Archive for February, 2012

29 February, 2012

Dzanc Prize Winner: Eugene Cross

I’m over at the Huffington Post with a review of Eugene Cross’ Fires of Our Choosing. (Dzanc Books, March 2012). There’s a taste of it below. You can read the full review here.

As Eric says in the title story, “Dignity was a faraway country from which I had been exiled years before, a place I could hardly recall.” Indeed, very little of it is permitted the underclass of this nation, a fact that creeps up on the reader as these stories unfold, one after another, bringing news of realities so rarely addressed by contemporary writers. How noteworthy is it, then, that Cross offers no apologies for his characters: their poor choices, their lack of moral fortitude, their betrayals of each other and the poverty of their surroundings and, often, themselves; he leaves these things alone. They are who they are, and if dignity has been denied them by the rest of us, including us story-tellers, it is restored by this collection. That he has undertaken to serve as their raconteur should place Cross on the radar of all the big prizes that gift those blessed with talent, compassion and fearlessness, particularly during this present moment in our history.

23 February, 2012

My 99 Problems v. Syria’s 1

syriaJust yesterday I posted on FB that I had “99 problems” and was trying to whittle them down to 98. I was feeling overwhelmed. I have two out of state meetings/conferences to go to, one of which involves a flight, sub-zero temperatures and 10,000 other people. I have mountains of readings to finish, all of which have to be done with the kind of obsessive attention that goes with my personality. I have papers to grade. I have a book to edit. A father to coerce, one who is digging in his heels and refusing to get on a plane and come here. I have several small battles to fight in the larger war against girls and women. I have the detritus of everyday living to sweep up – those dishes, dirty clothes, showers, exercises, medical check ups, and groceries that fill up the day. I have a ton of minding to do, too.

But then Marie Colvin was killed and my attention was drawn to the last news report she filed for CNN. I read through and clicked on the video that was attached. It is an account of a Syrian baby during his last moments of life. He is wearing the kind of shirt that babies in Sri Lanka have been dressed in for as long as I can remember; a simple piece of cloth that even women who can’t sew – women like me – are able to cut and sew. The baby shirt has two arm holes, and a tie around the neck. The back is open in deference to the heat. Women in Sri Lanka sit and sew small hills of these shirts, usually embroidered on the front with flowers and paisley motifs. The baby in the video looks like any baby, and in the video he gasps for breath, his eyes already shut. Marie Colvin says, in the voiceover, that what was terrible about this scene was the silence in which the baby passes away. It is true. He does not cry, he does not flail, his chest heaves and heaves and heaves and then he is gone.

It made me think. A long-ago friend once told me she took to pediatrics because children, even those with terminal illnesses, never complained as much as adults did. They took their illness in stride, living until they no longer could. Here in my Philadelphia suburb we have the story of Alex, the little girl who in life launched Alex’s Lemonade Stand, the single most effective fundraiser for research into childhood cancer worldwide. I don’t know that this Syrian baby, whose passing was witnessed by his grandmother because she was already at the hospital helping other people, knew anything more than a month or so of peace, then nothing but mayhem around him and terror in the faces of his family, before arriving in this hospital at this time, with that particular spokeswoman to relate his story. But, perhaps, no matter what we all think of the politics between large and small nations, between Syrian, America, Russian and Chinese ambassadors, or of despots, tyrants, diplomats and apologist, nobody will turn away from the sight of this particular death. And, perhaps, this brief life lived in innocence, and the journalist who gave her all, will combine to be the face and the voice that brings peace to Syria.


The Books:

The Books:

On Sal Mal Lane

In the tradition of In the Time of the Butterflies and The Kite Runner, a tender, evocative novel about the years leading up to the Sri Lankan civil war.

A Disobedient Girl

A Disobedient Girl is a compelling map of womanhood, its desires and loyalties, set against the backdrop of beautiful, politically turbulent, Sri Lanka.