A short, lively volume that will leave the reader wanting much more.

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TALES OF IRAN 2

Rashidi (The Outcast, 2014, etc.) returns with a second volume of short stories about Iran.

As in his previous collection of short fiction, Rashidi offers a selection of stories of village life in pre-revolution Iran. In “Game Over,” a group of children awaits the death of a neighbor’s sick mother, hoping their neighbor will return their ball after she’s gone. In “Romance In The Lane,” a curious boy watches a harried man, continually humiliated by his wife, fall into the arms of another woman. In “Batool,” a lisping orphan girl appears suddenly in the life of a family, only to disappear again. Told from the perspectives of boys and young men, these stories observe daily scenes with a fresh energy that withholds moral judgment but revels in absurdity. At times poignant but more often funny and lighthearted, the tales resonate across rifts of culture and time. This volume is shorter than its predecessor; its stories, more polished and lean. Rashidi’s voice, while strong before, has become more assured, spinning sentences effortlessly: “The bulk of Agha Kamal’s body resembled one of those long, oval Persian melons, crowned by his small head, on top of which was a bald patch, bordered with thinning frizzy hair....His tiny feet stuck out from the bottom of his short crinkled trousers like a pair of dormice.” The prose is measured and distinctive, drawing the reader in with little more than rhythm and description. Narrators are generally stand-ins for the audience: the objects of interest are their neighbors, as unknowable to the reader as they are to the narrators (or as our neighbors are to us). Rashidi accomplishes much in these five stories.

A short, lively volume that will leave the reader wanting much more.

Pub Date: March 19, 2015

ISBN: 978-1785072802

Page Count: 66

Publisher: New Generation Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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