On Not Losing My Father’s Ashes in the Flood

OnNotLosingMyFather'sAshesintheFloodby Richard Harrison
Wolsak & Wynn Publishers, 2016

In 2013, Richard Harrison feared that his father’s ashes were lost in the flood that had devastated Alberta.

Using elements of memoir, elegy, lyrical essay, and personal correspondence, as well as showing his appreciation for haiku and comic books, Harrison has written a book of mourning for his father. Despite dementia, Harrison’s father died without forgetting the poems that he had memorized as a student and taught his son. (Adapted from publisher’s description)

A Canadian writer and professor at Calgary’s Mount Royal University, Harrison is the author of seven books of poetry, including Big Breath of a Wish, a volume about his daughter’s acquisition of language, and Hero of the Play, the first collection of poetry launched at the Hockey Hall of Fame. His poetry has been translated into French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Arabic.

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Unearthing the Polynesian Past: Explorations and Adventures of an Island Archaeologist

KirchBookby Patrick Vinton Kirch
University of Hawai‘i Press, 2015

In this memoir, archaeologist Patrick Vinton Kirch describes his fieldwork in over two dozen islands in the Pacific.

Kirch started out as an intern under Bishop Museum zoologist Yoshio Kondo and took part in archaeological digs on the islands of Hawai‘i and Maui. During his high school years at Punahou, he apprenticed with eminent archaeologist Kenneth Emory. After Kirch obtained his anthropology degree from the University of Pennsylvania, he joined a Bishop Museum expedition to Anuta Island, where a traditional Polynesian culture still flourished. He went on to earn his doctorate at Yale University with a study of the traditional irrigation-based chiefdoms of Futuna Island. Since then, Kirch has worked with ecologists, soil scientists, and paleontologists to explain how Polynesians adapted to and altered their island ecosystems.

In Unearthing the Polynesian Past, Kirch reflects on how archaeological methods have advanced and how knowledge of the Polynesian past has developed. (Adapted from publisher’s description)

Patrick Vinton Kirch is Chancellor’s Professor Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley.

Troubling Borders: An Anthology of Art and Literature by Southeast Asian Women in the Diaspora

2Q==edited by Isabelle Thuy Pelaud, Lan Duong, Mariam B. Lam, and Kathy L. Nguyen
University of Washington Press, 2014

Pairing image and text, Troubling Borders showcases creative writing and visual artworks by sixty-one women of Vietnamese, Cambodian, Lao, Thai, and Filipino ancestry. The collection features compelling storytelling that troubles the borders of categorization and reflects the multilayered experience of Southeast Asian women.

The diverse voices featured here have been shaped by colonization, wars, globalization, and militarization. For some of these women on the margins of the margin, crafting and showing their work is a bold act in itself. Their provocative and accessible creations tell unique stories, provide a sharp contrast to familiar stereotypes – Southeast Asian women as exotic sex symbols, dragon ladies, prostitutes, and “bar girls”-and serve as entry points for broader discussions on questions of history, memory, and identity. (Publisher’s website)

Isabelle Thuy Pelaud is associate professor of Asian American studies at San Francisco State University; Lan Duong is associate professor of media and cultural studies at the University of California, Riverside; Mariam B. Lam is associate professor of comparative literature, media and cultural studies, and director of Southeast Asian studies, at the University of California, Riverside; and Kathy L. Nguyen is a writer and editor in San Francisco.

 

 

River of Light: A Conversation with Kabir

9781602232273by John Morgan; artwork by Kesler Woodward
University of Alaska Press, 2014

River of Light: A Conversation with Kabir is a book-length poem that takes readers on a weeklong raft trip down a river in southcentral Alaska. Bears, eagles, moose, seals, otters, and salmon inhabit the poem’s world, and the landscapes shift between glaciers, mountains, rapids, and waterfalls. The trip becomes a spiritual journey journey as well, as the poem includes commentary by fifteenth-century Indian mystic poet Kabir (pronounced kuh-BEER), who serves as a mentor to the narrator. The raft trip described in the poem took place in 2003, the year in which the second Iraq War began, so the war is on the narrator’s mind and becomes a metaphor for his inner struggles. However, the main story of the poem is the trip itself, which is influenced and shaped by the river’s waves and currents, and the wildlife and scenery that provide frequent surprises for the travelers. This volume includes artwork by Alaska artist Kesler Woodward. Woodward participated in the original raft trip and makes an appearance in the poem as well.

John Morgan was born in New York. He earned his MFA degree at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he was awarded the Academy of American Poets’ Prize. He has perviously published four books of poetry, four chapbooks, and a collection of essays. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, PoetryAmerican Poetry Review, Paris Review, New Republic, Prairie Schooner, Yale Review, and other magazines and anthologies.

The Lost Art of Room Travel

9780987596505_p0_v1_s260x420by Jennifer Barrett
Koala Cove Press, 2013

In 1790, a Frenchman by the name of Xavier De Maistre claimed to have pioneered the art of room travel; he explored his bedroom for the 42-day duration of a house arrest sentence he received for dueling. Over two centuries later, an Australian by the name of of Jennifer Barrett tried De Maistre’s unusual mode of travel for herself, embarking on a journey around her study. Her personal observations of the various objects she encountered soon developed into deeper meditations on the wider issues and ideas that arose from them. The result is The Lost Art of Room Travel—a collection of nine narrative essays that navigate ideas including imagination, travel, and nostalgia, in a voice that is, by turns, serious, comic, and even surreal.

An excerpt:

One  day while searching the T.V. channels for something interesting, I found that a Magnum P.I. re-run was on, the first time I had seen an episode since they were originally aired in the 1980s. As I settled down to watch I thought it would probably be a bit cringe-worthy, as many television series from that era are when re-visited. Although I had been a huge fan of the Magnum episodes, I wasn’t sure whether they would hold the same appeal decades later. However, somewhat to my surprise, I really enjoyed it. The episodes, which aired a few days a week, became something to look forward to. For the brief time it took Magnum and his friends to “save the day” I was transported away from the constricted confines of my house and deposited into the tropical beauty of Hawaii. The fact that the leading man, played by Tom Selleck, was very easy on the eyes may have added to the show’s attraction, but I admit nothing…

[One] reason the Magnum episodes appealed to me was that I had originally seen them when in my early twenties, so at a subconscious level I was connecting with my youth again while watching them. That’s presumably why nostalgia is such big business, with re-runs of the shows from the 70s, 80s, and 90s, and clothing from previous decades coming back into vogue. People who were young when the originals made their debuts are reminded of their youth.

 

Does the Land Remember Me: A Memoir of Palestine

51v0uhvnsll-_sy344_bo1204203200_By Aziz Shihab
Syracuse University Press, 2006.

Summoned by his dying mother, Palestinian-born Aziz Shihab returns from Texas to the homeland he and his family fled as refugees decades earlier. He finds an Israeli-occupied land no longer the one of his youth. This gripping book chronicles his month-long journey to capture a piece of the land that haunts him, revealing the complexities of leaving behind the past and coming to grips with its abandonment. With his sharp ear for dialogue and his professional journalist’s eye, Shihab records and considers, sometimes with humor, the Palestinian psyche. (Publisher’s description)
Aziz Shihab is known for his independent newspaper, The Arab Star. He has written about the Middle East for the Dallas Morning News and the San Antonio Express-News.

Just Breathe Normally

41rp-x8cnyl-_sx321_bo1204203200_By Peggy Shumaker

University of Nebraska Press, 2007.

In the wake of her near-fatal cycling collision, Peggy Shumaker searches for meaning within extremity. Through a long convalescence, she meditates on the meaning of justice and the role of love in the grueling process of healing.Shumaker’s memoir explores our desire to understand the fragmented self, using the power of words to restore what medical science cannot: the fragile human psyche and its immense capacity for forgiveness. (Publisher’s description)

Peggy Shumaker is professor emerita of English at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the author of several books of poetry, including Blaze and Underground Rivers. She teaches in the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University.