Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Review: The Blue Suitcase

I've mentioned author Marianne Wheelaghan a few times on this blog -- she's a self-starting writer and entrepreneur who created www.writingclasses.co.uk. She recently published her first novel, The Blue Suitcase, through Pilrig Press, and although she's not Southern (she's from Scotland, my native home), she faces the same challenges we all face. How to get the word out about her book, how to juggle writing and the rest of her life... her story is our story.

The Blue Suitcase is historical fiction, set around World War II. Antonia lives in Silesia, formerly part of Germany, with her opinionated family. Her parents are outraged that one son, Hubert, wants to join Hitler Youth and the other, Hansi, is a member of the Communist Party. Antonia's two sisters are fighting over which one of them should be sent off to become a nun. But all Antonia wants to do is celebrate her 13th birthday in peace! Things only get worse in 1933 when Adolf Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany and begins national boycotts of Jewish businesses and starts rounding up anyone who disagrees with his policies. Hansi disappears, Hubert joins the Hitler Youth march, and Antonia's mother loses her job. Women are meant to be at home taking care of the family, according to Hitler. Not surprisingly, family is the first thing to crumble under the harsh new regime.

The novel follows Antonia's struggles to find work, a home, and later simply to survive as the war ravages Germany. Marianne has flawlessly recreated images of rubble-infested Breslau and emaciated German citizens forced to evacuate their homes on foot, despite the frigid winter. It was hard to put this book down -- I had to find out what happened to Antonia, her family, and the German people. The book is all the more powerful because it's based on real events.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

2011 SIBA Awards!

If you haven't yet heard, SIBA (Southern Independend Booksellers'Alliance) announced this year's winners on July 4th. Check out SIBA's website, and for a great overview of the winners and other literary news, see the excellent Authors 'Round the South blog.
Here are a few of the winners:
Fiction: Burning Bright by Ron Rash
Nonfiction: The Blueberry Years: A Memoir of Farm and Family by Jim Minick
Poetry: A House of Branches by Janisse Ray

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Submit a play!

If you're a Southern playwright looking for an audience, you might want to submit a play for consideration in the Southern Writers' Project Festival of New Plays. The weekend-long festival is held in the spring of each year as part of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival (ASF). If your play is chosen for the festival, it'll also be considered for future ASF productions. There are two conditions: 1) You must be a Southern writer 2) Your script must be set in the South or deals specifically with Southern issues, characters, or themes.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Interesting article in Glamour

Katie Couric has an interesting interview with Kathryn Stockett in Glamour Magazine. Stockett makes the point that it's hard to answer the question, "How does the African American race feel about the book?" as it's not as though all African Americans have the same point of view...
Now, I feel dumb for asking the question at all! Maybe the point is to not focus so much on one perspective but give everyone a chance to be heard -- which is the message of the book, after all.

What do you think of The Help?

Just finished reading The Help by Mississippi author Kathryn Stockett. I know I'm late to the game, as the book's been receiving rave reviews since it was published in 2009. I really enjoyed it -- great characters, lots of plot twists, and a satisfying ending. As a novel, it was very engaging. As a political commentary on race relations, to me it seemed powerful, but I wonder what African American audiences think.
For me, growing up in Scotland as a white person and moving to the States well after the Civil Rights Movement, I feel like an outsider to this part of history. Are the characters realistic, both white and black? Stockett studied Susan Tucker's book Telling Memories Among Southern Women, and she obviously knows her subject, growing up in Jackson, Mississippi. Mainstream media love her novel, as do book clubs. But what about specifically black audiences? Or is it not cool to ask that question?