“Unlike economic migrants, refugees have no agency; they are no threat. Often, they are so broken they beg to be remade into the image of the native.”
A blend of memoir and reportage, The Ungrateful Refugee packs a powerful punch and should be recommended reading for secondary school aged children.
Dina Nayeri describes her personal experience intertwined with that of the people she interviews as they all flee from persecution and death. Boats are braved and seas crossed by people fuelled by terror, courage and hope. The refugees are rescued and pitied — often by the regimes that created the trouble and strife they are escaping from in the first place. This small but important fact is invariably overlooked as the new arrivals are demonised by populist rhetoric that is bolstered by polices that reek of organised selfishness. Refugees “need friendship, not salvation.”
Nayeri revisits her own chaotic past in 2016 when she becomes a mother. “I had changed my face and hair, my friends, my education, my country and job so often, that my skin felt raw.” The five sections of her narrative — Escape, Camp, Asylum, Assimilation, Cultural Repatriation — recount the fate of individuals from different backgrounds as well as refugee support volunteers, lawyers and other decent human beings. The uniting theme is that refugees be given a voice, an identity, and that their stories be heard.
Continue reading Review | The Ungrateful Refugee, Dina Nayeri | Canongate Books
What can the novels Wild Woman by Marina Šur Puhlovski and Under Pressure by Faruk Šehić tell us about the breakup of Yugoslavia which caused such a tectonic shift in Balkan identity?
Each to their war and its troubled aftermath: one in the domestic sphere, the other out on the field and in the trenches. Both are informed by terror, brutality, power struggles and stubborn memories which refuse to go away. The gender split seems clear: survivors of domestic violence are primarily women and war veterans are mainly men – each to their trauma.
Continue reading Book 2 Review | Wild Woman, Marina Šur Puhlovski & Under Pressure, Faruk Šehić | Istros Books
“Chilli bean paste was big business, had been for Gran’s family for four or five generations. Sichuan peppers, on the other hand, were the sort of thing any small trader could sell. All they needed was a place to set up their stall. But, humble though the trade was, the Sichuan pepper was as essential as chilli bean paste at all Pingle Town dinner tables [. . .] Dad had kicked around the chilli bean paste factory for over twenty years, learning the ins and outs of his trade under the tutelage of his shifu, Chen, and if it had taught him one thing, it was that people were born to sweat. You ate chilli bean paste, and Sichuan peppers, and ma-la spicy hotpot, to work up a good sweat, and screwing a girl made you sweat even more. The more you sweated, the happier you felt, Dad reckoned. He remembered the fiery heat that the sweat-soaked bed-sheets in Baby Girl’s house gave off.”
The Chilli Bean Paste Clan is essentially a rags-to-riches tale about a small-town Chinese family’s survival following on from China’s rapid industrial revolution during Mao Zedong’s rule, and the later economic turmoil of the 1990s. Economic growth entailed a rise in social corruption in all areas of life along with social alienation and a breakdown in moral values. Continue reading Review | The Chilli Bean Paste Clan, Yan Ge | Book of the Week
Where were you born, and where did you grow up?
I was born in a small town outside of Chengdu, a major city in the southwest of China. And I grew up there. As a teenager, all I wanted was to get out of this place, this muddy, tiny, sleepy town. Years later, when I actually left and lived in Ireland, all I wanted is to go back and to live in the small town where I spent my adolescence. That small town has been lost. It has changed so much. There have been lots of constructions, new buildings, the industrial and high-tech parks and tones of immigrants. The government renamed it last year, making it a district of Chengdu city. My hometown is officially being archived in the history book — there’s no way I can go back now. So I write about it all the time in my stories.
What sorts of books were in your family home?
Both of my parents were Chinese teachers so we have a sizeable collection of Chinese classics, contemporary Chinese fiction, and translated books. I can’t remember I read The Journey to the West for how many times. And I cried a lot when I read Su Tong’s books as a teenager. My parents love Russian writers and I read Gogol and Gorky with them.
Continue reading Interview | Yan Ge | Author of the Week
“I noticed that the pigeons have completely lost their faith in people. It is impossible to get nearer than five metres to any one of them.” [p. 38]
Because of the war in Syria, an estimated 12.5 million people are displaced, and refugees seeking asylum in Europe invariably develop depression, anxiety and PTSD. The world is facing the highest levels of displacement ever in history, with 65.3 million people forced from their homes by war, internal conflicts, drought or poor economies. The walking traumatised are becoming a major challenge of the twenty-first century, requiring a global plan.
The Bosnian war of 1992-95 resulted in some of the worst atrocities seen in Europe since the Nazi era. More than 100,000 people were killed and, according to a recent report by Al Jazeera, twenty years on many survivors suffering from trauma are not getting the help they need.
“I am solitary and depressed. A man with no one to look after him . . .” The narrator has spent nine months and three days in bed after his wife walked out on their five-year marriage. It is 7 March 2005, it is snowing, and he is coming back into life. He plays the Rolling Stones and watches the world outside his window.
Continue reading Review | Seven Terrors, Selvedin Avdić | Book of the Week
Here is our scrapbook of top 10 reads for March featuring new books from Kurdistan, Croatia, Tashkent, Latvia, the Caribbean, Iceland, Mexico, Kenya, and last but not least, England. Here at BookBlast® HQ we love translation! This year’s Translation Prizes were awarded by the Society of Authors at the British Library, in recognition of outstanding translations from works in Arabic, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Swedish.
To celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March, Interlink are celebrating women’s voices and actions throughout the month. They are giving a free gift book with every purchase of an Interlink book written by a woman. With every order you place, you will receive a surprise gift (a novel, a cookbook, a memoir, or a history book) selected by an Interlink staff member to suit your taste (one book per order valued at $15 to $30). Just visit one of the following websites: www.interlinkbooks.com www.immigrantcookbook.net www.soupforsyria.com or www.palestineonaplate.net to place your order. You can also do so by calling 1-800-238-LINK.
Listing in alphabetical order according to publisher @Arc_Poetry @maclehosepress @peepaltreepress @PeirenePress @PushkinPress @SaqiBooks @SerenBooks @Silver_Press_ @TiltedAxisPress @InterlinkBooks
Continue reading BookBlasts® | Top 10 Reads for Independent Minds | March 2018
Here are our latest top 10 reads from a selection of indie publishers every book lover should know. A good read underpinned by an open mind can change your lifeview irrevocably. Palestine in Black and White by Mohammad Sabaaneh is one such book.
Listing in alphabetical order according to publisher @BalestierPress @Carcanet @DarfPublishers @DeadInkBooks @NightLightNate @dedalusbooks @BelgraviaB @SaqiBooks @UnicornPubGroup
The Past is a Foreign Country
Liv by Roger Pulvers (Balestier Press) buy here
A fifty-five year old Norwegian woman who works as a volunteer for refugees is heading home on a suburban train in Sydney, Australia, in 1975. Liv Grimstad is discomfited by the man sitting opposite her. He is elderly with liver spots on his hands yet he is horribly familiar. Continue reading BookBlasts® | Top 10 Reads for Independent Minds | February 2018
Indie Publishing vs. Self Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing
With commissioning editors at mainstream publishers increasingly under the corporate cosh, any literary submissions calculated to sell less than 5000 copies are turned down regardless, which leaves the field open for independent publishers to come in and have a go at the roulette table imagining winners that might come their way.
An experienced commissioning editor may be able to spot high-quality writing and know their target readership, but s/he is no less a gambler than anyone else playing the publishing game. Their gut instinct counts for little in the corporate boardroom nowadays, even though the way in which advances are calculated is an inexact science, and tales of legendary rejections make for juicy water-cooler chat. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was rejected 12 times before being picked up; Gone with the Wind got the thumbs down 32 times; Under the Frog 22 times; Dune 20 times; and The Tale of Peter Rabbit was rejected so many times it was self-published.
Smaller publishers generally avoid formulaic writing for the genre market, provide greater personalised support, and – as opposed to a vanity press – do not ask the author for money. Added to which crowdfunding has become a more than viable option, not only to raise funds, but to develop a community of readers ahead of publication (Peirene Now! No. 3, Shatila Stories was recently successfully funded with 327 backers pledging £13,350 via Kickstarter). Best not confuse authors self-publishing their own books only – generally via a digital platform such as Amazon or Kobo – with indie publishers; the term indie authors would be more accurate.
According to a recent report in The Guardian, “Independent publishers have unleashed a boom in sales,” and “turnover across the Arts Council England-funded portfolio surged above its budget by almost £100,000 this year, reaching £277,930.”
Continue reading Spotlight | The seemingly unstoppable boom in indie publishing & The Republic of Consciousness Prize
Are (were) your parents great readers? Tell us a bit about yourself.
Yes, my parents were very encouraging. Always recommending books and passing things on to me, reading to me as a child, finding new things for me to read, feeding my Roald Dahl habit . . . My Mum was a librarian too.
Did you want to work in the publishing industry from the start?
Depends how you define start! I started out writing books and working as a journalist (mainly writing about books) – and those experiences led me into publishing. But I’ve wanted to be around books ever since I realised I couldn’t sing and would never be Mick Jagger.
Has your vision from when you started Galley Beggar five years ago changed?
Not really. Our hope has always just been to publish the very best quality books we can. I guess the thing that has changed is that we now hope to really be able to nurture our writers and keep publishing them, and keep doing the best editorial and production jobs we can for them . . . So we’re looking at careers as well as individual books. But that was something we aspired to quite early on. I suppose the change is that we have a track record now, so don’t have that element of surprise or coming from nowhere. But I still feel and hope we offer something different. Continue reading Interview | Sam Jordison, co-founder, Galley Beggar Press | Indie Publisher of the Week
On 9 November, the German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel published a list of 33,293 people who died trying to emigrate to Europe between 1993 and May of this year. The vast majority drowned in the Mediterranean. As a death toll, the figure is numbing. As a proportion of the EU’s population of 510 million, it is less than 0.007 percent – smaller than the population of, say, Skelmersdale or Haywards Heath – an influx that could easily be accommodated within our large, wealthy continent.
Jenny Erpenbeck, the brilliant German novelist whose four previous books have probed her country’s troubled 20th century history, has now turned to the greatest challenge it has faced in the 21st: the refugee crisis. Her latest book, Go, Went, Gone, eschews the magical realist elements of its predecessors in favour of a crisp documentary approach. It also draws on that classically German genre, the Bildungsroman, a novel charting the moral education of its protagonist. Continue reading Guest Review | C. J. Schüler | Go, Went, Gone, Jenny Erpenbeck