Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Two Events This Week - Dantiel W Moniz and Zak Salih

Hi All! We've got two events this week celebrating books that I really enjoyed. We'd love you to attend!

Wednesday, March 3, 7 pm
Zak Salih, author of Let’s Get Back to the Party
in conversation virtually with Daniel Goldin and Larry Wheelock
Register for the event here

I said just about all I can say about Zak Salih's debut in last week's Boswell and Books blog post, so let's see how other folks weigh in.

Amy Scribner in Bookpage: "Zak Salih’s first novel is a gorgeously written meditation on being a gay man in America now. He imbues Sebastian and Oscar with complexity and flaws, two men unsure about the path their life is meant to take. Salih offers a cleareyed exploration of the sometimes fine line between friendship and romance, and how past slights can rear their heads in the most unexpected ways."

Andrea Dreiling in Paperback Paris: "At a time where suburban moms attend drag shows, and LGBTQ advocates celebrate milestone events in the struggle for gay rights, Salih asks what it means to be queer in the late 2010s. As both men teeter on the precipice of middle age, each scrambling to find something that could deliver them from their own disillusionment, they’ll see that answering this question for themselves is much more difficult than answering it for the world at large."
Salih gives a shout out to Thinner in Jared Jackson's PEN America interview. I have my own Thinner story, as it's the only King novel (of course it's unofficially a Richard Bachman novel) that I have finished, being a delicate flower and all that.

William Finn Harling asked Salih some questions in Lambda Literary. In response to: "Visual art is incredibly important to Sebastian, one of the novel’s central characters. What is the piece of art that you feel best represents Let’s Get Back to the Party and why?", Salih answered: "Undoubtedly John Singleton Copley’s Watson and the Shark. It’s the painting around which all the relationships in this novel revolve, in obvious and subtle ways. I first saw the painting in a book about sharks I had as a child, and had no idea it hung in the National Gallery of Art in Washington until I stumbled upon it as an adult. (I’m eager to see it again when the museum reopens post-pandemic.) I’d always loved the painting, but contextualizing it in this made-up story made me see parts of the work in new ways. As a boy, I looked at it and just saw a scary shark; now, I see a community looking out for its own. The painting is less about being attacked and more about being saved."

View Watson and the Shark here.

Thursday, March 4, 7 pm
Dantiel W Moniz, author of Milk Blood Heat
in conversation virtually with Megan Giddings (who just got nominated for a Los Angeles Time Book Prize) 
Register here

Let's try to convince you to read Moniz's fabulous short story collection. I'll start with Michele Filgate's review in The Washington Post: "Mortality is the undercurrent in Dantiel W. Moniz’s electrifying debut story collection, Milk Blood Heat, but where there’s death there is the whir of life, too. A lot of collections consist of some duds, yet every single page in this book is a shimmering seashell that contains the sound of multiple oceans. Reading one of Moniz’s stories is like holding your breath underwater while letting the salt sting your fresh wounds. It’s exhilarating and shocking and even healing. The power in these stories rests in their veracity, vitality and vulnerability."

Colette Bancroft, one of my favorite reviewers, offers praise for Milk Blood Heat in The Tampa Bay Times: "Moniz writes powerfully about adolescent girls as they navigate that perilous age. The title story focuses on the bond - sealed with a blood ritual - between Kiera and Ava, who recognize something wild in each other. It’s told from the point of view of Ava, who is Black; Kiera is white, and her parents have doubts about the friendship. As is true in many of these stories, in which most of the characters are Black, race is a factor in their relationship but just one part of its complexities." This title story just blew me away!

Suzanne Van Atten in the Atlanta Journal Constitution: "Moniz demonstrates a remarkable insight into the secret life of adolescent girls. She knowingly describes a teenager as being “that special age where she knew both nothing and everything.” Her girls are willful and stubborn and insular. Having not yet learned how to harness their powers, they cast destruction in their wakes with little thought to collateral damage because they don’t yet know what they don’t know."

It turns out had their not been a pandemic, we might well have still hosted Dantiel Moniz, as she would have been in Madison. It turns out Moniz is the Mendota Lecturer in Fiction at UW-Madison. She's conducting her workshops virtually from Florida. That's also why we had to wait a bit before we hosted our program. She spoke to The Cap Times about Milk Blood Heat. On asked about her writing about the service industry, Moniz wrote: "Before I came to Madison, all I had ever done was service industry work. I worked very briefly at an Abercrombie and Fitch in Seattle, which was such a terrorizing experience. There's so many things that are happening on a class level, on a gender level, on a race level, when you work at serving other people." Believe me, we could tell you stories.

Sarah Neilsen asked about Florida trending in Shondaland: "Growing up, I didn't think of Florida as a particularly literary state. It's just not the main view you see of Florida in the news. You know what I mean? It's like, 'Oh, Florida, man.' But I would say that all states have their 'Florida, man.' And recently, especially if you think about Lauren Groff, or Kristen Arnett, or Deesha Philyaw, there's a lot of great writers and writing coming from Florida. But I think that, though people might have the tendency to say Florida's 'trending," there are so many stories that aren't being explored here yet.'"

Convinced yet? I could keep going!

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