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.
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.
The latest post on WritingtheNorthwest.com, my new website dedicated to writing about the Pacific Northwest, is my review of a strange new novel from the always-interesting Portland author Peter Rock. Here’s a part of the review:
In his last two novels—2019’s The Night Swimmers and this year’s Passersthrough (both published by Soho Press)—Rock has used a spare, allusive style to focus closely on a small number of characters in a limited situation while suggesting that there is more going on around them than they or the reader can know, some of it possibly supernatural.
This approach can create a feeling of disorientation, a sense that you’re not understanding something important to the story. But if you release your mind from the need to be certain of everything at every moment, the mood and mystery can take over, allowing you to immerse yourself in Rock’s precise and often beautiful evocations of places, experiences, and sensations.
The essay is full of sharp observations of the NW environment by a native Iowan, and the book takes you on trips of discovery to other places too: the Pine Ridge Reservation, the backwoods of Ontario, the Philippines, Nicaragua, and Midwest backroads.
New on WritingtheNorthwest.com: my review of Tina Ontiveros’s rough house(Oregon State University Press, 2020), a difficult but moving memoir about growing up in the damp forests of the Pacific Northwest and the dry brown land around The Dalles, Oregon.
Here’s an excerpt:
“Contrary to popular belief, you can sometimes tell a lot about a book by its title. In addition to the double meaning of physical fun and difficult circumstances, it’s significant that rough house is printed in lower case. Ontiveros is shining a light on minor characters whose stories, though filled with poverty and violence, are worth telling—and worth reading—for what they reveal about the hardships many Americans face, as well as how those Americans—especially women, like Ontiveros—find a way forward despite the odds.”
The second one, called “How One Man Made Seattle by Selling It to the World,” examines the role of a man named Erastus Brainerd in marketing Seattle as the Gateway to the Yukon during the Klondike Gold Rush. His before-their-time efforts led to 70,000 of the approximately 100,000 men who traveled to Yukon passing through Seattle, changing the city overnight.