I wrote this novel because I married into a fascinating family. A family that moved four continents in as many generations. When I was seventeen, I lived in Kenya for a short while…
To hear more of Jennifer Acker’s story in her own voice click https://vimeo.com/460178619
Delphinium Books Blog
November 14 & November 21, 2020
Enter to win a pre-release hardback of Lazarus Rising and paperback reissue of In the Shadow of the Bridge both by acclaimed author Joseph Caldwell. Books will be shipped* to you free of charge direct from @DelphBks.
*free shipping is limited to addresses within the USA.
Lazarus Rising tells an unexpected love story. Love, kindness, and the journey to health sometimes have unanticipated consequences. Loss isn’t always what we imagine it to be.
It’s easy to be a part of this moment.
TO ENTER: tag someone you love in the comment box below our announcement on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter then feel free to check our other offerings at DelphiniumBooks.com.
You may enter as often as you wish. Each unique tag will count as a new entry.
Each week, one participant will be picked at random and announced on the following Monday morning.
We hope to bring attention to WORLD AIDS DAY: Unite in support of people living with and affected by HIV and to remember those who lost their lives to AIDS. @WorldAIDSDayUS
If living in a world with COVID-19 has taught us all anything, it’s that it takes COMMUNITY EFFORT to keep EVERYONE SAFE. Be informed, Be safe, Be kind.
By Bina Shah
Last week during the American Vice Presidential debate, the Democratic nominee Kamala Harris said five magical words in response to Mike Pence’s constant interruptions during her responses: “Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking.” There were no apologies; there was no equivocation. Kamala Harris was clear she had the mic and she was not going to be interrupted. Every woman who has had the experience of being overridden, shouted down, or simply ignored because of her gender, clutched these words to her chest and cheered. It’s no wonder this moment went viral as it plucked a resonating chord in the hearts of so many women who have, all their lives, been longing to be heard.
Women’s writing is an extended version of Kamala Harris’s statement. When a woman writes, she is speaking. Her voice must be listened to as you read her words. There is no question of interrupting, of mansplaining, of telling her that you know better than she does. She is the authority; the story is her domain. I’m reminded of this as I think back on three pieces of women’s writing with voices so authoritative, so self-assured that all I could do was listen and be astounded.
The first is last year’s Booker winner Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo. This book, about contemporary life in the United Kingdom for Black British women, is told from many women’s viewpoints and yet the voice speaking is always Evaristo’s, warm and witty behind the scene. How inspiring to read as a woman masterfully controls a narrative which is made up of many women’s and nonbinary voices: a polyphony that delights in a world where so many men’s voices dominate.
The second is The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste. This novel, shortlisted for this year’s Booker, tells the story of the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935. Again Mengiste’s voice is the authority: her central characters include Hirut, a young woman who takes up arms in the rebellion. Mangiste centers the women’s experiences of war in her story. There is even a Greek chorus that speaks at various points in the book commenting on the violence visited upon the Ethiopian people. In my mind, that chorus is made up of women.
The third piece of writing comes from an unknown writer from Kashmir called Saba Mahjoor. I recently read two short stories published online. “How to Love Militantly – Or How to Make Gulkand” is about a young girl who loses her first love to the violence committed by Indian armed forces. “On the Exorcism of a Married Woman,” describes how women subvert tradition and cultural constrictions surrounding fertility and childbearing by using their indirect power. I was exhilarated to read stories from a young Kashmiri woman when most of the recognized and established authors from this region are men. Her voice, quiet and melancholy, but completely assured and truthful, was speaking from the page right into my ear.
Such is the maliciousness of patriarchy that whenever a woman speaks or writes, on some level these activities are perceived as acts of resistance when they should be as natural as when men do it. Consider that women are our first storytellers: they tell children bedtime stories and sing them lullabies; they are the keepers of folklore and the traditions of their cultures. So many women are scared into keeping silent but women’s writing manages to uplift their voices, in song or verse or prose that shakes with its own strength. History is filled with women writing secret diaries, writing poetry or manuscripts published under masculine names, and even an entire language in rural China spoken only by women.
As a woman who writes there is no greater joy than the possibility of 300 pages in which my voice is allowed to achieve full throttle. This is why women push to be published and why it’s important for their writing to be read by both men and women, not banished to the questionable world of “women’s writing” and “chick lit.” The world is not a fair place when half its population is expected to remain silent and submissive. Its full potential can only be reached when this restriction is deliberately, purposefully lifted by the gatekeepers of publishing, but more importantly, challenged by women themselves in all forums.
Image: DDIworld.com/blog/intersectional-feminism, 10-21-20.
You Would Have Told Me Not To
By Christopher Coake
Just after midnight, Suzanne stopped for gas on the Indiana-Ohio border. Next to the gas station was a liquor store; without much hesitation, she went inside and bought a handful of miniature whiskey bottles. She drank one in the parking lot, then checked her phone one more time: still no messages—from Abby, Sean, a doctor, any- one. She called the hospital one more time, and received the same runaround: Sean had been admitted, and that was all they’d reveal. She said unkind things and hung up. When she’d gotten her Buick back to speed on the interstate, snow swirled past her windshield in a manner she could only describe as malevolent. The liquor burned her in her belly, and she focused on it, used it as a platform from which she could step back into her best and most rational self.
Fifty more miles of mostly empty highway, though, and she was back to remembering herself and Sean at their worst: what she had sworn she would not do, since her son’s girlfriend Abby had called two hours ago, and left a message that he’d had been shot.
She hadn’t spoken with Sean since early August, when he had called to tell her he was quitting his graduate program in anthropology. There was a reason to want a drink: the last conversation she might ever have had with her only child had been an argument, an ugly one.
From the tone of his voice (too honeyed and placating; he’d learned that trick from his father), and the over-solicitous way he’d asked after Miguel and the bank branch that she managed, she’d known what he was calling to tell her. She began to rage, not only because of Sean’s irresponsibility (though, god, definitely because of that), but because of his predictability.
Sean told her his reasons—his heart wasn’t in it; the work wasn’t engaging him—but she filled in the real answers: You’re quitting because grad school asked you to work very hard, and you don’t like to. Because I wrote you several large checks last year to make grad school hap- pen, and some part of you takes joy in wasting my money. You’re quitting because you know I wanted this for you.
You’re quitting because you asked your father first, and I just know he told you to follow your heart, and your father is full of shit.
She said none of this aloud. What had she expected? She’d been too eager to help him, after all. Too eager for him to make something of himself, too eager to write him the checks, too exultant the night she’d toasted him in front of Abby, calling him “Dr. Sypes.”
Finally she couldn’t listen to any more. She’d interrupted, and told Sean she was disappointed in him. That he was twenty-seven, and too old to be leaving things like this unfinished. That sooner or later he’d have to make up his mind about who he was. She couldn’t decide that for him— “I never asked you to!” he said. “Jesus, Mom—you’re a really awful person, sometimes. You know that?” He’d hung up, and she had never called him back.
They often went weeks without talking, but this last silence had lasted nearly three months.
Abby’s message had been frantic, tearful—Sean’s been shot, we’re going to Riverside Hospital, come quick. She’d not called again, and her phone went right to voicemail. Suzanne had tried calling Sean’s father, Rick, in London, but he didn’t answer, either. Sean could very well be dead by now, a long pale form beneath a sheet. Suzanne imagined a doctor, tall and serious, wearily stripping off bloodied latex gloves.
No, remember something else. Remember him as a baby again, as fat at birth as he would someday be tall, squalling wetly in her arms, smelling both sweet and ob- scene, her body turned inside out and given to her to hold.
She had loved him—let no one ever doubt that she had loved him!—but she was someone (Be honest, she heard her therapist say) for whom relationships were complicated, and even then, even when he was a baby, the love she’d felt for her boy had been tinged with a bitter doom. I can’t, she’d thought, feeling him begin to nurse. I can’t do this. I’ll ruin him.
More than once she had thought, He’ll ruin me.
She could still feel the weight of him, then, the breath trickling out of him, the delicate redness of his skin. How fragile, how impermanent he’d seemed. She could have cut him open with a fingernail.
Sean was not only alive; when Suzanne entered his room an hour and a half later, she found him sitting up and laughing.
Abigail leaned across the bed, her hands clasped on his stomach; in her dazed, puffy face Suzanne saw, at least, some evidence that another human being had been put through hell tonight, too. Sean was drawn—skinnier! He’d lost weight—and his right arm was in a sling. He was pale, his chin coated by several days’ stubble. A long brown scribble of dried blood rose from under his gown and ended in a smear below his earlobe.
“Mama!” Sean cried, holding out his free arm. “Mi madre!”
“Baby boy,” she said—she heard herself say it—and, helpless, rushed to him, buried her face into the crook of his neck, which was warm and smelled of blood.
* * *
He’d been shot through the biceps, she learned; she trailed a surgeon (not at all the tall white movie star she’d imagined; he was slim, Japanese, and very cheerful) out of the room and got the full report. The bullet had trav- eled cleanly through the muscle, missing arteries and major nerves—which, the doctor told her, had been the most advantageous path it could have taken.
“It could have missed him!”
“My understanding,” the doctor told her, smiling proudly, as though Sean were his own son, “is that Sean was shot protecting his wife. Shielding her, and the baby.”
She stopped herself from asking, His wife? Who’s that? And why had they been holding a baby?
When Suzanne returned to the room, Abby was standing up, and she saw clearly that Abby was pregnant, and well along, too. Oh. And Abby and Sean were both wearing rings on the proper fingers. Oh, again.
Sean was drowsy with painkiller. He smiled up at her, heartbreakingly sweet. “Mama,” he said, slurring, “you must be so mad at me.”
* * *
Sean was discharged only a couple of hours after her arrival, at four a.m., and Suzanne drove him and Abby home to their apartment. Abby sat in back with Sean, her legs across his, her fingers in his hair, and neither of them said anything about being married, or about Abigail’s belly.
“Please,” Suzanne said, watching Abby’s ring finger in the rearview mirror. “Tell me what happened?”
The shooting, Abby told her, had happened at the bar where Sean was working. (Her son, a bartender!) Sean’s shift had ended, and Abby had driven to pick him up—she didn’t like him walking so late at night, especially when it was nasty out. The parking lot had mostly been empty, and when she’d gotten out of her car to walk in- side the rear door and talk to Sean and her good friend Mikki, she’d heard a man yell at her. He was probably just a drunk, or even a bum, she figured—so she’d hurried to the door, but then the man had run up and pulled on her arm, dug his fingers in—“I’m bruised, I showed the cops”—and she was sure she was about to get abduct- ed and raped—
But at the exact moment the man grabbed her, Sean opened the door, and saw what was going on, and he’d acted so fast, Abby couldn’t even believe it; in an eye- blink—literally—Sean had yanked her away from the man and inside. And then he did something dumb–
“But very brave,” Sean said, his eyes closed.
“Dumb, but very brave”—Abby pecked wetly at his cheek, then rubbed the kiss away—and then Sean had gone back out into the parking lot, yelling. And right away the guy pulled a gun out of his jacket pocket and pointed it at the door, or Sean—no one knew who he was really aiming at, but it didn’t matter—Sean jumped at the door and slammed it, and on the other side Abby heard the gun go off, and part of her died, literally died, and she and Mikki started screaming, and she opened the door even though she knew she shouldn’t have, and Sean ran inside, and they locked the door, and that was when they realized he had been shot.
“It’s weird,” Sean said. His eyes were closed, but his voice was hale and engaged. “Getting shot. I’d just had a bullet go through my arm, and—I don’t know, my adrena- line was really going, and I’d had a couple of drinks—sorry, Mom—and I couldn’t even figure out where it hurt.”
“I was the one who felt it,” Abby said. “I felt the blood coming out right under my palm.”
“I was pretty numb then.”
“I got your blood all over me,” Abby said to him, in something like wonder. She’d begun to breathe too hard. Sean twisted to comfort her and groaned with pain, and then Abby was hugging him. “God, Sean, I was so scared—” And he was saying, “I know, baby, I know.” In the mirror Suzanne saw them clinging tightly together. Sean was comforting his wife. Then his eyes opened, and met Suzanne’s in the mirror.
“So, Ma, we’re gonna have a baby.”
Abby slapped his chest. “And she has to have a fucking father. You stupid stupid stupid asshole.”
When I read of Toni Morrison’s death, I thought of the one and only time I met her: when she did a reading at New York University in the 90s. The graduate program in Creative Writing sponsored the event, and because I was teaching in the program, I ended up being one of the organizers.