Tag Archives: Julia Spicher Kasdorf

Books Acquired Recently

Lo, Malinda. Adaptation. 2012. New York: Little, Brown, 2013.

I read about this book in an interview that was recently posted on Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian, and it sounded interesting–most notably because it has “a bisexual protagonist”–so I decided to buy it.

Rohrer, Jane. Life After Death: Poems. Riverdale-on-Hudson, NY: Sheep Meadow Press, 2002.

I have only previously read Rohrer’s work in anthologies. Julia Spicher Kasdorf did a presentation on her at the recent Mennonite/s Writing VIII conference, which made me decide that I need to explore Rohrer’s work more fully.

Both books were acquired from amazon.com’s network of independent booksellers.

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Books Acquired Recently

Abramović, Marina. Walk Through Walls: A Memoir. New York: Crown Archetype, 2016.

Abramović is my favorite artist, and I pre-ordered this book as soon as I heard about it via her Facebook page. I love how she inserts her body into her work, insisting that art is always in some way autobiographical. I am excited to see how she handles the genre of written autobiography. Judging from the dust jacket blurb, the book is more properly spoken of as autobiography rather than as memoir, as its subtitle claims, but memoir is so marketable these days that it is understandable (though not necessarily justifiable) why the publisher would choose to mislabel it.

This and Smith’s book were purchased from amazon.com.

Atwood, Margaret. Hag-Seed: “The Tempest” Retold. London: Hogarth, 2016.

I recently received this book, which is signed by the author, as a gift. Hogarth has a series of retellings of Shakespeare’s plays by contemporary authors. This is a genre Atwood has worked in before, and I enjoy the writing of hers that I’ve read, so I am optimistic that the book will be an enjoyable one.

Johnson, E. Patrick, ed. No Tea, No Shade: New Writings in Black Queer Studies. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016.

Johnson’s anthology Black Queer Studies is an essential book in both the queer and African American literary critical canons, and a book that has had a significant impact on me as a scholar. Therefore, when I first heard about No Tea, No Shade, a follow-up collection, I ordered an examination copy from the publisher immediately.

Smith, Zadie. Swing Time. New York: Penguin Press, 2016.

I have loved Smith’s fiction since I first read White Teeth in a graduate school course eleven years ago. She is one of a select group of authors whose books I buy immediately without question (Nicholson Baker, Di Brandt, Samuel R. Delany, Don DeLillo [though he might be off the list now because his last book was so poor], Jonathan Safran Foer, Jeff Gundy, Julia Spicher Kasdorf, and Miriam Toews), and thus I pre-ordered this book as soon as I heard about it.

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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.

 

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Books Acquired Recently

Kasdorf, Julia Spicher, and Michael Tyrell, eds. Broken Land: Poems of Brooklyn. New York: 2007.

Kasdorf is one of my favorite poets/literary critics, and a friend, and this is the only one of her books that I had not had. Used copies are now available for a reasonable price from amazon.com’s network of independent sellers (which is where I also acquired Rotella’s book). When I received it in the mail I discovered that it is inscribed by Tyrell (I have a fair number of books with inscriptions that I acquired used, and they always make me sad even though I am excited to have the author’s autograph. Why did the person mentioned in the inscription get rid of the book? Did they forget it was inscribed? Did they die? Did they have to cull their library due to financial hardship? None of the possibilities are good.), so I will have to get it inscribed by Kasdorf at some point to complete the set!

Rotella, Alexis. Beards and Wings. Cairnbrook: White Peony, 1985.

I recently read some of Rotella’s haiku in an anthology and really enjoyed them, and thus decided to buy one of her collections. Many of them are out of print, as is this one, but I was able to find a used copy for a little over $2.00.

Vega, Marta Moreno, Marinieves Alba, and Yvette Modestin, eds. Women Warriors of the Afro-Latina Diaspora. Houston: Arte Publico, 2012.

I was given this collection of essays and poetry by a friend. It looks fascinating, and there are several essays about the Puerto Rican experience that I am especially excited to read.

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Books Acquired Recently

Lee, Catherine J.S., ed. A Splash of Water: Haiku Society of America Members’ Anthology 2015. New York: Haiku Society of America, 2015.

Each year the Haiku Society of America publishes an anthology of work by its members on a specific theme, and each member receives a copy. This year’s theme was water. I’ve read about half of it thus far, and despite the repetition of subject matter a number of the poems are compelling.

Zacharias, Robert, ed. After Identity: Mennonite Writing in North America. University Park: Penn State UP, 2015.

I was very excited to receive this book in the mail today because it is my contributor’s copy! My essay, “Queering Mennonite Literature,” appears on pages 143-58. The book is a collection of revised essays from a 2013 symposium at Penn State on identity issues in Mennonite literature. My essay is nestled between chapters by Di Brandt and Jeff Gundy, two poets and  critics whose work has played a major role in my life, and it is a dream come true to be published alongside them. Another of my favorite poets, Julia Spicher Kasdorf, also has an essay in the volume.

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Books Acquired Recently: Authors Whose Last Names Begin With W Edition

Wilson, Mookie, with Erik Sherman. Mookie: Life, Baseball, and the ’86 Mets. New York: Berkley, 2014.

I collect books about the 1986 Mets because I, like most Mets fans, am obsessed with that team, so when I heard that Wilson had a memoir coming out I pre-ordered it immediately. It just arrived yesterday. On a related note, here is my favorite YouTube video of all time: the final half inning of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, which culminates in Wilson’s game-winning ground ball, re-created using the old Nintendo game RBI Baseball.

Wright, David. A Liturgy for Stones. Telford: DreamSeeker, 2003.

I am planning to do some writing about Wright (the poet, not the Mets’ third baseman, though I might do some writing about him, as well) this summer, and bought this book in anticipation of this project. However, I actually almost acquired it over a decade ago. Here is the story: at the 2002 Mennonite/s Writing conference in Goshen, Indiana, there were several raffles (what a weird word!), one of which I won. The prize was a set of books that had recently been published by writers at the conference, including texts by Patrick Friesen, Carla Funk, Julia Kasdorf, Maurice Mierau, and Douglas Reimer. A Liturgy for Stones was supposed to be included in this group, but its publication had been delayed (DreamSeeker had just been founded, and they were still working out the kinks), so it wasn’t there for me to collect with the other books. The conference organizers promised to send me a copy once the book came out, but they never did. I’ve only read a few of Wright’s poems, thus I am excited to finally have a long-delayed in-depth interaction with his work.

Both books were acquired from amazon.com.

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The Ten Most Influential Books List

I recently participated in the Facebook meme that asks for a list of the ten most influential books on a person’s life. Here is my list with some brief comments:

1. boneyard by Stephen Beachy—This book showed myself to me in an exact way that I had never encountered before in literature. Queer and Anabaptist: two great tastes that taste great together.

2. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer—My favorite book until I read boneyard. I’ve read it over half-a-dozen times and it always makes me cry. The last line is heartwrenching: “We would have been safe.”

3. questions i asked my mother by Di Brandt—Really all of Brandt’s poetry, but this collection is the one that I read first and that stays the most vivid in my mind. Brandt gave me a model for how to be transgressive when I really needed one.

4. Sleeping Preacher and 5. Eve’s Striptease by Julia Spicher Kasdorf—These two books feel inseparable for me. Kasdorf was the first poet whose work I read that made me realize that poetry could be relevant to my life.

6. Rhapsody With Dark Matter by Jeff Gundy—I had the same reaction to Gundy’s work as I did to Kasdorf’s. (Also, it drives me nuts that “with” in the title shouldn’t be capitalized here. What a dumb rule. I think it’s a significant enough word that it should be capitalized, which is why I have done so.)

7. The Tides of Lust by Samuel R. Delany—This isn’t my favorite Delany novel, but it’s the first one that I read (I also did a dissertation chapter on it), and it was good enough to get me interested in all of the others. Delany is the author whose work has been most influential on my current thinking.

8. Tearoom Trade: Impersonal Sex in Public Places by Laud Humphries—I read this while doing research for a paper during my senior year of college, and it completely changed my view of the world because it told me about a practice (i.e., anonymous gay sex) that I had no idea existed. It taught me to begin looking at the margins, because that’s where the really interesting, revolutionary stuff happens. It also helped me to see physical space in a new way.

9. The Blue Mountains of China by Rudy Wiebe—In hindsight, this was my first encounter with postmodern fiction, which is now my favorite kind of fiction. When I first read it, its ethical vision was extremely formative for me.

10. My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok—This was the first text I read that explored the relationship between religion and art in a serious way. If I hadn’t read this book, the words of the poets mentioned above would have fallen on deaf ears.

Three observations on this list: 1. It is overwhelmingly Mennonite, showing that no matter how hard I try I just can’t get away, and 2. I encountered half of the texts while at Goshen College, which proves something about the importance of a good liberal arts education. 3. After a few days’ reflection, I still stand by the list’s accuracy. The only glaring omission is Nicholson Baker’s The Mezzanine (But what would it replace? My first thought is Potok’s novel, but reading My Name is Asher Lev made my appreciation of many of the rest of the books on this list possible), which I actually think about more than any other book because of its chapter on public restrooms. Every time I go into a public restroom that I haven’t been in before (i.e., the restroom at my job doesn’t count because of how frequently I use it), I check to see whether it has a paper towel dispenser (and if so, what kind) or a hand dryer. The science of hand dryers has advanced a lot since the novel was written, and so sometimes they are better than paper towels, but I still generally agree with the novel’s argument in favor of the paper towels. Both options need to be well-designed in order to fulfill their function of getting one’s hands dry in a sanitary manner, though. It almost is not fair to compare them as entire categories.

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