I’m thrilled to feature novelist and Pulitzer-Prize-winning nonfiction writer Mitchell S. Jackson in the newest WritingtheNorthwest.com post. Mitchell is one of the most exciting writers to come out of the NW in recent years.
Read his answers to “Three Questions and a Quote” here.
I just posted a review on WritingtheNorthwest.com of a unique book by a promising young poet named Ricardo Ruiz. The poems in it come out of interviews with migrant workers in Eastern Washington.
Together with brief bios of the interviewees, the poems present a full and sympathetic look at this hopeful but struggling and tragically neglected community.
Here’s how the post begins:
I never know where or how I’m going to come across good writing about the Pacific Northwest. A couple of weeks ago, for example, I was walking through the book fair at the Associated Writers and Writing Programs conference in Seattle when I found myself in conversation with a young man who had just published his first book of poetry, titled We Had Our Reasons. I asked him to tell me about it and liked both his subject–the lives of migrant workers–and his demeanor, so I bought a copy.
It was only when the writer, Ricardo Ruiz, had signed the book that I noticed the workers he wrote about lived in Eastern Washington. He had already told me his book was really a collaborative effort. He had interviewed workers of Mexican descent and fashioned poetry in different forms and voices from what they told him. Some were legal immigrants, some were undocumented, some had been born in the United States, and one was an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent.
It wasn’t until I was on the bus home and read the first few pages that I realized what a treasure his book is. In verse that has the accessibility of a Billy Collins or Mary Oliver but channels a very different world, Ruiz presents the struggles, hopes, and sometimes dangerous experiences of a group of people for whom the United States is both tentative home and too-often-tarnished dream.
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My new post on WritingtheNorthwest.com looks at the many Pacific Northwest connections in Adam Hochschild’s fascinating and sobering new book about America during and after World War I, AMERICAN MIDNIGHT.
Among the Northwest people you’ll read about are the feisty, progressive Portland doctor Marie Equi, the organizers of the 1919 Seattle General Strike, and the brave members of the International Workers of the World (Wobblies) labor union.
You’ll also read about less savory characters like the immigrant-hating Washington State congressman Albert Johnson and Seattle mayor Ole Hanson, who may have been the first politician to make a career out of being avowedly anti-Communist.
Note: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org, where your purchases support local bookstores. If you purchase a book through a click on this website, I will earn a small commission that helps defray the costs of maintaining this website.
After a brief break over the holidays, WritingtheNorthwest.com is back, and I’m pleased to start the new year with a new feature, Three Questions and a Quote, and one of my favorite Northwest writers, Jon Raymond.
Raymond is the author of an award-winning story collection, an essay collection, and four novels, including Denial(2022), a finalist for this year’s Oregon Book Award in Fiction. He has also coauthored several films, including the HBO mini-series “Mildred Pierce” and the remarkable “First Cow.” Most of his work is set in the Northwest.
Three Questions and a Quoteis a new, occasional feature focused on the thoughts and work of prominent Northwest writers.
You can access the entry on Raymond here, including his thoughts on Northwest writing and links to his writings and films (plus other goodies).
My latest post on WritingtheNorthwest.com is about John Okada’s NO-NO-BOY, the most beautiful and devastating novel I’ve read about the American immigrant experience.
The book’s focus is the difficult return to Seattle of a young Japanese American man who went to prison rather than serve in the US military during WWII: the hostilities he faces, the kindnesses he can’t bear, and his own feelings of guilt and shame.
Click below to read my thoughts on this amazing and eye-opening book.
Head over to WritingtheNorthwest.com to read about (and watch!) the fascinating video work of Indigenous artist Sky Hopinka, who was raised in Ferndale, WA, and went to school at Portland State University.
As part of my J. D. Ross research, I’ve been reading FDR’s May 26, 1940, fireside chat titled “On National Defense.” After making a pitch for beefing up the military in response to what was happening in Europe, he said this:
” But there is an added technique for weakening a nation at its very roots, for disrupting the entire pattern of life of a people. And it is important that we understand it.
“The method is simple. It is, first, discord, a dissemination of discord. A group –not too large — a group that may be sectional or racial or political — is encouraged to exploit its prejudices through false slogans and emotional appeals. The aim of those who deliberately egg on these groups is to create confusion of counsel, public indecision, political paralysis and eventually, a state of panic.”
The result, he said, is that people “can lose confidence in each other, and therefore lose confidence in the efficacy of their own united action. Faith and courage can yield to doubt and fear. The unity of the state can be so sapped that its strength is destroyed.”
These are important words to remember, especially as we prepare to go to the polls for an important midterm election.
I just posted a new piece on WritingtheNorthwest.com. It’s about a 1917 profile of Portland, Oregon, in the national magazine Collier’s Weekly. Called “Portland the Spinster,” the article suggests the city is run by a handful of conservative FFPs (First Families of Portland) who lord it over the later arrivals.
I love reading other people’s views of places I love, and I had some fun writing about this one. You’ll find my post here.