Ma pushes her wrist against the hair coming out from under her scarf,
--Lina, listen to me. Don’t look at them and don’t talk to them.
She means those Daesh boys who got sent home a month ago. They were taken in last year's raid. Ma says that over fifty kids were stolen from the villages around Baghdad. Normally, Daesh keeps all the kids they steal, but they let 15 of them come home. Pa says they traded the boys for 5 of their guards that got taken by the government soldiers. Our neighbors lost three of their boys and one was only six. None of them came home.
Daesh leaders want boys, maybe aged eight or ten, sometimes a bit older, because they are small and move quietly through the forest. They put bombs on some and send them into crowds. There’s always bombs in Baghdad. It is very sad for the families. How can they have a burial when they don’t have a body?
The Blue Nib Literary Magazine
It’s my usual route, around the Art Center--closed, and the old people’s home--closed to visitors, and along the path behind the church that’s also closed. On the way I’ll stop at the mini mart--open, to pick up my cigs. It shouldn’t be open but the owner, Mr. Auhja, knows that all the old bats like me can’t stand outside Sainsbury’s for two hours waiting to be let in fifteen at a time.
"Who's That Lady?"
Creative nonfiction piece about my mother's Alzheimer's and dementia.
Language gapes between us. And she is angry: why don’t we know her language when she has to put up with ours?
Has to put up with being talked to like a languageless infant.
Has to put up with being draped with a plastic sheet to be fed with mouthfuls that are too large, too small, too hot, too cold. Can no one make a decent cup of tea?
Has to endure being washed and dressed in clothes that barely stay on in colors and patterns she’d never choose.
Has to listen to people discussing her condition too quietly for her to hear and the stupid hearing aid doesn’t work anyway.
Has to now endure the daughter, the unbeliever, after all these years still resisting Jesus.
The mag is now live! Read the whole piece here.
Random Sample Review
That Spring, Simi Valley turned green. The storms started in December and billowed through March. In other years, the apple blossoms would have been chewed dry and brown by the end of February.
That Spring, Simi Valley turned
floodings of poppies across the valley’s dustiest corners
How did they get here?
How did they—
We needed something serious, something noble for the flowers
we quoted Oprah:
You can either see yourself as a wave in the ocean
or you can see yourself as the ocean.
You can read the whole story here.
We love dancing, Shaj and me. We get the new moves in the internet café. Sometimes we can watch YouTube and Vimeo over someone’s shoulder. We practice the dances at Shaj’s house because she has her own room. I like the modern dancing where you shimmer your shoulders and hips like a wave. I like to think of being a wave that can just run away into the sea.
NOVELS and COLLECTIONS
THE BODY KNOWS NEW THINGS
FISSURES OF MEN is the sequel to THE GEOGRAPHY OF KITCHEN TABLES and follows Cebo’s journey after he is awarded a year's scholarship to Cal State Channel Islands. He moves from a South Africa that is still in turbulent recovery from apartheid, to a post-election turbulent America dealing with political and social issues that have exacerbated cultural and racial divisions.
…on a plane.
That is not true because it starts in Johannesburg in a small, dark, sweaty room. Me, just as sweaty because I am standing in front of the sangoma. Without turning my head: smoke and strings of seed pods, beads, bones and long twisted strands of things that were once human. It is not wise to look closely in the sangoma’s house.
She sits in a green velvet armchair, her glasses strung around her neck on a strand of orange wool, a Glamor magazine close to her face. She holds out a palm. I move forward and hand over the MP3 player for her indlamu prayers and the Megadeth songs that she says help to clear her head.
TRIP WIRES, story collection
Leapfrog Press Fiction Award 2017
Copies at my book store, below.
TRIP WIRES travels around the world, with stories, many in children's voices, set against turbulent socio-political backdrops from Afghanistan to Syria to Columbia to America. The terrain is different in each story, but all of these young people face the dilemma of being without resources even as they try to find and maintain relationships.
Click here to buy a copy.
Featured in Snowflakes Arise here.
Interview with Cassidy McCants, Nimrod International Journal here.
Interview with San Diego Writers Ink here.
Reading at E.P. Foster Library 5/30/2019 here.
Excerpt from "Against the Stranger":
Heartstop and careful finger off the trigger. I didn’t hear him. What’s wrong with me?
Skinny boy, yellow pants dragging in the dirt, head tilted far back to stare down his nose.
It’s one of those quiet deployments on the Afghanistan border. We’re on the outskirts of the outskirts. If we were any further on the outskirts we’d be pants.
One of those bombed-out towns just like you see in movies, except this one has three-leg goats that hobble and chew through the trash, and fat-tailed sheep with deep red furrows ploughed through their fleeces. Some of the little kids say nothing. Some of them shake. A lot of them shake. Their hands, their heads. One kid’s knee shakes like it’s a small flag.
SMALL CHANGE, fiction chapbook
Gold Line Press Competition 2016
A boy crawls through a tunnel in the Gaza Strip to bring back supplies to his family and neighbors despite the high risk of the tunnel being flooded, gassed, or bombed. On the eve of the Arab Spring in Libya, a girl and her best friend disguise themselves as boys to train for a school sports competition, knowing that if they’re caught they will be severely punished. Four young girls, three of them pregnant, decide to escape their abusive husbands and attempt to cross from Morocco to Spain.
Set against these turbulent backdrops, the children’s voices, apolitical, remind the reader of the distilled best of human relationships. With no resources and armed with only loyalty, guts, and tenacity, they risk their lives for their friends.
THE GEOGRAPHY OF
Novel set in post-apartheid South Africa
Jan, Afrikaaner, and Motsumi, Sotho, marry in the heady post-apartheid days of Nelson Mandela's presidency. Despite their parents' objections, Jan and Motsumi settle into their life and have 2 kids, believing in a glowing, post-racial future. When Jan's promotion gives them the chance to move to a better neighborhood, they face considerable racial slurs and threats. A street gang attacks their nine-year-old daughter, Liseli, and the family begins to unravel. This story examines the roots of where we come from, and the astonishing strength, and capacity for love and forgiveness that children have.
I stepped over the leaking plastic bag, and wrenched the gate open. A short, bald, red-faced man, startled eyes, dry old mouth open, skittering backwards in his tackies. I reached back, grabbed the bag by the knot and turned back to see him disappearing down the alleyway by our house that lead to the backfield. I ran after him as he tried to sprint, his fake Nikes turned out, his old bowed legs struggling, waving both hands like he was trying to stop a bus. Finally he stopped and turned around, gasping, sweating,
I took two more strides and launched the stinking bag. Gaping astonishment as it split and splattered over shoes, pants, shirt.
--You—you fokken bitch—
--I have returned what is yours. Literally masimbakho. Your shit.
Arjun Kulkani brings his family to North West London, England, after Indian Independence. While he struggles to fit in, his family adapt almost seamlessly. When he is diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy, he suffers a further loss of identity. Even as his body fails, Arjun gains more understanding of his youthful impatience, his careless cruelty to his family, and how to love even those he doesn’t like.
Sometimes Sunila goes to stand at the bottom of the garden pretending to tidy up the compost heap, and allows the forbidden thought to come: divorce. She can only whisper it. It’s a bad word. Bad people do it. But in the Women’s Own magazine at the doctor’s office, she read that Elizabeth Taylor had done it. She’d done it so many times that it was just part of her normal routine. Get up, put on face cream, divorce Richard. How daring it sounds, so chic.
Click here to buy a copy.
WHAT'S HAPPENING 2020/2021
NIMROD INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL
Very happy to announce that I'll be taking part in Nimrod International Journal's online conference! More details coming soon.
2020 OXNARD HIGH SCHOOL WRITERS FESTIVAL
We had such a blast! Corridor jammed for Tania Pryputniewicz's literary Tarot card readings. Workshops were full. Lunch was amazing. And Lit Church (formerly known as open mic) was superb.
POSTPONED DUE TO COVID 19
MALIBU LIBRARY, AGOURA HILLS LIBRARY AND WESTLAKE VILLAGE LIBRARY
All workshops are on hold while we wait to see what happens with COVID 19. The Libraries are hoping to reschedule. Will keep you posted.
Dates: September 2021
Place: Little Switzerland, NC
Looking forward to working on the expanding series of photo-text pieces based on my mother's Alzheimer's and dementia.
Dates: October 2021
Place: Homer, AK
Looking forward to working on the novel-in-progress in beautiful Homer, AK.