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Upcoming Transnational Literature Series Events

This event is presented in partnership with the Boston Writers of Color group (supported by GrubStreet).

Wayétu Moore’s powerful debut novel She Would Be King reimagines the dramatic story of Liberia’s early years through three unforgettable characters who share an uncommon bond. Gbessa, exiled from the West African village of Lai, is starved, bitten by a viper, and left for dead, but still she survives. June Dey, raised on a plantation in Virginia, hides his unusual strength until a confrontation with the overseer forces him to flee. Norman Aragon, the child of a white British colonizer and a Maroon slave from Jamaica, can fade from sight when the earth calls him. When the three meet in the settlement of Monrovia, their gifts help them salvage the tense relationship between the African American settlers and the indigenous tribes, as a new nation forms around them.

Wayétu Moore is the founder of One Moore Book and is a graduate of Howard University, Columbia University, and the University of Southern California. She teaches at the City University of New York’s John Jay College and lives in Brooklyn.

Tanushree Baidya is graduate of the Yale Writer’s Workshop, a Vermont Studio Center alum, and a member of the Boston Writers of Color Group. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Kweli Journal, Creative Nonfiction, GrubWrites, 2040Review, London Journal of Fiction, The Wrong Quarterly, and Half The World Global literati.

Saud Alsanousi is an award-winning Kuwaiti novelist and journalist, born in 1981. His debut novel The Bamboo Stalk won the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF). His work has appeared in a number of Kuwaiti publications, including Al-Watan newspaper and Al-Arabi, Al-Kuwait and Al-Abwab magazines and he currently writes for Al-Qabas newspaper. Jonathan Wright studied Arabic, Turkish, and Islamic civilization at St John’s College, Oxford. He joined Reuters news agency in 1980 as a correspondent, and has been based in the Middle East for most of the last three decades. He translated numerous novels from Arabic, including, most recently, Ahmed Saadawi’s award-winning novel Frankenstein in Baghdad. He won the 2016 Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation for his translation of The Bamboo Stalk.

About the book:

Josephine escapes poverty by coming to Kuwait from the Philippines to work as a maid, where she meets Rashid, an idealistic only son with literary aspirations. Josephine, with all the wide-eyed naivety of youth, believes she has found true love. But when she becomes pregnant, and with the rumble of war growing ever louder, Rashid bows to family and social pressure, and sends her back home with her baby son, José. Brought up struggling with his dual identity, José clings to the hope of returning to his father’s country when he is eighteen. He is ill-prepared to plunge headfirst into a world where the fear of tyrants and dictators is nothing compared to the fear of ‘what will people say’. And with a Filipino face, a Kuwaiti passport, an Arab surname and a Christian first name, will his father’s country welcome him?, The Bamboo Stalk takes an unflinching look at the lives of foreign workers in Arab countries and deals with the problem of identity through the life of a young man of mixed race who returns to Kuwait, the ‘dream’ or ‘heaven’ which his mother had described to him since he was a child.

Winner of the 2013 International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF), the most prestigious and important literary prize in the Arab world. Its aim is to reward excellence in contemporary Arabic creative writing and to encourage the readership of high quality Arabic literature internationally through the translation and publication of winning and shortlisted novels in other major languages.

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When the Croatian War of Independence breaks out in her hometown of Vukovar in the summer of 1991 she is nine years old, nestled within the embrace of family with her father, mother, and older brother. She is sent to a seaside vacation to be far from the hostilities. Meanwhile, her father has disappeared while fighting with the Croatian forces. By the time she returns at summer’s end everything has changed. Against the backdrop of genocide (the Vukovar hospital massacre) and the devastation of middle-class society within the Yugoslav Federation, our young narrator, now with her mother and brother refugees among a sea of refugees, spends the next six years experiencing her own self-discovery and transformation amid unfamiliar surroundings as a displaced person. As she grows from a nine-year old into a sparkling and wonderfully complicated fifteen-year-old, it is as a stranger in her own land.
            
Applauded as the finest work of fiction to appear about the Yugoslav Wars, Ivana Bodrožić’s The Hotel Tito is at its heart a story of a young girl’s coming of age, a reminder that even during times of war—especially during such times—the future rests with those who are the innocent victims and peaceful survivors.

IVANA BODROŽIĆ was born in Vukovar, Croatia, in 1982 where she lived until the Yugoslav wars started in 1991. That year her father disappeared while fighting for Croatian independence and she and the rest of her family moved to Kumrovec, where they stayed at a hotel for displaced persons. In 2005, she published her first poetry collection, The First Step into DarknessThe Hotel Tito, her first novel, was published in 2010, receiving high praise from both critics and audiences and becoming a Croatian bestseller. She has since published a second poetry collection, A Crossing for Wild Animals, and a short story collection, 100% Cotton
 
ELLEN ELIAS-BURSAĆ is a translator of fiction and nonfiction from Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian. She has taught in the Harvard University Slavic Department and is a contributing editor to the online journal Asymptote. She lives in Boston.

Our Transnational Book Club will discuss a book that explores themes of migration, displacement, and exile. To contact our moderator, email shuchi@brooklinebooksmith.com.


Tommy Orange’s “groundbreaking, extraordinary” (The New York Times) There There is the “brilliant, propulsive” (People Magazine) story of twelve unforgettable characters, Urban Indians living in Oakland, California, who converge and collide on one fateful day. It’s “the year’s most galvanizing debut novel” (Entertainment Weekly).

As we learn the reasons that each person is attending the Big Oakland Powwow—some generous, some fearful, some joyful, some violent—momentum builds toward a shocking yet inevitable conclusion that changes everything. Jacquie Red Feather is newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind in shame. Dene Oxendene is pulling his life back together after his uncle’s death and has come to work at the powwow to honor his uncle’s memory. Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield has come to watch her nephew Orvil, who has taught himself traditional Indian dance through YouTube videos and will to perform in public for the very first time. There will be glorious communion, and a spectacle of sacred tradition and pageantry. And there will be sacrifice, and heroism, and loss.
 

What is a country? While certain basic criteria—borders, a government, and recognition from other countries—seem obvious, journalist Joshua Keating’s book explores exceptions to these rules, including self-proclaimed countries such as Abkhazia, Kurdistan, and Somaliland, a Mohawk reservation straddling the U.S.-Canada border, and an island nation whose very existence is threatened by climate change. Through stories about these would-be countries’ efforts at self-determination, as well as their respective challenges, Keating shows that there is no universal legal authority determining what a country is. He argues that although our current world map appears fairly static, economic, cultural, and environmental forces in the places he describes may spark change. Keating ably ties history to incisive and sympathetic observations drawn from his travels and personal interviews with residents, political leaders, and scholars in each of these “invisible countries.”

Joshua Keating is a foreign policy analyst, staff writer, and editor at Slate. Previously he was an editor at Foreign Policy.

Discussing winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography, Nine Continents: A Memoir In and Out of China by Xiaolu Guo. Our Transnational Book Club will explore themes of migration, displacement, and exile. To contact our moderator, email shuchi@brooklinebooksmith.com.

Xiaolu Guo is one of the most acclaimed Chinese-born writers of her generation, an iconoclastic and completely contemporary voice. Her vivid, poignant memoir, Nine Continents is the story of a curious mind coming of age in an inhospitable country, and her determination to seek a life beyond the limits of its borders.

Xiaolu Guo has traveled further than most to become who she needed to be. Now, as she experiences the birth of her daughter in a London maternity ward surrounded by women from all over the world, she looks back on that journey. It begins in the fishing village shack on the East China Sea where her illiterate grandparents raised her, and brings her to a rapidly changing Beijing, full of contradictions: a thriving underground art scene amid mass censorship, curious Westerners who held out affection only to disappear back home. Eventually Xiaolu determined to see the world beyond China for herself, and now, after fifteen years in Europe, her words resonate with the insight of someone both an outsider and at home, in a world far beyond the country of her birth.

Xiaolu Guo was born in south China. She studied film at the Beijing Film Academy and published six books in China before she moved to London in 2002. The English translation of Village of Stone was shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Her first novel written in English, A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction, and Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth, published in 2008, was longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize. Her most recent novel, I Am China, was longlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. In 2013 she was named one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists. Xiaolu has also directed several award-winning films including She, A Chinese and a documentary about London, Late at Night. She lives in London and Berlin.

Through stories remembered and imagined, and images by acclaimed photographers, A Stranger’s Pose draws the reader into a world of encounters in more than a dozen African towns. Iduma blends memoir, travelogue and storytelling in these fragments of a traveller’s journey across several African cities. Inspired by the author’s travels with photographers between 2011 and 2015, the author’s own accounts are expanded to include other narratives about movement, estrangement, and intimacy. These include: an arrest in a market in N’djamena, being punished by a Gendarmes officer on a Cameroonian highway and meeting the famed photographer Malick Sidibe in Bamako.

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