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Final Week: Amanda Gorman’s Call Us What We Carry Read-a-Long

For this last week, we read the final sections of the collection:Fury & Faith and Resolution.

Here are a few questions to get us started:

  1. In Fury & Faith, Gorman again takes the poetic form and upends it, placing it onto the stripes of the American flag. What are your thoughts on this use of poetic lines?
  2. Explore your reactions to the poems in this first of the last two sections. What are some of the things that stuck out to you?
  3. In the Resolution section, what do you think her main point is about resolution?

I’ll be monitoring the comments and replying throughout the weekend. Can’t wait to see what everyone thinks.

Check out the previous discussions below:

Thank you to everyone who participated or just read along with us. I hope you enjoyed the book, and I’d love to hear what you thought overall.

All the Rivers Flow into the Sea and Other Stories by Khanh Ha

Source: the author
Paperback, 210 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

All the Rivers Flow into the Sea and Other Stories by Khanh Ha, winner of the EastOver Prize for Fiction, are stories in which cultures seem insurmountable until there’s an undercurrent of emotion the breaks through those external barriers. Underneath these stories is the roiling tide, pushing and pulling these characters toward and away from one another.

“He makes me homesick. I realize I’m in a foreign country. I can speak its language, live its habits, think its thoughts, but I’ll never be part of it.” (pg. 178, “The Children of Icarus”)

In the opening story, “The Woman-Child,” there’s a tension between a young Vietnamese man, who returns to Vietnam as part of his research of how shrimp farmers are affecting the waterway, and a young woman who cooks for her fisherman father and feels like the woman at the inn is like a mother. He grew up in America and looks at her through an American lens, but she is a young, independent woman who wants to show no weakness in front of him. These moments of passionate tension and the strength of independence enable the tension to break without the characters themselves breaking under the weight.

“I stared at him. He could have stabbed me and still not have hurt me as much as the tone of his voice did.” (pg. 62, “The Dream Catcher”)

Ha’s characters are complex and struggling against cultural expectation and tempting passions. They are looking for their path, but often find they are pulled into a direction they never expected. There is a tumbling of light and dark into a gray sea that flows between each character who is being tossed on their adrift boat. Ha reminds us that tragedy touched everyone, but it is not always apparent on the surface.

All the Rivers Flow into the Sea and Other Stories by Khanh Ha is another collection that will capture your imagination. From the magical market to the tragedy of lost lives, Ha’s stories are fairy tales in which characters face tragedy head on and seek solace in life and the blessings they have. I didn’t want to reach the end of this collection.

RATING: Cinquain

***Also check out Ha’s poem, a Book Signing Horror Story.

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Multi award winning author Khanh Ha is the author of Flesh, The Demon Who Peddled Longing, and Mrs. Rossi’s Dream. He is a seven-time Pushcart nominee, finalist for the Mary McCarthy Prize, Many Voices Project, Prairie Schooner Book Prize, and The University of New Orleans Press Lab Prize. He is the recipient of the Sand Hills Prize for Best Fiction, the Robert Watson Literary Prize in Fiction, The Orison Anthology Award for Fiction, The James Knudsen Prize for Fiction, The C&R Press Fiction Prize, and The EastOver Fiction Prize.

Mrs. Rossi’s Dream was named Best New Book by Booklist and a 2019 Foreword Reviews INDIES Silver Winner and Bronze Winner. All the Rivers Flow into the Sea & Other Stories has already won the EastOver Fiction Prize. Visit him on Facebook and Twitter.

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY HERE.

Mailbox Monday #696

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Velvet, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

Falling for Your Fake Fiancé by Emma St. Clair, a Kindle freebie.

What happens when the man I love to hate becomes the man I must pretend to love?

I can’t seem to escape Thayden Walker and his infuriating charm.

Even his mother and his Great Dane seem bent on playing matchmaker. But I’m totally immune.

Until I’m presented with an offer that puts my ability to withstand him to the test. If I marry Thayden, all my student debt goes poof, and he’ll take over the family firm.

There’s so much more at stake than money or a job, especially when I start to see the man beneath the mask.

Playing house with Thayden is the most dangerous game of all.

And we’re both set up to lose more than we could ever win. Unless we’ve been on the same side all along …

The Prince I Love to Hate by Iris Morland, Kindle freebie.

This prince?
He’s anything but charming.

I’ve never been the girl who’s dreamt of a prince rescuing me from a fire-breathing dragon before whisking me away to his castle.

So when I fly all the way to Ireland to find my long-lost dad, I have no intention of playing the damsel in distress to some dude.

But the night I encounter—and accidentally wallop upside the head—Prince Olivier of Salasia, my plans are completely upended.

This prince is the opposite of charming, though. After thirty seconds in his presence, I want to feed him to a dragon.

But fate is a fickle b*tch. Before I know it, I agree to team up with Olivier in the search for my dad.

As I travel across Europe with this actual honest-to-god prince, I wonder, what’s the worst that could happen?

It’s not like I’ll be stupid enough to fall in love with Prince Charming.

What did you receive?

Week Three: Amanda Gorman’s Call Us What We Carry Read-a-Long

For this 3rd week, we read the Atonement section.

Here are a few questions to get us started:

1. What was your favorite poem in this section?

2. Erasure poems modify current text to create something new or highlight a particular theme. What impact does this form have on these poems?

3. Gorman offers a great deal of background to these found poems in footnotes and elsewhere, how did or did it not affect your reading of the poems?

I’ll be monitoring the comments and replying throughout the weekend. Can’t wait to see what everyone thinks.

Guest Post: Book Signing Horror Story by Khanh Ha

Thank you for joining us today’s guest post from Khanh Ha. I’ll have a review of his newest short story collection next week. Also stay tuned for how to enter the giveaway.

About the collection:

From Vietnam to America, this story collection, jewel-like, evocative and layered, brings to the readers a unique sense of love, passions and the tragedy of rape, all together contrasting a darker theme of perils. The titular story captures a simple love story that transcends cultural barriers. The opening story “A Woman-Child” brings the shy eroticism of adolescence set against a backdrop of the seaside with its ever present ecological beauty. A youthful love affair between an older American man and a much younger Vietnamese girl has its poignant brevity in “All the Pretty Little Horses.” In “The Yin-Yang Market” magical realism and the beauty of innocence abounds in deep dark places, teeming with life and danger. “A Mute Girl’s Yarn” tells a magical coming-of-age story like sketches in a child’s fairy book.

Bringing together the damned, the unfit, the brave who succumb by their own doing to the call of fate, their desire to survive never dying, it is a great journey to inhabit this world where redemption of human goodness arises out of violence and beauty to become part of its essential mercy.

As readers, we understand how much we love authors and want to get our books signed at events when we can, but today, Khanh Ha, author of All the Rivers Flow into the Sea & Other Stories, is going to share with us what it is like to be on the other side of that equation. What’s it like for an author at a book signing?

Please give Khanh Ha a warm welcome for his guest post in the form of a poem:

The Late Night People

I met a woman
during one of my book signings
She came to the table where I sat with
two stacks of hardcover copies
She picked up one copy and said,
What is it about?
I’m never good at summarizing my work
in a nutshell
for something that had taken me
two, three years to write
Well, I said, it’s on the jacket flap
where she could read what the copywriter
had done
as part of the cosmetic surgery
so the work looks more like a movie actress
than a whore
The woman nodded, but
didn’t read a word of it
where I hoped she might have caught
the advance praises
full of superlatives
that sometimes you thought they must’ve been
copied and pasted in
from another work
But she just wanted to talk
A soft-spoken woman
straw-yellow hair
no makeup
like she’d just got out of bed and
wandered into this place
full of books
like Alice in Wonderland
We talked about pets
and, in the name of God,
she owed at least a dozen cats
some of them neutered
for overpopulation purpose
and pet fish
whose names I forgot
expensive though
She said one of them cost a hundred dollars
And I learned that she worked part time
somewhere in a graphics shop
It was a quiet evening
with no more than three interested readers
who dropped by at my table
but none bought any copy
only she did
without any idea of what the book
was about
When I left she had gone to an in-store coffee shop
sitting on a high stool with a cup of coffee
reading a day-old newspaper
I had to run an errand that evening after
the book signing and when I was done
it was half past midnight
I was driving down a cross-street
two blocks from the bookstore where
earlier I had my book signing
Stopping at the intersection on a red light
I looked over at a donut shop
on a corner
well lit, near empty
I saw the woman who had bought a copy
of my book
sitting by herself
close to the glass
a Styrofoam cup of coffee
in front of her
She wasn’t reading anything
just sitting and staring ahead
I wondered
where my book was
For certain it wouldn’t have fit in her purse
unless she had returned it after I left
for a full refund.

Thank you, Khanh Ha, for sharing this horror story with us.

To Enter the Giveaway, Click Here.

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A Room of Your Own by Beth Kephart, Illustrated by Julia Breckenreid

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 32 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

A Room of Your Own by Beth Kephart, illustrated by Julia Breckenreid, is a gorgeous book that explores all the different kinds of room we can find in our lives for creativity. Those rooms can be in the house, in the garden, in a barn, in a bath tub, in a cabinet, in a tree, under the bed, or even simply in the pages of a book.

Kephart was inspired by Virginia Woolf’s essay, A Room of One’s Own, to write this children’s picture book, which is beautifully illustrated by Breckenreid. The images are colorful and alive. Readers follow Virginia from her home and into the gardens where the steel sky gives way to blue. She sits and thinks and dreams and then comes the question for the reader: “Where do you go to think, to dream, to be?”

There’s an illustrated imagining of what those places could be and maybe are for many. And the illustrations bring these places to life and demonstrate that each place is important for each person and that no two places are alike, but all are vital for self, imagination, and more. Some of the rooms are not even rooms at all, but moments between action or in action. Below is my favorite illustration in the entire book:

A Room of Your Own by Beth Kephart, illustrated by Julia Breckenreid, is a delight, and I love that Virginia Woolf is here in these pages, but that the story gives way to the reader and explores the places they could have that are all their own.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Beth Kephart is the award-winning author of three dozen books in multiple genres and an award-winning teacher at the University of Pennsylvania. Her new memoir in essays is Wife | Daughter | Self (Forest Avenue Press). Her new craft book is We Are the Words: The Master Memoir Class, from which this essay was adapted. More at bethkephartbooks.com.

Mailbox Monday #695

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Velvet, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

A Room of Your Own by Beth Kephart, illustrated by Julia Breckenreid, which I purchased.

A picture book about the places we go to create, inspired by Virginia Woolf and her noted essay

Sometimes Virginia Woolf wrote her stories in a garden shed. Sometimes she wrote them among stacks of books in a cool basement. And you? Where do you go to think, to dream, to be? The shade beneath a tall tree? The brick step on a city stoop? The cozy spot beneath the kitchen table? Or inside the night’s deep dark? Not all rooms require four walls and a roof. Inspired by the writer Virginia Woolf and her celebrated essay, “A Room of One’s Own,” A Room of Your Own is about the importance of claiming a space for oneself.

What did you receive?

Week Two: Amanda Gorman’s Call Us What We Carry Read-a-Long

For this 2nd week, we read the 3rd and 4th sections: Earth Eyes and Memoria.

Here are a few questions to get us started:

  • In Earth Eyes, what do you see are the main themes and how do they relate to the collection’s title, Call Us What We Carry?
  • Gorman has a lot of visual forms for her poems, how do they impact your enjoyment of the poems?
  • In Memoria, what do you think Gorman is saying about memory and the act of remembering?
  • What are some of your favorite lines or poems in these two sections?

I’ll be monitoring the comments and replying throughout the weekend. Can’t wait to see what everyone thinks.

Birthday Milestones

Birthdays are such a big deal when you’re a kid. You’re growing up and changing, entering new grades, making new friends, and learning new things. It seems that the newness of everything makes birthdays special.

I’ve always celebrated my birthday, even as friends and relatives have stopped marking the passage of time. There’s something about a day all to yourself. I never work on my birthday if I can help it. I take that time to read or send out poetry submissions to magazines. This year, I’m not sure what I’m going to do, but I’m definitely marking my birthday.

As part of that, I wanted to share some relatively big news for me, because it has never happened before — I was named as a finalist in a writing contest.

Let’s see what the rest of 2022 has in store.

Admit This to No One by Leslie Pietrzyk

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 255 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Admit This to No One by Leslie Pietrzyk is a stunning collection of short stories that are interconnected in ways that will surprise you. All of these stories are in and around Washington, D.C. One of the stories also appeared in the anthology, This Is What America Looks Like (my poem is in there, too, and is how I discovered this collection was being published!)

Pietrzyk’s prose will lull you into a false sense of security before she strikes with lines that upend her stories or characters. Readers go into each story believing they know who these powerful and not-so-powerful characters are, but eventually, the story reveals what we all refuse to admit — we need and crave love and acceptance, even if we do things to make it so hard for people to love and accept us.

From “Till Death Do Us Part”: “What that money adds up to is a satisfying figure, almost a super-tremendously huge figure. That’s me knowing how much he loves me, which might be pathetic if the figure weren’t so satisfyingly huge.” (pg. 15)

From “Wealth Management”: “Winning seems like enough, or all there is anyway, and it’s these thoughts that are in his head during the drive home as Chloe stares straight ahead, eyes glittery with tears she won’t dare let him see.” (pg. 42)

The Speaker of the House looms large in the collection, with his influence reaching far outside the capital, whether his impact on his illegitimate daughter or his first-born daughter or his trusty right-hand woman. Fatherly relationships play a central role in this collection, as do the influences of men on how women perceive themselves, want to be seen, and struggle to be while maintaining their independence.

Like the churn and turbulence of the Potomac River, Pietrzyk provides a glimpse into what political life in D.C. looks like, but she also demonstrates the emptiness and tense tightrope walking that it requires. Admit This to No One is a short story collection for the modern age and definitely one you won’t put down before turning the final page.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Leslie Pietrzyk is the author of the novel Silver Girl, released in 2018 by Unnamed Press, and called “profound, mesmerizing, and disturbing” in a Publishers Weekly starred review. In November 2021, Unnamed Press published Admit This to No One, a collection of stories set in Washington, DC, which The Washington Post called “a tour de force from a gifted writer.” Pietrzyk’s collection of unconventionally linked short stories, This Angel on My Chest, won the 2015 Drue Heinz Literature Prize and was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Kirkus Reviews named it one of the 16 best story collections of the year, Her previous novels are Pears on a Willow Tree and A Year and a Day. Short fiction and essays have appeared in Southern Review, Ploughshares, Gettysburg Review, Hudson Review, The Sun, Shenandoah, Arts & Letters, River Styx, Iowa Review, Cincinnati Review, TriQuarterly, New England Review, Salon, Washingtonian, Southern Indiana Review, Washington Post Magazine, and many others. She has received fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and in 2020, her story “Stay There” was awarded a Pushcart Prize. Pietrzyk is a member of the core fiction faculty at the Converse low-residency MFA program and often teaches in the MA Program in Writing at Johns Hopkins University. Raised in Iowa, she now lives in North Carolina.