WBEZ | Donna Seaman http://www.wbez.org/tags/donna-seaman Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Morning Shift: Get your summer book bag ready http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-06-21/morning-shift-get-your-summer-book-bag-ready-107794 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Reading Books Train-Flickr-mootown.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Literary critic Donna Seaman is always excited to share new book ideas. Summer is officially upon us on Friday so she discusses some titles that you can take on road trips or to the beach. What are you excited to read this summer?</p><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-get-your-summer-book-bag-ready.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-get-your-summer-book-bag-ready" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Get your summer book bag ready" on Storify</a>]</noscript></p> Fri, 21 Jun 2013 08:22:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-06-21/morning-shift-get-your-summer-book-bag-ready-107794 Sapphire Discusses 'The Kid' http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/sapphire-discusses-kid-106224 <p><p>Bestselling author <strong>Sapphire</strong> converses with <strong>Donna Seaman</strong>, Senior Editor at Booklist, to discuss her novel <em>The Kid</em>. <em>The Kid</em> is Sapphire&#39;s second novel and tells the electrifying story of Abdul Jones, the son of Push&#39;s unforgettable heroine, <em>Precious</em>.</p><p>Famed in the worlds of literature, poetry and literacy--and an extraordinary public speaker--Sapphire is first and foremost a poet and performer. She is the author of <em>American Dreams</em>, cited by <em>Publisher&#39;s Weekly</em> as &#39;One of the strongest debut collections of the nineties;&#39; and <em>Black Wings &amp; Blind Angels</em>, of which <em>Poets &amp; Writers</em> declared, &#39;With her soul on the line in each verse, her latest collection retains Sapphire&#39;s incendiary power to win hearts and singe minds.&#39;</p><p>More information on this event <a href="http://www.chipublib.org/events/details/id/99774/">here.</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/StoryWeek-webstory_13.jpg" title="" /></div><p>Recorded live Monday, March 18, 2013 at the Harold Washington Library Center.</p></p> Mon, 18 Mar 2013 11:36:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/sapphire-discusses-kid-106224 Taking a whiff of 'This New & Poisonous Air' http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-08-02/taking-whiff-new-poisonous-air-89969 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-August/2011-08-02/Adam-McOmber.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>As the assistant director of Creative Nonfiction at Columbia College Chicago, <a href="http://adammcomber.com/" target="_blank">Adam McOmber</a> teaches mythology as well as creative nonfiction, and serves as the associate editor of the literary magazine <a href="http://www.newpages.com/literary-magazines/hotel_amerika.htm" target="_blank"><em>Hotel Amerika</em></a>. His work has been published in <a href="http://www.conjunctions.com/" target="_blank"><em>Conjunctions</em></a>, <a href="http://www.thirdcoastmagazine.com/" target="_blank"><em>Third</em><em>Coast</em></a>, <a href="http://www.camden.rutgers.edu/storyquarterly/index.php" target="_blank"><em>StoryQuarterly</em></a> and <a href="http://www.aldaily.com/" target="_blank"><em>Arts &amp; Letters</em></a>. His first book is a short story collection, <em>This New &amp; Poisonous Air; </em>his first novel will appear next year.</p><p>The opening short story in <em>This New &amp; Poisonous Air</em> portrays a gifted dancer and a diabolically creative engineer living in early seventeenth-century Italy. Together the men produce a ballet with an elaborate set. It’s an uncanny replica of the city of Florence, which many felt created “a threatening sense of fantasy.” The same can be said for McOmber’s intricate and provocative stories about forbidden love, and how artifice and make-believe provide sanctuary for the outcast and the heartbroken.</p><p>The dancer and the engineer––who, in mourning for their doomed affair, builds a vast artificial garden featuring alarming robots––are loosely based on historic figures. In the story <em>There Are No Bodies Such as This</em>, McOmber fictionalizes, and sensitively humanizes, Madame Tussaud of waxworks fame. A woman of determination, intellect, and dark vision, she finds self-expression and affirmation in creating eerily lifelike wax creations.</p><p>In the tender yet hard-hitting title story, a young girl is left alone and starving in her village after the bubonic plague kills her mother and her father disappears. The girl bravely agrees to accompany a traveling stranger, who assures her that he’ll do her no harm. After several confounding and frightening nights in places fancy and foul, she discerns the nature of his intimate trade in a poisoned world, and in a curious reversal, becomes his protector.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>McOmber layers so many social and psychological nuances into his curiously timeless and powerfully seductive myths, fairy tales, and fables, they shimmer and bristle in the mind. <em>Take A Man of History</em>, for instance, in which pragmatism meets enchantment as an aged man of some means and much resignation channels his taboo feelings for men into devotion to an old book, the alleged diary of a knight errant known as Sir Stephen of Sorrows. In <em>A Memory of His Rising</em>, the sons of two rival academics fall in love, until one inexplicably acquires the ability to fly with tragic results.</p><p>In <em>Gardens of the Moon</em>, the fantasies of Jules Verne play in harsh counterpoint to an old, ornery, steam-powered McCormick threshing machine manned by a young farmer who is longing for his lost closeness to a boyhood friend. He is in a marriage of convenience with a smart gal from Chicago. She’s a playwright’s daughter, who tells him that she married him for the same reason he married her, because she understands that much of life is theater. McOmber complicates his reigning metaphor in the taut and creepy story, <em>Fall, Orpheum</em>, in which a movie theater, and the trance movies induce, turn bizarrely malevolent.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>The tyranny of prejudice and fear, false lives staged to camouflage love deemed evil or profane, the escape routes engineered by the imagination in crisis––all intrigue and inspire Adam McOmber. <em>This New &amp; Poisonous Air</em> is laced with sorrow and mystery, beauty and compassion, insight and protest. <em>This New &amp; Poisonous Air</em> is exquisitely crafted, daringly inventive and keenly haunting.</p><p><em>Music Button: Radio Citizen, "Mondlicht", from the album Berlin Serengeti, (Ubiquity) </em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 02 Aug 2011 14:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-08-02/taking-whiff-new-poisonous-air-89969 Book Review: 'The Borrower' by Rebecca Makkai http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-19/book-review-borrower-rebecca-makkai-89353 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-July/2011-07-19/Borrower.png" alt="" /><p><p><a href="http://rebeccamakkai.com/about/">Rebecca Makkai</a> is an elementary school teacher living north of Chicago, and a short story writer whose work has appeared in <em>Tin House</em>, <em>Ploughshares</em>, <em>The Threepenny Review</em>, and in editions of the annual <em>The Best American Short Stories </em>edited by such luminaries as Salman Rushdie, Richard Russon, Geraldine Brooks and Dave Eggers. Makkai’s stories have also been featured on Public Radio International’s <em>Selected Shorts</em>. Her first novel is <em><a href="http://rebeccamakkai.com/work/the-borrower/" target="_blank">The Borrower</a></em>.</p><p>Ian Drake is a smart, funny, energetic, and articulate 10-year-old who loves to read. Lucy Hull is a 26-year-old children’s librarian, and the edgy, hilarious, and subversively irresponsible narrator in <em>The Borrower</em>.</p><p>Lucy finds precocious and wound-up Ian immensely engaging (as will the reader), and likes nothing better than steering him toward engrossing and provocative books. That is, until his mother appears and explains that Ian must only read books with “the breath of God” in them. Her list of forbidden topics includes witchcraft, wizardry, Halloween, and the theory of evolution. Worse yet, his parents are sending Ian, in whom every adult sees a future gay man, to Pastor Bob Lawson. This man guides “sexually confused” young people away from the “wrong” path. Pastor Bob asserts that “sexuality is a choice,” and that only heterosexuality is “Godly.” Lucy is appalled and stymied. But what can she do?</p><p>It doesn’t take long for Ian to run away from home, and take refuge in the library. The young booklover and the frustrated librarian hit the road in Lucy’s crummy old car, leaving Ian’s small Missouri hometown behind. They embark on a wildly inappropriate, most likely illegal, and desperately improvised escape.</p><p>Literary call-outs abound in <em>The Borrower</em>. <em>Huckleberry Finn</em> is a guiding light. The Oz books are avidly recommended for any kid who feels as though his or her entire being is the equivalent of coloring outside the lines. Makkai also works in some jittery allusions to Nabokov’s <em>Lolita </em>as Lucy tries to figure out what the heck she thinks she’s doing, crossing state lines with a 10-year-old boy whose family must be frantic about him. Is she borrowing the boy because she’s lonely and confused?</p><p>Ian and Lucy meander, lie, sneak, and panhandle their way from one grimy motel to another as they head East and North. They stop in Chicago and crash at Lucy’s parents’ Lake Shore Drive apartment. This place is the plush opposite of her creaky digs above an old theater where she can’t flush the toilet during shows because the walls are so thin. Her voluble father is a secretive Russian, who fled the USSR under dire circumstances and became rich via “shady business dealings.” He dazzles Ian with stories of the old country, gives Lucy a wad of cash, and arranges for the runaways to deliver a mysterious package to a buddy in Pittsburgh.</p><p>Ian is having the time of his life. It’s as though he’s living inside one of his beloved adventure books. Lucy is terrified as the search for the missing boy intensifies and their money runs out. She is also suffering a string of painful revelations. She discovers how little she knows about people close to her. How fogged her perceptions are, how superficial and self-serving her assumptions can be. But of one thing Lucy is absolutely certain: reading is good. She believes fervently “that books can save you.”</p><p>Charming, funny, original, thought-provoking, and moving, Rebecca Makkai’s <em>The Borrower</em> embraces outsiders and dissenters, and celebrates the power of our imagination and our empathy. This warmly entertaining, picaresque novel in praise of personal freedom and books leaves us marveling over literature’s magnificent paradox: that in fiction dwells profound truth.</p></p> Tue, 19 Jul 2011 16:42:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-19/book-review-borrower-rebecca-makkai-89353 Novelist Chris Mazza tackles exploitation in new novel http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-05-19/novelist-chris-mazza-tackles-exploitation-new-novel-86752 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-May/2011-05-19/cris-mazza.jpg" alt="" /><p><div><p><em>A correction has been made to this story.</em></p></div><p>Hester Smith knows a thing or two about failure. She’s ended up working at a greenhouse near the Mexican border despite a promising start in higher education. There she discovers a thriving business, not in plants, but in Mexican sex slaves. As Hester ponders what to do about the illegal trafficking, she journeys back to her experience with sexual harassment.</p><p>Hester and her various dilemmas are at the center of the new novel <a href="http://www.cris-mazza.com/excerpts.html" target="_blank"><em>Various Men Who Knew us as Girls</em></a>. It’s the latest from Cris Mazza, who runs the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Program of Writers. Book Critic Donna Seaman recently spoke with Mazza about her new novel.<br> <br> On Friday, May 20, Chris Mazza will read from <em>Various Men Who Knew us as Girls</em> at <a href="http://www.bookcellarinc.com/event/chris-mazza-and-elise-blackwell" target="_blank">The Book Cellar</a> in Chicago.</p><p><em>Music Button: Album Leaf, "Writing On The Wall", from the CD Into The Blue Again, (Sub Pop)<br> <br> Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Chris Mazza's name. </em><br> &nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 19 May 2011 13:42:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-05-19/novelist-chris-mazza-tackles-exploitation-new-novel-86752 Donna Seaman reviews 'Voyager' by Srikanth Reddy http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-03-22/donna-seaman-reviews-voyager-srikanth-reddy-84071 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-March/2011-03-22/Reddy University of Chicago.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The space shuttle Voyager is both the inspiration and title of the second collection by Chicago poet Srikanth Reddy. The University of Chicago assistant professor won the Asian American Literary Award for <em>Facts for Visitors</em><b>, </b>his first book of poems. WBEZ Book Critic Donna Seaman offers her review.<br /><br />Who is speaking, I asked myself as I began reading <em>Voyager</em>. This was not the lushly textured voice that distinguishes in Srikanth Reddy&rsquo;s first book, <em>Facts for Visitors</em>. No, Book One, the first of three sections in <em>Voyager</em>, is spare, parsing, and philosophical. Here&rsquo;s a sample:</p><p>Is is.<br />There is no distinction between ideology and image.<br />One.<br />He records his name on a gold medallion.<br />Two.<br />The philosopher must say is.<br />The world is legion.<br />The self is a suffering form.<br />Is is.<br />Waves rise and fall, but the sea remains.</p><p>The narrator speaks tersely and tensely of war, the cold war, kingdoms, empires, nations. Time. Peace. Orders are given and seem not to be followed. The narrator names names. Schopenhauer. Kurt Waldheim. Hold that thought.</p><p>On to Book Two, a cycle of blocky little prose poems. One to a page, like a dark porthole. Now we sense that we&rsquo;ve met the poet. And now we&rsquo;re cued to one source of the book&rsquo;s title, Voyager the space mission. Not that Reddy names it. Instead he writes, <br />&ldquo;I became interested in the fate of a machine which had been launched into creation and disappeared from sight during my boyhood.&rdquo; He confides that at night, he &ldquo;sought refuge in the parallel journey.&rdquo;</p><p>Voyager is a profoundly evocative subject for a poet. Especially since Voyager carries the famous Golden Record, &ldquo;Earth&rsquo;s Greeting to the Universe,&rdquo; as NASA describes it. Srikanth Reddy writes:</p><p>&ldquo;Aboard, I read, was a deeply-etched record of the world that floated away, full of popular tunes and beautiful technological problems. Perhaps an observer far in outer space might study this information in days to come. He would have to weigh carefully in his heart the words of a man who by some quirk of fate had become a spokesman for humanity, who could give voice to all the nations and peoples of the world, and, so to speak, the conscience of mankind.&rdquo;</p><p>The ironic spokesman is Kurt Waldheim, then the Secretary General of the United Nations. He will soon be disgraced, but not derailed, when his concealed past as a Nazi SS officer is exposed. It is Waldheim&rsquo;s voice that begins and ends this gracefully disquieting book of poems. It&rsquo;s the result of an arduous mission of correction. Deeply affected by the problems Waldheim&rsquo;s life embodies, Reddy enacted his own form of selective omission. He went through Waldheim&rsquo;s memoir, In the Eye of the Storm, and painstakingly crossed out line after line. He then extracted words and phrases, slivers of truth, to create poems of beautifully unnerving disclosures and reflections.</p><p>Reddy writes that he does not want to judge Waldheim, but rather attempt to understand him. To that end, Book Three is a soliloquy of great empathy and tragic resonance in which Waldheim tells his story.</p><p>Voyager is a nuanced and haunting book of geopolitical, literary, moral, and spiritual inquiry. Guided by the poet, we envision the infinite mystery of space and the astonishing ingenuity and longevity of the Voyager mission. Srikanth Reddy also takes us on a voyage through the great unknown that resides within each of us&ndash;&ndash;as we each carry our own etched records of memories, wounds, illusions, and hope on our journeys right here on spaceship Earth.</p></p> Tue, 22 Mar 2011 12:43:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-03-22/donna-seaman-reviews-voyager-srikanth-reddy-84071 Donna Seaman reviews ‘Snakewoman of Little Egypt' http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/donna-seaman-reviews-%E2%80%98snakewoman-little-egypt <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/snakewoman.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Author <a href="http://www.roberthellenga.com/" target="_blank">Robert Hellenga</a> sets many of his novels in Italy but in his latest book, the English professor turned to a setting much closer to home. &quot;<a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003Y3BBCG/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_3?pf_rd_p=486539851&amp;pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&amp;pf_rd_t=201&amp;pf_rd_i=1608192628&amp;pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&amp;pf_rd_r=0A68JY5150NGJ417T47F" target="_blank">Snakewoman of Little Egypt</a>&quot; takes place in Central Illinois, Helenga&rsquo;s home base for the past 40 years.</p><p>Book critic Donna Seaman found that the region provided solid ground for the novel&rsquo;s imaginative search for meaning and connection in the world.</p><p><br />Jackson Carter Jones is an associate professor of anthropology at a central Illinois university that may or may not resemble Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. That&rsquo;s where Hellenga himself has long been a professor. <br /><br /> But Jackson doesn&rsquo;t seem professorial as he sits on the deck with a gun, waiting for the groundhog that&rsquo;s been burrowing under his house. And he isn&rsquo;t feeling so great. Jackson has been battling Lyme disease for two discouraging years. His handyman Warren used to take care of the groundhogs. But Warren has died, and now Jackson not only must contend with the critters, he also promised to look after Warren&rsquo;s niece. Willa Fern is in prison for serving time for shooting, but not killing, her husband Earl. <br /><br /> Jackson has another ailment: his heart is still in Africa. It was there, as a graduate student, he studied pygmies. Spellbound in paradise, he cast aside his &ldquo;anthropological detachment&rdquo; and went native, as they say, until he was forced to leave behind his lover and their daughter, who hadn&rsquo;t yet been born when he was deported. <br /><br /> When Willa walks free, she looks up at the blue sky and gives herself a new name: Sunny. From then on, Jackson and Sunny take turns narrating the rest of the novel. It&rsquo;s a subtle duel of words and worldviews craftily orchestrated by Hellenga. So much so, the reader is constantly reevaluating her impressions of each character. This is a book that sheds its skin chapter by chapter.<br /><br /> We learn that Sunny shot her husband Earl because he forced her, at gunpoint, the story goes, to &ldquo;put her arm in a box of rattlesnakes.&rdquo; Yes, Sunny is Snakewoman, and Little Egypt is at the southern tip of Illinois. And Earl is pastor of the Church of the Burning Bush with Signs Following, a church of snake-handlers, speaking in tongues, the drinking strychnine, and the laying on of hands. Sunny knows her snakes, and yes, she was, as her people say, &ldquo;serpent-bit.&rdquo; <br /><br /> For Sunny, who married Earl when she was 16, prison was a sanctuary. Finally, away from all the shouting, the trances, the death-daring ceremonies, the threats, she can think. She earns her GED, and she&rsquo;s now, thanks to her uncle, looking forward to college. One visit to the dormitory inspires her to move into her uncle&rsquo;s old digs above Jackson&rsquo;s garage, and in no time she and Jackson are way more than close neighbors.<br /><br /> So there it is: the academic and the downstate snakewoman eager to improve herself. It&rsquo;s a perfect Pygmalion scenario. Until Earl shows up. <br /><br /> Hellenga is quite the snake himself in this sly, deliciously escalating, sexy, and incisive tale of exploded assumptions. As Jackson and Sunny circle each other and volley the story back-and-forth, as snakes coil and slither and strike&ndash;&ndash;snakes seen with a biologist&rsquo;s eye, and snakes &ldquo;encrusted with mythology,&rdquo; as Sunny puts it&ndash;&ndash;Hellenga contrasts various forms of faith, ritual, and knowledge, questions the divides between science and religion, desire and delusion. Handle this whip-smart, deadpan funny, shape-shifting, and electrifying novel with care, and you will see the light.</p></p> Thu, 02 Dec 2010 14:29:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/donna-seaman-reviews-%E2%80%98snakewoman-little-egypt Chicago author Margaret Hawkins takes on family and mental illness in latest works http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/chicago-author-margaret-hawkins-takes-family-and-mental-illness-latest-works <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2010-October/2010-10-26/n343111[1].jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicagoan&nbsp;<a target="_blank" href="http://www.saic.edu/people/Hawkins_Margaret.html?color=ORANGE">Margaret Hawkins</a> is perhaps best known for her work on the visual arts. But the writer, critic and Art Institute of Chicago professor has also penned three books, two of which are just out this fall. Her newest novel is <em><a target="_blank" href="http://www.amazon.com/Survive-Natural-Disaster-Margaret-Hawkins/dp/1579622046/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1287498854&amp;sr=1-1"><em>How to Survive a Natural Disaster</em></a></em>. She&rsquo;s also written a memoir of her family, <em><a target="_blank" href="http://www.amazon.com/How-Got-Barb-Back-Schizophrenia/dp/1573244775/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_b"><em>How We Got Barb Back: The Story of My Sister&rsquo;s Reawakening After 30 Years of Schizophrenia</em></a></em>. Book critic Donna Seaman recently spoke with Hawkins who says she wrote the memoirs to spread her wings.</p></p> Tue, 19 Oct 2010 16:52:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/chicago-author-margaret-hawkins-takes-family-and-mental-illness-latest-works