lobster“My father was killed in Lubech!”

“Lubech—Lubech, that’s all you’ve been saying—Lubech,” Mother said.

True, Father did say “Lubech, Lubech” a lot on this trip. It sounded like “love” and “burning” at the same time. Kuzya and Lubasha loved playing “words.”

“In 1943, he was killed! It’s 1986! I just don’t see why I need to spend my May holidays this year bumping along these terrible roads, breaking the engine, being carsick, driving through snow and then dust and heat and running chickens and bugs—”

That was true, too. All kinds of bugs—mosquitoes, flies, some rare bugs Kuzya had never seen in Moscow.

amina_gautier5.creditjennibryantI notice that every time someone asks you when you’re going to write a novel, you get pretty snippy about it. Sometimes even—dare I say?—downright snarky. Do you hate novels so much?

I don’t hate novels at all. There are many novels I absolutely adore! A Lesson Before Dying, The Age of Innocence, Beloved, The Color Purple, Erasure, Fight Club, The Known World, Montana 1948, Not Without Laughter, Passing, Quicksand, The Remains of the Day, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and Their Eyes Were Watching God –just to name a few.

 

Don’t you want your books to sell? Don’t novels sell better? Why don’t you just shut everybody up and write one?

I am a writer who is a literature scholar and professor and that is the lens through which I look to see the world of writing. So I know that there is no correlation between a book’s advance or publisher and the book getting invited into the academy.

AminaGautierLostThingsCoverFalling into step with the boy, Thisman draws close and whispers in a voice only for him. Says, “I wish I had a little boy just like you. I wish you were my own,” and the boy believes it, every single word.

He is lost, but not in the way he has been taught to be. Not in a supermarket; not in a shopping mall. There are no police officers or security guards to whom he can give his name and address. There is no one to page his parents over a loudspeaker to come and get him. None of the clocks where they go give the correct time and there are no calendars to mark the days. He never knows where or when he is.

DZ photoWhy this title: The Amado Women?

I thought it fairly well signaled that this would be a novel about the lives of women; their lives are complex and contradictory. Amado, Spanish for beloved, is the family surname. I love that wonderful undertone because all four main characters are beloved, they just may not realize it. Also, as a Zamorano I have gone through life at the tail end of the alphabet, and I wanted to shake things up a bit.

 

Not a lot of guys make the cut in this book. You got a thing against men?

Nope, not at all. I just wanted to make women’s lives the centerpiece.

Amado OrigOf all people, Mercy Amado (nació Fuerte) should know that happiness is a decision. You simply cast aside that which you are tired of looking at, weary of battling, unable to accept, and focus on that which remains. She had to have learned something during the span of her lifetime, with its marital therapy, grief counseling, past life-regression, born-again Christianity, flirtation with Buddhism, Judaism, Catholicism and atheism. Sixty years. When did you figure it all out? When did you understand the world? When did God take you by the hand and explain it all to you, elaborating that you were indeed His child—special, gifted, divine—and apologize for the mess along the way?

WT-purpleIt’s explained nicely in the blurb, by the way, but could you give us a quick premise/sum-up of your book, Over For Rockwell?

Okoye is pretty much a regular guy in his second year of college, which to him feels like a dead end. He wants to draw comics and he feels trapped doing the liberal arts thing. He’s also developed some romantic ideas about Hong Kong, based on movies and descriptions from a Chinese pal. So he drops out of school, goes on a whim, and from there his life explodes, in terms of excitement. Not that he gets much drawing done . . .

51FkAVmIKtL._SX353_BO1,204,203,200_And I’m telling you, she was about to slip. She was gonna blurt everything, I could feel it. I was sitting just like I am now. You know, legs crossed at the ankle, not too much, medium smirk. I was drinking coffee, just watching her. I was holding back, that’s what I’m saying. And that’s the part that kills me. I know that bitch! She’s dying to tell me! She just can’t bring herself to spit it out! Actually that’s the part that excites me. I can admit it. Like everywhere else, the women here are inveterate liars. But here it’s like they won’t let up! No matter what, the charade must go on!

biosaraAfter school, Rachel comes over and we climb through the craggy hole in the fence and into the park. Everything is wet because it always is but we don’t care. We climb across the hillside to a patch of trees where Rachel likes to smoke cigarettes. We lie back on the grass and I listen to the leaves tap against one another.

“We should have a party at your house,” Rachel says for the hundredth time. Rachel loves parties and lugs me along on weekends. Parties are too chaotic for me but I am a teenager and that’s what we are supposed to do. Says who, I don’t know. Says Rachel. Rachel has streaks of blue in her hair because of course she does. She glitters everywhere she goes.

DeancoverNext day I went over to Aunt Oleta’s and she gave me the biggest dressing down you ever heard even though I hand-picked a bunch of wildflowers for her. She was wound tighter than Dick’s hatband that day, but she was glad to see me and made me eat a leftover salmon patty with a side of macaroni and cheese after she fixed my face up with a big Ace bandage. A tree branch or something had scratched my face worse than a wildcat. I thought it made me look tough, but she insisted on making me look like a dork with a big bandage on my face. She said I looked plumb wild, and she made me strip down naked right there in the kitchen, which I didn’t want to do because of the tattoo Rusty had given me. I tried to turn away from her so she wouldn’t see and she near about had a conniption fit! She licked her fingers and tried to rub it off but it wouldn’t come off. She gave me a mean look and let go of my arm and just pointed to the bathroom in silence. I took a bath with Clarence peeking in and pestering me not to use all his Mr. Bubble the whole time. Aunt Oleta threatened to burn my clothes, but instead, she hauled them off to the laundry room.

MarvelandaWonder1-509x800The boy was still asleep at seven. The grandfather went downstairs, buttered some toast, ate, then puttered off into the field to check on the corn. It was just past his knees now, the leaves a keen, rich green. He squatted there among the rows, poking his fingers deep into the soil, cupping some of it in his palm, taking in the pleasant corruptness of the dirt.

He came inside, started a pot of coffee, and saw the feed store calendar with a red X marking the date. It was the boy’s birthday. The grandfather stared at the X solemnly, went upstairs, got dressed, opened the boy’s bedroom door and saw him snoring facedown on the pillow, then decided to let him sleep.

51T6EkMTIlL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_The people on the hill liked to say that God’s smile was the sun shining down on them. In the late afternoon, before scarlet ibis bloodied the sunset, light flooded the stained glass windows of Bird Hill Church of God in Christ, illuminating the renderings of black saints from Jesus to Absalom Jones. When there wasn’t prayer meeting, choir rehearsal, Bible study, or Girl Guides, the church was empty except for its caretaker, Mr. Jeremiah. It was his job to chase the children away from the cemetery that sloped down behind the church, his responsibility to shoo them from their perches on graves that dotted the backside of the hill the area was named for. Despite his best intentions, Mr. Jeremiah’s noontime and midnight devotionals at the rum shop brought on long slumbers when children found freedom to do as they liked among the dead.

LFV FRONTACT 2

SCENE 4

A laundromat/coffee shop hybrid establishment.

Day 10.

 

     We hear the sounds of a busy coffee house: 

     The hissing of an espresso machine, the clattering of ceramic dishes, conversations being carried on at low, and not-so-low, murmurs.

     There is a smattering of applause—not the most enthusiastic.

     An open mic is in progress.

     The HOST of the open mic is at the microphone.

 

And our next comic is new to the room, and she looks a little nervous. So please give a warm welcome to our first female comic of the night, Lydia Clark-Lin, everyone. Come on, make some noise.

LB_lThe parts truck rattles and buzzes around us, screaming from years of abuse it has taken from drivers like Spanky. My father would shit himself if he really knew what kind of idiots worked in his parts department. We’re barreling down 219 with a stack of bed liners in back bouncing frantically under strained bungee cords. Spanky fiddles with the radio until he settles on a station, and the clatter of a loosened door panel is replaced by the shrill voice of a hip-hop deejay. After a moment, he has the wheel with his knee so he can work a glass bowl and lighter with his hands. My foot gravitates to an imaginary brake pedal the more we gain on the car in front of us.

“Shit’s fucked up, dude, you know?” This is less like a question when it seeps with a plume of smoke from Spanky’s chapped lips. I don’t respond because that’s what he says, no matter the context. He could be standing at the scene of a horrific accident, blood-drenched bodies and twisted metal, or he could just be walking out of church after a long, soul-quenching service, and in either case, he would probably give that look and say the same thing—Shit’s fucked up, dude, you know? Now he’s telling me another story about a young Canadian girl and what I’ve been missing all my life. I’m trying not to listen, actually, as he competes with the thumping and barking of the radio.

Confession of the Lioness book coverThe night before, the order had been issued in our house: The women would remain shut away, far from those who would be arriving. Once again, we were excluded, kept apart, extinguished.

The following morning, I got down to the household chores. I wanted to give my mother a rest, for she had been lying, ever since the early morning, at the entrance to the yard. At one point I lay down next to her, determined to share with her some of the burden of one who feels the weight of her soul. She took no notice of me at first. Then she mumbled between gritted teeth:

This village killed your sister. It killed me. Now it’s never going to kill anyone again.

Paper Man cover finalThe other pedestrians had been prepared. They popped open their parasols, which had been conveniently stowed inside their bags, strapped to their belt buckles, or in their hands. Strangely, everyone had the same style: a short, wooden handle with black fabric for the canopy. A few men loosely tented newspapers over their heads and dashed for cover. A stocky woman lowered the hood of her stroller and tightened the blankets around a baby. The only parts of the baby that could be seen were its hands, in motion like little pincers. Small nomadic groups of hooded people were headed in all directions—he had no sense which way led to the best place for shelter. Some hid indoors; some huddled beside a bus stop with a small overhang only large enough to cover a bench that could seat three. He stepped into the crosswalk and tried to duck under other people’s umbrellas. Underneath them, the stiff faces of the owners glared at him, recoiled, and hurried on.