Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Publication notes

My story "A Little Accident" is the featured free story this week at Sniplits. I am also the featured author, so please log on, get yourself a story to listen to (feel free to buy my other story there if you are so inclined) and check out my fan page.

My poem "Father Lied" has just been published in the Freckles to Wrinkles. It looks like a fine little book, a nice gift for someone special.

Have been working on a new project, so I haven't sent out as much this month. Consequently, this is about all the news there is.

Monday, August 18, 2008


Karen Hesse’s Witness is an important achievement in literature for adolescents. Not only is the book told through a variety of voices of the characters in this novel, but each "chapter" is a poem told from the point of view of one of those characters. Hesse dares not only to give readers words and thoughts of those that might draw obvious sympathy, a Jewish girl who has lost her mother and the Black girl who helps her (and others), but also the villains of the story and those characters in between.
Each poem/chapter demonstrates a masterful sense of voice. The diction and word choices are exactly what one would expect from the character meant to be speaking. As individual poems, these work just fine as well. I was, at first, a bit put off by the rather prosaic expressions of some of the characters (particularly the newspaper editor), but as the book went along, I realized that these people would speak exactly this way. The use of verse allows the reader not only to hear what the characters would say in dialogue, but also to "hear" their inner dialogues.
The story traces an attempt by the Ku Klux Klan to gain influence in a small town. Here we see the price of such alliances, a different price paid by each of those who participate. We also see the price and the reward of standing firm against them. Readers also see not only the interactions of the characters, but how the relationships develop as the story unfolds. I’m sure most readers will find the friendship between Leanora Sutter and little Esther Hirsh to be touching. But I found myself also moved by Leanora’s relationship with Mr. Field. He is an elderly man in failing health and a little crotchety, but well represents that old does not mean forgetful of his shared humanity with the twelve year old Black girl who has given her time to care for him.
Perhaps many readers will not find Witness as emotionally powerful as other books for adolescents that cover the same period of history or the same general themes. However, I believe this novel should stand on the shelves with them. Actually, it should not stand on the shelf, but be read and studied enthusiastically. (A teacher’s edition is available.)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Bookmarks: Fear Itself

Fear Itself is the second in Walter Mosely's Fearless Jones series. I wish I had read the first book first and I wish I had read this book faster. This book does not have gaps I suspect only the first novel would have cleared up, but there are a number of characters here and I found myself a bit lost trying to remember them all. But that may not be a fault of the novel, but the fact that I had to read it in fits and starts.

The narrative is presented by Paris Minton, friend of Fearless Jones, a man who is both willing to help out a damsel in distress and kill in cold blood those who get in his way. Paris is a humble bookworm trying to stay out of trouble and quietly run his bookstore. The plot centers on family secrets and a one of a kind book Paris would love to have for himself. Along the way a number of people are killed and Paris comes pretty close, a fact that may get in the way of his friendship with Fearless.

As I mentioned, I should have set this book aside and read it as close to straight through as I could. But once I got the hang of who was who, I found myself entralled by the story, but also with the narrator. Paris is a relunctant hero, made braver only because of his friend, but one who also struggles with his desires and what he knows is the right thing to do. Mosely had drawn a character somewhat like Fearless in the person of Mouse (from the Easy Rawlins series), but Paris is different from Easy Rawlins. Both may well want to stay out of trouble and lead their own quiet lives, but Paris is even more withdrawn and bookish. I found myself relating to him more and more.

I probably would have read the first in this series had my local library carried it, but this does okay on its own. I look forward to reading more about these finely drawn characters.