A startlingly beautiful debut, Half Gods brings together the exiled, the disappeared, the seekers. Following the fractured origins and destines of two brothers named after demigods from the ancient epic the Mahabharata, we meet a family struggling with the reverberations of the past in their lives. These ten interlinked stories redraw the map of our world in surprising ways: following an act of violence, a baby girl is renamed after a Hindu goddess but raised as a Muslim; a lonely butcher from Angola finds solace in a family of refugees in New Jersey; a gentle entomologist, in Sri Lanka, discovers unexpected reserves of courage while searching for his missing son.
By turns heartbreaking and fiercely inventive, Half Gods reveals with sharp clarity the ways that parents, children, and friends act as unknowing mirrors to each other, revealing in their all-too human weaknesses, hopes, and sorrows a connection to the divine.
Akil Kumarasamy is a writer from New Jersey. Her fiction has appeared in Harper’s Magazine, American Short Fiction, Boston Review, and elsewhere. She received her MFA from the University of Michigan and has been a fiction fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and the University of East Anglia. Half Gods is her first book.
About Little Wonder:
Kat Gardiner’s debut collection of microfiction, Little Wonder, springs from the year she spent in Anacortes, Washington. Young and idealistic, she and her husband moved to town to open a café and music venue in the hopes of finding a home there.
The experiment lasted exactly one year.
In interconnected fragments, Little Wonder reads like a series of love notes to a former self. Characters navigate frustration, loss, heartbreak, but they also come into new versions of themselves. Little Wonder sheds light on the idea that joy and pain are often two sides of the same coin — and that being alive in this world can necessitate embracing both.
“I can see the sun sinking down over Anacortes at the end of every page. Little Wonder has the ache of Raymond Carver, the honesty, the vulnerability. It’s so melancholic and honest and beautiful.” — Kyle Field (Little Wings)
Born in Oklahoma, raised in the Pacific Northwest, and based in Detroit, Kat Gardiner carries a restlessness through her writing that’s been honed by a lifelong search for roots. Her debut collection of short fiction, Little Wonder, springs from the year Gardiner spent in Anacortes, Washington, during her early twenties. Young and idealistic, she opened a coffee shop and music venue with her husband in the hopes of finding a home in the city’s artistic community. The experiment lasted exactly one year. Gardiner closed the coffee shop and moved away from Anacortes, ending a stressful and dreamlike chapter in her life.
Gardiner studied creative writing at Bennington College in Vermont, and later took workshops with Tom Spanbauer, the creator of the technique known as Dangerous Writing, in Portland, Oregon. In developing her craft, she found herself drawn to microfiction, citing Lydia Davis as a touchstone. “There’s something powerful in succinct details,” Gardiner says. Writing in short, interconnected fragments enabled her to revisit the year spent in Anacortes with a new sense of perspective. Little Wonder reads like a series of love notes to a former self, or a collection of Polaroids made golden with age. Gardiner’s characters navigate frustration, loss, and heartbreak, but they also come into new versions of themselves, a transformation they may not recognize in the moment. Through poignant vignettes furnished generously with detail, Gardiner looks into what it means to enter the world and realize that the world is not nearly as amenable to change as an optimistic young person might think. “It’s been liberating to make art out of both the painful and the joyous parts of that experience,” she says. With Little Wonder, she’s shed light on the idea that joy and pain are often two sides of the same coin — and that being alive in this world can necessitate embracing both.
Literati is excited to welcome author kim d. hunter who will be sharing his new story collection, The Official Report on Human Activity.
About The Official Report on Human Activity:
The Official Report on Human Activity by kim d. hunter, which is neither official nor a report, is a collection of long stories that are linked by reoccurring characters and their personal struggles in societies rife with bigotry, in which media technology and capitalism have run amok. These stories approach the holy trinity of gender, race, and class at a slant. They are concerned with the process and role of writing intertwined with the roles of music and sound.
The four stories range from the utterly surreal-a factory worker seeking recognition for his writing gives birth to a small black elephant with a mysterious message on its hide-to the utterly real-a nerdy black teen’s summer away from home takes a turn when he encounters half-white twins on the run from the police. Prominently known as a Detroit poet, hunter creates illusions and magic while pulling back the curtain to reveal humanity-the good, bad, and absurd. Readers will find their minds expanded and their conversations flowing after finishing The Official Report on Human Activity.
The Official Report on Human Activity is sure to appeal to readers of literary fiction, particularly those interested in postmodernism and social justice.
kim d. hunter has published two collections of poetry: borne on slow knives and edge of the time zone. His poetry appears in Rainbow Darkness, What I Say, Black Renaissance Noire, 6X6 #35, and elsewhere. He received a 2012 Kresge Artist Fellowship in the Literary Arts and he works in Detroit providing media support to social justice groups.
This year’s Rasa Festival reading features poets Samiah Haque, Ashwini Bhasi, Zilka Joseph, and Inam Kang.
Samiah Haque speaks in fluid tones, with an acute clarity of voice. Her hobbies include jaywalking, whistling in the company of passers-by, and skipping to the lou. Recently, she has taken to advising young soldiers on the subject of hygiene and proper table manners. She lives in a swollen field outside of Madrid.
Ashwini Bhasi lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan and writes poems to make sense of the mind-body connection of trauma and chronic pain, life in India, and the duality of her experiences as a data analyst and poet. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Room Magazine, Rogue Agent, Bear River Review, Yellow Chair Review, The Feminist Wire, and Driftwood Press among others. Her poem about the 2016 presidential election was nominated for a Pushcart prize.
Zilka Joseph teaches creative writing and is an independent editor and manuscript coach. Her chapbooks, Lands I Live In and What Dread, were nominated for a PEN America and a Pushcart award, respectively. She was awarded a Zell Fellowship, a Hopwood Prize, and the Elsie Choy Lee Scholarship (Center for the Education of Women) from the University of Michigan.
Inam Kang is a Pakistani-born Muslim poet, student, curator and researcher currently living in Cleveland, OH as an MS candidate in Medical Physiology at Case Western Reserve University. He is also a former Ann Arbor Poetry & Slam finalist. Currently, he is a co-curator for the POC-centered reading and dialogue series FRUIT in Ann Arbor, MI. His work can be found or is forthcoming in Freezeray Poetry and Tinderbox Poetry Journal, among others.
Literati is exited to host poet Elizabeth Schmuhl, an RC Creative Writing alum, who will be reading from her new collection Premonitions. Keith Taylor will give an introduction to the reading and lead a Q&A discussion aftewards.
Visceral and brimming with vitality, the poems in Premonitions reverberate with the voice of a woman on a secluded farm, confronting her emotional and physical isolation. Drawing on her own experience as a daughter of a third-generation fruit farmer, Elizabeth Schmuhl gives readers a fresh and powerful perspective on what it means to be alive.
Layering one upon another, the poems blur boundaries and create a volatile state out of which the remarkable and unexpected occur. Embracing chaos, change, and unpredictability, these poems are energetically charged and infused with succinct, imagistic language. They reach beyond the constraints assigned to the female form and examine a place where time, the body, sexuality, and the natural world are not fixed. At times surreal, at others painfully real, the poems in Premonitions are the expression of a human life that merges and melds with the world around it, acting and reacting, loving and despairing, disintegrating and rebuilding. The speaker travels fluidly between strata of the natural world and her own body. Adding to the complexity of her poems, Schmuhl creates additional layers of meaning as the poems and their titles relate to the author’s synesthesia, a sensory phenomenon through which letters and numbers are experienced as colors and emotions.
Premonitions will turn the reader inward, encouraging the examination of the small details of life and a growing acceptance of the perpetual turmoil and uncertainty of existence despite our own desire to find a firm footing. This volume will be prized by lovers of contemporary poetry and literature alike.
Elizabeth Schmuhl is a multidisciplinary artist whose work appears in Michigan Quarterly Review, The Rumpus, Paper Darts, PANK, Hobart, Pinwheel, and elsewhere. She has worked at various nonprofits, including the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, and currently works at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Keith Taylor has published many books over the years: collections of poetry, a collection of very short stories, co-edited volumes of essays and fiction, and a volume of poetry translated from Modern Greek.
7 p.m., Literati, 124 E. Washington. Free. 585-5567
This local poet reads from Love Dream with Television, her debut collection, written in Tucson, Arizona, that “wonders through the ways in which television, film, advertising, sporting events, and celebrity culture weave their ways into our lived experiences,” says Ensor. “Tucson and its queers have pushed me to be more in my body, more in conversation with place and spirit and alchemy.” Signing.
7 p.m., Literati, 124 E. Washington. Free. 585-5567
Join us for an exciting evening of conversation and live musical performances from the multi-Award-winning team behind the musical, “Dear Evan Hansen.” University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance alumni Benj Pasek and Justin Paul will present Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel, an expansion of the characters and story popularized by the musical that has been praised as “one of the most remarkable shows in musical theater history” by The Washington Post. This is a general admission, ticketed event and a purchase of Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel is necessary for entry. The book is included with the ticket purchase, and books will be picked up at the venue the evening of the event. Your book will be pre-signed.
At the event, fans will additionally receive a raffle ticket inside of their book. Raffle tickets enter fans into a drawing for an exclusive meet & greet with the authors immediately following the event. The authors will choose 5 lucky readers (+1 guest each) to meet them after to snap photos and have their books personalized. Fans have the option to donate one of their purchased copies to University of Michigan’s Counseling and Psychological Services at a table near the entrance.
About Dear Evan Hansen (The Novel):
From the show’s creators comes the groundbreaking novel inspired by the hit Broadway show Dear Evan Hansen.
When a letter that was never meant to be seen by anyone draws high school senior Evan Hansen into a family’s grief over the loss of their son, he is given the chance of a lifetime: to belong. He just has to stick to a lie he never meant to tell, that the notoriously troubled Connor Murphy was his secret best friend. Suddenly, Evan isn’t invisible anymore–even to the girl of his dreams. And Connor Murphy’s parents, with their beautiful home on the other side of town, have taken him in like he was their own, desperate to know more about their enigmatic son from his closest friend. As Evan gets pulled deeper into their swirl of anger, regret, and confusion, he knows that what he’s doing can’t be right, but if he’s helping people, how wrong can it be? No longer tangled in his once-incapacitating anxiety, this new Evan has a purpose. And a website. He’s confident. He’s a viral phenomenon. Every day is amazing. Until everything is in danger of unraveling and he comes face to face with his greatest obstacle: himself. A simple lie leads to complicated truths in this big-hearted coming-of-age story of grief, authenticity and the struggle to belong in an age of instant connectivity and profound isolation.
About Pasek and Paul:
Benj Pasek and Justin Paul are the Tony, Oscar® and Golden Globe–winning songwriting team behind the Broadway musicals Dear Evan Hansen (Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, Obie Award, Outer Critics Circle Award, Helen Hayes Award) and A Christmas Story, The Musical (Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle Award nominations). Other musicals include Dogfight, (Lucille Lortel Award winner, Drama League, Outer Critics Circle, London Evening Standard Awards nominations), James and the Giant Peach, and Edges. Film projects include: La La Land (Lionsgate); Trolls (Dreamworks Animation); The Greatest Showman (FOX). Upcoming film projects include Snow White (Walt Disney Pictures); Medusa(Sony Pictures Animation); Aladdin (Walt Disney Pictures). TV credits include Smash, Sesame Street, The Flash and Johnny and the Sprites, and Fox’s A Christmas Story live musical. Additional honors: Richard Rodgers Award for Musical Theatre (American Academy of Arts and Letters); ASCAP Foundation Richard Rodgers New Horizons Award; Jonathan Larson Award. Both are graduates of the University of Michigan Musical Theatre program and members of the Dramatists Guild of America, Inc.
Literati is thrilled to welcome poets Megan Levad and Franny Choi for a special reading from their latest collections What Have I to Say to You and Death by Sex Machine.
Selected as Tavern Books’ 2014 Wrolstad Contemporary Poetry Series poet, Levad is the author of WHY WE LIVE IN THE DARK AGES (Tavern Books, 2015). Her poems have appeared in journals such as Denver Quarterly, Fence, Mantis, and Tin House, among others, and in the Everyman’s Library anthology Killer Verse. She also writes lyrics for composers Tucker Fuller and Kristin Kuster. Her debut libretto Kept: A Ghost Story premiered at the Virginia Arts Festival in May 2017. Levad lives in San Francisco.
Franny Choi is a writer, performer, and educator. She is the author of Floating, Brilliant, Gone (Write Bloody, 2014) and the chapbook Death by Sex Machine (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2017). She has been a finalist for multiple national poetry slams, and her poems have appeared in Poetry Magazine, American Poetry Review, the New England Review, and elsewhere. She is a Kundiman Fellow, Senior News Editor for Hyphen, co-host of the podcast VS, and member of the Dark Noise Collective. Her second collection, Soft Science, is forthcoming from Alice James Books.
Literati is thrilled to welcome poets Phillip Crymble and Sarah Messer who will be sharing with us some of their latest work.
About Not Even Laughter:
A clearance bin of corner-cut records, remaindered paperbacks, and canisters of faded film, Phillip Crymble’s first full-length collection strives to rescue, celebrate, and preserve the works and sensibilities of those whose ideas and visions and have been long overlooked by posterity. Crymble’s technical acumen, ear for music, and emotional sincerity are the adhesive agents that bring the vernacular ethnographies, high-brow ekphrastics, tender elegies, forlorn love lyrics, and acutely observed accounts of plain and seemingly unremarkable domestic experience together in this formidable debut.
Phillip Crymble is a disabled writer and scholar living in Atlantic Canada. A SSHRC doctoral fellow at UNB Fredericton, he holds a MFA from the University of Michigan and has published poems in The New York Quarterly, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Hollins Critic, The Literary Review of Canada, Poetry Ireland Review, The Forward Book of Poetry 2017, and elsewhere. In 2016, Not Even Laughter, his first full-length collection, was a finalist for both the New Brunswick Book Award and the Writer’s Federation of Nova Scotia’s J.M. Abraham Prize.
Poet and Nonfiction writer, Sarah Messer, has received fellowships and grants from the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, the NEA, the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, and the Mellon Foundation. In 2008-2009 she was a fellow in poetry at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study (Bunting) at Harvard. She is the author of four books: a hybrid history/memoir, Red House (Viking), a book of translations, Having Once Paused: Poems of Zen Master Ikkyu (University of Michigan Press) and two poetry books, Bandit Letters (New Issues), and Dress Made of Mice (Black Lawrence Press). Her work has appeared in the Paris Review, the Kenyon Review, Gulf Coast, and Ploughshares, among others. For many years she taught as an Associate Professor in the MFA/BFA program at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. In 2010, Messer co-founded One Pause Poetry, an on-line audio archive and reading series in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Currently she teaches Creative Writing in the Residential College at the University of Michigan, and is a cheese maker at White Lotus Farms.
Literati is thrilled to welcome author Meghan O’Gieblyn who will sharing her new essay collection Interior States. She will joined for a discussion about her work by writer and Literati bookseller Young Eun Yook.
About Interior States:
A fresh, acute, and even profound collection that centers around two core (and related) issues of American identity: faith, in general and the specific forms Christianity takes in particular; and the challenges of living in the Midwest when culture is felt to be elsewhere.
What does it mean to be a believing Christian and a Midwesterner in an increasingly secular America where the cultural capital is retreating to both coasts? The critic and essayist Meghan O’Gieblyn was born into an evangelical family, attended the famed Moody Bible Institute in Chicago for a time before she had a crisis of belief, and still lives in the Midwest, aka “Flyover Country.” She writes of her “existential dizziness, a sense that the rest of the world is moving while you remain still,” and that rich sense of ambivalence and internal division inform the fifteen superbly thoughtful and ironic essays in this collection. The subjects of these essays range from the rebranding (as it were) of Hell in contemporary Christian culture (“Hell”), a theme park devoted to the concept of intelligent design (“Species of Origin”), the paradoxes of Christian Rock (“Sniffing Glue”), Henry Ford’s reconstructed pioneer town of Greenfield Village and its mixed messages (“Midwest World”), and the strange convergences of Christian eschatology and the digital so-called Singularity (“Ghosts in the Cloud”). Meghan O’Gieblyn stands in relation to her native Midwest as Joan Didion stands in relation to California – which is to say a whole-hearted lover, albeit one riven with ambivalence at the same time.
MEGHAN O’GIEBLYN is a writer who was raised and still lives in the Midwest. Her essays have appeared in Harper’s Magazine, n+1, The Point, The New York Times, The Guardian, The New Yorker, Best American Essays 2017, and the Pushcart Prize anthology. She received a B.A. in English from Loyola University, Chicago and an MFA in Fiction from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin with her husband.
Young Eun Yook is a singer/writer born in Korea and New Jersey. She is a recipient of the Lucille Clifton memorial scholarship from Community of Writers at Squaw Valley and The Paul Mariani Fellowship at The Glen Workshop. You can find her work in the anthology, Goodbye Mexico: Poems of Remembrance and elsewhere. Young Eun received her MFA from the University of Michigan where she won The Meader Family Award and the Se-AH Haiam Scholarship. She is a Kundiman fellow.