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Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category



A Review of Tommy Orange’s “There There”

Jul5

by: Frank Rubenfeld on July 5th, 2018 | No Comments »

This is a debut novel by Tommy Orange, an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes.

The book’s prologue gives us the context for the pain Indians inflict on themselves (alcoholism, suicide, drug addiction) and each other (domestic abuse, turf wars). Orange goes into horrific detail (the content of which I had never heard of before) about the treachery, sadistic cruelty, and grind-’em-down racism Indians suffered at the hands of the white colonizers from the time of the Pilgrims until the genocidal “Indian Wars” waged in the late eighteen hundreds.

Tommy Orange reading from his debut novel "There There." Image courtesy of Bank Square Books.

Tommy Orange reading from his debut novel "There There." Image courtesy of Bank Square Books.

The venue is contemporary Oakland, not a “rez”. Many Indians have left the rez behind and become “Urban Indians”. We get to meet more than a dozen of them close-up: Orvil Red Feather; Edwin Black; Tommy Loneman; Dene Oxendene; and the one with coolest name of all: Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield. Each name heads a chapter (some more than one). Orange dexterously braids the lives of these Indians, and knots them all together in an ending that reflects their legacy. A legacy of both violence and spiritual depth.

As the narrative culminates, we witness a big Powow at the Oakland Coliseum. Hundreds of Indians from the Bay Area and beyond, dressed in Native Regalia, ready to dance to the sound of the big and little drums. Ready to dip, shuffle, and pound their feet against Mother Earth, while the singing counterpoints the beat of the drums; the beat of their feet.

This was the sound of pain forgetting itself in song, the author writes. In that sentence the beating heart of the story lies. And the author, Tommy Orange an Urban Indian for years, is part of that drumbeat. He has created this song of a book. A song of pain redeemed by his artistry.

We the witnesses, implicit in the oppression of his people; occupying what was their land; are given the opportunity to see more clearly and comprehensively the costs the Indian community has paid for our deeds. Tommy Orange has done his job. It is up to us to feel empathy, compassion, anger, guilt, whatever. And to see what we might do with our feelings and our new knowledge.

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Frank Rubenfeld is a Berkeley psychologist who co-founded Psychotherapists for Social Responsibility and authored The Peace Manual: A Guide To Personal-Political Integration. He is an active member of the Gestalt Associates of the Bay Area.

Baseball Infamy

Jun14

by: Victor Acquista on June 14th, 2018 | 4 Comments »

A Mound Over Hell

by Gary Morgenstein

BHC Press, 2018

A good place to start making our world a better place is to identify current problems and then strategize on how to solve those problems. What about when the problems themselves are hidden, or entangled in a complex web of truth and falsehood and conflicting ideologies? What we often categorize as “culture wars” has roots in the evolution of consciousness and how individuals and groups at different levels of consciousness coexist. Socially conscious fiction helps to shine light upon social ills. In this sense, it helps to raise awareness.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

In his novel, A Mound Over Hell, Gary Morgenstein has given us much to think about regarding the current state of modern society. Although the story is set in the future, today’s social problems are on full display. Baseball seems an unlikely place to uncover and expose societal conflict. Yet, Morgenstein reveals it to be the perfect construct for digging deep into the underbelly of a future America where baseball is on the brink of extinction. The seeds of past conflict often blossom into future turmoil. His novel is a far cry from A Field of Dreams.

In these times when people exploit half-truths, fake news, and alternate facts, the book itself is timely. The narrative blends a combination of baseball truths and fabrications wedded together, takes readers through a somewhat unexpected trajectory, and reframes historical elements to uncover an uncomfortable present. Surprise! Not all is what citizens have been led to believe. Lies clearly have the upper hand in this marital union. Despite this foundation of falsehood, the citizens live in a zeitgeist of syrupy contentment.

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Review of THE FIX by Sharon Leder

Jul14

by: Gail F. Melson on July 14th, 2017 | 1 Comment »

The opioid epidemic rages all around us. Its fires, far from abating, are feeding on themselves. For the first time, overdoses from heroin, fentanyl, oxycodone and other opioids exceed deaths from motor vehicle accidents. In 2015, over 52,000 people died from opioid overdoes in the U. S. No corner, no community is immune. The epidemic has spread through cities into suburbs and has ravaged rural areas. No demographic is spared.

The ravages of heroin and other opioids are nothing new. In the 1940′s and 50′s, they swept through urban New York, from the jazz clubs of Harlem to boho Greenwich Village to Westchester suburbs. For a young man eager to break out of the stifling confines of Jewish immigrant life, the “cool” Manhattan clubs were like a refreshing shower, washing away anti-semitic taunts, money troubles, family conflicts. The drugs were part of, maybe the essence of, cool. They fused with the jazz, the smoky dark interiors, the nodding knowingness of a beckoning life.

This is how Sara, the young protagonist of Sharon Leder’s debut novel,The Fix: A Father’s Secrets, A Daughter’s Search(KiCam Projects, 2017) imagines the beginning of her father Joseph’s twenty-five year struggle with heroin addiction.

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“HOLY CRAP! and Other News of the New Administration,” a story by K. T. Maclay

Jul5

by: K. T. Maclay on July 5th, 2017 | 13 Comments »

Election

In each generation there is one righteous person worthy of being the Messiah.

In this generation the Svenssens were certain it was their candidate.

No one was more excited than they were when He won the election. Things were going to change now. They’d be safe in Minneapolis. St. Paul would be white again.

There would be jobs. Dad could buy that drill bit he’d been looking at. Liam could go to school again because Ma could afford to buy him clothes. Little Ava could have a Sunday lollipop. It was everything they’d ever dreamed of. Meat once a week. Fish on Fridays. Jobs at the plant.

They cheered when the new President closed the borders to immigrants. They celebrated when He abolished government health care. They were happy when Congress rescinded the abortion- friendly laws and all those sinful women would have to die or go elsewhere to have their babies.

Then Ma got pregnant. She was forty. The Svenssens didn’t have insurance, so she just struggled through what the whole town knew was a difficult time. She gave birth to Emma, who she called a blessing, but who everyone could see was severely retarded.

And, though the Svenssens rejoiced when they heard that nobody in the country was paying taxes, they were shocked when the bridge at Zimmermans Pass collapsed and plunged little Ava’s school bus into the lake.

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