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Fiction

Spring 2009

White Jade and Other Stories

The seven stories in this collection are delightful. Sometimes funny and even perverse, they show an extravagant imagination, and a very sharp political perspective deepened by their concern for how wars and historical dislocations jam people into corners from which it sometimes takes generations to escape. The novella which follows them, White Jade, has a distinctly different tone and is a marvelous adventure in “autobiography.”It is more like a channeling or act of loving reconstitution of a deceased mother’s voice than anything like a memoir or confession or any of those other autobiographical modes which flaunt the author’s ego.

Two of the stories, Chink Food» More …

Summer 2007

Panda Diaries

In Panda Diaries, Alex Kuo’s latest novel, a panda mailman chastises his improbable cohort, Ge, for buying into its pop image. “You’re supposed to be in intelligence. You’ve seen me smoke. If I relied only on that bamboo diet, we’d all be extinct by now. That’s just a story our lobbyists invent for the foreign journalists in Beijing when they have nothing else to write about.” And unlike the surly postal carriers of America, this zoological civil servant is, in many ways, more contemplative and human than Ge can claim to be. A colonel in the Chinese secret service, Ge has been exiled to Changchun, … » More …

Spring 2008

Disturbance-Loving Species

Much has been made of the supposed decline of short fiction in recent years. But Peter Chilson’s intelligent, gripping, and emotionally complex new book, Disturbance-Loving Species, winner of the prestigious Katharine Bakeless Nason Prize for fiction, defies that doomsday thinking.The one novella and four short stories that make up this collection throb with the life of Africa, from a market “like a great pond-based ecosystem, billowing with hierarchies of species and teeming with predators and parasites, opportunists and victims” to a taxi ride in which “the driver sped across a crowded city, slowing for no person, no camel or donkey, no pothole . . . … » More …

Spring 2002

Two Worlds

As a longtime teacher of multicultural children, Marietta Taylor Barron (’45 Home Econ.) observed the struggles of Mexican-Americans to overcome poverty and prejudice. She was determined to tell their story simply and visually for all youngsters to understand.

Two Worlds is the account of a pre-teen Mexican-American boy who challenged the system of school segregation in the California mining town where he and his family lived. The story is based on Barron’s own recollections. The author brings out the dramatic contrasts between the Latino barrio and the white section of town from a young person’s viewpoint.

A young Mexican boy decides, without any legal authority, … » More …

Fall 2005

The Work of Wolves

Reading Kent Meyers’s The Work of Wolves reminded me of a time when I loved horses. To watch them gallop, to see them stoop and eat grass, to feel their breath as they’d nuzzle my hand for oats. To sense in them an innate sovereignty that people in our century seem sometimes to have abandoned.

Which is why this story of South Dakota’s iron landscape, compassion battling possessive hatred, and the plight of three horses, appeals so.

Stoic rancher’s son Carson Fielding takes a job he doesn’t want teaching an obsessively arrogant man’s wife to ride. Over the course of her training they fall into … » More …

Winter 2005

Windfalls

To be a mother or an artist? Or both?

Anyone interested in women’s quest stories that explore these central questions will find Jean Hegland’s second novel, Windfalls, to be essential reading. Readers who know the Palouse will enjoy her vivid descriptions of Spokane and eastern Washington. Indeed the entire book seems to cast a golden-red glow on the lives of its struggling main characters, Cerise and Anna, like the “last ruddy light. . . , burnishing the fields and illuminating the roses, deepening the crimson” in a Palouse sunset.

Hegland (B.A. ’79) earns a solid place for Windfalls in the tradition of women’s quest novels … » More …

Winter 2003

I Only Smoke on Thursdays

What would Audrey Hepburn do? Look no further than the timeless class, spirit, and wit of the late actress for tips on dating and living as a modern woman. That’s part of the advice of Seattle author Georgie Nickell (’94 Comm.) in her debut novel, I Only Smoke on Thursdays.

Nickell chronicles the Valentine’s Day dumping of her heroine by The One—she annoyingly capitalizes His every reference—and the three years that follow of dating, smoking, going to bars with names like the “Fruit Fly” and “Cha-Cha Hut,” and drinking vodka tonics with extra lime. Smoke on Thursdays is the how-to manual of a single Seattle … » More …

Summer 2003

Index of Suspicion

Don’t read Index of Suspicion by Robert E. Armstrong until all your pets have had fresh rabies vaccinations. Using his knowledge as a veterinarian—he graduated from WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 1962—Armstrong has constructed a complex and frightening plot that hinges on the deliberate infection of people with the rabies virus as an instrument of murder.

Set in Texas, where Armstrong now lives, this fast-paced whodunnit stars an aging veterinarian who becomes caught up in the rabies plot. Armed with his technical knowledge and plenty of courage, the vet investigates the death of a presidential candidate and a grand old dame of the Texas … » More …

Spring 2008

Salt Lick

Anyone familiar with Brian Ames’s three books of short stories—Smoke Follows Beauty, Head Full of Traffic, and Eighty-Sixed—will know that he’s a writer of imagination and depth. His stories explore the boundaries between everyday existence and the chaos that lurks beneath the surface of ordinary life. Some of his characters are shaken when they glimpse the reality that underlies the world of appearances, as when Dr. Mullenix, in “A Taste Like Fear” (SFB), discovers a murdered angel half buried at the edge of an African watering hole. Others slip through the fissures that open beneath their feet and are lost—sometimes literally, as in the title … » More …

Summer 2004

Prisoners of Flight

In Prisoners of Flight, Sid Gustafson’s veterinarian protagonist refers often to angels: “We haven’t heard from our angels in a long time. But they’re out there . . . waiting somewhere in the sky.”

Two ex-military pilots, Gustafson’s protagonist and his comrade, Henson, crash their plane into wilderness alongside Montana’s Flathead River. Former Vietnam POWs, they have wrestled with life’s trials ever since, holding to a single constant: a fierce longing for an idealized sky. Says Gustafson’s protagonist: “The flying rule is: When in doubt, do nothing. But I’m not flying anymore.” For indeed, Gustafson’s characters are themselves fallen forms of the angels they seek.

» More …