Rick started working at Elliott Bay when Gerald Ford was President of the U.S.
Reviews & Recommendations
In a time when the necessity and urgency of certain books feels more apparent and vital than ever, it's imperative to know the ground we are literally standing upon - its past, its real past, what has led to these present moments, the state of this time. I know of few single books that have invoked this ground as brilliantly, beautifully, and fiercely as Layli Long Soldier does in Whereas. This is not a book, a debut coming from nowhere. Rather, it comes out of place and life, of others preceding, stands with other strong voices in its time, and calls out. Its call is utterly powerful. The day a copy came in the mail, I was on a night flight across the country, west to east. Reading these words, I felt the plane suddenly drawn down to the ground, down to be amidst those there at Standing Rock, putting body, belief, and voice on the line for dignity and justice. Whereas does so as other books do, but poetically, profoundly, and tellingly as few others have. The 'grassesgrassesgrasses.' Yes yes yes.
Deep in narrative traditions all over the world there are stories of the forest, its place in people's myriad ways and doings, and its place that seems to be beyond those ways, unfathomable, mysterious. Such stories coming from the Mediterranean and then west through Europe - places where forests now are not so evident - are part of the cultural birthmatter of the West. (These stories are elsewhere in the world, too, most certainly.) In her astounding novel, Barkskins, Annie Proulx has written an epic, incandescent, page-turning story of people from two linked families over three hundred years' time. The forest, from its very specific 'New France' setting in 1693 to the decimation of forests all over the world by book's end, is the families' defining and fate-determining bond. Humanly lived life, striving, ambition, intention, mercy, ruthlessness, quests for redemption, and death are to be found on most every page. All the while, there is also an awareness, an intelligence at work that the forest has its ways, over and through all - its own stories and cycles. Those may lie beyond our reckoning but this book does its part to try. No one sets out to write myths, but this beautiful, honed, light-on-its-feet book carries more mythic gravity and resonance than anything I have read in years.
Along with her just-released chapbook, Arab in Newsland (Two Sylvias Press), this debut collection by local poet and translator Lena Khalaf Tuffaha brings the Palestinian (and Jordanian and Syrian) diasporas home to this part of the world. Vivid testimony to homelands riven by occupation and strife, and what home (and justice) here are in the reckoning of it all. Beauty in the every day, in small acts and rituals is also celebrated here.
Thanks to Seattle University's Global African Studies program, which brought renowned Senegalese author Ken Bugul (pen name for Marietou M'Baye), to Seattle in spring 2017, we were able to host a memorably wonderful reading with this dynamic writer and prominent Francophone African literary figure. Published over thirty years ago, this is still the only work of Ms. Bugul's translated to date - a powerful, first-of-its-kind memoir, especially for having been written thirty years ago, that wrestles with colonial injustice and gender inequalities.
Published in 2012, Mojave poet Natalie Diaz's debut collection has been an enduring favorite, one whose publication we helped celebrate here with a reading that included Sherman Alexie and others in a basketball gym (she is a former All America college player and European pro). These fervent poems sing to life and travail with passion, humor, insight, and resilience, on the reservation and off. Whenever her next book arrives, it can't be soon enough.
In a book that is at once expansive and also lean and taut, Jamaica-born poet and prose writer Kei Miller has written a quietly powerful novel of people bound by place and circumstance in Jamaica for a good part of this past century. Certain larger, possibly mysterious powers are invoked, along with those of greed, betrayal, latent colonialism, and class-determined fate - all rendered in beautiful, concise, poetic language. Augustown feels deeply to be conjured of the Jamaica and the actual Augustown it comes from. Now it's a book to sink deeply, memorably, into the hearts and minds of readers everywhere.
No better $35 can be spent for a book in this country than this collection of James Baldwin's collected non-fiction - what were published as five books, from Notes of a Native Son through The Devil Finds Work, with a selection of essays not previously collected included. Timely in their day, this writing feels prophetically and astoundingly true to today, soaring, seeing, telling what needs to be seen and told. This, thirty years after James Baldwin's passing. His fiction, published in two accompanying Library of America volumes, to be read and known, too. A great gift to give to another - or to yourself.
Sri Lanka-born writer Ru Freeman's stirring second novel drew comparisons with Dickens (!) for its vivid portrayal of children as central characters in this moving story of a small village-like lane about to enter the violence and turmoil of civil war. This story of various ethnicities and classes, centered around its children, but including adults, is one of how the world is engaged and learned about - including a world with harsh lessons to teach. Joys and sorrows abound - there is humor, music, quests of heart - and there is what comes to this lane from the larger world. The ending will break - and make - your heart.
If as a recent New York Times article on the making of the film, Edge of the Knife, says, there are fewer than twenty fluent speakers of Haida alive today, Robert Bringhhurst's reclamation of these recorded Haida myths - the written versions, for the most part, filed away in drawers and boxes thousands of miles away - would seem to be even more important. Linguist and ethnographer John Swinton in 1900, ostensibly under Franz Boas' tutelage, but then under the sway of such Haida mythtelling poets as Skaay and Ghandl, copied down epic poetic pieces as they were narrated. Others have made the case that what Beowulf is to the part of the world it comes from, these stories are to this part of the world. Fundamental beauty and imagination are at work here, along with Bringhurst's keen insights on story, myth, culture, landscape, history - all the elements.
Fairy tale writing of a high, brilliantly imagined order is at work here in Victor Lavalle's newest (summer 2017, this is) novel. At the outset, seeming to be a conventional enough story of a New York City book-loving freelance book dealer who falls in love, marries, and, with his wife, sets out to live life, including having a child. All of that happens- this reads at times like a primer for new parenthood, all the routines, how life seems unbelievably altered from the time before child. And then things start to happen. All manner of things, online and off, in a New York City we might know, and in a New York City that we might not. How enchanted is all of this? You won't be able to put this down until you reach the end. Victor Lavalle does it here.
Known as an award-winning Cairo-based (mostly) filmmaker and as co-producer of the Palestine Festival of Literature, Omar Robert Hamilton has written a cathartic debut novel set in Cairo's streets and hideaways during the time of the 2011 Tahrir Square demonstrations and Egypt's larger upheavals. Carrying both urgency and the distilled eye of literature to bear here, Hamilton vividly writes of the struggles these people enact, conveying the scope of lives lived as individuals and families, and the larger social and political fabric that they are part of. Given the state of things as they still are in Egypt, The City Always Wins also acts as an eloquent bearer of witness for what has happened there, with repercussions we increasingly feel here.