All posts tagged: Fiction

The Influence of Bloodline

By NAIVO

Translated from the French by ALLISON M. CHARETTE

 

The first time I tried to see Judge Florence, I employed the same strategy as most petitioners: I camped out at the entrance to the courthouse in the administrative district next to the lake in the capital to try and grab her as she walked in. But that just showed my ignorance of the winding, inner workings of the judicial system—as soon as the magistrate appeared, I was thoughtlessly shoved aside by at least thirty others racing toward her with similar ideas. The only glimpse I managed to catch of Florence was a wisp of jet-black hair and a flash of golden glasses slicing a path through the scrambling masses.

The Influence of Bloodline
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Read Excerpts by the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing 2022 Finalists

The ethos of the modern world is defined by immigrants. Their stories have always been an essential component of our cultural consciousness, from Isaac Bashevis Singer to Isabel Allende, from Milan Kundera to Yiyun Li. In novels, short stories, memoirs, and works of journalism, immigrants have shown us what resilience and dedication we’re capable of, and have expanded our sense of what it means to be global citizens. In these times of intense xenophobia, it is more important than ever that these boundary-crossing stories reach the broadest possible audience.

Now in its seventh year, the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing supports the voices of immigrant writers whose works straddle cultural divides, embrace the multicultural makeup of our society, and interrogate questions of identity in a global society. This prize awards $10,000 and publication with Restless Books to a debut writer. This year’s judges, Tiphanie Yanique, Deepak Unnikrishnan, and Ilan Stavans, have selected the below four finalists. Click on the links in each section to read excerpts from their books.
 
 

Nobody Here Plays Little Kid Games by Geimy Colón

Image of Geimy Colon's headshot.

A dark and fascinating take on the intersectionality of gender, age, and migration, Geimy Colón’s short story collection, Nobody Here Plays Little Kid Games, is a coming-of-age tale written in lush and graceful prose. Set in an unnamed Latin American country, each story begins with children innocently climbing trees, playing marbles with their friends, and experiencing their first kisses. Colón then reveals a more sinister reality as we observe the children replicate the violence of colorism, colonialism, and oppression that surrounds them. Born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Colón writes stories that oscillate between the realms of innocence and the loss of innocence, refusing to shy away from the darker aspects of immigrant childhood. Nobody Here Plays Little Kid Games illustrates what occurs in the absence of adults—and what occurs because, and in spite, of them.

Read the excerpt.

 

Between This World and the Next by Praveen Herat

Image pof Praveen Herat's headshot.

Set in 1998, Between This World and the Next tells the story of Fearless, a burnt-out British photojournalist hardened by a long career in war-torn countries, and Song, a Cambodian woman who has been physically and psychologically beset by the violence in her country. When Song disappears, leaving only a mysterious videotape behind, Fearless must navigate a dangerous network of shady power brokers, transnational kingpins, sex traffickers, and arms dealers, uncovering a sprawling network of criminality and corruption in a newly post-Soviet world. A passionate exploration of power, poverty, and greed, Between This World and the Next challenges our own complicity as passive observers when exposed to a constant stream of media depicting suffering across the world. Born in London to Sri Lankan parents, Praveen Herat brings a sharp new perspective to the global ramifications of the breakup of the Soviet Union and the hidden criminal networks that impact our lives in ways beyond our reckoning.

Read the excerpt.

 

Craft by Ananda Lima

Image of Ananda Lima's headshot.

A wild and surrealistic story collection that pays homage to Kafka and Cortázar, Ananda Lima’s Craft seeks to disrupt reductive understandings of both the immigrant experience and the art and craft of writing. Blending autofiction and magical realism, Lima creates characters as enigmatic as they are endearing. From stories of women who devour miniature Americans from vending machines and are haunted by ghosts, to the writer’s recreation of her own battles with know-it-all editors, Craft boasts a cast of characters that won’t easily be forgotten. A first-generation immigrant from Brasilia, Brazil, Lima crafts innovative work that challenges traditional North American ideas about how stories should operate, what makes an immigrant narrative, how the intellectual is placed in opposition to the emotional, and whom these ideals ultimately serve.

Read the excerpt. 

 

A Bag Full of Stones by A. Molotkov

Image of A. Molotkov's headshot.

This savvy, intelligent, and delightful detective story follows pair of investigators in Portland, Oregon—a Russian immigrant man and a Black woman—as they try to solve a series of hate-crime murders. Told in the alternating perspectives of the investigators and the ghosts of the murdered immigrant victims, this wild whodunnit set in an America tranquilized by sectarian politics brings (back) to life the voices of those who are often overlooked or dismissed. With a focus on characters struggling to reconcile their distorted worldviews with reality, A Bag Full of Stones encapsulates how confused the notion of justice has become in a nation more divided than ever. Skillfully blending different lexicons, points of view, and narrative structures, A. Molotkov, a writer born in the former USSR, showcases the multifarious, inventive possibilities of immigrant writing in the United States.

Read the excerpt.

Read Excerpts by the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing 2022 Finalists
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Antropófaga

By ANANDA LIMA

Excerpt from Craft.

 

She devoured tiny Americans that slid out of a vending machine. Their thin metallic plastic packages almost opened themselves when punctured. Emerging with their tiny hands on either side of the rip, they declared their nutritional value (calcium, sugar, fat, 350 mg of synthetic protein). So many times she decided to diet and promised: no more Americans. But she always walked by, with an eye on the spot between the Ruffles and the Doritos, salivating. And before thinking, there she was again, inserting the coins, hot and sweaty from her palms, into the machine’s mouth.

Antropófaga
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Excerpt from BETWEEN THIS WORLD AND THE NEXT

By PRAVEEN HERAT

 

“Mr. Federenko come soon,” the driver said, lugging Fearless’s duffel up the stairs.

Above, on the landing, he saw a blur of pattering feet and what looked like a cowled figure disappearing through a door—but it must have been his mind playing tricks, he told himself. And the rain was disorienting; it hammered on the stairwell’s skylight like a hundred hundredweight of masonry nails tossed from above. Fearless’s work as a war photographer had taken him everywhere save Asia, so the sheer speed and volume of the monsoon surprised him. When the driver led him through the open door of a whitewashed apartment, he was stunned to see the water reaching pedestrians’ knees from its balcony, the thoroughfares now canals traversed by cars and tuk-tuks that left parabolae of foam rippling in their wake. Clothes stuck to people’s skin. Ropes of water twisted from awnings.

Excerpt from BETWEEN THIS WORLD AND THE NEXT
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In the Rain, Sugar Runs in Tears

By GEIMY COLÓN

Except from Nobody Here Plays Little Kid Games.

 

The blackout falls over the neighborhood like thick ink, darkening everything, forcing things into slow motion. It is like night on night—a doubly deep darkness. There are no stars lighting the block in the rainstorm.

Heavy rain hitting the roof runs off the metal awning over the terrace. The rain insulates the house in a liquid static that blocks out all other sounds. The musicality of this static brings peace to the house. Inside the house, the refrigerator ceases its loud humming. Fans stop whirring. The buzzing of the overhead lights grows silent.

In the Rain, Sugar Runs in Tears
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Brenda Smith

By A. MOLOTKOV

Excerpt from A Bag Full of Stones.

 

The dry spot on the pavement vaguely resembled a human shape. “Where’s the body?” Detective Brenda Smith asked.

The residential street was lit with soft yellow lights floating over a long hedge. The moon sat on top of a building on their left. The air smelled of water: rain, rot, autumn. It was 6:17 a.m. Brenda was cold, her skin tight from the sense of dread and responsibility.

Brenda Smith
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Translation: On the Greenwich Line

Excerpted from the novel by SHADY LEWIS

Translated from the Arabic by KATHARINE HALLS

Excerpt appears below in English. To read the original Arabic, click here.

 

Translator’s note

One of the things I like about Shady Lewis’s writing—and the reason I’m so glad it’s appearing in The Common of all journals—is that it’s global in its imagination, and yet deeply rooted in specific places and experiences. The place is Cairo, and the experiences are those of Coptic Christians and young people on the left. From this vantage point, Lewis offers a biting critique of Egyptian society, but one that’s filled with affection for its people. But Lewis has also lived in the UK for a long time, and in the novel excerpted here, On the Greenwich Line, he turns the same critical yet compassionate gaze on its capital city. His setting is a run-down East London borough, and his characters an unlikely cast of desperate migrants and frustrated local government employees. The premise is simple: as a favor to his friend, the protagonist finds himself roped into organizing the funeral of a young Syrian refugee named Ghiyath. The protagonist himself is an Egyptian immigrant who’s lived in London for many years and works as a housing officer for the local council, so he knows all about the absurdities of racism, austerity, and bureaucracy in the UK; he just doesn’t think they concern him, until the fateful day his life collides with Ghiyath’s, and he’s forced to acknowledge just how much he has in common with those who’ve fallen through the cracks. The result is a painful interrogation of how a decade of Conservative austerity has hollowed British society out from the inside, and a devastating portrayal of the migrants and outcasts who are forced to live permanently on the brink of destitution. It’s also a profoundly human story about London and its many lost souls, and for a reader like me who loves the city, Lewis’s writing about London, in Arabic, feels both familiar and arresting. Translating it into English, I hope both to honor its intimate, quotidian London-ness, and to preserve the outsider gaze which enables it to offer up such striking observations as the protagonist’s musing on the “Mosque of the White Chapel”—his Arabic rendition of Whitechapel Mosque. It does us good to return to old sights with fresh eyes. 

—Katharine Halls

Translation: On the Greenwich Line
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The Headless Man

By BARBARA MOLINARD

Translated from the French by EMMA RAMADANPanics book cover

The woman took a seat on the bench. She was wearing a little black dress and a coat that was also black, brightened up with a pale blue scarf around her neck. Long blond hair framed her rather beautiful face, which her eyes, drowned in dream, bestowed with a unique absence.

The Headless Man
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Solar

By DAVID RYAN

now that your dad’s gone your mom gets lost in the dark a lot; lost mid-stairs, or in the walk-in closet, or deep in the pantry, lost in the dark sub-terrain of the basement; or here, now at the kitchen counter, glaring out the lost window at the lost backyard, an array of convex and concave mirrors, rigged foil panels, little jet booster engines idling; sun pours in shimmering off her shoulder, crests around the gloss of her face; and you watch as she slowly turns now that your dad’s gone—

Solar
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Translation: My Favorite Animal is Winter

Story by FERDINAND SCHMALZ

Translated from German [“mein lieblingstier heißt winter”] by NEIL BLACKADDER

The piece appears below in both English and German.

Translator’s Note

Ferdinand Schmalz was already well established as an award-winning and widely produced playwright when, in 2017, he took part in the annual Tage der deutschsprachigen Literatur in the Austrian town of Klagenfurt. Schmalz won the prestigious Ingeborg Bachmann Prize for the unpublished story he read aloud at the event: “mein lieblingstier heißt winter.” Over the next few years, Schmalz developed the story into a novel which was published in 2021 by Fischer Verlag—and his first book of prose was shortlisted for the Austrian Book Prize and longlisted for the German Book Prize.

Translation: My Favorite Animal is Winter
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