REVIEW: Fiction At Literati: Akil Kumarasamy


Image result for half gods 

am discovering a litany of South Asian female writers, from the much-loved Jhumpa Lahiri and her Pulitzer-Prize winning collection of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies, and recently, the Fatima Farheen Mirza’s brilliant debut novel, A Place For Us. Being Indian myself, it is refreshing to see the emergence of these writers documenting their stories in gorgeous, intelligent prose. I am thrilled to announce Akil Kumarasamy with her debut collection of ten short stories entitled Half Gods among their ranks.

Kumarasamy’s ten stories tell the loosely interconnected lives of immigrants, people displaced by the civil war in Sri Lanka, a Chinese neighbor, and many others. Myriad viewpoints in character and perspective– bouncing between first, second, and third person– and an interesting cast of characters elucidates Kumarasamy’s deep wisdom in exploring the lives of many different kinds of people. You feel as though she knows more than she ought to know about subtle suffering, disorder, displacement– but there is a viscerality to the characters that makes them all real.

This is how I felt at Literati while Kumarasamy read a short story from her collection. The story she’d read was written in the second person, which gave it a sense of being fragmented; it felt like we knew a whole lot about the main character without ever learning their gender or name. It was a skilled use of the second person, as her character was an actor and the perspective amplified the effect of him in a mask. Kumarasamy’s language hones in on the physical details and nuances of the world around her, and looks at the world with almost godly eyes– as though consequences and actions are rendered as one. Her work is lyric– poetic– rich. Divinely so.

And yet, I felt occasionally that there were aesthetic niceties that strained the story. This is perhaps a matter of personal preference, and I have not read but two stories in the collection. At least during the reading, I felt sometimes disconnected from the character and story. I think this may be because I didn’t have the text of the story in front of me and I had to rely solely on oration– sometimes that can be tricky with stories rich in language and content.

Kumarasamy read one story at the reading. I wish she could have read more. I wanted to compare a second person story to one of her other stories, as I feel like a second person story is a category of its own.

When Akil Kumarasamy releases her next book, I await to read it– I’m interested in the projection of this writer’s career and the literary feats she will accomplish. She’s released a stunning debut, acclaimed by the New York Times, the New Yorker, USA Today, and I’m sure anything she has yet to make will stir the literary community.

REVIEW: C. Dale Young Reading & Booksigning

I readily admit that I tend to avoid both poets and poetry. Whether it’s the dense arrangement of words or the way I stereotype poets as aloof and didactic, I don’t give them as much thought.

C. Dale Young, MD, MFA, proves why I’m wrong. I was drawn immediately to him because he has an MFA, but he also went on to medical school, and is now a practicing physician in Redwood, California. So while he was certainly poetic, he was also warm, polite and engaging.

Dr. Young’s poetry is a blend of soul and landscape, in addition to the body. His poems wove through the fabric of his life, mixing in a bit of science here, a dash of hapless romance there, and a zesty topping of fantasy.

As most poets do, Dr. Young’s poetry contains gems such as:

“Things always beg for significance, would that we had time to come back to them”


“No one talks about joy anymore; it is more taboo than love”

He saved the two best ones, however, for the very end. “The Bridge” is available online, and is a whimsical piece about love. On the exact other end of the spectrum was “Torn,” a moving piece about him suturing a victim of homophobic assault and his fear of suffering the same fate.

There is also a recording of “One More Thing” here.

For the audience’s sake, Dr. Young kept his poems short, and his commentary in between readings was also curt, but often humorous. This is a poet to explore, if you ever have the chance.




REVIEW: Poetry at Literati: Sarah Freligh


I attended the Sarah Freligh reading at Literati Bookstore on Friday evening. Freligh recited poems from her newly-released and critically-acclaimed collection of poems entitled Sad Math. The collection won the Moon City Poetry Award last year.

Here is a review of Sad Math by author Mark Irwin: “Sarah Freligh’s Sad Math is nothing less than a marvelous arc that captures and explores what it means for all sentient beings to age and find the unreasonable sum of years. Her feminist view heightens the notion of sacred disfigurement as we realize that language can never properly add or assess our grief.” Ultimately, the poems within Sad Math assessed death, grief, and the past.

The atmosphere of the event was decidedly lighthearted. The poet seemed comfortable throughout the event despite the at-times gloomy nature of her poems. Freligh commented that some of her family members were seated in the audience. In-between readings Freligh would contextualize her poems with stories and various musings.

Near the beginning of the event she commented that she often mixes fictional elements with elements from her past. Indeed, many of Freligh’s poems concerned her past and her childhood, such as the characters involved in her high school memories. But not all poems concerned death and the past. For example, one poem humorously focused on her lovingly-depicted cat and elicited laughs from the audience. Additionally, the former-smoker often nostalgically featured smoking as a reoccurring motif within her poems.

Towards the end of the event Freligh mentioned that Garrison Keillor featured the poem, “What I’ve Lost,” on The Writer’s Almanac. Click here to read the written poem itself as well as to listen to the recording of Garrison Keillor reciting the poem. 

PREVIEW: Poetry at Literati: Sarah Freligh

Author Sarah Freligh will recite poems this evening at Literati Bookstore. The event will take place as part of the Poetry at Literati series. Sad Math, Freligh’s newly-released collection of poems, recently merited the Moon City Poetry Award. Freligh has also written Sort of Gone (2008) as well as A Brief History of an American Girl (2012).

Click here for more event information.

Admission is free! Escape the cold for an evening of poetry!

REVIEW: Kelly Link Reading

We all filed into the Espresso Bar, lattes in hand. We found our seats and were not quite sure what kind of yarn Kelly Link was going to spin for us tonight. All we knew was that we were in the same room with Kelly Link, and that was good enough.

After an exuberant introduction by U-M lecturer Raymond McDaniel, Kelly Link took to the podium. She read a story entitled “I Can See Right Through You” (which you can read right here) from her newest story collection, “Get in Trouble.” The story involves ouija boards, mystery, jealousy, demon-lovers, and aged actors famous for playing a vampire a long while back. Although I can appreciate Link’s innovative narrative techniques, such as her disjointed timeline and her spelled-out ouija letterings, I couldn’t get invested in the story. Perhaps I wasn’t in the demon-lover kind of mood, or perhaps it was the way that Link read the story, her fast, monotone voice sliding by good punchlines and over key plot points. The story just moved by too fast and I couldn’t fully appreciate it.

What really got me excited about being there was the Q&A afterwards. Kelly’s anecdotes about her writing process or about little bits of Kelly Link Life Factoids had us all in stitches. For example, one audience member asked about the influence of art in Link’s work. Link told us a funny story about a time she was in Arizona (I think…don’t quote me!) at a tiny hole-in-the-wall art museum/shop. On the wall were these ugly paintings of a forest and naked people whose feet were so screwed up, a stream washed over them so the viewer couldn’t see the artist’s ineptitude (these are Kelly’s words. I couldn’t judge since I’m probably equally horrible at drawing feet!) And yet, the painting spoke to her and she had to have it. Now it hangs proudly on the wall in her writing space, which happens to be the dining room table. Every time they have guests over for dinner, Link realizes that the guests are forced to face this ugly painting. She laughed, and we laughed at the silliness of it all. The silliness that sometimes we are all drawn to something strange that speaks to us for some unknown reason. Life really can be unexplainable sometimes!

I really love any chance that I get to hear writers talk about their lives not as writers. It’s so easy to read this person’s name attached to books and awards, and we begin to think of them not so much as a person, but as just a name, a writing machine with no life but to produce literature and be successful. Putting a person on such a pedestal like that can be intimidating, for both upcoming writers and the successful writer herself! Kelly Link shed the layers at the Literati that night, and showed us that deep down, she is just like all of us. She loves the Vampire Diaries, she hates the fact that she HAS to write a novel (but still will anyway!), she gives in to buying obscene pictures for no particular reason, she has to write and write and revise and cut and edit, just like everyone else. Sometimes we all need a reminder that everyone is human, even the successful ones; a reminder that everyone needs to “get in trouble” once in a while.

PREVIEW: Kelly Link Reading

Image Courtesy via

Welcome to the magical world of Kelly Link. Fantastically full of fantasy, light horror, and magical realism, Link writes short stories about haunted convenience stores, apocalyptic poker parties, zombies, marriage, superheroes, and witches in a way that is supremely unique, wacky, and wonderful. She has an original voice that you can hear LIVE this Friday at the Literati Bookstore!

What: Kelly Link Reading

Where: Literati Bookstore

When: Friday, February 20 at 7 pm

How Much?: Free!

P.S. If you have never read her stories I highly recommend them, and you can read one of the stories from her new collection, “Get in Trouble,” right over here!