Thursday, November 23, 2017

Sujatha Gidla

Sujatha Gidla’s new book is Ants Among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India.

From the author's conversation with Slate's Isaac Chotiner:

Can you explain why someone’s caste in India is so hard to hide? I think a common American response could be, why do you tell people what your caste is?

Oh, caste is a village social institution. The village social institution persisted for a very long time, and it still does because 80 percent of Indians still live in villages. In villages, castes are very distinct by their occupation, for one thing, and second where they live. Each caste has its own colony. That is where they live. All castes don’t live together mingled. Each has separate colonies.

Because of that, everybody knows who you are and also because of what job you do. When it comes to cities, people who came from villages, they still carry those, “Oh, you are such and such person’s relative,” this and that, so they would know. Apart from that, the way you dress, your surname, what you eat, what gods you’re worshiping, and whether you can wear jewelry or not and how you cut your hair. All of these things show your caste. And because the system is 3,000 years old, even if it scientifically does not have a genetic imprint, it has something very close to it. People’s body language—the way they carry themselves—shows what caste they are.

I’m sure their physical health, too.

Oh yeah, of course.

Why are even left-wing political parties in India so casteist?

The Communist Party of India was dominated by the land-owning Kamma caste, and it’s indistinguishable from a caste-based party. That’s why Communists are all upper-caste. … They bring in their own ideology, instead of...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Jonathan Eig

Ken Burns calls Jonathan Eig a "master storyteller." Eig is the author of five books, two of them New York Times best sellers.

His new biography is Ali: A Life.

From Eig's Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: What did the research involve for this book, and what type of cooperation did you receive from his relatives and friends?

A: I interviewed more than 200 people, dug through Ali’s old business records, found court files showing that Ali’s grandfather was a convicted murderer, listened to old audiotaped interviews with Ali from the 1960s, got the FBI to release case files on Ali, did original research counting every punch of Ali’s career, and conducted a study with speech scientists at Arizona State University to measure the effect of all those punches on Ali’s speech rate.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. This was more than four years of work. I poured everything I had into this. Ali’s second and third wives sat for multiple long interviews. His fourth and final wife coached me and answered a few questions but declined to do a long session.

Some of his kids cooperated, some didn’t. Almost all...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Jonathan Eig's website.

The Page 99 Test: Get Capone.

The Page 99 Test: The Birth of the Pill.

My Book, The Movie: Ali: A Life.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Ray Dialo

Ray Dalio is the founder and co-chairman of Bridgewater Associates, which, over the last forty years, has become the largest and best performing hedge fund in the world. Dalio has appeared on the Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world as well as the Bloomberg Markets list of the 50 most influential people. His new book is Principles: Life and Work.

From the transcript of Dalio's interview with Fareed Zakaria:

ZAKARIA: You have this fascinating new book out. I don't want to let you go without asking you about one thing that everybody wonders about because you talk about it in the book and you are famous for it, which is that, at your firm there is this idea of radical transparency, which means people have to disagree clearly, publicly with others.

And people always wonder, do you take it to the point where people in your firm, actually, routinely look you in the eye and tell you, Ray Dalio, you're the boss, but you're completely 100 percent wrong?


DALIO: I need that. Yes. And I need that. I do it because I need it. I set up a company. If I don't have that engagement, besides my not hearing things that I need to have, can you imagine what it's like for you to be in the company, being in a position where you have to hold that inside of yourself? And then, you're walking around, thinking I did something stupid around in a company and you can't speak up?

You can't build a culture that way. In order to have independent thinkers around to get at the best ideas and have great collective decision-making, you have to be able to have thoughtful disagreement to rise above it.

I think that there's a challenge a lot of people have emotionally to being able to have disagreements. Shouldn't disagreement be a source of curiosity?

And also, if people are disagreeing, then somebody must be...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 20, 2017

Kathryn Erskine

Kathryn Erskine's new novel for kids is The Incredible Magic of Being. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Incredible Magic of Being, and for your main character, Julian?

A: Like all of my fictional characters, Julian popped into my head unannounced. I never know where they come from, or why, until I start writing down what they say, how they interact with a variety of characters who also arrive in my head, where they live, what’s bothering them, and eventually I figure out the real life circumstances that gave birth to them.

I started this novel not long after cancer treatment and I think my appreciation for life, and a feeling of urgency to experience and enjoy everything we can, even when things (and people) around us aren’t perfect, came through in Julian and the story itself.

Of all my characters, Julian is the most like I was as a child — except I didn’t...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Kathryn Erskine's website.

Check out Erskine's top 10 first person narratives.

Coffee with a Canine: Kathryn Erskine & Fletcher.

The Page 69 Test: The Badger Knight.

Writers Read: Kathryn Erskine (September 2014).

My Book, The Movie: The Badger Knight.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Candida R. Moss & Joel S. Baden

Candida R. Moss & Joel S. Baden are the authors of Bible Nation: The United States of Hobby Lobby. From their Q&A at the Princeton University Press blog:

What does the crafting store Hobby Lobby have to do with the Bible?

For those who know Hobby Lobby simply from its hundreds of stores, the connection with the Bible may not be immediately apparent. But the owners of Hobby Lobby, the Green family, have been major players in the world of evangelical Christianity for many years. In the last decade or so, they have been working toward the opening of a new Museum of the Bible, scheduled to open in November 2017 in Washington D.C., just a few blocks from the National Mall. To this end, they have been collecting biblical artifacts at an astonishing rate: around 40,000 items in total. A group of scholars has been recruited to study and publish much of this material. The Greens have also created a Bible curriculum, originally intended for public schools, and now marketed to home-schoolers. The question we try to address in the book is how the evangelical beliefs of the Green family have influenced these various Bible-oriented ventures, and what it means for the kinds of products, including the museum, that they are producing.

Forty thousand items— that sounds like a lot!

Indeed. Most collections of that size take generations to build, but the Greens acquired the bulk of their collection in just a few years. The speed with which they went about this came with some complications, though, as was featured in the news earlier this summer: thousands of cuneiform texts from Iraq had been illegally imported to the U.S. and were seized by customs officials, with the result that Hobby Lobby had to forfeit them. In the early years of their buying spree, they seem not to have been especially careful to observe the proper cultural heritage laws.

What about their Bible curriculum?

Originally, the curriculum they developed was going to be used in American public schools, as part of an elective course. When the ACLU got their hands on the draft of the curriculum, however, it quickly became apparent that this was not a purely secular view of the Bible that was being presented. It was ...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Jennifer Robson

Jennifer Robson's latest novel is Goodnight from London.

From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: While your other novels focused on World War I and its aftermath, your new novel focuses on World War II. Why did you decide to move on to a different time period?

A: I think it was largely a feeling of wanting to keep things fresh – it’s easy to find yourself revisiting similar themes or conflicts if you stay focused on one period for too long. And the Second World War is nothing short of a gold mine for any novelist who is looking for inspiring and memorable stories to tell.

Q: Your main character, Ruby, is an American journalist working in London, and your own grandmother was a journalist during this same time frame. What do Ruby's experiences say about the role of women journalists in the WWII era?

A: The barriers that Ruby faces, along with the prejudices against women in her profession, are pretty typical of the era; to quote my own grandmother, newspaperwomen (her preferred term) needed to...[read on]
Visit Jennifer Robson's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Jennifer Robson & Ellie.

My Book, The Movie: After the War Is Over.

The Page 69 Test: After the War Is Over.

Writers Read: Jennifer Robson (February 2016).

My Book, The Movie: Moonlight Over Paris.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 17, 2017

Andrea J. Ritchie

Andrea Ritchie is a Black lesbian immigrant and police misconduct attorney and organizer who has engaged in extensive research, writing, and advocacy around criminalization of women and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people of color over the past two decades. She recently published Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color.

From her Q&A with Adeshina Emmanuel for the Columbia Journalism Review:

How does the media help shape the public’s understanding of police violence?

I think media plays a pivotal role in two respects: by reinforcing the silence around experiences of black women and women of color and in breaking it. The mainstream media has reinforced over and over again that police violence is a story about black and brown men who are not queer, who are not trans, and that certainly is an essential part of the story.

I would never dream of saying black and brown men are not disproportionately targeted by state violence. There’s just no question about that, and you will see me in the streets on any given day at protests for Laquan McDonald, or Amadou Diallo back in the day, or Rodney King.

Sandra Bland was definitely heavily on my mind this month on the second anniversary of her death. But somehow her story is not placed in the broader narrative around racial profiling and mass incarceration; it’s somehow almost an anomaly. Like, “let’s read a list of 10 or 12 black and brown men and then we’ll throw in Sandra Bland,” as if it’s an outlier.

Recently video surfaced of a Florida state attorney being profiled and stopped by a police officer, and, again, that wasn’t an anomaly. That was...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Shelley Tougas

Shelley Tougas's new novel for kids is Laura Ingalls Is Ruining My Life. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Laura Ingalls Is Ruining My Life, and for your main character, Charlotte?

A: I lived in Mankato, Minnesota, for 20 years, so Laura country was in my backyard. I'd been to Walnut Grove (the setting for On the Banks of Plum Creek), and the kernel of an idea formed.

It's a small town - about 800 people - and it's very Laura-centric. There's not just a single museum. It's a complex. There's a reconstructed sod house, an old school house, an old church and more. Plus there's the dugout site near the town. And every summer, the community puts on a pageant with a musical production about the town's history and the Ingalls family.

I wondered, what's it like to grow up in a town like that? A small town with such an interesting identity? When I got my second contract with Roaring Brook, I knew I wanted to use that kernel for my novel.

I didn't want to write historical fiction, though. I wanted to write a contemporary novel that had parallels to Laura's story and include lots of Easter eggs for Laura fans.

The first sentence in the book, for example, is exactly...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Kathleen Rooney

Kathleen Rooney is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press, a publisher of literary work in hybrid genres, and a founding member of Poems While You Wait, a team of poets and their typewriters who compose commissioned poetry on demand. She teaches English and Creative Writing at DePaul University and is the author of eight books of poetry, nonfiction, and fiction, including the novel O, Democracy! (Fifth Star Press, 2014) and the novel in poems Robinson Alone (Gold Wake Press, 2012). With Eric Plattner, she is the co-editor of René Magritte: Selected Writings (University of Minnesota Press, 2016 and Alma Books, 2016). A winner of a Ruth Lilly Fellowship from Poetry magazine, her reviews and criticism have appeared in the New York Times Book Review, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times Magazine, The Rumpus, The Nation, the Poetry Foundation website and elsewhere. She lives in Chicago with her spouse, the writer Martin Seay.

Rooney's latest book, her second novel, is Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk.

From Rooney's Q&A with Jac Jemc at Newcity Lit:

The character of Lillian Boxfish is inspired by a real poet and ad woman. How do Boxfish and Fishback diverge?

Without Margaret Fishback there wouldn’t be a Lillian Boxfish, but they’re not the same person. Lillian has aspects of Fishback’s biography, but the events of the novel are invented and imagined. I was the first researcher in the Fishback archive at Duke University in 2007—it took me years to figure out what to do with that material. My own love of flânerie ended up being the key. Lillian’s orientation toward the world is that of an inveterate urban walker, a decision made totally for the novel. I believe that Fishback herself is worthy of greater attention—I worked this December to get her long out-of-print light verse included in the Poetry Foundation archive and wrote an essay detailing her innovations as a pioneering ad woman—but...[read on]
Visit Kathleen Rooney's website.

The Page 99 Test: Live Nude Girl.

The Page 99 Test: For You, for You I Am Trilling These Songs.

My Book, The Movie: For You, for You I Am Trilling These Songs.

My Book, The Movie: Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk.

Writers Read: Kathleen Rooney.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Noah Strycker

Noah Strycker is the author of Birding Without Borders: An Obsession, a Quest, and the Biggest Year in the World.

From his Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: Of the 6,000-plus bird species you saw during your record-breaking year, were there any that particularly impressed you?

A: In Brazil, near the beginning of the year, I saw a Harpy Eagle, the most powerful raptor in the western hemisphere. The Harpy lives only in large rainforests in South and Central America, and eats monkeys and sloths.

I was lucky to stake out a nest near the Pantanal in central Brazil, where the male Harpy Eagle flew in carrying half a coati (a raccoon-like animal) in its talons, which are as long as a grizzly bear's claws. When it spreads out its toes, this eagle's feet are the same circumference as a dinner plate. That bird is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue