Tag Archives: Berkeley

Love (and Lives) on the Balance: ‘Lucky Boy’ by Shanthi Sekaran

In her new novel, Lucky Boy (472 pages, Putnam), Shanthi Sekaran plunges readers into the drastically different yet irrevocably intertwined lives of two women, and in doing so explores facets of motherhood, immigration, and the American experience. Solimar Castro Valdez is eighteen when she leaves the impoverished cornfields of Santa Clara Popocalco in Oaxaca for “the promise of forward motion” in California. Her journey north is nightmarish; she is nearly forced into drug smuggling, she survives a rape, witnesses the horrific death of a boy, and for days rides in the bed of a truck, gagging on the stench of …Continue reading

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‘If You’re Going to Tell the Story of Slavery, I’m Going to Listen All Day’: Q&A with ‘Homegoing’ Author Yaa Gyasi

Yaa Gyasi’s recently released and critically acclaimed first novel, Homegoing (320 pages; Knopf) moves from late 18th century West Africa to 21st century California, tracking the repercussions of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Gyasi, a graduate from Stanford and the Iowa Writers Workshop, and whose book was just named to the longlist for the 2016 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, illustrates how slavery and white supremacy shaped life in the African diaspora by exploring the history of a single family—one branch of which remains in what eventually becomes Ghana, while the other experiences the turbulent history of African America. By …Continue reading

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With Mercer Out of the Hospital, ‘Swearing in English’ Finally Has Its Big Night

Earlier this year, when Oakland actor and author John Mercer was due to take the stage for the opening night of his one-man show drawn from his memoir/essay collection, Swearing in English: Tall Tales at Shotgun, he was otherwise occupied: he was in the hospital with viral encephalitis, a life-threatening illness that would keep him there for 11 days. The advertised shows were cancelled, and the book launch never happened. (You can read more about the memoir here.) Now Mercer, who is a member of the Shotgun Players, has recovered and the show will go on. What was going to …Continue reading

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Scottish Storytelling, Elvis, and Perfect Moments: Q&A with John Mercer

Oakland writer and actor John Mercer is a British expat from Leeds, in Yorkshire, who is a member of Berkeley’s Shotgun Players. He recently appeared on their Ashby Stage in Tom Stoppard’s Shipwreck and starred as Vladimir Nabokov in The Divine Game. His one-man show, Swearing in English: Tall Tales at Shotgun, directed by Christy Crowley, was set to premiere this month, but was postponed after he was diagnosed with viral encephalitis in May. The rollicking, profound pieces in Swearing in English take readers on a wild ride, from Mercer quitting law after getting his degree (and taking acid) to …Continue reading

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Reckoning With the Millennials: ‘Our Practical Heaven’ at the Aurora Theatre

Anthony Clarvoe’s Our Practical Heaven, a world premiere directed by Allen McKelvey at the Aurora Theatre in Berkeley, raises some interesting questions about how traditional media, such as plays and novels, can incorporate new media and new ways of communicating. Can you fictionalize Facebooking, tweeting, texting, and instant messaging without sounding phony and ridiculous? Fads, brand names, and recent technology can jar us out of a fiction, somehow betraying the text they’re embedded in. It’s hard to say why this should be, when there’s nothing weird about a character in a novel or play picking up the practically obsolete telephone. …Continue reading

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