Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

“My Antonia” Onstage

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

I was a teenager in a prairie town when I first read Willa Cather’s My Antonia — accent on the first ‘A.’ I’d read the Laura Ingalls Wilder “Little House” books and identified mightily with them. But, My Antonia was a revelation. I suppose I was beginning to know there was a big world beyond my little town. This wasn’t a kids’ book. Here was a story about the immigrant life and the promise of something more. For Antonia, the promise lies in the prairie.  For Jim, the narrator, it’s in cities and universities.

Cather wrote My Antonia and her other novels about prairie life long after she moved east from the Nebraska prairie. This and others of her novels mined her memories of the prairie, its harsh beauty, and, most importantly, the people.

Last week, I experienced a world premier stage production of My Antonia at the Illusion Theatre in downtown Minneapolis, showing through March 20, 2010. If you’re in or near Minneapolis, I highly recommend the show.

The stage was simple and the adaptation faithful to Cather’s book. Allison Moore captures the essence of the characters and the actors are just right in each part.

I left the theater refreshed, again connected to my own span of prairie memories and reminded of what we make from our memories. More about Cather and the food in My Antonia, soon.

Haiti: Action and a Reading List

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

The Wall Street Journal’s 1/20/2010 Front Page has a couple of lines about Haiti’s earthquake. They direct the reader to pages A8 and A10 where there are full-page stories. Mia Farrow writes about better disaster response on the Journal’s Opinion Page.

Life goes on.

The best action is to send money to the reputable organizations who have long worked in Haiti and are best equipped to help people right now. I recommend Partners in Health, Dr. Paul Farmer’s Boston-based organization and the subject of Tracy Kidder’s 2003 book, Mountains Beyond Mountains . (I have no financial stake in either Partners in Health or in Kidder’s book.)

I find myself seeking to learn more about Haiti.  How did this country so close to the beaches of Florida become what even before the 2010 earthquake the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere? Edwidge Danticat writes from her experiences as a Haitian-American, born in Haiti, raised in New York City. Her books, including Breath, Eyes, Memory

Edwidge Danticat's novel of life in Haiti and New York City

and The Dew Breaker,

A daughter learns about her father's part in Duvalier's violent regime.

capture both the immigrant experience and the heartbreak and promise of Haiti.

I’m reading, Graham Greene’s The Comedians, set in the mid-20th century in Port au Prince. From the news of the last week, I recognize the Olafson Hotel, the presidential palace, and Petionville, the upscale area the earthquake crumbled along with the rest of the city.

A portrait of Haiti under the dictatorship of "Papa Doc" Duvalier

Madison Smartt Bell’s All Soul’s Rising, next on my reading list, captures Haiti in its struggle for independence from 1791 to 1803. It’s the first in Bell’s trilogy of Haitian independence that includes Master of the Crossroads and The Stone That the Builder Refused. The author makes his own suggestions for books about Haiti, both by Haitians and non-Haitians at

“…the narrative power of history.”

in the 1/17/2010 New York Times Book Review (you may need to register to get access) and in the 1/15/2010 Huffington Post.