Saturday, March 31, 2018

Nancy Schoenberger

Nancy Schoenberger's latest book is Wayne and Ford: The Films, the Friendship, and the Forging of an American Hero. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write about both John Wayne and John Ford in your new book?

A: As a fan of the Western since childhood, I wanted to write about its origin story, which brought me to Ford's early Westerns and his use of John Wayne as the quintessential Western hero.

Q: In the book, you ask, “Why was the Western such a powerful mode of storytelling throughout the second half of the last century?” Why do you think that is, and what accounted for its decline?

A: The Western is a classic hero's journey, a compelling form of storytelling since Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, so there's that universal appeal.

The Western also represented America's origin story -- often romanticized and almost always told from the point of view of white settlers who wrested the country from Native Americans, especially appealing to mainstream Americans of the last century.

That said, Westerns also offered a model of...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 30, 2018

Erin Entrada Kelly

Erin Entrada Kelly's new novel is You Go First.

From her Publishers Weekly Q&A with Ingrid Roper:

What inspired you to write about an online friendship?

Funnily enough, it did not start as an online friendship. When I write I begin with the image of a character, and I build the story and the plot around that character. I started with Charlotte and I thought she was going to be the youngest National Scrabble Champion. And the more I researched that journey and I went to homeschool Scrabble championships, Scrabble clubs, Scrabble competitions, and met Scrabble champions—the less it felt like something Charlotte would be a part of. It didn’t fit her dynamic. So as I explored her journey it evolved into an online friendship with Ben. And they were [located] in these two worlds that are meaningful to me—Louisiana and Philadelphia—and I was bridging those two worlds. One of my concerns was that I didn’t want to encourage online friendships or send kids online. It was very important to me that Charlotte and Ben meet in a school-sanctioned online message board and then their friendship gradually evolves onto the app.

One of the things that connects Charlotte and Ben is their shared love of words. How did that help you develop these characters?

Their love of words was...[read on]
Visit Erin Entrada Kelly's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Sara Saedi

Sara Saedi's new book is a memoir for young adults called Americanized: Rebel Without A Green Card. From the transcript of her Fresh Air interview with NPR's Terry Gross:
TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. My guest says her life began during a hostage crisis, a revolution and a war. When Sara Saedi was born in Iran in 1980, Americans were being held hostage by revolutionary Iranian students who had stormed the American embassy. The Ayatollah Khomeini had just come to power, turning the country into a fundamentalist state, and Iran was at war with Iraq. When Saedi was 2, she fled the country with her family and moved to California where they had relatives. When their visitors visas expired, they stayed in California, hoping their applications for green cards would eventually be approved.

Saedi remembers her teenage years as marked by aloof boys, prepping for the SATs and a looming fear of deportation. She became a citizen at the age of 26. She's now a TV writer. She's currently with the CW series "iZombie," and she writes books for young adults. Her new book is a memoir for young adults called "Americanized: Rebel Without A Green Card."

Sara Saedi, welcome to FRESH AIR. So were you the only person your age when you were growing up who you knew who was also undocumented?

SARA SAEDI: Yes. Aside from my sister, who was 3 years older than me, I didn't know anybody else in my friend group or in my high school that was undocumented.

GROSS: So you were 13 when you found out your family's immigration status.


GROSS: Tell us the story of how you found out.

SAEDI: Well, you know, I had no idea that we were undocumented. I didn't - I'd never even heard the term. At that time, they said illegal alien. And I had never heard that term before. It was just one afternoon after school spending time with my sister, and she was filling out job applications. And I remember her being really frustrated because every application asked for a Social Security number. And I didn't even know at the time what a Social Security number was. And she revealed to me that we didn't have Social Security numbers because we had entered the country illegally and that we could essentially get deported at any point if the government found out that we were living in the United States.

GROSS: So how did that knowledge affect you?

SAEDI: It was shocking. I mean, at that point, we had been living in the U.S., in the Bay Area specifically, for 10 years. And it gave me a lot of anxiety as a teenager, just the idea that we could get deported, that we could get sent back to Iran, which was a country that I was familiar with because we were Iranian but...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Sean Grigsby

Sean Grigsby's new novel is Smoke Eaters. From his Q&A with the writer Alex Bledsoe:

Your protagonist is no spring chicken; in fact, he’s on the verge of retirement when the story starts. Why did you go this route instead of the more typical handsome young hero?

The short answer is: it’s been done to death. I wanted to do something different.

I also hadn’t seen an older protagonist since Old Man’s War. When I came up with the idea for the book, I myself was back in fire academy again, even though I had gone through it five years before. I’d moved to a bigger city department and, although I had all the credentials, I had to prove myself all over again because that’s what they required. For Smoke Eaters, I wanted to see how someone with a full career behind him, and experience as an officer, would deal with having to start all over as a rookie. It created a lot of funny moments. Brannigan takes no crap.

Do you consider
Smoke Eaters fantasy, or science fiction?

Both! You could call it future fantasy or science fantasy if you had to put a label on it.

I couldn’t live in a world where I could only...[read on]
Visit Sean Grigsby's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Joyce Tyldesley

Joyce Tyldesley's new book is Nefertiti's Face: The Creation of an Icon. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to focus on the famous bust of Nefertiti in your new book?

A: As I was growing up there was a replica Nefertiti bust in my local museum, and this fascinated me. I thought that it was the “real” Nefertiti bust (I thought that everything in the museum was real!) and it made me wonder about the queen herself. Who was she? Where and when did she live?

As I grew older, and started to study Egypt’s queens in detail, I realised that Nefertiti is an unusual case. We are very familiar with her face, as created by one particular sculptor, but we don’t really know a great deal about her as a person. Much of what has been written about her is based on assumptions, not facts.

It became clear that her bust has had a huge effect on our perception of not just Nefertiti’s history, but of her character as well. I wanted to investigate the influence that the bust has had on our thinking about Nefertiti, her family and her era.

Q: How did you research this book, and did you learn anything that especially intrigued you?

A: I started by looking at the bust itself, and then by examining......[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 26, 2018

Anjali Sachdeva

Anjali Sachdeva's new story collection is All The Names They Used For God. From the transcript of her NPR interview with Audie Cornish:
CORNISH: In another story, "All The Names For God," two young girls who had been living in Nigeria kidnapped by Boko Haram figure out a way to I guess take over the minds of their captors.


CORNISH: And they try and go home. But they are so different, right? They're so changed. They can't look even at their own male relatives the same way.

SACHDEVA: They've been away for years, right? And if you came back to your own family after years, and not only that but you had left as a child and came back as an adult and everything in the middle had been horrible, how would you be a different person? So a lot of it has to do with trust. There is a moment where the main character, Promise, goes home and meets her brother who was still a child when she left, and now he's an adult. And she is trying to separate him in her mind from the other men she's met in the intervening years who have done nothing but harm her or who she has treated as predators - any man she's met since then because of the experiences she's had. And now suddenly there's someone who...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Jefferson Morley

Jefferson Morley's new book is The Ghost: The Secret Life of CIA Spymaster James Jesus Angleton. From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write a biography of James Angleton?

A: I knew a lot about him—my first book, Our Man in Mexico, was about a top CIA officer of the same generation, Win Scott.

There were a bunch of good books written about him in the ‘80s and ‘90s, but a lot had come out since the ‘90s. The old picture of Angleton as an eccentric mole-hunter was very narrow. He was a much bigger, stranger, and more powerful character than anybody realized.

Q: How did you research the book, and what did you learn that especially surprised you?

A: I started by going to archival material. That meant presidential libraries, especially Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, archival manuscript collections of people who knew him.

And interviewing people. There are not many around who knew him, but a very interesting source was the kids of CIA agents who knew him. They knew about his world, his personality. It was...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Jamey Bradbury

Jamey Bradbury's new novel is The Wild Inside.

From her Q&A at The Qwillery:

TQ: Describe The Wild Inside in 140 characters or less.

Jamey: Stubborn, feral Alaskan girl hunts animals, maybe stabs a guy, and hates being grounded. Finds people irritating, but likes dogs.

TQ: Tell us something about The Wild Inside that is not found in the book description.

Jamey: Since Tracy and her dad are mushers, they have about forty dogs they raise, train, and take care of. A lot of the dogs are named after dogs I know personally. For instance, Zip and Stella, in real life, are a Jack Russell terrier and a labradoodle I used to dog sit for. Homer and Canyon are actually two yellow labs that belong to some friends who took me sailing one time. The other dogs in the book have theme names, just like a lot of litters that belong to actual mushers—like the “words that convey movement” litter (Fly, Chug, Pogo).

TQ: What inspired you to write The Wild Inside? What appeals to you about writing a psychological thriller?

Jamey: The Wild Inside started as an attempt to write a horror novel because that’s what I love to read—especially horror that’s mashed up with what critics might deem “literary” fiction. I like books that seem steeped in...[read on]
Visit Jamey Bradbury's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 23, 2018

Alma Katsu

Alma Katsu's latest novel is The Hunger.

From her Entertainment Weekly Q&A with fellow novelist Jennifer McMahon:

JENNIFER MCMAHON: I’m so excited to be doing this with you, Alma! The Hunger scared the hell out me. It actually made me sleep with the hall light on. It was so well done — dark and creepy and terrifying in the best possible way.

ALMA KATSU: Well, thank you! I’m always ridiculously pleased when someone tells me I was able to terrify them with my writing. It’s like having a superpower.

MCMAHON: Isn’t it wonderful to know you’ve scared someone? I always get such a thrill when I hear that I made someone afraid to open their closet or go for a walk in the woods! There’s something incredible about being able to take my own fears, put them down on paper and share them with readers.
What inspired you to take on the Donner party in such a unique way? Was there one particular spark that started it for you?

KATSU: I think that while a lot of people have heard of the Donner Party, they don’t know the details. We’re told about it in elementary school and if we remember anything it’s that something terrible happened a long time ago and it involved cannibalism. But once you start digging into it, you see the real dimensions of the horror: after months of struggle in the wilderness, close to 100 people find themselves trapped in the mountains with no food and no chance of escape. These are all families, so it’s mothers and fathers forced to watch their children die of starvation. It’s completely horrific. You can absolutely understand why someone would contemplate cannibalism.

The more I learned, the more it seemed that the party was...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Alma Katsu's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Taker.

My Book, The Movie: The Hunger.

The Page 69 Test: The Hunger.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Alan Hollinghurst

Alan Hollinghurst's latest novel is The Sparsholt Affair. From the transcript of his NPR interview with Ari Shapiro:

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST: Alan Hollinghurst is an English novelist who likes to explore private, secret lives. His characters are often gay men, sometimes living in an earlier era when they wouldn't use the word gay to describe themselves. Hollinghurst won the Man Booker Prize in 2004 for his novel "The Line Of Beauty." His new book is called "The Sparsholt Affair." It begins in Oxford in 1940 when a bunch of college friends spot a young man through a window. He is David Sparsholt.

ALAN HOLLINGHURST: When we first meet him he is notably handsome, muscular, with a very clear sense, unlike some of the students around him, of where he's headed.

SHAPIRO: He's headed off to fight in World War II. Over the five sections of this novel, the narrative jumps forward decades in time, eventually bringing us to London in 2012. Along the way, we watch British society change. We watch characters age and raise families. But there's a lot we don't see. Many of the most dramatic moments of the story happen between the sections off-screen.

HOLLINGHURST: Especially when you're selecting five episodes from a span of 70 years you have to be pretty careful in deciding early on what you're going to omit and what you're going to include. I mean, almost everything is left out of this kind of narrative. So the selection of what goes in has to be...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Rebecca Kauffman

Rebecca Kauffman's new novel is The Gunners.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Gunners?

A: Early thoughts about the book were inspired by the question of whether or not people are capable of change. Most of us have probably had the experience of being very close to someone at one point in life, setting out in different directions and falling out of touch, and then eventually reconnecting.

I think the instinct at that point is to make a snap judgment as to the extent to which the other person has changed. (ie I can't believe how much you've changed! Or, Why, you haven't changed at all!)

I wonder how often what we identify as change - in others or ourselves - is not actually change at all, but simply an adaptation to changing circumstances, or the result of incremental adjustments made over time to suit the people around us. Or how often what we identify as change is not actually a person fleeing from their essence or true self, but drawing closer to it.

This curiosity was the basis for The Gunners, in which the main characters were very close friends as children, disbanded as high schoolers, and are...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Rania Abouzeid

Rania Abouzeid's new book is No Turning Back: Life, Loss, And Hope In Wartime Syria. From the transcript of her Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:

TERRY GROSS: Rania Abouzeid, welcome to FRESH AIR. So this week marks the seventh anniversary of the uprising in Syria of the start of the Syrian revolution, which turned into a civil war. Why has the civil war gone on so long?

RANIA ABOUZEID: Because like most civil wars, it became a proxy war for international powers with the Russians and the Iranians, Lebanese Hezbollah, Iraqi Shiite militias and Afghan mercenaries on Assad's side and Qatar, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf states, Turkey, the U.S. and the European states backing the Syrian opposition.

GROSS: So in addition to this being a proxy war, what is it about? Is it just about a fight for power? Is it still about overthrowing Assad?

ABOUZEID: The thing about the Syrian uprising is that it was existential from the beginning. The protesters knew that when they took to the streets. And the Assad regime knew that. This was a fight to the end for both sides. And it is one that is sadly continuing, as you say, seven years on.

GROSS: So you say in your book that Syria has ceased to be a unified state, except in memories and on maps. So what is it?

ABOUZEID: It's a ...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 19, 2018

Sarah McBride

Sarah McBride is a progressive activist and currently the National Press Secretary at the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization. Her new book is Tomorrow Will Be Different.

From her Q&A with Ashley Dejean for Mother Jones:

MJ: The selfie you took in a North Carolina bathroom when you were fighting against HB2, the state’s anti-trans law, went viral. You were dismayed that a lot of supporters were making comments about how it’s obvious you belong in the women’s bathroom because of the way you look. Why is that a problem?

SM: Transgender people should be treated with dignity and respect not because of how we look [but] who we are. Our access to a restroom, our access to public spaces, our access to daily life should not rest on whether we blend in.

MJ: What does your book illustrate about the state of trans storytelling?

SM: We are seeing a trend toward more multidimensional storytelling, where we’re not just talking about the coming out or the transition. We’re seeing stories of trans people in our full humanity...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Kevin Toolis

Kevin Toolis is the author of My Father's Wake: How the Irish Teach Us to Live, Love, and Die. From His Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: In your new book, you ask, “How can it be possible to never talk out loud about death in a world where everyone dies?” Why do you think that is?

A: The local radio station [in a community in Ireland] reads out the deaths, 10 or 12 people a day. If we did the same in New York, the announcer would have to read something out hundreds of times a day.

It’s a small example, but in Ireland, there is a much greater social space around death. It’s more normalized. There are more ceremonies around death. All of these are really social spaces and physical spaces. The intermingling between the living and the dead is greater than in America.

I was recently at an English funeral. There were 16 people there. It started at 10 to five [o’clock], and we were out at 20 past five, and there was no other event. No one came around to their house.

Q: The book’s subtitle is “How the Irish Teach Us to Live, Love, and Die.” Can you say more about what the Irish do differently, and what other people could learn?

A: It’s really simple. The wake is as old as the fall of Troy, if not older. At the gravesite where my father’s tomb is, there are Neolithic tombs. People were using stone tools and carrying slabs. We know often the tombs were used for 600 years. They had a mixture of bodies. The relationship between the dead and the living were important in those cultures.

In Western culture we’re embarrassed about death. How many people would go to the funeral of a colleague’s mother? We’re going in the office and walking over to the colleague and saying sorry about your loss. The courtesies of loss were more prevalent in the Victorian era in the UK and America. We’ve...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Michael Isikoff and David Corn

Michael Isikoff and David Corn are co-authors of Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin's War on America and the Election of Donald Trump. From their Q&A with Slate's Isaac Chotiner:

You write, “What could possibly explain Trump’s unwavering sympathy for the Russian strongman. His refusal to acknowledge Putin’s repressive tactics, his whitewashing of Putin’s abuses in Ukraine and Syria. His dismissal of the murders of Putin’s critics. His blind eye to Putin’s cyber-attacks and disinformation campaigns aimed at subverting Western democracy. Trump’s brief trip to Moscow held clues to this mystery.” Because of the Steele dossier and other things, there has been speculation that he’d sort of been compromised on that 2013 Miss Universe trip, which would explain his love for Putin. But one of the things that your book points out is that Trump was already a huge Putin admirer before he arrived in Moscow, perhaps because he wanted to do business deals there.

Isikoff: First of all, you’ve got to go back five months to Las Vegas where the plans for Miss Universe in Moscow are hatched. That’s the Miss USA pageant, the feeder for Miss Universe. That’s when he meets Aras Agalarov, the billionaire oligarch who’s known as “Putin’s Builder” because of all the construction projects he’s done for the Kremlin. That’s where you first meet Emin Agalarov, the pop-singer son of Aras, and Rob Goldstone, the British publicist. I have called Emin and Goldstone the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of this story because they are always there. They always keep popping up. It was at that moment when you see Trump’s eyes light up at the prospect of forming a business partnership with an oligarch who is close to Putin. This is how I can get my business deal, the Trump tower in Moscow that I’ve always wanted, actually built. I think that’s when you really start to see the fawning comments and tweets and public statements about Putin that Trump starts to make. It fits right in to the point we were trying to make in that passage about the Miss Universe pageant being the stepping stone for Trump to get...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 16, 2018

Taylor Brown

Taylor Brown's new novel is Gods of Howl Mountain.

From his LitReactor Q&A with Steph Post:

From the very first page of Gods of Howl Mountain I knew I would find a kinship in this book. One of your epigraphs is the ‘signs following’ passage from the Book of Mark, and that alone told me I was entering into a story I would find darkly comforting and familiar. As you know, I’ve written quite a bit about charismatic religion in my own books, as have other Southern writers, including Wiley Cash, of whom we both are fans. What do you think is this fascination writers have for religions on the fringe? And why was this an element you chose to explore in your novel?

Well, honestly, I first started on this book back in 2012, when I hadn’t read any novels that brought snake-handling to the fore. To be honest, I remember being a little crestfallen when I realized that Wiley Cash—who is now a great friend of mine—had written about serpent-handling and glossolalia in his incredible novel A Land More Kind than Home, which I waited for years to read, until I’d finished a couple drafts of Gods of Howl Mountain.

I grew up as a Catholic minority in South Georgia, where charismatic religion was quite prevalent. I knew of people holding multi-day prayer vigils over dead relatives, hoping to revive them before calling the authorities or coroner, and I had coworkers who spoke quite casually about their visions and visitations from Christ. Growing up Catholic, I was just enough of an outsider to find these stories fascinating.

But for me, the true fascination began with my great friend and editor Jason Frye, who grew up in Logan, West Virginia. His own grandfather had made a profit from capturing rattlesnakes to sell to local churches. Jason has a photograph of this one-armed snake-handling preacher on his office wall, and he directed me to Dennis Covington's incredible book Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia.

I think we find such religious practices so fascinating because...[read on]
Visit Taylor Brown's website.

My Book, The Movie: The River of Kings.

The Page 69 Test: The River of Kings.

Writers Read: Taylor Brown (April 2017).

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Shashi Tharoor

Shashi Tharoor is the author of Inglorious Empire: What the British did to India. From his Q&A with Sonali Campion for the British Politics and Policy blog at the LSE:

Are there any positive legacies in British rule?

Unwittingly yes, in other words things that were brought into India to further British interests, ensure British control or add to British profit have since independence been converted by the Indians to things that benefit India. But to give the British credit for something that was never intended to benefit India in the first place is a bit much. So, you see for example that the railways are so indispensable, the lifeblood in many ways of India today, but you forget that they were only intended to extract resources from the heartland to the ports in order to ship them off to England, and send troops out to keep the peace or British order. That’s what they were for.

The railways were also built at colossal expense to India, paid for entirely by the Indians while the British investors made huge profits. It was the single most profitable investment you can make in the London Stock Exchange from about 1850 to 1875 because they guaranteed returns of twice what the British government stocks was offering at that time. They did that because the Indian taxpayer was paying for it. What is more, one mile of Indian railway in India cost 9 times what the same mile would have cost in the US at that time. It was a rip off from start to finish.

When they finally added passenger carriages for Indians, wooden slats for benches deeply unpleasant conditions, they charged the Indian passengers the highest passenger rates in the world. At the same time they were charging British companies the lowest freight rates in the world. It was only after 1947 that the Free Indian Government reversed that set of priorities, made human traffic cheaper. Today it is one of the cheapest in the world railway travel, if not the cheapest, whereas freight got progressively more and more expensive. Of course now, Indian companies are bearing the brunt of these price rises so it may not be a good thing from their point of view. But the key thing is that turning the railways around to benefit the Indians was only something that happened after the independence.

One can go on...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Maud Casey

Maud Casey is the author of the novels, The Shape of Things to Come, a New York Times Notable Book, Genealogy, and The Man Who Walked Away; and a collection of stories, Drastic. She is the recipient of the Calvino Prize and has received fellowships from the Fundación Valparaiso, Hawthornden International Writers Retreat, Château de Lavigny, Dora Maar, and the Passa Porta residency at Villa Hellebosch. Casey teaches at the University of Maryland and lives in Washington, D.C.

Her new book is The Art of Mystery.

From Casey's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: What inspired The Art of Mystery, and how did you decide which authors to write about?

A: I’ve long been an admirer of Graywolf’s Art of series—meditative wanders by authors on various subjects related to poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. I use them when I teach fiction (The Art of Intimacy, Time, Perspective, Daring, among others) and I read and reread them on my own.

Criticism is as deeply personal as writing. What moves us? What should art be and do? The Art of books are intimate glimpses into a reading and, so, a writing life and, so, a life.

Mystery was a subject I’d been thinking about for a long time without fully realizing it. There’s a long history of people much wiser than I am who have thought about this elusive literary quality.

I’m sure Aristotle had something to say about it, Flannery O’Connor wrote a book about it (Mystery & Manners), but it’s James Baldwin who provided the line that guided me as I wrote. “The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions hidden by the answers.” If mystery, the genre, is about finding answers, then mystery, the elusive literary quality, is about finding questions.

As for how I decided which authors to write about, it’s a bibliophilic mixtape. They are books that affected me, and continue to affect me, on a profound level because of their abiding interest in laying bare the questions.

This laying bare of questions is...[read on]
Visit Maud Casey's website.

The Page 99 Test: Genealogy.

The Page 69 Test: The Man Who Walked Away.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Martin Dempsey

Martin Dempsey was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest-ranking U.S. military officer, from 2011 to 2015. In that role, he was the top military adviser to President Barack Obama. His book is Radical Inclusion: What the Post-9/11 World Should Have Taught Us About Leadership.

From the transcript of his interview with Fareed Zakaria:

ZAKARIA: You know, what's interesting to me about your book is that you're a military man, and people think of military men, general, you know, it's about hierarchy; it's about commands, and the whole book is actually about the importance of radical inclusion, of almost a kind of flat organization, of consensus, of trying to share both the decision-making and the responsibility.

Do you think we understand the armed forces wrong, that we don't understand how you actually -- that you actually are persuading a lot more than you're commanding?

DEMPSEY: Absolutely. And think it's because, if you think about how we've -- we as a nation have constructed our national security apparatus, it's through allies and partners, since the '50s. And in fact, we have 53 allies and partners around the globe, 28 of them in Europe in the organization called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and that's how we've built our security.

Well, as a result, military leaders who have come through that system have learned that, to achieve particular outcomes, it's not just about achieving them yourself; if you want them to last, it's about achieving them through allies and partners, which can take longer and can, you know, create frictions, but you're more likely to gain the knowledge you need to find optimal solutions. You're more likely to share the burden so solutions are affordable. And if you find optimal solutions that are affordable, they actually have a chance of enduring.

ZAKARIA: Let me ask you a question about civil military relations...


ZAKARIA: ... right now. As you know, one of the things that the American military has striven very hard to do is to be independent of the civilian authority but to also be subordinate to it.

DEMPSEY: Absolutely.

ZAKARIA: We now have a situation where you have generals running core parts of the American government. The secretary of defense is a former general; the chief of staff is a former general; and the national security adviser is a sitting in-uniform general.


ZAKARIA: Is that -- is that smart? I mean...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 12, 2018

Edward Dolnick

Edward Dolnick is the former chief science writer for The Boston Globe and is the author of, among others, The Rush and The Clockwork Universe.

Dolnick's latest book is The Seeds of Life: From Aristotle to da Vinci, from Sharks' Teeth to Frogs' Pants, the Long and Strange Quest to Discover Where Babies Come From.

From the author's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for your new book?

A: It is a curious one. I had written a previous book, The Clockwork Universe, about planets and stars and such. It dawned on me that people figured out those questions before they figured out life on earth.

This should be easy, but it came 200 years later! How come the hard questions were the easy ones and the easy questions were the hard ones? How come Newton was before Darwin?

Q: How did you research the book, and what did you learn that especially surprised you?

A: It was lots of research, and to my surprise, mostly unfamiliar territory, not just to me but to general readers. There was a lot in textbooks on embryology, but it had seldom been told as a story. The research was odd, esoteric, in bits and pieces. I was probably on some watch list for sex manuals from the...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Edward Dolnick's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Forger's Spell.

The Page 99 Test: The Clockwork Universe.

The Page 99 Test: The Rush.

The Page 99 Test: The Seeds of Life.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Tarfia Faizullah

Bangladeshi American poet Tarfia Faizullah grew up in Midland, Texas. She earned an MFA from the Virginia Commonwealth University program in creative writing. Her first book, Seam (2014), won the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award. Focused around a long sequence “Interview with a Birangona,” the book explores the ethics of interviewing as well as the history of the birangona, Bangladeshi women raped by Pakistani soldiers during the Liberation War of 1971. Her second book is Registers of Illuminated Villages (Graywolf Press, 2018).

From Faizullah's Q&A with Kathleen Rooney for the Poetry Foundation:

The title of your second book is Registers of Illuminated Villages, and its title poem is "Register of Eliminated Villages," named after 397 villages destroyed during the war in northern Iraq. The wordplay is clever but not funny per se or at least not in any but the darkest way. How did you settle on that set of titles? And how do you determine what emotional registers to use in your poems? What’s the place of somberness, and what's the place of play?

Not long ago, I was hanging out with my friend and her daughter, a five-year-old at the time, and we were playing with Play-Doh. She had just spent the better part of an hour fashioning the perfect pile of orange spaghetti and neon green meatballs. And then she brought her small, strong fist down like a hammer and smushed the whole thing to smithereens. Her mom asked, “Why do you destroy what you make?” and she answered, “To play.”

I love it so much. I’m really drawn to that kind of, I dunno, exquisite dissonance—like when my sister died and two of her friends played house and set a place for her at the play dinner table. Play is a really neat expression of humans’ ability to cope with whatever comes our way. By the way, the book title actually started out as Eliminated Villages because I thought I was writing to forget, but...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Linda Gordon

Linda Gordon, winner of two Bancroft Prizes and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, is the author of The Second Coming of the KKK: The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s and the American Political Tradition, Dorothea Lange and Impounded, and the coauthor of Feminism Unfinished. She is the Florence Kelley Professor of History at New York University and lives in New York and Madison, Wisconsin.

From Gordon's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: What accounted for the Klan’s rise in the 1920s, and how strong was its influence during that decade?

A: There are two factors. First is the rise in the volume of immigration starting in the 1880s. They were not mainly Protestants—you have all these Catholics, Jews, Greek and Russian Orthodox people, who were made to seem like a threat.

The second happened directly after World War I—a real rise in prosecution and persecution of dissenters with many deportations. It set a precedent for the idea that dissent should be repressed. That is a lot of what the Klan is about—the notion that we should all be alike. It was very uncomfortable with diversity….

Q: How does it compare with other movements of the time?

A: The film Birth of a Nation premiered in 1915. The Klan used that as an enormous tool in recruitment…It was oriented toward the South and toward scurrilous stigmatizing of African Americans. One of the things I felt from writing about this was that one kind of bigotry...[read on]
Visit Linda Gordon's website.

Writers Read: Linda Gordon.

The Page 99 Test: The Second Coming of the KKK.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 9, 2018

Steven Pinker

Steven Pinker's latest book is Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress. From his Q&A with Slate's Isaac Chotiner:
Isaac Chotiner: What is it that you think we misunderstand about our current moment in relation to our past?

Steven Pinker: The heart of the book is a set of graphs showing that measures of human well-being have improved over time. Contrary to the impression that you might get from the newspapers—that we’re living in a time of epidemics and war and crime—the curves show that humanity has been getting better, that we’re living longer, we are fighting fewer wars, and fewer people are being killed in the wars. Our rate of homicide is down. Violence against women is down. More children are going to school, girls included. More of the world is literate. We have more leisure time than our ancestors did. Diseases are being decimated. Famines are becoming rarer, so virtually anything that you could measure that you’d want to call human well-being has improved over the last two centuries, but also over the last couple of decades.

What do you want to get across other than, “Things are better”? Are you just trying to set the record straight, or are you trying to get us to think differently about the way things are now?

No, I’m absolutely trying to get people to think differently.

I put the facts of progress in the context of...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Alison Gaylin

Alison Gaylin's new novel is If I Die Tonight.

From the author's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for If I Die Tonight?

A: Two events involving social media inspired me. The first happened a few years ago, when my daughter was 13. There was a hit-and-run incident in a nearby town, involving two teenage boys from rival high schools.

What I found so remarkable about the incident was the way in which the story got spun, particularly by the kids, into something that it wasn't. Through small-town gossip and the use of social media, the narrative became something completely removed from the real story, something much bigger and elaborate and clear-cut.

One of the boys also had a 13-year-old brother, and I found myself wondering what he was going through...

The other thing that inspired me was when Sinead O'Connor posted a suicide note on Facebook. She was obviously very troubled, and being an old fan of her music I found it heartbreaking.

But the thing that I noticed most about her suicide note was that...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Alison Gaylin's website.

The Page 69 Test: Into the Dark.

The Page 69 Test: What Remains of Me.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

E.J. Swift

E.J. Swift is a speculative fiction writer based in London. Her new novel is Paris Adrift. From her Q&A with DJ at mylifemybooksmyescape:

DJ: What is Paris Adrift about?

E.J.: It’s a tale of time travel, bartenders and the City of Light. Hallie is a young woman who moves to Paris to try and escape her past. Initially it’s all going well: she finds a bar job and a community of fellow drifters in the bohemian district of Montmartre, but gets more than she bargained for when she discovers a time portal in the keg room, meets the mysterious Chronometrist, and finds herself caught up in a mission to prevent the end of the world.

DJ: What were some of your influences for Paris Adrift?

E.J.: I lived in Paris for 18 months and fell in love with the city, particularly the area of Montmartre which is a hybrid of the picturesque – Sacre Coeur and the brasseries and boutique stores of Rue des Abbesses – and the grubbier, seedier side of Paris. I also adore the film Moulin Rouge, although...[read on]
See Swift's five best SFF books set in Paris.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Virginia Eubanks

Virginia Eubanks is the author of a new book, Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police and Punish the Poor. From the transcript of her interview with NPR's Ari Shapiro:

SHAPIRO: Virginia Eubanks argues that many of the automated systems that deliver public services today are rigged against the people these programs are supposed to serve. She dives deep into three examples of automated public services - welfare benefits in Indiana, housing for the homeless in Los Angeles and children's services in Allegheny County, Pa., which includes Pittsburgh.

The Indiana case was so bad that the state eventually gave up on the automated system. Virginia Eubanks started by telling me what state lawmakers were trying to accomplish through automation.

EUBANKS: Indiana was attempting to save money and to make the system more efficient. But the way the system rolled out, it seems like one of the intentions was actually to break the relationship between caseworkers and the families they served. The governor sort of did a press tour around this contract. And one of the things he kept bringing up was there was one case where two case workers had colluded with some recipients to defraud the government for about - I think it was about $8,000.

And the governor used this case over and over and over again to suggest that when caseworkers and families have personal relationships, that it's an invitation to fraud. So the system was actually designed to break that relationship. So what happened is the state replaced about 1,500 local caseworkers with online forms and regional call centers.

And that resulted in a million benefits denials in the first three years of the experiment, which was a 54 percent increase from the three years before.

SHAPIRO: Is an automated system of public services inherently going to be less helpful, less effective than something like Uber or Lyft or Amazon or all the automated things that people who are not in poverty rely on every day?

EUBANKS: No. There's nothing intrinsic in automation that makes it bad for the poor. One of my greatest fears...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 5, 2018

Celia C. Pérez

Celia C. Pérez is the author of The First Rule of Punk. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The First Rule of Punk, and for your character Malú?

A: The idea and the character came, in part, from my own experiences growing up as a child of immigrants and as a reader. Growing up, I often felt like I didn't quite fit in. My dad is Cuban and my mom is Mexican so there was always a feeling of being in between cultures. Being bicultural in the U.S. added another element of being neither one nor the other.

Growing up as a reader, I didn't see a character or story that closely resembled my own until I was in college. I got into punk and making zines, which are a great way to express yourself and your interests, a long time ago.

So when I started writing this character it just felt natural to make her a little punk who not only didn't fit in with her mom's expectation of what it was like to be a girl and Mexican American, but who also...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Gregg Easterbrook

Gregg Easterbrook's latest book is It's Better Than It Looks: Reasons for Optimism in an Age of Fear. From the transcript of his interview with NPR's Sarah McCammon:

MCCAMMON: And you do write that President Trump and other politicians have sold the American people and perhaps the British people on a much dimmer view of the state of things. You write Trump convinced voters that our country is going to hell. Despite the industrial output record, Trump convinced voters that we don't make things anymore. Despite the glittering numbers, Trump convinced voters that the economy is always bad - down, down, down. Despite the urban comebacks of Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., Trump convinced voters that American cities have no education, they have no jobs and so on. So if everything is so great, then why is this idea that you call declinism so alluring for so many people?

EASTERBROOK: I think there - I say in the book there are four basic categories of knowing, and one is certainty. The sun is 93 million miles from the Earth. There's nothing to discuss there. Another is faith versus doubt. We can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God. A third is opinion. Which beer do you like the best? I mean, it's just opinion. And then there's what you want to believe. What you want to believe is so much stronger than all other forms of knowing.

Americans want to believe that their country is falling apart. This is not a brand-new belief. This belief has been deep in American culture for generations. Far in the past, intellectuals thought America was falling apart. We seemed to have trained ourselves to believe this despite declining pollution, increasing longevity, less discrimination, less violence. Everything that you can measure has been steadily better during the lifetime of almost all of your listeners to this program.

MCCAMMON: We can't talk about the future without talking, I think, about one of the biggest threats - that being climate change. You acknowledge that rising sea levels pose a major threat to people's lives and livelihoods. But even on that topic, you express optimism that between technology and adaptation, humans will solve that problem, too. You know, we're already seeing rising seas and global warming. Why are you so optimistic we can solve this one in time?

EASTERBROOK: A core distinction I try to make in "It's Better Than It Looks" is being optimistic doesn't mean...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Lianne Oelke

Lianne Oelke's new young adult novel is Nice Try, Jane Sinner.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for your novel, and for your character Jane Sinner?

A: I struggled with depression in university, and keeping a journal helped me deal with all my negative thoughts. When I re-read what I wrote, I didn't like the person I was. I started typing up the journal entries so I could take out things I didn't like and add things that made me laugh.

Eventually I realized that I was writing about someone like me, but different. Bolder. Someone with a cool name, like Jane Sinner. I weaved in a plot to tie everything together (I was watching a lot of The Bachelor at the time, so reality TV was a natural choice).

Once I decided I was writing a novel, it took about three years to finish a draft I was reasonably proud of.

Q: What do you think the book says about the role of reality TV in today’s world?

A: Reality TV--just like social media--has done so much to open up personal lives to the world. Anyone can share anything, and it's both intimate and alienating.

Part of the appeal of putting yourself out there is that it....[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 2, 2018

Sarah McBride

Sarah McBride is a progressive activist and currently the National Press Secretary at the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization. Her new book is Tomorrow Will Be Different.

From the transcript of McBride's Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. And if you're just joining us, my guest is Sarah McBride. She's the author of the new memoir "Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, And The Fight For Trans Equality." She's the national spokesperson for Human Rights Campaign, the LGBTQ advocacy group, and she was the first trans intern at the White House during the Obama administration. She was the first trans person to speak at a convention, and that was at Hillary Clinton's convention in 2016.

So, you know, you write that when you came out as trans, you were so focused on transphobia and worrying about transphobia that you weren't prepared for just, like, your basic sexism and misogyny. (Laughter) So...

MCBRIDE: (Laughter) Yeah.

GROSS: So what experiences taught you about sexism and misogyny that you weren't prepared for?

MCBRIDE: Well, you know, I had always tried to think about the phobias and the isms in the world that people of every marginalized background face. But as you mentioned, I was so scared of the transphobia that I didn't I think fully wrap my mind around just how ever-present misogyny and sexism would be.

And you know, I - the experience that really sticks out in my mind and one I'll never forget is sort of the feeling the first time I faced street harassment or catcalling on the street. And the notion of someone else feeling entitled to comment - a complete stranger - on my body - I didn't fully realize just how dehumanizing that would feel in addition to also threatening my safety and making me worried about sexual assault. That of course as a trans person is also wrapped up in a fear that if they realize that they're attracted to or even sexually assaulting a trans person, that it can escalate into even fatal violence.

But it was sort of that experience of not just the feeling of a lack of safety which I sort of understood but also that that less-tangible indignity, that less-tangible dehumanization that one experiences when a stranger feels entitled to comment on their body and then just navigating the world in and the thousands of little decisions one has to make in order to navigate this world that really is built for men, to avoid the judgments that could result in anything from being dismissed in a workplace to potentially facing violence. And I think the scope of those decisions and the scope of that ever-present prejudice really shocked me and shocked my system.

GROSS: So give me an example of a decision you had to make.

MCBRIDE: Well, I think, I mean - I think the most obvious example is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Robin Oliveira

Robin Oliveira's new novel is Winter Sisters. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Why did you decide to write a second novel about your character Mary Sutter?

A: Actually, I didn’t make a concrete decision to write a second novel about Mary; it came about somewhat organically.

I was at the beginning of writing an entirely different book about an American woman who marries a Russian in the early 20th century, when, in the process of researching that book, I discovered that in 1879, in New York State, the age of consent was 10 years old.

That changed everything. I abandoned the earlier story and returned to historic Albany, N.Y., as the setting for the book.

Early on, when I knew that a doctor’s services would be called for, I thought Mary might make a cameo appearance. But the issues explored in the novel turned out to be grave, and I knew that if Mary got wind of them, she...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Robin Oliveira's website.

The Page 69 Test: My Name Is Mary Sutter.

--Marshal Zeringue