This is very hard. The last time I wrote this letter, my life and those of the many people working with the magazine was going on like it always did. In addition, in our lifetime we have seen wars, race riots, assassinations, unbridle greed, pollution, you name it
On a personal note I have been shown the door many times over because of my race or because I was a strange bird who always called himself an American. I have had wonderful, bright, loving women suddenly dumping me. And a few women that I dumped…
I have gone from rags to riches and back to rags and back to riches, but, still, for most of my adult life I have been talking to readers like you.
So, Pollyanna has nothing on me. Like her, I always saw the silver lining in the not so far distant future.
That’s one of the reasons why I started Neworld Review. When I published the first issue thirteen years ago, I knew that it was going to work. And, yes, it has.
Now, however, I must think hard about going outdoors because I might die from the virus affecting the entire world. This is something that just slowly gained momentum and is causing the entire world into a sense of profound melancholy.
However, the world has dealt with the problem of viruses. And in most cases, it wasn’t our ability to contain this dreadful enemy. This deadly foe is always sleeping, sometimes sleeping for centuries. The world has seen countless outbreaks. We will find a way to survive this, but not without a large number of human beings dying.
There will be humans doing what we always do. Meanwhile, we will love, cry, and ask a higher being to help us.
Enjoy issue No. 88 of the Neworld Review.
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The story of war has always been a masculine story, but this was not true for Ethiopia and it has never been that way in any form of struggle. Women have been there, we are here now.
Author’s Note, The Shadow King
The year 1974 is symbolic of critical moments in the world and life of Maaza Mengiste, novelist, scholar and professor of creative writing at Queens College of the City University of New York. Mengiste was born in 1974, the year that opens her recent novel of historical fiction, The Shadow King. 1974 is also the year that marks the end of the rule of Emperor Haile Selassie and opens her award-winning debut novel Beneath the Lion’s Gaze (W.W. Norton, 2011).
Maaza Mengiste was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and lived in Nigeria and Kenya before settling in the United States. Her recent novel, The Shadow King, as does Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, focuses on the impact of the war in the lives of Ethiopians and in particular, Haile Selassie. The Shadow King recounts the story of the roles of Hirut and Aster, two Ethiopian women who played leadership roles in fighting Mussolini’s soldiers in Italy’s war of aggression against Ethiopia in 1935.
Works of historical fiction are expanding the western and post-colonial literary canon. As a genre, historical fiction has been critical in documenting and providing an authentic record of the lives and experiences of people in our history. Historical fiction provides the sociological and historical moments in time that force one to look at multiple viewpoints, at contact zones that examine all of the forces in play..
The examination of these texts from varying lens enables the author to create literary texts that represent a more encompassing truth. More recently books such as The Underground Railroad (Doubleday, 2016) by Colson Whitehead, The Water Dancer (Random House, 2019) by TaNehisi Coates, Washington Black (Random House, 2018) by Esi Edugyan, Homegoing (Random House, 2016) by Yas Gyesi and Black Leopard, Red Wolf (Penguin, 2019) by Marlon James have combined the genres of fiction, magical realism and speculative fiction to tell stories from the perspectives of those who have been subjected to slavery, racism, colonialism, and imperialism. Mengiste’s novel adds to the increasing number of texts that blend genres to create historical narratives that complicate and deepen our understanding of history..
The Shadow King portrays two strong female characters who become soldiers in the war against Mussolini, thus defying the expectations of Ethiopian men and playing a pivotal role in the success of the war. Mengiste was motivated to write this novel by her grandmother who enlisted and went to war against Italy. In writing this story, Mengiste fulfills a gap in European and African history. Her novel reveals the interior fears, hopes and challenges in the lives of Ethiopians affected by war, and recounts the story of woman soldiers, a gap left off in historical narratives across the globe. Mengiste’s historical and well-researched novel of Ethiopian history thus complicates European, American, African and world history..
Blending poetry and prose Mengiste takes the reader on a journey that is immersed in a theatrical production with prologues, interludes, choruses, and performances. As the novel opens, the protagonist, Hirut, is sitting in the Addis Ababa train station, reflecting on 40 years earlier, (1934) when she was the most trusted soldier of the Shadow King, the king who substituted for the Emperor during a significant portion of the invasion..
She is holding a box of letters, news clippings and photos collected by the photographer who captured her vulnerability while she was imprisoned and who documented the.....Read More
As we seek some solace from the menace of the coronavirus, noted music critic Howard Reich, in view of our inability to venture out for entertainment, has weighed in with his top jazz films to fill the terrible void. Topping his list is “Round Midnight,” the 1986 film starring saxophonist Dexter Gordon. This notice comes just as I’ve finished reading Gordon’s autobiography, and it’s so cited in this fashion because Dexter never completed what his widow finished.
Consuming her extremely absorbing account of her husband’s bountiful life and her relationship with him, I was reminded of the process Ekwueme Michael Thelwell used in completing Stokely Carmichael’s (Kwame Ture) book, Ready for Revolution. That collaboration, like the one between Dexter and Maxine, began and ended as the essential voice was no longer there. But, in both cases, Ture and Dexter left behind enough for their partners to weave into the published product, which each does deftly.
In the Afterword of Sophisticated Giant, Maxine’s son, Woody Louis Armstrong Shaw III, summarizes his mother’s varied and productive career, noting that she, “is one of our leaders, an ingenious organizer, administrator, and manager of often irreconcilable and inconsolable minds and moods, a patron of unforgiving truths and hard-won justice, a lover and believer in human dignity and the power of beauty of Spirit.”
She is also, we might add, a gifted storyteller, historian, and a most astute sentinel of jazz.
The book unfolds in a chronological fashion, hewing close to Dexter’s early musical odyssey, highlighting his teen years with Lionel Hampton’s band, and following his adventurous days and nights through a veritable who’s who of jazz; and you’ll need a map to locate him during his musical flights around the globe.
Farah Jasmine Griffin, in her concise Foreword points out how Sophisticated Giant differs from such books as Sidney Bechet’s Treat it Gentle, Charles Mingus’s Beneath the Underdog, and Miles Davis’s autobiography with Quincy Troupe, because of.....Read More
I grew up a Navy brat and only child, and my family roamed the country and much of California, at one point moving from Ventura where my father was stationed at Pt. Mugu and to Hickam Field in Hawaii and then back again to California. This was in the mid-1950s. In Honolulu, until we found more permanent housing, we lived for a few weeks in the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, whose sprawling veranda offered protection from tropical storms and flying coconuts and was by then a decrepit Victorian monument to the days before the Howlies, who wrangled the islands from the natives in the late 1800s.
I mention this because Hawaii always held a place in the imaginations of Californians that was more personal than for the Easterners, for whom it was a just a sultry escape from punishing winters.
For Californians, as Joan Didion says in the “Letter from Paradise” essay in Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Hawaii was “The Islands,” by which was mostly meant Oahu, before Maui became the go-to destination. Hawaii loomed large in the California ethos, not least for its blasting us into the second world war. And there were signs of its influence everywhere. The Golden State became an outpost for surfing, tiki culture—there were restaurants with names like The Luau, The Islander, Tikis, where could be heard knockoffs of the treacly music of Don Ho and his tiny bubbles.
But our family was among few Californians who had actually lived in The Islands and who came home wearing Hawaiian shirts and placed brightly colored, feathered gourd rattles on our coffee table. After returning stateside my father could never again touch pineapples because he had so overindulged during our two-year sojourn.
In the New York Review of Books (May 26, 2016) Didion writes: “The Royal Hawaiian had a glamour for California children who grew up as I did. Little girls in Sacramento were bought raffia grass skirts by returning godmothers. They were taught ‘Aloha Oe’ at Girl Scout meetings, and to believe that their clumsiness would be resolve via the mastery of the hula.” This was the Hawaiian influence we also knew firsthand.
Didion has influenced legions of younger writers and 25 of them are represented in the recently published Slouching Toward Los Angeles: Living and Writing by Joan Didion’s Light. As the title suggests, the contributors are Los Angeles-based writers, several of whom apparently moved from distant parts of the country to the Southland because of Didion’s writing
The acute depiction of place and specifically the evocation of the power of land is among Joan Didion’s manifold strengths as a writer.
Two of Didion’s main themes are the power of place and how it can change beyond recognition and the terrible inevitability of personal loss. “All that is constant about the California of my childhood is the rate at which it disappears,” she writes in “Notes from a Native Daughter.”
In 2003 Didion had just published Where I Was From, an elegy to California and the Sacramento Valley she had known as a child, when her husband of 40 years, the writer John Gregory Dunne, died of a heart attack in their New York City apartment. A year later she would publish her book of grieving The Year of Magical Thinking, and the following year the couple’s only child, Quintana Roo, would die at the age of 39. Blue Nights would reflect on that loss.
In Where I Was From she writes of returning to Sacramento in 2001 for her mother’s funeral and flying over the checkered plains of the Midwest then over the Sierra Nevada, the range her ancestors had crossed with the infamous Donner Party more than a century before, and then into the Sacramento Valley, where her family had set down roots that would last eight generations. She thought about the contradictions embodied in California life, many of them manifested in her mother’s attitudes. There was the individualism, a distrust of the federal government, contrasted by the benefits from government programs that allowed her family use of facilities at a nearby Air Force base—a perk of her father’s service in World War II—and the generous federal land grants of the mid-19th Century that left the family with hundreds of acres of land in and near Sacramento.
But she observes that when parents die the chief concern is with “me.” Even at her age, Didion (then nearly 70) she says thoughts turned to “who will look out for me now; who will remember me as I was; who will know what happens to me now; where will I be from.” [her italics]
The prodigiously prolific Didion has moved dexterously through nonfiction, starting in her early 20s as a writer for Vogue and Life; then the novels Run River, Play it as it Lays, The Book of Common Prayer; screenplays with her husband Dunne,.....Read More
Who was Thomas Covington Dent? Renowned poet and writer Kalamu Ya Salaam, once an apprentice of the artist, calls Tom Dent “the single most important New Orleans writer of all time.” He was a master poet, historian, fiction writer, essayist, playwright, and critic.
With a firm commitment to his influential mentor, Salaam scoured the Dent literary estate from the Amistad Research Center located on the campus of the Tulane University in the Crescent City. The result, New Orleans Griot: The Tom Dent Reader, is a superb tribute to the writer (1930-1998), greatly supported by a bevy of letters, interviews, notebooks, and photographs.
Dent, the son of the president of Dillard University (1941-1969), grew up in an upper-class environment, surrounded by the perks of privilege and influence. He possessed a restless spirit that separated from his clan. Early on, he was gifted with a critical, analytical eye, His time at Morehouse College only stoked his intellectual curiosity, such as when he was puzzled in his literature studies, only to find Shakespeare, Hemingway and Faulkner as topics. There were no black texts or writers.
“We are children of insecurity, worry and tension, and we would wish nothing better than to get away from it all,” Dent wrote in an editorial back then. “This is the younger generation of America today. It is sadly lacking. Maybe someday we will wake up and lead the world. But now there is hardly a chance of that happening. We are too tired.”
Again, that restlessness led him to two years spent in the U.S. Army and left him on a search for his identity. He wanted to be a writer, so he came to New York City. The first job in Harlem was writing for the now-defunct New York Age and eventually he ventured down to the Lower East Side, where artists, musicians and writers lived due to the low rents
In his element, Dent felt at home there. He mingled with the writers and artists in the coffee shops, eateries, poetry readings, and jam sessions. A regular in the neighborhood, he attended the workshops of Umbra in 1960, where he met writers such as Calvin Hernton, David Henderson, Joe Johnson, Askia Muhammed Toure, Lloyd Addison, Lorenzo Thomas, and Archie Shepp. This was Dent’s introduction to the Black Arts Movement.
“Umbra was the incubating experience for me in terms of the workshop and the interaction among creative people,” the writer noted. “It represented a very high amount of creative energy over a two or three year period.”
His New York journey ended when his Lower East Side neighborhood was flooded with heroin and drug sales became rampant. No resident there was safe from crime. Dent wanted to get out of the area and that escape was provided by his father, who invited him to come back.....Read More
Lately, I’ve been in love with Paul Bowles. For those of you who don’t know him, he’s that illusive writer who lived mostly in Morocco during the 1940’s until his death in 1990, in Tangier, where he was visited by the beats (remember the beats were the precursor of the hippies) and others. His best-known novel was The Sheltering Sky, which was made into a movie, a rather poor movie however, by Bernardo Bertolucci.
His first career was composing for the scores for films and plays, but he was also a first-class writer. But I’m getting ahead of myself, so let me back up a pace.
Paul Bowles was born on January 30th, 1910, in Jamaica, New York. His father, a dentist, considered him an intrusion in his life and disliked him. I wondered how this marked Bowles’ character; perhaps it contributed to his independence of character. He was a handsome boy with blonde curls, and there was no doubt that he was extremely intelligent.
When he was old enough to escape from his family, he went to Europe, to Paris, where he was introduced to Gertrude Stein and the coterie of artists surrounding her. He studied music with Aaron Copland, who also introduced him to sex. It was Stein who suggested that he go to Morocco.
During the winter of 1936-7, when he was 27, he met and married Jane Auer, “whose red hair, pointed nose and slight limp attracted him.” Theirs was an open marriage—Jane often preferred women, and Paul was bisexual. Often they lived apart. Yet their bond was durable and lasted until her death in 1973. Jane too was writer, although her work is not as well-known as his
They were part of that enviable time when artists hobnobbed with one another and traveled to exotic places. Bowles was successful as a composer though he was inadequately compensated for his work. He returned to Tangier many times before finally settling there with excursions to Ceylon (where he bought the island of Taprobane!), Madeira and elsewhere.
When I first heard that Bowles bought an island, I assumed he must have come from a very wealthy family, but such was not the case. He was able to buy Taprobane for $6000, less than a car these days. It was lovely place with an unusual house, but it lacked electricity and its only access was to wade there. Jane wasn’t thrilled and not many friends visited.
Morocco was his first love—he felt at home there and was able to work. Jane liked Morocco too. Bowles learned Arabic and explored the country and the Algerian Sahara. He was particularly fond of Fez, the setting for The Spider’s House.
Bowles took up writing to supplement his income, but, since he was a careful observer and a natural storyteller, he excelled in this profession. His travel writings are non parel.
The Sheltering Sky is a stunning piece of work. It shook.....Read More
TTwo photographers: Same location, same equipment, same time of day, the resulting image will be unique to each. The same is true of any artistic endeavor, even baking a loaf of bread. Creativity prevails in respect to the creator. I have great appreciation for the outcome in photography. Also, of course, delicious, creatively baked bread!!!
Chelsea Heller’s photography is a reflection of her “place” in life. Following graduation from college she moved to Maui and there, she found her destiny—her mate, ironically another Chelsea, peace, fulfillment, and a flourishing career. Her work, encompasses food photography to wedding photography, to portraiture, and to art. And, it is her Naturescapes, printed on metal, I’m profiling in this current issue of Neworld Review.
This talented artist explores nature as she captures light and texture in her body of work. I was deeply moved by the vibrant color of her images. Jerry Gillies wrote, “You will recognize your own path when you come upon it, because you will suddenly have all the energy and imagination you will ever need.” These words are what Chelsea seems to live by.
Chelsea refers to herself as a scientist & an artist. She embraces the.....Read More
Many American thinkers have tried, by way of philosophical essays, jeremiads, reflections on habits of the heart and soul, provocative manifestos, and open letters, to improve our nation's debatable social contracts and fragile moral compass. Indigenous victims of imperial genocide; enslaved persons and slavery' s enemies; poets and writer of many colors; advocates for equity, human rights, and social justice; clergymen and clergywomen; and a small number of elected officials—all of them , the dreamers and the doers have participated in moral and ethical warfare. Fighting.
Since the mid-twentieth century, Ishmael Reed has been deep, abrasive, and didactic, an iconoclastic champion of what is "good" and a formidable critic of what is "bad" in domestic and transnational affairs. Reed is a fighter, a battered but undefeated fighter.
Why No Confederate Statues in Mexico is a compelling record of his place in literary histories and moral struggles. It is a feast one consumes with grains of pepper and salt.
How does a reviewer observe due diligence in commenting on Reed's life and multiple achievements? One notes how apt is Wendy Hayes-Jones's notion that Reed is an "erudite pugilist punching out rounds of words interlaced with the bookish military strategist planning his next move to outwit the enemy." (See "Ishmael Reed: Fifty-Eight Years of Boxing on Paper. On the Aesthetic Legacy of Ishmael Reed. Ed. Sami Ludwig. Hamilton Beach, CA: World Parade Books, 2012)
How does one make a fair but trenchant evaluation of a.....Read More
When Broadway reopens, please go see jagged little pill, and you’ll see theatre greatness. This musical has some of the most mesmerizing, heart-pounding songs you will ever experience. And you’ll find that it’s uniquely provocative about drug addiction and date rape. Those may seem strange and unusual issues to find in a musical, but they are handled well in jagged little pill.
The musical features a book by Diablo Cody, lyrics by Alanis Morissette and music by Alanis Morissette and Glen Ballard, with additional music by Michael Farrell and Guy Sigsworth.
The audience gets to know the Healy family of Connecticut.
One of the things that songs should do in a musical is carry the story along. It should tell what dilemma is and the feelings the character is dealing with and help the audience to understand and sympathize with him or her. It should also make you want to know more, and those are the things that the stunning songs in jagged little pill do. The musical numbers are also assisted by a riveting delivery, and, believe me, this cast delivers these songs like you wouldn’t believe!
The cast will have you smiling, in tears, and cheering your heart out. The extraordinary talents on the stage at the Broadhurst Theatre, include, making her Broadway debut, Celia Rose Gooding, who plays Frankie Healy, the black adopted daughter of the rich, white Healy family; Elizabeth Stanley, who beautifully portrays Mary Jane Healy, the perfection-seeking wife and mother; Sean Alan Krill, who plays Steve Healy, the workaholic father and husband; and Derek Klena, who plays Nick Healy, the son who can do no wrong and has been accepted to Harvard.
This musical is a perfect example of how things are never what they seem. It also looks at the complicated relationships that can exist between family members. It looks at the complicated relationships and devastating problems that can harm a marriage. When does a couple stop.....Read More