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Dave Minneman, heroic portrait

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History Aug 25.

East Asheville history and sites

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The German experience settling WNC 1 Reply

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Mark de Castrique posted a blog post
Oct 13
Rob Neufeld's discussion was featured

Dave Minneman, heroic portrait

Dave Minneman and a sense of justiceby Rob NeufeldPHOTO CAPTION: Dave Minneman doing research at Pack Memorial Library.  Photo by author.            “One of the biggest things I did as a kid, in order to escape my father,” Asheville resident Dave Minneman says of his 1960s and 70s rural Indiana childhood, “was…See More
Oct 8
Julia Nunnally Duncan posted an event

Julia Nunnally Duncan at MACA Authors' Booth

October 14, 2017 from 9:30am to 1:30pm
Julia Nunnally Duncan will be signing her new books A Part of Me and A Place That Was Home at the Mountain Glory Festival in downtown Marion on Saturday, October 14, from 9:30-1:30. She will be located at the MACA Authors' booth on Main Street.See More
Oct 7
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Sample 8 Great Smokies Writers at Malaprop’s, Oct. 15

Writers in UNC Asheville’s Great Smokies Writing Program (GSWP)read atMalaprop's Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood St., Asheville, 3 p.m., Sun.,Oct. 15 Elizabeth Lutyens, editor of the GSWP’s Great Smokies Review, leads the Prose Master Class and will host the reading. ·        Ellen Carr, who works in the financial industry, will read excerpts from her novel of uneasy relationships, Unmanned. ·        Sarah Carter, an artist and photographer who will publish an excerpt of her novel, Jolene, Joe-Pye,…See More
Oct 6
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Ellington in Asheville--a survey

The Douglas Ellington effect: An Appreciationby Rob NeufeldIMAGE: Douglas Ellington’s original drawing for a City Hall-County Courthouse Art Deco complex.            “Dear Douglas,” Kenneth Ellington wrote his brother, the 38-year old Pittsburgh architect, on May 6, 1925, “I know things are…See More
Oct 6
Mark de Castrique posted a blog post

How To Kill Your Reader

Danger is a crucial element in a mystery novel. A killer is on the loose and no one is safe. But sometimes the killer can be the writer, and the victim, the reader.I'm talking about when the author turns into a preacher and the story becomes a sermon. Now I am not against using a mystery novel for social commentary. Writing doesn't happen in a moral vacuum, and, after all, isn't a mystery a morality play? As fellow North Carolina author Margaret Maron said there is no topic that can't be dealt…See More
Oct 5
Mark de Castrique posted a video

Hidden Scars - A Sam Blackman Mystery

Sam Blackman and Nakayla Robertson investigate a 70-year-old death that unleashes a killer.
Oct 3
Mark de Castrique posted a discussion

Black Mountain College as Backdrop for Mystery

My new book, HIDDEN SCARS, is released Oct 3rd.  D.G. Martin notes the star of the story is Black Mountain College.  http://chapelboro.com/town-square/columns/one-on-one/one-one-lost-college-still-shinesSee More
Oct 3
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Upcoming book--Sacred Sites for Secular Times

Sacred Sites for Secular Times: 50 Commemorative Experiences in Western North Carolina by Rob Neufeld              Among the many sites dedicated to history, there are some—both overbooked and overlooked—that provide full and moving experiences.  They involve a physical component, connecting to landscape; an imaginative one, entering other times and minds; and an interactive one, maintaining relevance.             The entries in this book help create full experiences through descriptive…See More
Sep 25
Susan Weinberg posted events
Sep 22
Susan Weinberg shared their event on Facebook
Sep 22
Susan Weinberg shared their event on Facebook
Sep 22
Kathryn Hall posted a blog post

Aim for Beauty

In honor of my blog Plant Whatever Brings You Joy's 10th Blogiversary I've posted a chapter from my book Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden. This particular chapter was also excerpted in Fairview's GreenPrints magazine, which was greatly appreciated. Read more here: http://plantwhateverbringsyoujoy.com/aim-for-beauty/…See More
Sep 11
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

McCrumb ghost-opened world in The Unquiet Grave

McCrumb sees stories behind haunting ghost by Rob NeufeldPHOTO: Sharyn McCrumb and her dog Arthur, 2017.  Photo by Laura Palmer, courtesy, Sharyn McCrumb In “The Unquiet Grave,” Sharyn McCrumb once again demonstrates her mastery at turning a folktale into something larger, different, and greater.The legend of the…See More
Sep 10
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

James Vestus Miller

­HISTORIC PHOTO James Vester Miller James Vester Miller had been a boy when his mother, a Rutherfordton slave, had responded to Emancipation by taking her three children to Asheville and getting a job as a cook in a boardinghouse—some say Julia Wolfe’s boardinghouse, Old Kentucky Home.  Growing up, Miller hung…See More
Aug 26
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Dave Minneman, heroic portrait

Dave Minneman and a sense of justiceby Rob NeufeldPHOTO CAPTION: Dave Minneman doing research at Pack Memorial Library.  Photo by author.            “One of the biggest things I did as a kid, in order to escape my father,” Asheville resident Dave Minneman says of his 1960s and 70s rural Indiana childhood, “was…See More
Aug 25

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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