Wisdom from Writers: A Conversation with Joanna Eleftheriou

An opposition to politicized forgetting is precisely the task of art. We are responsible, as artists, for documenting, witnessing, and remembering even those truths that are not in our political interest to recall…I believe we are called to recover whatever truths we have the knowledge and the desire to hunt down, those are the truths we are required (by some sacred unwritten universal law) to write down and preserve.

I recently talked with author Joanna Eleftheriou about her debut essay collection, This Way Back, how to engage in the dialectic of identity, confront the privilege of choosing an identity, and how writers prioritize discovery. You can read the full interview here on The Common Online.

We deserve to see ourselves in art. We deserve to see ourselves on TV. There is no greater anguish than the sense of not-existing that our absence in (popular) culture incurs.

Find out more about Joanna Eleftheriou on joannaeleftheriou.com. Joanna’s book This Way Back (September 2020) is available from West Virginia University Press.

Wisdom from Writers: A Conversation with Lara Ehrlich

I’m striving to approach my writing with renewed joy, to recognize that motherhood—in all of its messy, infuriating, exhilarating ups and downs—informs my writing like no other experience.

I recently talked with author Lara Ehrlich about her prize-winning debut story collection, Animal Wife, and the possibility, power, and resilience steeping within. You can read the full interview here on CRAFT.

That defiance against becoming the thing we are told we should become plays through the rest of the stories, in different forms. We’re told we should be mothers, and that we should devote our whole selves to motherhood. To me, the answer is not to refuse motherhood—it’s to choose for ourselves how we define motherhood. We’re told we should act like ladies. The answer is not to act like men, but to choose for ourselves what it means to be a woman. That is the true resistance.

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Find out more about Lara Ehrlich on laraehrlich.com. Lara’s book Animal Wife (September 2020) is available from Red Hen Press.

…& books

While 2020 was tumultuous and strange in so many ways, books continuously bring light and connection and hope. The following list is an appreciation for some of the books that brought company, wisdom, and perspective during so many shadowy days.
Flights by Olga Tokarczuk
The Divers’ Game by Jesse Ball
The Frolic of the Beasts by Yukio Mishima
Virtuoso by Yelena Moskovich
The Black Cathedral by Marcial Gala
Lady Liberty by Joan Marans Dim
Remove to Play by Lia Woodall
Glitter Up the Dark by Sasha Geffen
A History of My Brief Body by Billy-Ray Belcourt
Ogadinma by Ukamaka Olisakwe
Summertime Fine by Jason B. Crawford
Animal Wife by Lara Ehrlich
Year of the Monkey by Patti Smith
Julián at the Wedding by Jessica Love
A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende
Heaven by Emerson Whitney
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
Tomboyland by Melissa Faliveno
This Way Back by Joanna Eleftheriou
Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez
Child of Glass by Beatrice Alemagna

Studying Nuclear Weapons Through An Artist’s Lens

Throughout my time at the Hiroshima-ICAN Academy, I couldn’t help but connect certain lectures and lessons with the many texts, films, and performances I studied as I was writing my graduate thesis at Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Below you will find a compiled list of some resources from my bibliography that I hope encourage your further exploration into the topic of the atomic bomb, nuclear weapons and waste, Japanese/Korean studies, and more. Keep in mind that this is an incomplete list, as there are many more resources I could have included. But I hope as you explore the links, you discover a new fact, a new perspective, or a new direction for your peace work. Please do write in the comments if something in this list resonates with you. And of course, if you come across a title that is not on this list, let me know!

 

Texts: 

Black Rain by Masuji Ibuse

Children of Hiroshima, edited by Dr. Arata Osada

“Hiroshima, City of Doom” by Yōko Ōta

Poems of the Atomic Bomb by Sankichi Tōge

Hiroshima by John Hersey

Trinity by Louisa Hall

A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

The Emissary by Yoko Tawada

Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins

Full Body Burden by Kristen Iversen

Dictée by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr

Contemporary Japanese Literature: An Anthology of Fiction, Film, and Other Writing Since 1945, edited by Howard Hibbett

Hiroshima: A Tragedy Never to be Repeated by Masamoto Nasu

Hiroshima in the Morning by Rahna Reiko Rizzuto

Hiroshima Notes by Kenzaburō Ōe

 

Films: 

In This Corner of the World

“Anointed” (a poem by Marshallese poet, Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner)

Day of the Western Sunrise

Hiroshima Mon Amour

“Navel and A-Bomb” (a short avant-garde film by Eikoh Hosoe)

“General Paul Tibbets – Reflections on Hiroshima” (an interview with the pilot of the Enola Gay)

 

Performance Art:

A Body in Fukushima by Eiko Otake (here are two clips from the full film: one and two)

Eiko Dances with the Hiroshima Panels

 

Book Scavenger Hunt #6: New Directions

Here’s a biblio challenge for your Summer Solstice! Today, we’re celebrating the scrumptious covers published by New Directions. Can you recognize all 12 covers hiding in plain sight? Leave your guesses in the comments!

Craving more beautiful books? Check out my previous Book Scavenger Hunts featuring covers from Riverhead Books, Graywolf PressArchipelago Books, Tin House Books, and Soft Skull Press!

Summer is for Reading

In some ways, summer is the time when I get my best education because I have my eyes glued inside books at all times (or at least, in between the FIFA Women’s World Cup games). I am able to read freely and widely; I can linger over phrases; I can sing the words out loud; I can take the time to really study how a piece is put together; I can laugh and cry and feel the emotions rising from the page like aromatic toast; I can be fully entertained as I immerse my mind in the mind of another. Ahh, that sacred intimacy of reading.

This summer, I’ve been working my way through a stack of slim novels, novellas, and collections of poems and stories. I find that I’m more drawn to these smaller tomes, perhaps because I know my time with them is limited to begin with. So I find ways to test that limit by drawing out the experience with them as much as I can. Like stretching out a piece of gum farther and farther until it snaps and breaks in two.

Below, you’ll find a quote from each of the books I’ve read in the past month as well as a link in case you want to own a copy for your own bookshelf! And don’t forget to tell me in the comments what you’ve been reading lately and what is in your queue. Happy reading!

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Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett – “There were times I’d thought I knew people. Brynn, who I’d loved more than anything. The other half of me. My father, a man I’d adored, someone I’d considered to be the strongest person on the planet. We spent so much time looking for pieces of ourselves in other people that we never realized they were busy searching for the same things in us.” (You can read my interview with Kristen Arnett here at Michigan Quarterly Review!) 

 

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros – “In English my name means hope. In Spanish it means too many letters. It means sadness, it means waiting. It is like the number nine. A muddy color. It is the Mexican records my father plays on Sunday mornings when he is shaving, songs like sobbing.”

 

The Collected Poems of Chika Sagawa (translated by Sawako Nakayasu) – “Dreams are severed fruit / Auburn pears have fallen in the field / Parsley blooms on the plate / Sometimes the leghorn appears to have six toes / I crack an egg and the moon comes out”

 

Wheeling Motel: Poems by Franz Wright – “River as verb, that’s the assignment, until the next time I fail / you. / And did you know the snail sometimes sleeps for a year? / And you will survive, that’s an order … ” (Check out these incredible recordings of Franz Wright reading poems from Wheeling Motel. My favorite one is “Intake Interview.”)

 

The Lonesome Bodybuilder: Stories by Yukiko Motoya – “If you genuinely desire not to be alone, I recommend that you take a bicycle saddle as your next partner. You think that’s out of the question? But a saddle is shaped surprisingly like a human face, and once you pull it off the bicycle, you can take each other out anywhere. When you go on vacation, the money you save on the second fare means you can make many more happy memories than if you were with another human. Best of all, a saddle can’t speak.”

 

Something Bright, Then Holes by Maggie Nelson – “It is what / it is. But / what is it? / What it is— / Some soft / tautology / whose terms/ are touch / Time to give, time / to give it up.”

 

Autobiography of Red: A Novel in Verse by Anne Carson – “Are there many little boys who think they are a Monster? But in my case I am right said Geryon to the Dog they were sitting on the bluffs The dog regarded him Joyfully” (I devoured this book in two days and immediately put it on my favorite of all-time list. Thank you to this Village Voice interview with artist Elle Pérez for introducing me to Anne Carson’s masterpiece.)

 

Gasoline by Gregory Corso – “Four windmills, acquaintanceships, / were spied one morning eating tulips. / Noon / and the entire city flips / screaming: Apocalypse! Apocalypse!”

 

I Am A Season That Does Not Exist in the World by Kim Kyung Ju – “The map of wind that the birds abandoned searched for the labyrinth of birds, but at night it broke quietly into pieces. If, toward a single person, the endodermis of time could forge a connection in the direction of one mind, could my humanity become a cry? Don’t say the inside of every skin has been answered.”

 

An Untouched House by Willem Frederik Hermans – “Back in the house, entering my bedroom, I had to slide the cat out of the way with the door. He had been lying on the floor behind it and I just managed to grab him by the scruff of the neck as he tried to slip past me to get to the locked room. Together we lay down on the bed while I held him tightly in my arms. “Nothing’s allowed to change,” I whispered in his ear, “we’re staying here. Everything’s staying like it is. One day the war will be over. The Germans will withdraw. And we’ll stay here forever.””

 

A page from Frances Cannon’s “Walter Benjamin Reimagined”

Walter Benjamin Reimagined by Frances Cannon – “The street that runs through houses is the track of a ghost through the walls. The dread of doors that won’t close is something everyone knows from dreams. The path we travel through the arcades is fundamentally just a ghost walk, on which doors give way and walls yield.”

 

 

And next up in the summer reading queue:

The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang

Lot: Stories by Bryan Washington

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong – Very excited about this one, especially after reading this interview at The Paris Review.

Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg – Jordy’s book has been on my reading radar ever since we published his story, “A Monster Stands Guard at the Door of the House of Love,” in Hunger Mountain‘s Issue 22: Everyday Chimeras. Plus I’m a sucker for footnotes!

Belladonna by Daša Drndić – I recently read in Merve Emre’s article at The New York Review of Books that the late Croatian novelist’s Belladonna was perhaps the most ambitious novel of the twenty-first century so far…and now I’m obsessed with tracking it down and finding out what said ambition looks like!

Book Scavenger Hunt #5: Soft Skull Press

Here’s an all new Book Cover Scavenger Hunt for my book-loving friends!

Today’s tessellated collage features 8 technicolor covers from Soft Skull Press. Can you name them all? Leave your guesses in the comments below!

If you need to get in better scavenger hunt shape, check out my previous Book Scavenger Hunts featuring covers from Riverhead Books, Graywolf PressArchipelago Books, and Tin House Books!

P.S. What independent publisher should be featured in the next Book Scavenger Hunt?

Book Scavenger Hunt #3: Archipelago Books

I’ve recently fallen in love with the Brooklyn-based nonprofit indie press, Archipelago Books. I love their satisfyingly minimalist book designs. I especially love their mission to publish beautiful translations of classic and contemporary world literature. This includes literature written originally in Arabic, Spanish, Norwegian, Dutch, Tamil, Russian, Slovenian, Greek, and more. According to the press’s website, “less than three percent of new literature published in the United States originates outside the Anglosphere.” This is why Archipelago’s work is so important—to find illuminating international writers that American readers might not otherwise encounter.

So far, I’ve only read Love by Hanne Ørstavik (winner of the PEN Translation Prize and a finalist for the 2018 National Book Award for Translated Literature), which was hauntingly outstanding. Now, I can’t wait to go back and read the entire Archipelago catalogue.

Can you name all 14 Archipelago Books titles featured in these slivers?

Want more challenges? Check out my Book Scavenger Hunt #1 (Riverhead Books) and #2 (Graywolf Press)!