In Boyd’s debut novel, the routines and reflections of a bored high school English teacher sketch an unflattering portrait of American ennui.
Ian Sloan is a nearly numb, 44-year-old public school teacher at the aptly named Anesthesia High School outside Los Angeles. It’s the mid-1980s, and the demographics in his English and journalism classes are shifting.But when Sloan attempts to motivate his students, or engage unsympathetic parents and bumbling colleagues, nothing really changes. Increasing pressure from the administration forces him to instruct one of his only truly promising students, the feisty editor of the student paper, to temper his quill; meanwhile, he continually fights off entitled parents accustomed to grade-grubbing on their slacker kids’ behalf. Adding to Sloan’s woes are his ailing, impoverished father; a distant ex-wife; a troubled teenage son; and a pushy, single-mother grocery clerk intent on roping him into awkward intimacy. These troubles combine to form a quiet, simmering modern drama. Boyd unravels the banal and the tragic in equal measure, and his prose is considered and specific: “He spoke in the monotone of a mechanic giving an estimate, leaving the owner to decide whether the vehicle warranted the expense, and the garage was busy.” The novel engages the same themes of suburban emptiness as Raymond Carver’s or even Philip Roth’s work, but Boyd’s style is his own, with a wider vocabulary but a little less subtlety. Underlying this careful character sketch, however, is an unclear politic; it undoes the fantasy of the noble, inspirational teacher while also commenting on class, race and family, but the opinions aren’t always fully intelligible. Sloan’srecurring fascination with Asian immigration, for instance, never fully develops. Overall, however, Boyd provides sober insights into the day-to-day frustrations of education, family and middle age.
A dramatic, intentionally dreary meditation on modern melancholy.
A highly organized, informative discussion of the immigration system in the United States.
In this politically charged environment, Afrasiabi manages to broach the volatile issue of immigration in a well-rounded, surprisingly effective framework that combines case studies, historical research, statistical analysis and personal anecdotes to detail the current issues and propose solutions. Invocations of Kafka, “The Twilight Zone” and “Alice in Wonderland” prove warranted as illustrations of the often surreal circumstances that confront immigrants facing deportation. Immigrants usually lack access to quality legal representation, while their situation can be made doubly difficult due to language barriers and significant cultural differences. Afrasiabi incorporates his work with colleagues and students at the Chapman University School of Law to deftly weave together the facts of several compelling cases and their underlying legal issues, with a genuine sense of suspense as readers wonder if justice will be truly be served. Occasionally, though, the narrative becomes overwrought—two federal laws passed in 1996 are “dark storm clouds depositing their sleet”—although, considering the life-changing effects of court decisions, it’s difficult to overstate the ramifications: extralegal rendition of individuals with pending cases and the de facto deportation of native-born children whose parents are deported. Afrasiabi also addresses the legacy of various anti-alien laws in California, as well as marriage equality for same-sex couples when one partner is a noncitizen. As the subtitle asserts, Afrasiabi employs his additional experience in the field of property law to contrast the stark differences between immigration judges and constitutional judges, like their qualifications, vetting processes and even the oaths they take. His arguments culminate in seven concrete reforms proposed in the conclusion. In order to make the immigration system more just and effective, Afrasiabi claims the solutions are closer than we may think; we can implement procedures and safeguards already in place within the constitutional courts.
A persuasive, valuable addition to the ongoing immigration reform debate.
Walkley pits CIA agents against a maniacal Saudi prince intent on starting World War III in this debut thriller.
Delta Force operative Lee McCloud, aka Mac, finds himself in Mexico, trying to rescue two teenage girls kidnapped by a drug cartel. But things go from bad to worse when the villains don’t play by the rules. Framed for two murders he didn’t commit, Mac has two options: go to prison or go to work for a CIA black-op group run by the devious Wisebaum, who hacks into terrorists’ bank accounts and confiscates millions of dollars. However, there’s more going on than meets the eye; Saudi Prince Khalid is in possession of nuclear canisters, with which he hopes to alter world history. Khalid also dabbles in trafficking young women, and harvesting and selling human organs. When Wisebaum’s black-op team targets Khalid’s father, the action becomes even more intense. With so many interweaving subplots—kidnapped girls, Israeli undercover agents, nuclear weapons and a secret underwater hideout—it could be easy to lose track of what’s going on. But the author’s deft handling of the material ensures that doesn’t occur; subplots are introduced at the appropriate junctures and, by story’s end, all are accounted for and neatly concluded. Mac is portrayed as a rough and ready action-hero, yet his vulnerabilities will evoke empathy in readers. He finds a love interest in Tally, a hacker whose personality is just quirky enough to complement his own. All Walkley’s primary characters are fleshed out and realistic, with the exception of Wisebaum—a malicious, double-dealing, back-stabber of the worst ilk; the reader is left wondering about Wisebaum’s motivations behind such blatant treachery.
Despite this, Walkley’s beefy prose and rousing action sequences deliver a thriller to satisfy any adrenaline addict.