The Refugee’s Story with Dina Nayeri

As the author of two novels, Dina Nayeri uses fiction to inform nonfiction in her latest book, The Ungrateful Refugee. Jessica Goudeau spoke to Nayeri for Guernica about the ways fiction has helped her when working with refugees and their stories. “You have to learn to write fiction in order to learn how to tell the truth,” Nayeri says. “In fiction, if you dare to write anything more than what actually happened, then you’re very quickly told you’re being sentimental. And that would be absolutely true! It’s way more powerful to allow readers to find the power and the emotion and the heartbreak for themselves.”

Aja Gabel on Apocalypse Stories

As a first-hand witness to the California wildfires, Aja Gabel reflects on how the natural disaster has changed her views on apocalypse stories for Alta. “I’m disoriented and nauseated watching what I love burn up,” Gabel writes. “It’s not as easy to describe as what I wrote in my apocalypse stories, to witness the incineration of a way of life. And I don’t love apocalypse stories anymore, anyway. I feel like I’m in one.”

Image credit: Senior Master Sgt. Dennis W. Goff

A Postcard from Your Favorite Author

A personalized postcard from the likes of Viet Thanh Nguyen, Valeria Luiselli, or Edwidge Danticat could be a unique holiday gift for someone, and The Common has you covered. This month it launches its sixth annual postcard auction, headlined by the above authors, as well as André Aciman, Susan Choi, Mira Jacob, Ann Patchett, George Saunders, and many, many more. “Authors are enthusiastic about connecting with their fans this way,” says The Common’s editor-in-chief, Jennifer Acker. “It’s infinitely more personal than social media, and as a physical object, the postcard lasts as a keepsake. Often recipients frame the cards they receive.” All proceeds directly benefit The Common, supporting payment to and mentorship of emerging authors and the magazine’s extensive community programs. Online bidding takes place here.

Image credit: Camden Public Library

The First Banned Book in America

It seems fitting that the author of the first book explicitly banned in the United States should have the nickname the “Lord of Misrule.” At Atlas Obscura, Matthew Taub recounts the story of Thomas Morton, an English businessman who had a knack for riling up Puritans. “[Morton] revived forbidden old-world customs, faced off with a Puritian militia determined to quash his pagan festivals, and wound up in exile. He eventually sued and, like any savvy rabble-rouser should, got a book deal out of the whole affair. Published in 1637, his New English Canaan mounted a harsh and heretical critique of Puritan customs and power structures that went far beyond what most New English settlers could accept. So they banned it—making it likely the first book explicitly banned in what is now the United States.”

Angie Cruz’s Working Women

Author Angie Cruz started the Instagram account, Dominicanas NYC, when she couldn’t find photos of 1960s Dominican working-class women while researching her novel Dominicana. Cruz spoke to the Cut about this community-driven project that shares photos and stories of Dominican women from across the country. “I’m interested in writing about the working class, which is often under-documented,” she says. “What’s documented is what we see in the papers, about politicians, or people who have power, or crime. My family was in NYC in the ’70s, but for Dominicana, I was interested in writing about 1965. That was the year the U.S. occupied D.R. It was the year Malcolm X was shot across from the building I grew up in [in Washington Heights.] I wanted to bring all these historical moments together and show how, even if they’re different stories and movements, they’re all interconnected.”

Hobbit House Hunters

Looking to upgrade your hobbit hole? The Oxford home where J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy is on the market for a cool $6 million. According to House Beautiful, the estate will leave you plenty of room to write your own epics: “A little over 50 miles away from London, Tolkien’s Oxford abode has been left in almost the same exact condition as it was in when it was first built in the early 1920s. (Tolkien lived there between 1930 and 1947). The two-story family home is extremely spacious, featuring high ceilings, two reception rooms, a kitchen/breakfast room, a walk-in pantry, six bedrooms, and more.”

Image source: 20 Northmoor Road, Oxford, England

Jami Attenberg on the Call of Family

In her new novel, All This Could Be Yours, Jami Attenberg examines a family emerging from the shadow of their power-hungry patriarch. She spoke to Electric Literature about how familial identity passes down—and sometimes doesn’t. “The kids in this book, Alex and Gary, have made a series of conscious choices in their life to physically move as far away from their parents as possible,” she says. “They didn’t want to connect their adulthood to their childhood. Over the course of the book, they’re forced to contemplate their parents—their father is in the hospital, on the verge of death—and I was interested in seeing how these two characters, who have done everything they can to walk away from their family, consider their parents, again, and see if they’re anything like them.”

Bernardine Evaristo Thanks the Stage

Recent Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo pays tribute to a youth spent in the theater in a new essay for the Guardian. She credits acting with starting her lifelong career in the arts. “I came to love acting so much I couldn’t imagine doing anything else,” she writes. “Rather like the writer I eventually became, I relished inhabiting characters who were not myself, expanding my own character, personality and emotions beyond the limits of my teenage identity. I found the process fascinating, absorbing and deeply rewarding. […] I learned that the arts world cherished difference, unlike my predominantly white girls’ school where everyone wore the same haircut, which I could never achieve anyway.”

Yiyun Li on Reporting Fiction

Yiyun Li spoke to Rosemarie Ho at the Nation about her most recent book, Where Reasons End, a novel that many critics are labeling autofiction. When describing the process of writing the book, Li sees herself as more of an impartial reporter than a novelist. “You can never get as precise as you want in writing,” Li says. “It’s always just getting as close as you can. For me, precision in writing is one of the most important things. But again, I always have to acknowledge at some point that I can never get as close as I want, that I can only get a proximity to precision.”

Revisiting Olive with Elizabeth Strout

After nearly a decade, Elizabeth Strout is revisiting her character Olive Kitteridge in a new book, Olive, Again. Its predecessor, Olive Kitteridge, won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize and gained some rather fervent fans. Strout discussed the character’s surprising popularity with Emma Brockes at the Guardian. “Ever since I was a child, I always wanted to know what it felt like to be another person,” Strout says. “That’s the engine that has propelled me. What does it feel like to be that person, sitting on the subway – I can see her trousers are a little snug so I know what that would feel like. I would spend so much time trying to figure out what it feels like to be another person.”