Books Acquired Recently: Mostly Mennonites Edition

I’ve gone a little crazy (even for me) buying books the past few weeks. The primary reason for this is that I’ve been reading a lot of literary criticism (primarily from the Journal of the Center of Mennonite Writing), and whenever I do this I find out about books (both primary sources and other works of criticism or theory) that sound fascinating and that I have to buy. All of the Jean Janzen books, the Dallas Wiebe collection of stories, the Thomas King novel, and the Dominique Chew and Kolton Nay chapbooks were purchases stemming from this recent reading. The other two purchases were helped by the fact that I was in book-buying mode, which is a dangerous state!  Unless otherwise noted, all of these books were purchased from amazon.com’s network of independent sellers.

Chaudhuri, Amit. Odysseus Abroad. 2014. New York: Knopf, 2015.

I have not read any of Chaudhuri’s work before, but was intrigued by a review I read of this novel because it takes place in London and involves wandering around the city, a topic that I find fascinating in general. I decided to buy it now (and will read it over Spring Break a week from now) because I am going to London for the first time this coming summer and thought it would be helpful to read a story about it.

Chew, Dominique. The Meaning of Grace. Goshen: Pinchpenny, 2015.

I read about this and Kolton Nay’s book in Ann Hostetler’s recent article about teaching Mennonite literature (which, incidentally, references my 2001 edited collection [that was also published by Pinchpenny], How Julia Kasdorf Changed My Life: Reflections on Mennonite Identity). Both sound interesting because they deal with issues of Mennonite identity, an issue that I think and write about frequently, and Chew’s book is especially intriguing because she, like me, has one ethnic Mennonite parent and one non-Mennonite, person of  color parent. I bought both books directly from Pinchpenny Press, which is a chapbook publisher run by the Goshen College English Department.

Erdrich, Louise. The Master Butchers Singing Club. 2004. New York: Harper, 2005.

I love Erdrich’s novels about the Ojibwe community, and recently watched an interview with her where she talked about this novel, which is about the German-American community that her father was from. It sounds fascinating, and since I am also German-American on my mother’s side (though I usually speak of her heritage as Mennonite, which in our case is a very specific kind of German-American) it seems like a book I should read.

Janzen, Jean. Paper House. Intercourse: Good, 2008.

—. Piano in the Vineyard. Intercourse: Good, 2004.

—. Snake in the Parsonage. Intercourse: Good, 1995.

—. The Upside-Down Tree. Winnipeg: Henderson, 1992.

—. What the Body Knows. Telford: DreamSeeker, 2015.

Along with Julia Spicher Kasdorf and Jeff Gundy, Janzen is one of the Big Three of Mennonite poets, but I’ve only ever read one of her poetry collections. I’ve decided that it is necessary to remedy this situation.

King, Thomas. Truth & Bright Water. New York: Atlantic Monthly, 1999.

I loved the other book of King’s that I read (Green Grass, Running Water), and Truth & Bright Water sounds interesting because it is about the U.S.-Canada border, which is something I think about a lot now that I live relatively close to it.

Nay, Kolton. Imbalance. Goshen: Pinchpenny, 2015.

Hostetler’s article notes that Nay read part of this memoir at the 2015 Mennonite/s Writing Conference, which I also attended, but he and I did not get to meet. I look forward to encountering him on the page instead.

Wiebe, Dallas. The Transparent Eye-Ball and Other Stories. Providence: Burning Deck, 1982.

I really enjoyed Wiebe’s novel Our Asian Journey and have plans to eventually write about his work because he was an important early voice in  Mennonite fiction, but I had not realized that he also published this collection of stories (he also published some poetry that I have not read yet). I look forward to reading it. Despite being over thirty years old the volume is in excellent condition; the pages haven’t even begun to yellow.

 

Published by danielshankcruz

I grew up in New York City and lived in Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Goshen, Indiana; DeKalb, Illinois; and Salt Lake City, Utah before coming to Utica, New York. My mother’s family is Swiss-German Mennonite (i.e., it’s an ethnicity, not necessarily a theological persuasion) and my father’s family is Puerto Rican. I have a Ph.D. in English and currently teach at Utica College. I have also taught at Northern Illinois University and Westminster College in Salt Lake City. My teaching and scholarship are motivated by a passion for social justice, which is why my research focuses on the literature of oppressed groups, especially LGBT persons and people of color. While I primarily read and write about fiction, I am also a devoted reader of poetry because, as William Carlos Williams writes, “It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet [people] die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there.” Thinkers who influence me include Marina Abramovic, Kathy Acker, Di Brandt, Ana Castillo, Samuel R. Delany, Percival Everett, Essex Hemphill, Jane Jacobs, Walt Whitman, and the New York School of poets. I am also fond of queer Mennonite writers such as Stephen Beachy, Jan Guenther Braun, Lynnette Dueck/D’anna, and Casey Plett. In my free time I’m either reading, writing the occasional poem, playing board games (especially Scrabble, backgammon, and chess), watching sports (Let’s Go, Mets!), or cooking (curries, stews, roasts…).

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