband and to one woman. Sophia continued to be an interesting travel writer, and she documented her life in the British Isles, Italy, Portugal, and Germany. Sophia’s perspective of her husband during his declining years reveals him as he has never before been seen. Much of the second volume is set during the Civil War and its aftermath. Volume II will be of interest to anyone who wants an insight into that period of national crisis. Sophia’s story could not be confined to a single volume.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

BookTV Author Event: William Least Heat-Moon

Tomorrow night, June 5th, at 7:00pm in the Daniel Boone Regional Library, William Least Heat-Moon will be doing an author event with C-Span's BookTV focusing on his latest work, Writing Blue Highways: The Story of How a Book Happened.

Yesterday, Heat-Moon stopped by KBIA to share his views on the process of creating and to give readers an idea of how he goes about his writing. Heat-Moon also talked about one of his major influences, Jack Lezebnik, and how helpful he was to helping Heat-Moon become a better writer.

He also appeared at the Kansas City Public Library on May 28th for a presentation about Writing Blue Highways, which can be seen here.

Whether you're a fan of Heat-Moon's original Blue Highways, curious about what goes into the process of creating a book, or simply want to hear more from a talented wordsmith, you won't want to miss this!

Be sure to mark your calendars, and come out to join us tomorrow night at the Daniel Boone Regional Library!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Short Story Friday! 5/30

Happy Short Story Month everyone!

In honor of this wonderful month-long celebration, the University of Missouri Press has been posting lists every Friday of our favorite short story collections from here at UMP. We hope you've enjoyed Short Story Month as much as we have, and thanks for being here with us for it!

So kick back, take a little time (really, you only need a little - they are short stories, after all) and indulge in some great reading as we wrap up Short Story Month in style.

The Later Simple Stories
by Langston Hughes, ed. Donna Akiba Sullivan Harper

In Volume 8 of The Collected Works of Langston Hughes, the genial Harlem everyman, Jesse B. Semple returns with his more cosmopolitan bar buddy, Ananias Boyd. Social climber Joyce Lane is now Mrs. Jesse B. Semple, and Simple has minimized his flirtatious contacts with other women. Despite these ongoing characters, the later Simple stories are very different from the earlier Simple tales. The later stories evoke the historical and social context within which they were written, a politically dangerous time for the fictional adventures and fantasies of the main characters.

The Later Simple Stories rounds out Hughes's presentation of Jesse B. Semple and the various people of his world. Simple and his foil still make us chuckle, but more important, they make us think. While these episodes often focus on particularities of the times, they also articulate broader truths that remain valuable.

Joe Baker is Dead
by Mary Troy

"He seemed empty, a tube of toothpaste squeezed dry, a flattened and shriveled pod with no peas." Meet Joe Baker.

In this lively and appealing debut work, Troy explores life in all its offbeat and often tragic moments. She presents characters who are searching for solutions to dilemmas only partly of their own making. They are connected to others by weaker bonds than they want or need and, though intelligent, are often guided by attitudes of acceptance and fear. Yet instead of leaving the reader with pathos, Joe Baker Is Dead finds humor in a world with little hope, proving that "all was as it should be. It was possible to go on."

Lost Women, Banished Souls
by Garnett Kilberg Cohen

In Lost Women, Banished Souls, Garnett Kilberg Cohen captures the voices of a variety of women who share one main characteristicthe sense of loss. Although most of these women are like the ones we see every day without giving much thought to the undercurrents of their lives, Cohen shows us how women who appear ordinary on the surface often live extraordinary private lives. With the activities and relationships of her stories' characters, Cohen demonstrates how fragile life is, how everyday decisions can change the direction of one's life, and how much more painful our failures of ourselves can be than our failures to meet others' expectations. 

These stories also explore such social issues as domestic violence, teenage pregnancy, and child-rearing after divorce. Cohen's language ranges from lyrical evocations of the past to the informal, conversational style of folk tradition.

Marked Men
by Michael C. White

From Michael C. White, the author of the critically acclaimed novels A Brother's Blood and The Blind Side of the Heart, comes a new book, Marked Men. It is a gripping collection of twelve wide-ranging stories about those unexpected moments in our lives when the layers of our defenses are peeled away, one by one, and we are left with the harsh inevitability of our fates. Touching on themes of loneliness and isolation, Marked Men deals with characters who have been alienated from society, from family and friends, from their past, and sometimes from their own feelings.

These are powerful and moving stories told in White's distinctive style. Engaging the reader from the first line, White provides a suspenseful and surprise-filled journey as his characters face and resolve their conflicts.

by Nance Van Winckel

Unforeseen and unavoidable shocks not only alter our lives but send tremors into the futures of many others. In this intriguing collection of five individual yet interconnected stories, Nance Van Winckel chronicles the ripple effects that one life or action can have on the lives of many seemingly unrelated people.

A tapestry of interwoven destinies, of loves lost and lives rediscovered, Quake will pull the reader deep into the intensity of Van Winckel's fictive world.

Walking on Ice
by Susan Hubbard

A mother hires a sinister baby-sitter. An Irish innocent embraces the ambiguities of Belfast. A university professor welcomes a houseguest and finds himself a stranger in his own home. Two young women seek romance along the Canadian border. . .

Winner of the Associated Writing Programs' Award in Short Fiction, Walking on Ice depicts a world in which human relationships grow ever more fragile and trust is tentative at best. In these stories men and women confront the unexpected risks of everday life in Boston, Northern Ireland, Connecticut, the Scottish Highlands, and upstate New York. With subtlety and wit, Susan Hubbard explores the tensions of our times.

The Stone Child
by Gary Fincke 

A university maintenance worker and his wife decide to give birth to their anencephalic baby and to accept all the consequences that will follow. During summer vacation, a journalism student trysts with his girlfriend at her suspicious father’s house and soon witnesses the ultimate in paternal vengeance. A schoolboy faces peer violence while his mother struggles with cancer, each relying upon a hopelessly misplaced faith. In The Stone Child, Gary Fincke presents characters at turning points, where the effects of their decisions will ripple throughout the rest of their lives.

Fincke brings great humanity to his characters and displays a sharp and wry sense of humor; his sense of place is strong, his stories richly textured, and his prose a joy to read. Primarily meditating on the viewpoints of male characters, Fincke gives us stories with beginnings that pull us right in and endings that won’t let us leave the world of the story until long after we have finished reading.

Boys Keep Being Born
by Joan Frank

Lately, time seems to have taken on an amusing eternal quality. Outer-space time, quick-and-never; a slow wheeling of which Melinda, moving at whatever speed, is more and more aware she has been accorded the briefest, briefest slice. She finds herself now moonwalking through the strange region of not young, not a mother, not married, unlikely to marry. She will have to work until she dies. She will have good friends who'll keep an eye on her, of course; some of them women much like her. She will float toward and finally past the margins of sexual viability, and never have enough money for a facelift.

In Boys Keep Being Born, Joan Frank's subject matter is stark; her style, wry and lyrical. Her characters ask point-blank questions of the lives in which, willingly or not, they find themselves. The answers they devise—or settle for—may surprise you.

Thank you all for joining us during Short Story Month!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Short Story Friday! 5/23

Happy Short Story Month everyone!

In honor of this wonderful month-long celebration, the University of Missouri Press is proud to introduce Short Story Fridays: every Friday, all May long, we will be posting lists of some of our favorite short story collections from here at UMP.

So kick back, take a little time (really, you only need a little - they are short stories, after all) and indulge in some great reading.

They Were Just People: Stories of Rescue in Poland During the Holocaust
by Bill Tammeus & Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn

This book tells the stories of Polish Holocaust survivors and their rescuers. The authors traveled extensively in the United States and Poland to interview some of the few remaining participants before their generation is gone. Tammeus and Cukierkorn unfold many stories that have never before been made public: gripping narratives of Jews who survived against all odds and courageous non-Jews who risked their own lives to provide shelter.

Through some twenty stories like these, Tammeus and Cukierkorn show that even in an atmosphere of unimaginable malevolence, individuals can decide to act in civilized ways. Some rescuers had antisemitic feelings but acted because they knew and liked individual Jews. In many cases, the rescuers were simply helping friends or business associates. The accounts include the perspectives of men and women, city and rural residents, clergy and laypersons—even children who witnessed their parents’ efforts.

Our Secret's Out
by Darrell Spencer

From Las Vegas casinos to the boomtowns of Utah and Nevada, these stories tell about lust, about living together, about the perils of everyday life. A convenience store clerk confronts a deranged customer and a far more frightening girlfriend in "Let Me Tell You What Ward DiPino Tells Me at Work." In the fast-paced, powerful "Union Business," union boss Dick Handy teaches his son what women really want, and a son learns a profound lesson on his own: even fathers lie.

In Our Secret's Out, Darrell Spencer will introduce you to a marvelous assortment of quirky characters as they face threats to their safety or sanity and endure life's outrageous surprises.

Spies in the Blue Smoke
by G.W. Hawkes

A ditch-digger and his supervisor transcend their ethnic differences and make their way to the edge of a friendship in. A husband lusts after the surrogate mother who will bear his child. A divorced couple finds a rare moment of communion. Besieged by fear, racism, lust, and even UFOs, the characters in G.W. Hawkes's collection struggle—with varying amounts of success—to interpret such apocalyptic signs: electric waterfalls, green lights in the early morning sky, or the throaty melody of a saxophone on a sleepless night.

In powerfully evocative settings that range from the American Southwest to the islands of the South Pacific, Hawkes displays an unerring eye for detail as he maps the intricate geometry of the human heart.

A Place between Stations
by Stephanie Allen 

A Place between Stations explores the lives of African American characters against the ever-present backdrop of race, but with the myriad complexities of individual minds and souls in the foreground.
Two college students, bound by an intense but uneasy friendship, take an increasingly dangerous road trip through Florida. A widow faces her doubts about her long-dead husband by reliving an odd series of train rides she took along the Hudson River shoreline in the 1950s. An angry, fatherless girl roams a city at night, searching for an escape from the ambiguities of childhood. George Mattie, loner and reluctant guide, leads a misfit nineteenth-century circus caravan on an ill-fated journey through the northern Connecticut woods. In her stories, Stephanie Allen enlarges contemporary notions of what African American lives can be. Varied, to the point, and beautifully composed, this collection will appeal to all audiences.
by Heather Ross Miller
Situated in small-town North Carolina, Miller's tales, cautionary in tone, usually depict blue-collar family life and yet almost resemble old fairy tales. Her stories center around southern families and the dynamics, both loving and hostile, that move families together, separate them, threaten them, and then finally protect them.

All of the stories manifest a genuine love for southern families and the people who are caught, confused, and eventually encouraged and sustained within them. As Thomas Hardy once observed, "Our personal griefs and triumphs are often absurd to other people." But rather than making fun of her characters, Heather Ross Miller is sympathizing as deeply as she can imagine: "These things are only manageable with a bit of humor, even with a caustic flavor. So, as in the funny papers, things can work out, with humor, with plain sense, and, if we are lucky, a bit of magic."
by Gordon Weaver 

In Long Odds, Gordon Weaver's latest collection, each male protagonist struggles for moral and emotional strength to cope with a universe gone awry. Each of the eleven stories centers around a circumstance that is both ordinary and shockingly unpredictable.
Lauded by Publishers Weekly as presenting "characters whose cries are so human, raw and mordant, the reader forgets the fiction and is delivered inside the experience," Weaver skillfully introduces a level of depth and intensity to situations that may appear commonplace at first glance. This inventive collection offers a gallery of men who, outwardly ordinary, are revealed as complex in their humanity, defined as much by their sensibilities as by their actions—or their failures to act.

by Scott Ely
Loners of one sort or another populate Ely's fiction, from a young man discharged from the marines and working as a solitary gamekeeper to a Vietnam veteran turned professor who exchanges favorable grades for sexual favors from his students. Whatever their situations, these characters all feel a deep sense of loss and alienation from the world around them.

Ely's penetrating perceptions about the desire to find security as well as the rhythms of his prose, his vivid detail, and the fullness of his characters make The Angel of the Garden a compelling collection of short fiction.

Brier Country: Stories from Blue Valley
by Elaine Fowler Palencia

Elaine Fowler Palencia returns to Blue Valley, the fictional locale in the Appalachian foothills of eastern Kentucky that is the focus of her highly acclaimed Small Caucasian Woman. Blue Valley is a small community—a town where little goes on "except what is left out of history books"—and most of its residents are "brierhoppers," as folks from Appalachia are sometimes known north of the Ohio River. Palencia continues to map her uniquely poignant territory in these sixteen new stories.

Praised by James McConkey as "unique and yet part of an American tradition that includes . . . the fiction of Eudora Welty and Flannery O'Connor, and reaches back to Mark Twain," Palencia is known for her trademark wit, ear for dialogue, and sense of place—all of which make Brier Country a welcome addition to the folklore of Blue Valley.

Be sure to check back next week for our last Short Story Friday!