Hut's Place
 Weekly Words about New Books in
Independent Bookstores

October 8, 2017

Writing Award Nominees Provide Cultural Diversity With Their Fiction
Her Body and Other Parties: Stories by Carmen Maria Machado.  I confess to not being a big reader of short stories, but I'll be making an exception with this debut collection. Why? Well, for one thing, it was chosen by independent booksellers as the #1 Indie Next pick for October. Also, Her Body and Other Parties  was just selected one of five finalists for the National Book Award for Fiction - a remarkable achievement for any short story writer, much less a first-time author.   
The eight stories collected in this volume (a paperback original) are not easy to describe. Machado offers genre-bending narratives that map the realities of women's lives and the violence visited upon their bodies.  Among the plot lines: A wife refuses her husband's entreaties to remove the green ribbon from around her neck. A woman recounts her sexual encounters as a plague slowly consumes humanity. A salesclerk in a mall makes a horrifying discovery within the seams of the store's prom dresses. One woman's surgery-induced weight loss results in an unwanted house guest. And in one special novella "Especially Heinous," Machado reimagines every episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, generating a dreamlike police procedural full of doppelgangers, ghosts, and girls with bells for eyes.
Bookselling This Week recently did an interesting interview with Machado, which you can read in its entirety. Here's one question and answer that gives some insight into the author's writing. 

BTW: Your stories explore ideas about women's bodies through a queer, feminist lens. What inspires you to write about these issues and what is that writing process like?  
CMM: I like to think of my short stories as problems I'm trying to solve, like a math problem, and writing the story is the way by which I arrive at the answer, which is also the story itself. This is a collection that centers around ideas that I have about gender and things that I think about all the time as a woman. I try to approach it from unusual angles, like the ghost story in "Eight Bites," bending the genre a little bit and seeing what comes out of that.
These are just things that I'm preoccupied with. I didn't set out to write a story about how I feel about fatness. I had the idea for that story because I had been thinking about gastric bypass surgery and my personal feelings about that, and then figured out a way to have those manifest on the page. In that case, it was a woman losing all of this weight and then the ghost of her body coming back to her, this creature that was created from her body.
The book is about things that I'm really interested in; it's definitely a feminist collection because I'm a feminist and my preoccupations are filtered through my feminism, but it wasn't like I set out to write a story with a message. This is just what I've been thinking about.
Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien. Political upheavals in China over the past 70 years loom over this novel about the lives of an extended family over two generations - those who lived through Mao's Cultural Revolution and their children, who became the students protesting in Tiananmen Square. Thien's  main focus is on a two young women, Marie and Ai-Ming, whose fathers worked in and shared a love of music. Marie is attempting to piece together the tale of her fractured family in present-day Vancouver, seeking answers in the fragile layers of their collective story. Her quest will unveil how her enigmatic father Kai, a talented pianist, and Ai-Ming's father, the shy and brilliant composer Sparrow, were forced to reconceive their artistic and private selves during China's political campaigns and, also, how their fates reverberate through the years with lasting consequences. The book, just out in paperback, has been shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker Prize.  
A Pair of New Cookbooks Reflect Healthy Eating and Current Trends  
The Moosewood Restaurant Table: 250 Brand-New Recipes from the Natural Foods Restaurant That Revolutionized Eating in America by The Moosewood Collective. With
the famed restaurant now in its fifth decade, the Moosewood chefs continue to remain faithful to the farm-to-table philosophy that has governed the eatery since its founding, while also keeping an eye on today's gastronomic trends. They've begun cooking with a wider variety of grains like freekeh and millet, and this experimentation has led them to some great new recipes, such as:  
Two Potato Tomato Curry, Cashew-Crusted Chickpea Burgers, Cuban Picadillo with Tofu,
Butternut Latkes, Jamaican Jerk, and many more. Of course, a Moosewood cookbook wouldn't be complete without desserts like Turkish Coffee Brownies, Orange Pistachio Cornmeal Cake or Cherry Tomato Upside Down Cake to mention just a few.
FYI, The Moosewood Collective has 19 members who share responsibilities and participate in the various jobs necessary to run what has grown from a very small natural foods restaurant to a larger and more diversified company. Some members have worked for the restaurant since it was founded in 1973. Pretty cool. 
David Tanis Market Cooking: Recipes and Revelations, Ingredient by Ingredient by David Tanis. The former Chez Panisse chef, current New York Times columnist, and author ( A Platter of Figs, among others) presents a new compendium of modern-day vegetable-based dishes in this hefty but handsome volume. Sections on universal ingredients - such as alliums like garlic, onion, shallots, and leeks - offer some of the simplest yet most satisfying recipes in the world. One example - Tanis serves up three creative incarnations of the onion: Lebanese Caramelized Onions, American Buttermilk Fried Onion Rings, and French Onion and Bacon Tart.  
The new book has received praise from many  of Tanis's culinary colleagues, among them  Yotam Ottolenghi, author of Plenty and Jerusalem: "There is a refreshing clarity to David Tanis's food. Who needs fireworks when your ingredients are market-fresh, the recipes are reassuringly straightforward, and the author is the most brilliant cook?"  
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Hi, I'm Hut Landon, and I work as a bookseller in an independent bookstore in BerkeIey, California.

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