An insightful guide for readers, writers, and instructors from all walks of life.

CRAFT IN THE REAL WORLD

RETHINKING FICTION WRITING AND WORKSHOPPING

A fresh view of teaching craft to writers of diverse backgrounds.

Korean-born novelist and essayist Salesses, who teaches Asian American literature as well as creative writing, offers a thoughtful analysis of the teaching of craft in colleges and writing programs. “Craft,” he observes, “is the history of which kind of stories have typically held power—and for whom—so it also is the history of which stories have typically been omitted.” He argues persuasively that the widespread practice of silencing the writer while workshop members critique a piece of writing normalizes White, middle-class, Western values. As an MFA student, he recalls, “I still remember being banned from speaking while mostly white writers discussed my race.” This pedagogy conveys to a writer who does not share the reader’s race, ethnicity, class, or gender that their story is not worth telling. Those who are silenced learn “that in order to speak they must speak with an acceptable voice” and that their story “must be framed so that the majority can read via their own lens.” Salesses offers a detailed overview of the main points covered in writing workshops—including tone, plot, conflict, character arc, setting, pacing, and structure—which generally use realist fiction by White male writers as models. These stories “present the world as a matter of free will. The problems are caused by the self and can be solved by the development of the self. And somehow both external and internal conflict is like this.” Salesses counters that view with an illuminating chapter on East Asian and Asian American fiction, where he points to 10 ways that Chinese fiction is different from Western tradition, and he offers an innovative syllabus and exercises. “It is effectively a kind of colonization,” he writes astutely, “to assume that we all write for the same audience or that we should do so if we want our fiction to sell.”

An insightful guide for readers, writers, and instructors from all walks of life.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-948226-80-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Catapult

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.

UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A BLACK MAN

A former NFL player casts his gimlet eye on American race relations.

In his first book, Acho, an analyst for Fox Sports who grew up in Dallas as the son of Nigerian immigrants, addresses White readers who have sent him questions about Black history and culture. “My childhood,” he writes, “was one big study abroad in white culture—followed by studying abroad in black culture during college and then during my years in the NFL, which I spent on teams with 80-90 percent black players, each of whom had his own experience of being a person of color in America. Now, I’m fluent in both cultures: black and white.” While the author avoids condescending to readers who already acknowledge their White privilege or understand why it’s unacceptable to use the N-word, he’s also attuned to the sensitive nature of the topic. As such, he has created “a place where questions you may have been afraid to ask get answered.” Acho has a deft touch and a historian’s knack for marshaling facts. He packs a lot into his concise narrative, from an incisive historical breakdown of American racial unrest and violence to the ways of cultural appropriation: Your friend respecting and appreciating Black arts and culture? OK. Kim Kardashian showing off her braids and attributing her sense of style to Bo Derek? Not so much. Within larger chapters, the text, which originated with the author’s online video series with the same title, is neatly organized under helpful headings: “Let’s rewind,” “Let’s get uncomfortable,” “Talk it, walk it.” Acho can be funny, but that’s not his goal—nor is he pedaling gotcha zingers or pleas for headlines. The author delivers exactly what he promises in the title, tackling difficult topics with the depth of an engaged cultural thinker and the style of an experienced wordsmith. Throughout, Acho is a friendly guide, seeking to sow understanding even if it means risking just a little discord.

This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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