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Interview with Gail Godwin about Grief Cottage

Started by Rob Neufeld in AC-T Book Reviews Aug 3, 2017.

Ellington in Asheville--a survey

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History Oct 6, 2017.

Dave Minneman, heroic portrait

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Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Let’s say every word is precious

Let’s say every word is precious (Part of Living Poem) Let’s say every word is precious.Say every word is precious.Every word is precious.Every word precious.Every word.Word.--Rob Neufeld, Oct. 16, 2018See More
Wednesday
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Oct 12
Nancy Sutton replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Metamorphoses
"Poignant in so many ways!   "
Oct 3
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Metamorphoses

Metamorphoses (Part of Living Poem)Hear audio: Metamorphoses%20181004_0192.MP3 So Apollo committed the first rape.He’d come back from exterminating Python,The Bane of Humanity, now his arrow-victim,And stopped to mock…See More
Oct 2
Joan Henehan replied to Joan Henehan's discussion on Reading Living Poem
"Fantastic, that will be very helpful."
Sep 22
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

First Drumbeat

First Drumbeat(Part of Living Poem) The time has come.Call it a drum,Or a crumb,What’s left of life. I used to tell a jokeWhen my life was wide,And I was a stud,And not a dud—I knowI’m not a dud.  I’m a dude,A dad.  But everyone mustRebut the dud chargeAt summing up time. Oh yeah, the joke,A trademark one for meIn that it’s not funny. I used to say I’ll never retireFrom writingBecause if I’m ever…See More
Sep 22
Rob Neufeld replied to Joan Henehan's discussion on Reading Living Poem
"Thanks for the prompt, Joan!  I have attached the whole work in progress as a doc at the bottom of the table of contents page: http://thereadonwnc.ning.com/special/living-poem"
Sep 22
Joan Henehan replied to Joan Henehan's discussion on Reading Living Poem
"Is there a way from this website to print everything or might you send me such a document to bayjh@icloud.com?"
Sep 22
Julia Nunnally Duncan posted an event
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Julia Nunnally Duncan at Marion Branch McDowell County Public Library

October 24, 2018 from 4pm to 5pm
Julia Nunnally Duncan will be launching her new poetry collection A Neighborhood Changes (Finishing Line Press, 2018) at a book presentation and signing to be held at the McDowell County Public Library in Marion on October 24.See More
Sep 21
Rob Neufeld replied to Joan Henehan's discussion on Reading Living Poem
"This could be interesting--thanks!  I'm at 828-505-1973 (my home business office).  And RNeufeld@charter.net."
Sep 20
Joan Henehan replied to Joan Henehan's discussion on Reading Living Poem
"I'll ask the kids, Barb and Ethan, if they have any contacts who might have an interest in this as a unique topic for any performers they know. It might also be something that my friend Ruby Lerner could brainstorm about to her theatre…"
Sep 19
Rob Neufeld replied to Joan Henehan's discussion on Reading Living Poem
"Thanks much, Joan!  I'm trying to get some attention for these poems.  Triple Whammy is def in rap style.  And the beat goes on.  Hugs from me and Bev."
Sep 19
Joan Henehan posted a discussion

on Reading Living Poem

You might be the first ALS-subject-matter rapper. Add some beats and spread it. the time is now...See More
Sep 15
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

More from the World of ALS

More from the World of ALS (Part of Living Poem)    Negotiating steps is like someone who seeksTo emulate a goat on mountain peaks. Crossing a threshold, limping inIs like the valley-walking of an Olympian. A cane and its grip make a fellow stopTo consider the physics of leans and drops. To know how a forefinger grabs and digsImagine your digits are chestnut twigs When a new drug trial notably…See More
Sep 6
Nancy Werking Poling posted a discussion

RANDALL KENAN SELECTS NANCY WERKING POLING WINNER OF THE 2018 ALEX ALBRIGHT CREATIVE NONFICTION PRIZE

RANDALL KENAN SELECTS NANCY WERKING POLING WINNER OF THE 2018 ALEX ALBRIGHT CREATIVE NONFICTION PRIZE(31 August 2018)Nancy Werking Poling of Black Mountain is the winner of the 2018 Alex Albright Creative Nonfiction Prize competition for "Leander’s Lies." Poling will receive $1000 from the North Carolina Literary Review, thanks to a generous NCLR reader’s donation that allowed this year’s honorarium to increase (from the previous award of $250). Her winning essay will be published in the North…See More
Sep 4
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Sep 4

Chaucer in earthquake city! Divakaruni's latest has victims relate life-changing moments

Author is one of many great ones at four-day festival

by Rob Neufeld

`”Everything will be all right,” thought author Chitra Divakaruni as Hurricane Ike pummeled her family to the edge of death in Houston in 2008.

She’d aided Katrina refugees in 2005, and then experienced Hurricane Rita herself, stranded in a car during an evacuation. Her family wasn’t going through that again, so they stayed put with Ike. Divakaruni felt, as her house was being blown apart, an extreme calm and sense of protection

Such a predicament transfers to nine characters in Divakarni’s new novel, One Amazing Thing, as they face death in a basement office buried by an earthquake. The cast is determined by the place—the Indian visa office in San Francisco—and the meaning of “all right” is ambiguous.

Graced by stories


Divakaruni is Wednesday night’s featured author in Western Carolina University’s eighth annual Spring Literary Festival, a premiere event in this region. She is joined by Jill McCorkle, Patricia Smith, Silas House, and other standouts in the four-night series (see box).

One Amazing Thing, Divakaruni’s eleventh novel and sixteenth book, is a suspenseful disaster tale and a brilliant showcase of storytelling power. The first character, Uma Singh, an American graduate student from Kolkata (Calcutta), brings to the unlucky site of her entrapment a copy of The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer. Later, faced by her group’s intemperate reaction to disaster, she proposes that people take turns telling stories.

Each story is a revelation (“one amazing thing”) and a salvation. The survivors are able to feel “all right” and bridge cultural boundaries with compassion.

At the first telling, we read, “They arranged the chairs into a circle. Malathi (the office receptionist) came out with a tin of Kool-Aid fruit punch. (Where had she hidden it? What else was she hiding?)…Cameron (the survival leader) switched off both flashlights.”

The companions “were ready to listen to one another,” Divakaruni writes. “No, they were ready to listen to the story, which is sometimes greater than the person who speaks it.”

Gather in the dark


When Divakaruni had been a girl, she had spent summers at her mother’s parents’ place in Gurap—a rural village a couple of hours from Calcutta. “Every evening when it got dark,” Divakaruni related in an interview with the Citizen-Times, “my grandfather (Nibaran Ghosh) would light a lantern, and he would call all of us cousins, and we would all come into his room. We’d sit around the lantern, and he would, in the dark, start telling us stories out of our folktales and fairy tales and epics.”

In her youth, Divakaruni had been immersed in her own Bengali culture. Leaving it for America as a teen, she became enamored of multi-culturalism.

In the claustrophobic setting of One Amazing Thing, Divakaruni assembles: Uma, the westernized student; Cameron, an African American Buddhist and Vietnam War vet; Malathi, a Tamil-speaking receptionist and aspiring beauty salon owner; Mr. Mangalam, the failed Hindu office manager; Tariq, an Indian American Muslim and radical recruit; Jiang, a Chinese Christian widow; Lily, Jiang’s 13-year old Goth granddaughter; Mr. Pritchett, an accountant with a bruised past; and Mrs. Pritchett, a dutiful wife going through a life change and headed toward a vacation in a converted Indian palace.

Karma


The value of the characters’ storytelling is heightened by the sickening progress of the disaster. After a couple of startling shifts downward in hope and living conditions, Mrs. Pritchett says, “God hasn’t forgotten us…He knows our entire histories, past and future both, and gives us what we deserve.”

The meaning of fate—and karma—is open to interpretation not just for the reader, but also for each participant in the drama. In Mrs. Pritchett’s case, she had experienced how the merest of incidents—witnessing an elderly man flick dirt off his blind wife’s coat after he’d seated her in a restaurant—caused a landslide within her. She missed tenderness in her life; and, had, in her youth, missed a chance at self-fulfillment.

Others reveal similar ambushes by disproportionately small incidents.

Tariq, the Muslim boy, had achieved a new sense of manhood in a transformational moment with Farah, an intellectual Muslim woman visiting his parents from India. At first, cocky about his American streetwise ways, he’d resented her; and he’d made her cry by telling her to “go back home.” He’d apologized and then seen the frailty beneath her strength. “The thin, curved rod of her collarbone reminded him, illogically, of a fledgling bird. That was when he started to fall in love.”

Real-life applications


In addition to being mesmerizing, One Amazing Thing is provocative. I can hardly think of a better book discussion choice.

When Divakaruni thinks about storytelling applications in practical life, she thinks about book discussions. She recalls the hurricane refugees, victims of domestic abuse, and inner city students whom she has helped through story-telling. She involves her family members, who continue her traditions. And she promotes library programs and diverse conferences, where special spaces are provided and magic shared.

Book reviewed
One Amazing Thing
by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (Voice/Hyperion hardcover, 227 pages, $23.00)

See the interview with Divakaruni.
See WCU event site.

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