Created by Meytal Radzinski in 2014 to highlight the literary contributions of women writers and translators, Women in Translation Month has since grown into a global event celebrated each August throughout the English-speaking world.
Browse our #WITMonth collection to discover excellent books written and translated by women from all over the globe.
To celebrate the publication of our new paperback edition of Never Come Morning: A Novel by Nelson Algren, we're proud to share the original 1942 introduction by Richard Wright, author of many iconic works including Native Son and Black Boy.
Nelson Algren’s innocent, bold, vivid, and poetic imagination—as is exemplified in this novel, Never Come Morning—has long brooded upon the possibility of changing the social world in which we live, has long dreamed of the world’s being different, and this preoccupation has, paradoxically, riveted and directed microscopic attention upon that stratum of our society that is historically footloose, unformed, malleable, restless, devoid of inner stability, unidentified by class allegiances, yet full of hot, honest, blind striving. Algren’s centering of his observation upon the lowly and brutal strivings of a Bruno Bicek is the product of his sound instinct and reasoning, for, strangely enough, the Bruno Biceks of America represent those depths of life—the realm of the irrational and the nonhistorical—that periodically push their way into the arena of history in times of crisis, war, civil war, and revolution.
It would be interesting to speculate how diverse contemporary literary talents would have handled and developed the subject matter of Never Come Morning. Many competent novelists would not have considered its subject matter as legitimate material, would have condemned this subject matter, no doubt, as being sordid and loathsome. Others would have treated it lightly and humorously, thereby implying that it possessed no important significance. Still others would have assumed an aloof “social worker attitude” toward it, prescribing “pink pills for social ills,” piling up a mountain of naturalistic detail. A militant minority, shooting straight to the mark, would have drawn blueprints and cited chapter and page in a call for direct action. I think, however, Nelson Algren’s strategy in Never Come Morning excels all of these by far, inasmuch as it depicts the intensity of feeling, the tawdry but potent dreams, the crude but forceful poetry, and the frustrated longing for human dignity residing in the lives of the Poles of Chicago’s North West Side, and the revelation informs us all that there lies an ocean of life at our doorsteps—an unharnessed, unchanneled and unknown ocean. And Algren does this in prose as real, as sensory, as tactile, and as sharp as a left hook from Bruno Bicek, his pugilistic protagonist.
Most of us 20th century Americans are reluctant to admit the tragically low quality of experiences of the broad American masses; feverish radio programs, super advertisements, streamlined skyscrapers, million-dollar movies, and mass production have somehow created the illusion in us that we are “rich” in our emotional lives. To the greater understanding of our times, Never Come Morning portrays what actually exists in the nerve, brain, and blood of our boys on the street, be they black, white, native, or foreign-born. I say this for the public record, for there will come a time in our country when the middle class will gasp and say (as they now gasp over the present world situation): “Why weren’t we told this before? Why didn’t our novelists depict the beginnings of this terrible thing that has come upon us?” Well, Mr. and Mrs. American Reader, you are being told: The reality of the depths of our lives is being depicted. Algren’s Never Come Morning vies with the war for your attention, and vies in terms of literary realism as hard-hitting as any to be found in American prose.
Introductions by Richard Wright and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Afterword by Daniel Simon
Contribution by H.E.F. Donahue
Never Come Morning is unique among the novels of Algren. The author's only romance, the novel concerns Bruno Bicek, a would-be boxer from Chicago's Northwest side, and Steffi, the woman who shares his dream while living his nightmare. "It is an unusual and brilliant book," said The New York Times. "A bold scribbling upon the wall for comfortable Americans to ponder and digest." This new edition features an introduction by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. and an interview with Nelson Algren by H.E.F. Donohue.
To celebrate our new paperback edition of Racing While Black: How an African-American Stock Car Team Made Its Mark on NASCAR by Leonard T. Miller and Andrew Simon, published today, we're proud to share the brand new introduction by Dave Zirin, sports editor for The Nation and author of The Kaepernick Effect: Taking a Knee, Changing the World, publishing with The New Press in September 2021.
Introduction by Dave Zirin
The story you are about to read in Racing While Black: How an African-American Stock Car Team Made Its Mark on NASCAR by Leonard T. Miller and Andy Simon is the continuation of Silent Thunder: Breaking Through Cultural, Racial, and Class Barriers in Motorsports by Lenny’s father, Black Sports Hall of Famer Leonard W. Miller. Those words, “silent thunder,” apply to both father and son. Leonard T. Miller, as one would expect from someone familiar with high-speed stock cars, keeps his cool while telling stories that shake the earth. And Lenny Jr. continues the story in that same epic style, keeping his cool in the face of near-constant adversity. Check out the cover portrait of the two of them with the car they started out with, and the joy, innocence, and optimism apparent on both their faces, father and son, each hopeful for the journey ahead.
In this book, you will learn of a Black driver who was purposely crashed into and whose life was endangered because his white opponent said, “I’ll never let a n****r beat me in any race.” You will learn about the Millers’ win at Coastal Plains Speedway in Jacksonville, North Carolina—a win that almost sparked a race riot.
You will also learn about the highly racialized but ever so vital world of sponsorships. So much about financial survival in the racing world revolves around the brands that adorn cars, and competition for them can be as brutal as any race. For the Millers, the journey toward sponsorships, because of racism, has been filled with more pitfalls than the Daytona 500. When it appeared that they were going to land General Motors, the GM executive facilitating the deal wanted his name to remain secret. Another GM exec tried to warn the Millers off racing, saying, “There aren’t black folks around this environment. You’re dealing with good ol’ boys. It’s dangerous.” This wasn’t in some Jim Crow past. It was the 1990s.
You will also learn how, when they did get the GM sponsorship, it was for a piddling $25,000. The executives at GM treated the Millers and their driver Chris Woods more like they were part of a minstrel show than a serious racing team. They even wanted to dress Chris Woods up as kind of a Black Dale Earnhardt.
Then toward the end of the book, you’ll learn of their triumph in securing sponsorship by Dr. Pepper. That, however, took the efforts of none other than Rev. Jesse Jackson. It took a civil rights intervention just to get the Millers their due.
Yet, as you read, you’ll see that once they achieved their goals and literally changed the complexion of NASCAR racing, both their drivers quit on them, then Dr. Pepper walked away, and finally NASCAR dropped its diversity initiative. They were back to square one, but they never gave up, and their tenacity in the face of racism is the spine of what you are about to read.
When NASCAR’s Bubba Wallace drove his stock car in 2020 with the words “Black Lives Matter” emblazoned along the side, it was a staggering development at the collision of sports and politics. In the aftermath of the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, we saw athletes protest in the worlds of basketball, baseball, soccer, tennis, and even hockey. But in none of those sports—not even the country club sport of tennis—was it as bracing as when Bubba Wallace, a Black American, decided to bring this slogan and sentiment into the world of NASCAR.
The reasons should be obvious to anyone who has even a passing interest in sports. There are few athletic endeavors as conservative, as white, or as Dixie-southern as NASCAR. A competitor like Bubba Wallace is making a political statement through his very existence by even taking to the track. By driving with that slogan, Wallace was doing nothing less than challenging NASCAR to reckon with itself.
But Bubba Wallace has done far more than just drive his car with a slogan. He was central to a campaign to further confront the sport’s Dixie roots, compelling NASCAR to remove the Confederate flag from its racing venues. There are few symbols more identified with NASCAR than the Stars and Bars. To see the sport finally assent to history and call for its removal was a shock to the system, as if pizza parlors were being removed from New York City.
In a statement as astonishing and unexpected as anything we’ve seen in sports since maybe 1947, the racing league said,
The presence of the confederate flag at NASCAR events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry. Bringing people together around a love for racing and the community that it creates is what makes our fans and sport special. The display of the Confederate flag will be prohibited from all NASCAR events and properties.
We should be perfectly clear about what this represents. This about-face against decades of history in what has been a citadel of white supremacy only took place because of the mass movements in the streets for Black lives. As Confederate monuments toppled around the country, NASCAR decided to do by choice what ultimately—through the loss of sponsors and targeted protest—would have been done for them. It also happened because Bubba Wallace—as well as white drivers acting in solidarity—challenged the organization to make the flag a relic of its history instead of a defining logo.
That NASCAR even became this exemplar of a white, deeply conservative sport is extremely at odds with the origins of race car driving in this country. NASCAR has its roots with bootleggers who were juicing up their engines to outrun the cops and the Ku Klux Klan, many of whom were interchangeable. The Klan were strong believers in prohibition (and ready to enforce it with violence), often people with political and financial power in their communities, and the stock car bootleggers were true rebels. Not in the traitorous Confederate sense, but in the style of rabble-rousing nonconformity. The KKK and the police wanted to bring them to heel, but the bootleggers were having none of it. The original stock car drivers, one could certainly argue, had more in common with the white folks in the streets in the summer of 2020 calling for Black lives to matter than they did with the seething, backward-liking, Confederate-flag-waving Trump supporters who have been the backbone of NASCAR’s business for so many decades.
The bootlegging history of stock car racing is just one part of a hidden history of a sport only now coming to grips with its recent history, a history soaked in white supremacy. NASCAR grew to astounding heights first during the Black Freedom Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, and then reached an entirely new level of financial and international success in the 1990s, for a time capturing ratings second only to those of football. Its growth was a reaction to “mainstream” sports like baseball, basketball, and football. These sports—as opportunities opened up—became centered around Black and brown athletes and, albeit with glacially slow progress, Black coaches and executives. This was NASCAR’s time to shine.
But NASCAR also grew in a climate that was shifting the tectonic plates of this country well beyond the sports world. As Black people claimed more political power in this country, and as the modern right wing grew in size and influence, NASCAR became an oasis of whiteness. Its business model depended upon it. As one NASCAR official said, “We have a collection of personalities that people can relate to. They don’t seem to be genetic freaks. The 370-pound football linemen, seven-foot-six basketball centers and steroid-pumped home-run hitters look nothing like anyone the average couch potato has ever encountered. Meanwhile, NASCAR drivers look like the guy next door.” Depends on where you live, I suppose.
And yet there has always been this nagging counter-history—a people’s history—of stock car racing that neither whitewashes the past nor ignores the trailblazers like Leonard T. and Lenny W., who did the hard work early on that decades later delivered us to Bubba Wallace feeling like he could assert his humanity in hostile environs. Critical to understanding that history are the incisive perspective and rollicking story of Leonard T. Miller and his efforts as a Black American to start a NASCAR team.
Racing While Black is critical to our understanding of the present of not only NASCAR but our whole sports world. It gives a view of NASCAR from an angle unseen and unknown to the wider world of either auto racing or sports in general. If you want to understand NASCAR in its holistic entirety, if you want to understand what racism looks like in the modern sports world, and if you want to understand this curious sport, from the undeniable adrenaline to the dirty underbelly, here is where you start.
Featuring a new introduction by David Zirin
Starting a NASCAR team is hard work. Starting a NASCAR team as an African American is even harder. These are just a few of the lessons learned by Leonard T. Miller during his decade and a half of running an auto racing program. Fueled by more than the desire to win, Miller made it his goal to create opportunities for black drivers in the vastly white, Southern world of NASCAR. Racing While Black chronicles the travails of selling marketing plans to skeptics and scraping by on the thinnest of budgets, as well as the triumphs of speeding to victory and changing the way racing fans view skin color. With his father—former drag racer and longtime team owner Leonard W. Miller—along for the ride, Miller journeys from the short tracks of the Carolinas to the boardrooms of the "Big Three" automakers to find out that his toughest race may be winning over the human race.
“...the exhilarating and fascinating story of how the Miller Racing Group, an auto-racing team started by Leonard's father, Leonard W. Miller, became the first black-owned team to win a NASCAR track championship. Miller and Simon give you a firsthand account of all the wins and losses that come with creating a racing team, along with the extreme prejudices that minorities must overcome just to make it to the track. We follow Miller as he searches for sponsors and tries to find engine and part suppliers that won't give him sub-part equipment just because he's black. We get to see the pressure that goes along with being the only black people in an all-white world. Even more importantly, the book is a call for a better system of getting young blacks and other minorities into the world of auto racing.” —Complex
“You don't have to have motor oil running through your veins to savor the rich slice of contemporary Americana that Miller and Simon serve up—an unlikely team's journey through the grimy garages and cool corporate offices where one of the nation's fastest-growing spectator sport actually gets played. And if you are a racing freak, this is a book that tells secrets, names names and exposes the divisions that still constrict the sport.” —Amy Argetsinger, The Washington Post
"This book will help readers understand why NASCAR, unlike other major sports, remains all-white at its top level... An illuminating, action-packed journey through a little-known chapter in our country's racial history.” —Brian Donovan, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of Hard Driving: The American Odyssey of NASCAR's First Black Driver
“Making it to the big leagues of American motorsports is a nearly impossible climb. As we learn from Mr. Miller, when you're an African-American, that climb becomes Mt. Everest. That's what makes this account so important.” —Ryan McGee, ESPN
An exclusive excerpt from Anne-Marie the Beauty by Yasmina Reza (tr. Alison L. Strayer)
Gigi received her lovers slathered in beauty masks and while shaving her legs. She made her own masks from vegetables, aubergines, carrots
She had no intellectual life whatsoever
If you ask me, she never read a whole play, not even the ones she acted in
For Bérénice, she only read her own scenes
The playbill was posted at the entrance to the theater. My name was at the bottom. I passed it sixty times a day. I walked up and down rue du Calvaire to test the effect of the name Anne-Marie Mille on people passing by. It was in small letters at the bottom, next to last, but you could see it clearly because of the double space just below. The name caught your eye. Especially on the downhill walk
Anne-Marie Mille had the ring of stardom
Who’s playing in Three Sisters? . . . Anne-Marie Mille. Anne-Marie Mille!
Who’s playing Angélique? . . . Anne-Marie Mille. Anne- Marie Mille, magnifique!
My life was a near miss, madame. In some of the photos from Saint-Sourd, I have the hands of a girl in a coma. Arms dangling, wrists curled, fingers pointing upward. I saw on TV that when a person in a coma curls his wrists, he’s a goner
We gave poetry recitations at the youth club hall of the church, and people said, Anne-Marie’s diction is excellent, Anne-Marie has perfect enunciation
I did enunciate well
I enunciated well because I loved to say the words, mademoiselle
Words expanded me
On weekends and holidays, they made me wear white gloves like American women
I did not know how to hold myself in the bulky oldlady dress and the hairstyle they’d given me
Parted down the middle
The natural wave flattened on top, with kisscurls at the sides. I already had breasts
She cut my hair all the time, all the time
My mother was a laundress at the Hôtel du Quai. She’d started as a worker in the lace mills. In the blank where you wrote your parents’ occupations, I had to write pattern maker
She killed herself two or three times a year
At thirteen, I made myself hairpieces from synthetic yarn to have the feel of bouncy locks on my cheeks
They were supposed to make me look pretty, mademoiselle
My mother said, we need to see her face, but my face was not right
They worked on straightening and styling the hair, but my face never followed
The stiff white dress with puffy shoulders
I felt hideous, hideous
I can spot an unhappy girl in her Sunday best from ten miles away
When an actor from Saint-Sourd passed, we stopped to look. Afterward the street seemed empty
They were tall and pale. They walked above the ground with graceful strides
We couldn’t hold a candle to them
The new generations will never witness this procession. Never, monsieur
It snowed last night. Real snow. The bus shelter is completely covered
My son told me, a woman your age took a migrant into her home and he knifed her
Right . . .
My son bought me a blood pressure monitor
I made the mistake of telling him the new doctor thinks my blood pressure’s high
Who wants that kind of thing around? I chucked it in the cupboard with the cane
He’s a worrier. A worrier like his father
Advice, advice, advice
He has a new tic. He clears his throat on the phone. He clears it every two sentences. I say, if you’re phoning just to clear your throat, don’t bother
When he comes to the house, I bring out the blood pressure cuff. I leave it lying around as if I used it. The sight of those medical gewgaws makes my skin crawl. They spell the end
He’s barely in the door when he says, it’s an oven in here! I say, I like it this way. —It’s eighty degrees! I can’t stay in this kind of heat. —Well, go, then! It’s my home and I’m fine. I have to grab him before he fiddles with the dials on the boiler. Why must you take control of everything against my will? —Someone has to keep an eye on you. You exhibit disturbing behavior. Wanting to be warm is a disturbing behavior?
That’s how it is with us, the world shrunk down to the strictest run-of-the-mill
If I ask about his life, he gets all worked up. We only talk about my woes, never anything of interest. He goes to the kitchen and lines up my boxes of prescriptions in a row so I don’t mix them up
I say, what’s the point? Your grandmother—my mother—had a plastic bag full of pills she nibbled at like Haribos. She just dug in, not knowing what she was taking
And look how she ended up
Dead, same as everyone else. Who has it any better in the end?
I almost forgot an important detail, madame: I started with cut-out pictures of Brigitte Bardot
My mother brought home old magazines from the hotel. She flipped through them at night, sipping a Gypsy Rose. She powdered herself like a corpse and went full tilt on the rouge. I never knew if it was due to bad lighting over the sink, or because she was a nutter
In the magazines, I always looked for photos of Brigitte Bardot. I clipped them out and pasted them in an album that I showed to invisible visitors
I narrated episodes from my life, turning the pages with modesty because of course this beauty was me. Anne-Marie the Beauty
I posed with thigh-high boots like Nancy Sinatra, and pulled funny faces on a boat in Norway
Sometimes I told my visitors, yes you’re right, I do look pensive sitting on that bench. It was a dark time of my life
But I didn’t talk about my beauty or my hair
Or I just said, yes, a French twist is the height of chic! I like to do my hair that way once in a while
Giselle never had hair like Brigitte Bardot’s. No!
I spoke loudly in a voice that was not mine. I was always afraid someone would hear or see me. Our room was a hallway. You could enter through two diagonal doors. We had a trundle bed. My sister slept on the lower shelf, which was never properly raised off the floor. For her entire childhood, she slept low to the ground. In the daytime, her bed disappeared. It ticked me off when she sat on mine. Sometimes I gave her a push. People would yell at me. They said, where do you expect the poor thing to sit? Poor thing! Always the poor thing
Anne-Marie the beauty did not have a bedroom with daisy-patterned walls. Anne-Marie the beauty was beautiful, her hair wasn’t parted down the middle, or set in an ugly perm, or flat as a pancake at the top of her head and puffed-out around the ears
She was an unknown, you know
Another thought-provoking master class in how we perform life by the award-winning novelist and playwright Yasmina Reza.
“Aging but indomitable actress Anne-Marie shares her reminiscences as she recuperates from knee surgery in her Paris apartment. She may be telling her story to someone, but exactly who remains a mystery. Perhaps she's speaking to a journalist writing a feature about her recently deceased long-time friend, French actress Giselle Fayolle. Anne-Marie recalls the pivotal events and people in her life, including the phantasmal and formative vision of watching actors as they seemed to walk above the street in her small town in northern France and about creating a photo album for an alter ego named Anne-Marie The Beauty. At 19, Anne-Marie goes to Paris, wins an audition, and is mesmerized by beautiful Giselle, who, at 21, is already destined to become astar, overshadowing Anne-Marie. Celebrated novelist and playwright Reza is interested in more than surface beauty in this tale of friendship, aging, and what gives life meaning. Anne-Marie, who still remembers the names of those hometown players from her youth, endures, sharing her view of life as a great arc in this brief yet richly symbolic, humorous, and poignant tale.”
—Mary Ellen Prindiville,Booklist
"Yasmina Reza, a French novelist and playwright, has centered much of her work on the buttoned-up crises of the middle class. Her most recent book, Anne-Marie the Beauty (in Alison L. Strayer’s translation), dips into the fickle glamour of life onstage. Anne-Marie is an aging, lonely actress who worries she might be losing her marbles. In a richly layered monologue, she looks back on her life, starting with her childhood dreams of the theater, which never resulted in more than middling fame — and the contrasting success of her luxuriant friend Giselle, who did reach the stars, despite, or perhaps thanks to, her fabulous languor. Reza, herself an erstwhile actor, has said that she realized early on that acting “was a life of waiting and dependence” that offered little control over one’s destiny, and Anne-Marie’s life is a testament to this peripatetic existence. “What’s a person looking for, going from bar to bar like that?,” Anne-Marie asks as she recalls her youth. This novel reminds us that dreams are sometimes more precious than the real thing."
MacArthur Genius Winner, Grande Dame of Science Fiction, and founding author of Seven Stories Press, Octavia E. Butler was born on June 22, 1947. She would have been 74 today. We miss her every day, and we’re incredibly grateful for the work and legacy she has left behind.
Get to know Octavia Butler (June 22, 1947 – February 24, 2006):
A new edition of Octavia Butler's final book, Fledgling, featuring a new introduction by Nisi Shawl and new cover art by Paul Lewin.
Fledgling, Octavia Butler’s last novel, is the story of an apparently young, amnesiac girl whose alarmingly un-human needs and abilities lead her to a startling conclusion: she is in fact a genetically modified, 53-year-old vampire. Forced to discover what she can about her stolen former life, she must at the same time learn who wanted—and still wants—to destroy her and those she cares for, and how she can save herself. Fledgling is a captivating novel that tests the limits of "otherness" and questions what it means to be truly human.
A perfect introduction for new readers and a must-have for avid fans, this New York Times Notable Book includes "Bloodchild," winner of both the Hugo and the Nebula awards and "Speech Sounds," winner of the Hugo Award. Appearing in print for the first time, "Amnesty" is a story of a woman aptly named Noah who works to negotiate the tense and co-dependent relationship between humans and a species of invaders. Also new to this collection is "The Book of Martha" which asks: What would you do if God granted you the ability—and responsibility—to save humanity from itself?
Like all of Octavia Butler's best writing, these works of the imagination are parables of the contemporary world. She proves constant in her vigil, an unblinking pessimist hoping to be proven wrong, and one of contemporary literature's strongest voices.
The beginning of June marks the beginning of Stonewall Rememberance Month, aka Pride, a celebration of LGBTQIA+ liberation and all that has been won and all that is still left to fight for. While we're delighted to celebrate throughout June, we want to encourage everyone to read, and champion, literature by queer writers throughout the year — not just during Pride Month. That said, now's a great time to stock up.
Celebrate queer, trans, and otherwise LGBTQIA+ writers all year long with 30% off select titles.* Pick up a new book for yourself, or for someone else, and don't forget to tell your friends how much you love them.
An excerpt from Arcadia: A Novel by Emmanuelle Bayamack-Tam, translated by Ruth Diver
2. Be not afraid
It was about time: my mother suffered from migraines, memory loss, concentration lapses, and chronic fatigue. My father was in the best of health, but empathy being what it is, he was just as affected as his Birdie and had actively searched for a safe haven, a healthcare center, a cave, anywhere she might shield her legendary hypersensitivity from radiation. I know all about the contempt this diagnosis is usually met with, and I can sometimes appear to be ironic myself about the symptoms my mother presented, but I can testify that before her first stay in a quiet zone, her life was a living hell.
In my memories of that distressing period, she is constantly wearing a kind of beekeeper’s outfit, a protective cape, an anti-radiation scarf, and gloves woven with copper thread. This attire means she is the object of suspicion, whereas I am the object of tender compassionate glances, me, whose mother hasconverted to such a strict form of Islam that she doesn’t unveil a square inch of her reassuring flesh or hair. And who’s to know whether she won’t get radicalized and blow herself up, loaded with TATP and screws ready to perforate the infidels, who are legion in the neighborhood? Needless to say the few times we went out for a walk always turned into psychodramas, with a hasty return to home base for Birdie, weeping under her niqab. And so now she never goes out: she reclines on the cushions of her Mahjong couch, talks with a wavering voice and flaps her feeble hands at her staff: Marqui, Kirsten, and me, respectively husband, mother, and daughter of this elegant shipwreck.
We live isolated from the world. Metal blinds have replaced our beautiful velvet curtains: they are supposed to deflect the waves and cut the electromagnetic field down to a third of its strength, but Birdie still feels a strong burning sensation whenever she goes near the windows. To give Marqui his due, I must say he went all out to insulate our home, starting with the master bedroom: shielding wallpaper, bio switches, vitalfield amplifiers that are supposed to convert electro-magnetic pollution into beneficial effects, detoxifying indoor plants — everything has been done so that Birdie can get a little rest. But it’s hopeless: she sleeps only three hours a night, generally in the bathtub, deserting the conjugal bed even though it is enclosed in an anti-radiation curtain. Needless to say we don’t have computers anymore, or cell phones, or an induction stove. Even the electric coffee machine was deemed undesirable. We’re back with a fixed-line phone, a stainless-steel Italian espresso pot, and LED lightbulbs. But here’s the thing, six of our ten neighbors have Wi-Fi. Not to mention the obvious fact that we live near a cell-phone tower. Marqui did everything he could to turn our apartment into a sanctuary, but Birdie is stillwasting away, and the list of her symptoms is growing longer and longer: headaches, joint pain, tinnitus, vertigo, nausea, loss of muscle tone, pruritus, tired eyes, irritability, cognitive impairment, intractable anxiety—to name but a few.
But then it seems to me that I’ve never known my mother to be anything except neurasthenic and abulic. The doctors she consulted didn’t hold back in suggesting that her motor deficits and the decline in her mental faculties might have more to do with depression than with any sensitivity to electromagnetic pollution. Except that depression is a diagnosis Birdie considers insulting, so she shoots the medic her withered-lily look. My mother is not Lillian Gish’s doppelgänger for nothing, and although hardly anyone remembers that star of the silent screen, you can count on my mother to perpetuate her memory. It’s worth noting that Lillian Gish lived to a hundred and that Birdie will no doubt do the same, like many a fragile and overprotected princess. I say this with no acrimony at all, for I love my mother deeply and she totally deserves to be loved, since she is as kind as she is beautiful. She would even be funny and cheerful if her depression, or EHS, take your pick, gave her a half a chance. Yes, you might as well get used to all those acronyms that invaded our family, because on top of electromagnetic hypersensitivity, my mother suffers from MCS, multiple chemical sensitivity, and ICEP, idiopathic chronic eosinophilic pneumonia, not to mention IBS, irritable bowel syndrome—but then, of course, all those conditions are really only one and the same pathology: an intolerance to everything. God knows she doesn’t get that from her mother, the unsinkable Kirsten, who freely admits that she has never known a minute of low spirits in her seventy-two years of existence and has absolutely no understanding of what is happening toher Birdie. And you might as well get used to nicknames too, because on entering Liberty House, everyone is expected to abandon their birth names.
“That’s right,” Arcady bellows, “it’s like the Foreign Legion here: no one cares who you were before. What matters is what Liberty House will make of you!”
Arcady has therefore de-baptized just about everybody, inventing more and more monikers and diminutives. My father became Marqui, which he persists in writing without the s because of his severe dysorthographia, my mother is Birdie, Fiorentina is Mrs. Danvers, Dolores and Teresa are Dos and Tres, Daniel is Nello, Victor is either Mr. Bitch or Mr. Mirror, Jewell is Lazuli, and so on. I was not entitled to this initiation ritual, no doubt because my very young age made this symbolic rebirth superfluous. However, honesty compels me to mention that Arcady generally tags on incomprehensible words to my name: Farah Faucet, Farah Diba, Princess Farah, Empress Farah, et cetera. And, of course, all these titles are flattering, but I can’t quite figure out what it is about me that suggests even the slightest notion of nobility or supremacy.
In any case, we were happy at Liberty House. We led precisely the pastoral existence that Arcady promised, with Arcady himself in the role of his life, the good shepherd leading his innocent flock. I say this with all the more conviction now that our happiness is under threat, if not irremediably compromised. But fifteen years ago, when we were setting that absurd headstone under the blue June sky, we felt light, delivered from our anxieties, confident in the future for the first time in a long while—and in my case, for the first time ever, since I had always seen my parents timorously withdrawn into their preoccupations and incapable of dealing with the outside world. Atthe age of six, I was already the pillar of my little nuclear family, the one who was sent out to slalom between real and imaginary dangers: collect the mail, take out the trash, buy bread or the newspaper. Kirsten was in charge of the weekly shopping as well as administrative tasks, and it was pretty clear that she greeted our decision to move to Liberty House with some circumspection:
“Quiet zones are all very well, but sooner or later they’ll build cell-phone towers in the area. And who knows, there are probably high-voltage lines there already, or a nuclear-power plant nearby, and you don’t even realize it! And that house must be at least a hundred fifty years old: it’ll be full of lead, asbestos, and mold — I say you won’t last more than three years there, tops.”
Three years, in my grandmother’s mind, was about the life expectancy those volatile organic compounds would give us. For although she didn’t completely share all her daughter and son-in-law’s phobias, she still agreed that, as a species, we were facing extinction. We were afraid, and our fears were as varied and insidious as the threats themselves. We were afraid of new technologies, global warming, electro-smog, parabens, sulfates, digital surveillance, prepackaged salad leaves, mercury levels in the oceans, gluten, aluminum salts, polluted aquifers, glyphosate, deforestation, milk products, bird flu, diesel fuel, pesticides, refined sugar, endocrine disruptors, arboviruses, smart electricity meters, and the rest. As for me, while I didn’t quite understand who was out to get us, I knew that their name was Legion and that we were contaminated. I took on a sense of dread that was not mine but which readily played into my own childhood terrors. Without Arcady we would all be dead sooner rather than later, because our anxiety was stronger than our capacity to handle it. He offered us a miraculous alternative to illness, madness, and suicide. He gave us shelter. He said: “Be not afraid.”
Winner, Prix du Livre Inter, 2019
Shortlisted for the Prix Femina, Prix Medicis, Prix de Flore
Longlisted for the Prix France-Culture, Prix Wepler
Farah moves into Liberty House—an arcadia, a community in harmony with nature—at the tender age of six, with her family. The commune’s spiritual leader, Arcady, preaches equality, non-violence, anti-speciesism, free love, and uninhibited desire for all, regardless of gender, age, looks, or ability. At fifteen, Farah learns she is intersex, and begins to go beyond the confines of gender, as she explores the arc of her own desires. What, Farah asks, is a man or a woman? What does it mean to be part of a community? What is utopia when there are refugees nearby seeking shelter who cannot enter?
Emmanuelle Bayamack-Tam delivers a magisterial novel, both a celebration and a critique of innocence in the contemporary world.
Seven Stories Press to become exclusive publisher of Ocean Press books in English and Spanish outside of Cuba
The partnership between two leading international presses is announced 54 years after Che Guevara’s death.
New York, NY, May 6, 2021 — Ocean Press and Seven Stories Press jointly announced today a unique partnership for the promotion of Ocean Press and Ocean Sur (Spanish-language) titles in North America and around the world. The legendary Ocean, founded in Melbourne, Australia, in 1989 by the team of David Deutschmann and Deborah Shnookal, has created one of the world’s foremost publishing programs of Latin American politics and culture. Deutschmann approached Seven Stories publisher Dan Simon about forming a partnership for the distribution of the Ocean lists, both in English and in Spanish, throughout North America and around the world.
“I only approached Seven Stories because, one, I knew I could trust them, and two, our publishing programs aligned perfectly due to our shared commitment to politics and literature.”
The focus initially will be on the complete works of Che Guevara in newly redesigned editions, with authoritative text created by Ocean together with the Che Guevara Studies Center of Havana, whose director is Aleida March, Guevara’s partner. Seven Stories will release the complete backlist of nine titles, at the rate of roughly one a month, starting with The Motorcycle Diaries in July 2021, featuring a new introduction by Walter Salles, the director of the acclaimed film based on the book. In September 2021, the first new Che Guevara title will appear, I Embrace You with All My Revolutionary Fervor: Letters 1947–1967. Eighty percent of the letters in this first-ever collection of Che Guevara’s letters have never before appeared in English.
Seven Stories publisher Dan Simon said: “Despite Che’s icon status, the world has yet to really get to know him. His passion is extraordinary, and so is his optimism. Our job is really to just do whatever we can to encourage people everywhere to take a deeper look. I’m very grateful to Deb and David for trusting us with bringing Che and the many other important authors and series they publish back into wider circulation.”
Besides the roll out in the US this coming summer and fall, Seven Stories rights director Silvia Stramenga has negotiated partnerships for foreign rights to many of the Che Guevara titles, including with Penguin Classics in England, and many other publishers around the world, as well as deals with Audible for both English and Spanish audiobooks. She is also fielding film rights inquiries.
Seven Stories books, including those in English and Spanish in the Ocean-Seven Stories partnership, are sold and distributed by Penguin Random House in North America and worldwide, and through Seven Stories UK by Turnaround in England.
Seven Stories Press is the American independent publisher of many voices of conscience and literary authors including Kurt Vonnegut, Angela Davis, Noam Chomsky, Barry Gifford, Greg Palast, Nelson Algren, Octavia Butler, the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, Ralph Nader, Project Censored, Howard Zinn, Innosanto Nagara, Cory Silverberg, and Human Rights Watch, among many others. Seven Stories publishes books for adults in English, and in Spanish under the Siete Cuentos imprint, and books for children under the Triangle Square Books for Young Readers imprint.
The Ocean Press list includes a deep catalogue of books by Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, and the Salvadoran poet Roque Dalton, among many others. Together with the Pablo Neruda Foundation and the Foundation Guayasamín, Ocean published a bilingual edition of selections of Neruda’s most famous epic poem “Canto General” illustrated by the Ecuadoran indigenous artist Oswaldo Guayasamín. In 2006, Ocean began a new Spanish-language imprint, Ocean Sur. In collaboration with his family, Ocean has published the collected works in 15 volumes of one of Latin America’s most famous rebel poets, Roque Dalton. Other highlights of Ocean’s Spanish list include John Reed’s eyewitness accounts of the Russian and Mexican revolutions, key Marxist classics, works by notable liberation theologists of Latin America such as Frei Betto, Miguel d’Escoto and Camilo Torres, and two series: Vidas Rebeldes (Rebel Lives) and Historias desde abajo (History from Below).
Recommendations from the staff at Seven Stories Press
For this episode of our self-titled Staff Picks Comeback Tour, all of our book recommendations (where possible*) link directly to our comrades at Point Reyes Books. Next month, we'll link to another independent bookstore. And the next month, and the month after that. Perhaps until the end of time.
We miss our bookstore friends so, so much, and we can't wait to see you soon.
*Where it's not available, we link to either Alibris or the book's publisher.
The Hole by Hiroko Oyamada, translated by David Boyd
Consider me a Hiroko Oyamada devotee. In summer 2019, before the world changed, I picked up a copy of Hiroko Oyamada's first book, The Factory, from Unnameable Books in Prospect Heights. I devoured it that same afternoon, seated under a bushy tree in Fort Greene Park. Like The Factory, Oyamada's second book, The Hole, is slim, surreal novel, but instead of focusing on the absurdity of working life, The Hole considers its opposite. A woman quits her job and follows her husband to the countryside so they can live closer to his new workplace, and they settle in a house next door to his mother and grandfather. Home alone all day and without much to occupy her time, she finds herself exploring the misty forest behind their family's property. Naturally, it gets weird. Holes begin to appear throughout the forest, the protagonist encounters a large furry beast of unknown origin, and it turns out the husband's family has been hiding some pretty consequential stuff from her. I won't spoil it, but I encourage you to read it. It's fun and weird and less than 100 pages, so it's an easy read when the world is getting you down.
The Twilight Zone by Nona Fernández, translated by Natasha Wimmer
The story starts in 1984 in the midst of Pinochet's dictatorship in Chile. A member of the "secret police" confesses his crimes to a journalist, which makes the cover and haunts the narrator of the book until this day. Fernandez uses the TV show The Twilight Zoneand other surreal visions to map this man's crimes and craft a story of someone complicit with state brutality. Spacey, spooky, and dark, I love how Fernandez uses the surreal to explore Chile's dark past which haunts many to this day. Fernandez's Space Invaders (also about the Pinochet regime but told through the eyes of school children and the videogame) was one of my favorite books last year, and The Twilight Zone might follow for this one.
TV rec: Ink Master is my latest reality TV obsession. 16 tattoo artists compete for $100,000, battling it out, tattooing on "human canvases" on different tattooing skills... what could go wrong? I can't even draw a circle, but I find myself screaming at the TV about how a tattoo's lines definitely ARE NOT clean and how anatomically incorrect American traditional pin-ups look. There's 11 seasons and I'm still halfway through 4, so it's enough to last me until the city (hopefully) opens up for the summer and I never have to look at a screen again.
The Emissary by Yoko Tawada, translated by Margaret Mitsutani
The story takes place in Japan after an unknown disaster, but hints at nuclear fallout, and borders are closed. The elderly are in such good health they make up the workforce, meanwhile the youth are so sickly they can barely stand. But the dark critique of aging populations and environmental disaster is tempered by the sweet relationships between the grandfather Yoshiro and his ailing grandson Mumei, among others. I picked this off the shelf during a catsitting stay but unfortunately my reading was interrupted by my impending departure (I was very tempted to tuck the little book into my pocket and steal away with it). The Emissary’s language is so gorgeous and has so many moments that made me just stop and reread the same sentence over again—probably why I couldn’t finish it in time. While it feels largely expository, its images have long stayed with me (there’s this moment of cutting fruit that I can’t stop thinking about!).
Hung Up by Hunter Harris
Nothing is giving me more happiness right now than Hunter Harris’s newsletter about pop culture. Hung Up is hilarious and smart and chatty and weird, and every time it lands in my inbox I feel like I’ve gotten an email from my best friend. It’s also short enough that my pandemic-fried brain can digest it, and it introduced me to Sharon Stone’s social media presence, for which I will be forever grateful. Half of it will be going behind a paywall soon but if you like it/can afford to I highly encourage you to subscribe for five bucks a month and support this very good writer! And if you’re looking for a post to start with, I recommend this one about Phantom Thread.
The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cuba by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, translated by Flora Thomson-DeVeaux
The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cuba begins: “TO THE WORM THAT FIRST GNAWED AT THE COLD FLESH OF MY CADAVER I DEDICATE AS A FOND REMEMBRANCE THESE POSTHUMOUS MEMOIRS.” Cubas, a now-dead Brazilian aristocrat with plenty of time on his now-dead hands, picks through his life—his childhood exploits, his failed romances, his petty annoyances with almost everyone he ever encountered on Earth. Cubas, untouchable after death, is reflective but playful, biting but comical... An entirely inventive book and an incredible introduction to Machado de Assis.