LIC: Authors Speak Out on America
Join Book Culture LIC on Thursday, September 19th at 6:30pm as we welcome Loretta Oleck (We Refugees), Roxana Robinson (Dawson's Fall), and Melissa Rivero (The Affairs of the Falcóns) for a panel discussion about the state of America. Jan Alexander (Ms. Ming's Guide to Civilization) will moderate the event.
Pact Press brings you We Refugees, the third anthology in a series designed to spark conversation, promote awareness, and generate funds to advance social justice and amplify the voices of the marginalized. Rather than the vision of crisis so often portrayed in the media, the poems, essays, and personal reflections in We Refugees are moving accounts of individual suffering and fortitude; demonstrations of the great willingness shared by many to bridge cultural divides and offer hope and healing; and celebrations of the courage of people who have been forced to leave their homes and seek new ones. The contributors are Kirsty Anantharajah, Jennifer deBie, Nina Foushee, Robbie Gamble, Akuol Garang, Sharif Gemie, Steven Jakobi, Enesa Mahmic, Loretta Oleck, Virginia Ryan, Judith Skillman, and Mitchell Toews. Pact Press is proud, through the sale of this anthology, to support the work of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC), which advocates for, empowers, and provides material support to people seeking asylum.
In Dawson’s Fall, a novel based on the lives of Roxana Robinson’s great-grandparents, we see America at its most fragile, fraught, and malleable. Set in 1889, in Charleston, South Carolina, Robinson’s tale weaves her family’s journal entries and letters with a novelist’s narrative grace, and spans the life of her tragic hero, Frank Dawson, as he attempts to navigate the country’s new political, social, and moral landscape.
Dawson, a man of fierce opinions, came to this country as a young Englishman to fight for the Confederacy in a war he understood as a conflict over states’ rights. He later became the editor of the Charleston News and Courier, finding a platform of real influence in the editorial column and emerging as a voice of the New South. With his wife and two children, he tried to lead a life that adhered to his staunch principles: equal rights, rule of law, and nonviolence, unswayed by the caprices of popular opinion. But he couldn’t control the political whims of his readers. As he wrangled diligently in his columns with questions of citizenship, equality, justice, and slavery, his newspaper rapidly lost readership, and he was plagued by financial worries. Nor could Dawson control the whims of the heart: his Swiss governess became embroiled in a tense affair with a drunkard doctor, which threatened to stain his family’s reputation. In the end, Dawson—a man in many ways representative of the country at this time—was felled by the very violence he vehemently opposed.
Ana Falcón, along with her husband Lucho and their two young children, has fled the economic and political strife of Peru for a chance at a new life in New York City in the 1990s. Being undocumented, however, has significantly curtailed the family’s opportunities: Ana is indebted to a loan shark who calls herself Mama, and is stretched thin by unceasing shifts at her factory job. To make matters worse, Ana must also battle both criticism from Lucho’s cousin—who has made it obvious the family is not welcome to stay in her spare room for much longer—and escalating and unwanted attention from Mama’s husband.
As the pressure builds, Ana becomes increasingly desperate. While Lucho dreams of returning to Peru, Ana is deeply haunted by the demons she left behind and determined to persevere in this new country. But how many sacrifices is she willing to make before admitting defeat and returning to Peru? And what lines is she willing to cross in order to protect her family?
The Affairs of the Falcóns is a beautiful, deeply urgent novel about the lengths one woman is willing to go to build a new life, and a vivid rendering of the American immigrant experience.
Ming, born in a bleak outpost of Sichuan province, finds an unexpected glimpse of the world beyond when she meets a talking monkey with golden eyes and supernatural abilities—the immortal Monkey King, with whom Ming’s destiny is inextricably intertwined. Determined to become a writer, Ming finds her way to New York, but to make ends meet she goes to work for a crime ring and returns to China on the lam. Hope arrives in the form of her American friend Zoe. Together, they travel to the village of Ming’s birth, where the clouds writhe like phantoms and the rain never stops, where Ming and Zoe join forces with a certain down-and-out immortal who has an ambitious plan to save the world from capitalism run amok. When a nation of tycoons and financiers suddenly and inexplicably decide that the key to happiness lies in sharing one’s wealth and pursuing a contemplative life, nobody suspects the newly formed tech company run by Ming, Zoe, and William Sun. Hyper-capitalist China rapidly becomes a paradise for artists, thinkers, and lovers—a rollicking playground where the air is clean and the strangest words you can hear are, “I can’t afford it!” But it’s a short-lived Xanadu once human nature begins to intervene. In Ms. Ming’s Guide to Civilization, as in life and politics, every action provokes an equal and opposite reaction.
Loretta Oleck is a poet, humanitarian, and psychotherapist. Her poem “Laya and Aseel,” inspired by her work at a Syrian refugee camp, appears in the new anthology We Refugees, and in Paper Chains, a poetry collection about the refugee camp due out in 2020. A play about refugees will be produced by Studio Theater in Exile in March 2020. Her previous poetry collections are Songs from the Black Hole (Finishing Line Press), and Persephone Dreaming of Cherries (Hurricane Press). Her poetry and photography have been published in dozens of publications including The Stockholm Review of Literature, The Adirondack Review, The Missing Slate, Obsidian Literature, Black Lawrence Press, So to Speak: Feminist Journal of Language and Art, Feminist Studies, The Laurel Review, and Dove Tales: Writing for Peace. She was a 2016 Pushcart Poetry Prize nominee and has also published six books in the field of mental health. She co-owns a coffeehouse in Tarrytown, NY that serves up a great latte.
Roxana Robinson's new novel is Dawson’s Fall. She is the author of five previous novels, including Sparta and Cost; three collections of short stories; and the biography Georgia O'Keeffe: A Life. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and Vogue, among other publications. She has received fellowships from the NEA and the Guggenheim Foundation. She was president of the Authors Guild from 2014 to 2017. She teaches in the Hunter MFA program at Hunter College and divides her time among New York, Connecticut, and Maine.
Melissa Rivero was born in Lima, Peru and grew up in Brooklyn. A former Emerging Writers Fellow at the Center for Fiction, she is a graduate of NYU and Brooklyn Law School. She currently works as in-house legal counsel at a startup. Melissa still lives in Brooklyn with her family. The Affairs of the Falcóns, her first novel, is a finalist for the New American Voices Award and long-listed for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize.
Jan Alexander is the author of the new novel Ms. Ming’s Guide to Civilization, a Leapfrog Fiction Prize semi-finalist, and editor-at-large for Neworld Review, where she has been conducting a series of interviews with authors who’ve written about the state of America today, including Kurt Andersen, Helen Benedict, Roxana Robinson, Jane Smiley and others. She is the author of the previous novel Getting to Lamma and co-author of Bad Girls of the Silver Screen, a look at Hollywood’s depiction of prostitutes through the ages. She has an M.A. in Chinese studies from Columbia University and has taught Chinese history and politics at Brooklyn College.