In the global world of the twenty-first century, class boundaries are subtle and permeable, though real nonetheless. Markers of identity, authenticity, and belonging can change with a gesture or a glance, making people feel they do or don’t belong in certain places, with certain people, at certain times. In these powerfully written ethnographic stories, Rhoda Halperin maps the boundaries of class by examining three themes: crossing class boundaries, class creativity, and class vulnerability. In telling these stories, Halperin draws on a wealth of ethnographic experiences in this country and abroad. Her book challenges class stereotypes in ways that touch on universals across cultures and over time.
Julia Louisa Corry Dumont (1794–1857) was born in Marietta, Ohio. Heralded in her own day as the “first lady” of the Ohio River Valley, she wrote about the lives of ordinary pioneers and settlers when the area was still known as the West. Her early romantic style was typical of the era, depicting river boatmen and Native Americans like Tecumseh. Her stories represent village life and women’s plight as victims, as in her masterpiece Aunt Hetty.
A literary glimpse into the early decades of independent India.
Drawing influences from Indian folktales, French existentialism, and the Bengali Hungryalist movement, Rajkamal Chaudhary’s œuvre is like a secret back alley in an old city—not completely forgotten but existing only for the few. Even though Chaudhary also wrote in Maithili and Bengali, it was his writings in Hindi that established him as the bold new experimentalist of Indian literature. His India of the 1950 and 60s is populated with hopeless literature professors, scattered alcohol bottles, prostitutes, hysteria patients, and sell-out painters. His unconventional life and writing place him outside the mainstream, and so he remains as uncategorizable as the characters and lives he wrote about. Bringing together twelve of his most representative short stories, translated for the first time in English, Traces of Boots on Tongue and Other Stories allows a glimpse into the early decades of independent India and its weariness, which many readers will find in today’s India as well.
These nine stories are teeming with people on the margins, where destitute New Yorkers and determined immigrants are as much at the mercy of social services, media attention, opportunistic politicians, and "quality-of-life" campaigns as they are prey to grinding poverty, dangerous streets, and their own haunting memories. Delving into Lucy Honig's fiction, one is willingly drawn into an intimacy with these resilient, but flawed characters—among them, a woman who cleans a beauty salon, a high school kid who’s lost a parent, a runaway Cambodian bride, an actress, and a homeless woman. Crossing paths, these difficult characters often misunderstand and sometimes demean each other, yet they also redeem and rescue one other in odd and unexpected ways. In The Truly Needy, Lucy Honig has created a heartbreaking, imaginative world that is the American urban landscape.
"The truth about Alicia was that she wasn’t that stable to begin with. So when she did what she did, no one was very surprised. Still it was shocking, the way she followed them from the hardware store to the woman's house, the way she broke the sliding glass door with the tire jack, the way she found them in bed. It was more than she could take, her being seven months pregnant and all. It only took two shots. . . . "
Alicia is not the only woman with problems. In these stories about contemporary and traditional Latinas, Ana Consuelo Matiella uses sensitivity and wit to address issues faced by women of color and women everywhere—issues largely having to do with love: between men and women, mothers and daughters, women and friends. In engaging stories about family myths, gossip, and lies, comadres converse over afternoon café con leche. "I'm sure that I was the only wife whose husband was teaching their daughter to do Cheech Marin imitations," remarks one of Matiella's characters. Another sings the praises of the chocolate milkshake diet: "That’s one advantage of living on the border. You get to try all the latest gringo inventions as soon as they hit the streets." Through encounters with angels, conversations with dogs, and relationships with men overly concerned with the dimensions of their manhood, Matiella offers a new exploration of the human condition—one showing us that if we cannot laugh at life, no matter how tragic the circumstances, we are surely doomed.
With humor and insight that come only through close observation of her fellow human beings, this gifted writer brings new twists to familiar scenes. The Truth about Alicia and Other Stories is an authentic portrayal of the world of contemporary Chicanas that will delight everyone who enters it.