Monday, February 23, 2009

Is This What Other Women Feel Too?

Is This What Other Women Feel Too?
June Akers Seese
Dalkey Archive Press

Katie is an isolated college student in 1954 Detroit making her way through a variety of jobs. She is having an affair with a married man. Francis is 23 years her senior with an invalid wife at home. She says of her relationship, “I stopped using the word lover; it describes noting and sounded leftover from the twenties.” Katie’s life is told through her eyes and letters between herself and Parker, her only friend.

Seese describes the uncertainty of Katie’s relationships and life in stark terms. Katie is left behind when her lover leaves for home and Parker to New York. She describes the loneliness of her relationship, “I have a brittle laugh that’s worse when I cry and I couldn't stop. That’s all. I asked him to leave and he did. I fell asleep. My dreams were filled with his narrow chest and five o’clock shadow.” Even in sleep, she can’t escape her obsessive love. Even Parker’s advice that “Francis will never get a divorce. There are other men who read books and who have a few books left over to spend on dinner out and Christmas presents” won’t keep her away from him.

“I saw the blinds drawn in his shop that Monday and I knew something awful had happened.” With those words, Katie’s life is changed forever. The description of Katie sitting by Francis’s bedside is heartbreaking.

Set from 1954 to 1966, we see Katie evolve into an independent woman. We also meet David. Katie’s first boyfriend after Francis’s death. David is also struggling with his homosexuality and how to live an authentic life within the conventions of the 1950s. Then there is Parker, 28, walking stooped against the wind with a lot of miles on her. Even her New York job and tight prose can’t save her from the conventions of the 1950s. Through Katie’s voice, Seese creates characters deserving of compassion. They are good people making the best of difficult circumstances and always finding the will to and courage to survive.

Other books by June Akers Seese:

James Mason and the Walk-In Closet
A Nurse Can Go Anywhere and Collected Short Stories
What Waiting Really Means

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Icarus in Flight by Hayden Thorne

I look for a new publisher every time I attend a library conference. At the American Library Association Mid-Winter conference, I discovered Prizm books.

The Prizm website states that
"Our mission is to encourage and publish gay young adult books that focus on the story, rather than on the characters being gay. Today’s young readers crave stories they can relate to, stories about their lives. Prizm Books is committed to producing great, positive books that young adults will love, and will want more of!"

Icarus in Flight by Hayden Thorne fulfills their mission. Set in the Victorian Era, the story follows the lives of two young boarding school students, James Ellsworth, and Daniel Courtney and the realization that they love each other. James takes Daniel under his wing and guides him through boarding school. Because of his father’s death, James returns to his family estate. James invites Daniel to his estate. It is during this visit that the two acknowledge their love. Daniel looks at a painting of James and “without thought, he brought the partly finished portrait to his lips, kissed it, and restored it to its rightful place…An icy rush stung Daniel at the realization that his friend could have easily have caught him kissing the miniature.” James does observe him and later pays a visit to Daniel’s room. Isabella, James’s sister, is aware of their relationship. Her disapproval runs throughout the story. Daniel tries to show interest in the opposite sex, but decides not to burden a girl with an unhappy marriage. James steadfastly refuses to enter a marriage and moves to Italy briefly where he can live more openly. Over the course of eleven years, James and Daniel grow into adulthood, go their separate ways, but never really lose each other. Hayden Thorne weaves an interesting story without the stereotypical angst of the young gay found in so many young adult novels. Her characters accept their sexuality and stay true to their love.

About the author: Hayden Thorne taught college freshman English composition. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and three cats. Hayden Thorne's blog is http://haydenthorne.com

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What is an independent press?

For this blog, an independent press has some of the following features:

targets a specific market (for example: Arte Publico Press publishes bilingual books in Spanish and English)
publishes "edgier" stories
sometimes non-profit
university presses
publishes older works long-forgotten

Dalkey Archive Press is one of my favorites and exemplifies the small, independent press. They publish about 24 titles a year. Half of the titles are new fiction and the other half are reprints of older titles. Dalkey Archive also focuses on literature in translation.

Dalkey Archive books have a distinctive look--simple white covers with their symbol on the spine. In small, independent book stores, it is easy to scan the shelves and find them.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Welcome to Indie Reads

I have always enjoyed books from the independent presses ever since I discovered Arte Publico Press at a Texas Library Association Convention. At the most recent library convention that I attended, I picked up some new books from some of my favorites like Milkweed Press and Kids Can Press. I also discovered a new publisher, Prizm, focusing on books for gay, lesbian and transgendered young adults. I will be reviewing titles from a variety of publishers in the next few weeks.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Indie Reads

This blog will review books published by small independent presses.