An enchanting, unparalleled anthem of displacement and repatriation.

TEMPORARY PEOPLE

Guest workers of the United Arab Emirates embody multiple worlds and identities and long for home in a fantastical debut work of fiction, winner of the inaugural Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing.

In 28 engrossing linked stories, Unnikrishnan blends Malayalam, Arabic, and English slang as well as South Asian and Persian Gulf cultures to capture the disjunction and dissociation of temporary foreign workers who live in the Arabian Peninsula but will never receive citizenship. In “Gulf Return,” a laborer swallows his passport and turns into a passport, and his roommate swallows a suitcase and turns into a suitcase so that their third friend can dash away with them both to the airport. In “Birds,” Anna Varghese tapes construction workers who fall from tall buildings back together. “Anna had a superb track record for finding fallen men….She found everything, including teeth, bits of skin.” The tongue of an English-speaking teen escapes from his mouth, shedding words with every step in the agile “Glossary.” “Verbs, adjectives, and adverbs died at the scene but the surviving nouns, tadpole-sized, see-through, fell like hail.” A lonely renegade cockroach called The General mimics humanlike qualities in the ingenious “Blatella Germanica.” “It was when he started picking up the language of the building’s tenants, bits of Arabic from the Palestinians and the Sudanese, Tagalog from the Filipinos, modern variations of Dravidian languages, that he began crafting a custom-made patois from the many tongues he heard, then practicing it at night in the kitchen, as he foraged walking on two legs and in costume, that he startled the other Germanicas in his community, and they ostracized him.” The author’s crisp, imaginative prose packs a punch, and his whimsical depiction of characters who oscillate between two lands on either side of the Arabian Sea unspools the kind of immigrant narratives that are rarely told.

An enchanting, unparalleled anthem of displacement and repatriation.

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63206-142-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Restless Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK

This new Baldwin novel is told by a 19-year-old black girl named Tish in a New York City ghetto about how she fell in love with a young black man, Fonny. He got framed on a rape charge and she got pregnant before they could marry and move into their loft; but Tish and her family Finance a trip to Puerto Rico to track down the rape victim and rescue Fonny, a sculptor with slanted eyes and treasured independence. The book is anomalous for the 1970's with its Raisin in the Sun wholesomeness. It is sometimes saccharine, but it possesses a genuinely sweet and free spirit too. Along with the reflex sprinkles of hate-whitey, there are powerful showdowns between the two black families, and a Frieze of people who — unlike Fonny's father — gave up and "congregated on the garbage heaps of their lives." The style wobbles as Tish mixes street talk with lyricism and polemic and a bogus kind of Young Adult hesitancy. Baldwin slips past the conflict between fighting the garbage heap and settling into a long-gone private chianti-chisel-and-garret idyll, as do Fonny and Tish and the baby. But Baldwin makes the affirmation of the humanity of black people which is all too missing in various kinds of Superfly and sub-fly novels.

Pub Date: May 24, 1974

ISBN: 0307275930

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1974

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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