August 14, 2017

The Graduate Student Coalition for Liberation has created a list of books and articles to help “educate readers about the long history of white supremacy in Charlottesville, Virginia.”

PEN Center USA has announced the finalists for its 2017 awards in fiction, creative nonfiction, research nonfiction, poetry, journalism, and other categories. The awards will be announced on October 27, at an event in Beverly Hills, to be hosted by actor Nick Offerman. The finalists make up an impressive list of authors, including Karan Mahajan, Lydia Millet, Brian Blanchfield, Lily Hoang, Solmaz Sharif, and Safiya Sinclair. But one finalist has caused some outcry: John Smelcer, whose Stealing Indians has been nominated in the young-adult category. As many have pointed out, Smelcer’s books carry blurbs that appear to be fake (Stealing Indians features a blurb from Chinua Achebe, who supposedly called the book, a “masterpiece.” Achebe died in 2013.) On Facebook, novelist Marlon James, who went to grad school with Smelcer, responded: “If you were at the Wilkes MFA, when I was, then you know full well the living con job that is John Smelcer,” James wrote. “This is the man who at our class reading invented a language, claiming that it was an ancient Native American tongue, and he was its last speaker. … Why does this always happen? Why do these people keep making the same stupid mistakes?” Poet Adam Fitzgerald also commented on Smelcer’s becoming a finalist: “Native writers are hurting, and have been expressing outrage at this man’s thefts for years mostly to the silence of white editors and institutions. When does it stop?” PEN has released a statement saying that the organization is looking into the matter. Author Kami Garcia, one of the judges, went further on Twitter: “We’re working to get it pulled… I’m disgusted.”

Penguin Random House has given us a sneak peak of the cover of Melissa Broder’s novel The Pisces, due out from the Hogarth imprint in May 2018.

In an interview at the Creative Independent, Matthew Zapruder—a poet, editor (he edits the poetry page of the NYT Magazine), and critic—confronts an assumption that he believes steers readers away from poetry: “People think poetry is hard and their idea about what’s hard about it is wrong. They think it’s hard because you have to decode it, but that’s actually not what’s hard about poetry. What’s hard about poetry is just accepting what is actually being said and not doing what we’re taught to do in school all the time, which is to translate things or decode them or try to unpack what they really mean. It’s not about that.

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