Rilla Askew talks about her new novel, KIND OF KIN. It’s about anti-immigrant hatred, its reign of terror and how it’s tearing families apart. And Rebecca Coleman once again plumbs the outer limits of what ordinary people are capable of doing in her new novel, HEAVEN SHOULD FALL.
Novelist Rilla Askew says America is her subject, her native Oklahoma her canvas. From her celebrated debut novel about the Tulsa race riots, Fire in Beulah, to her latest, KIND OF KIN (Ecco), Askew mines the rich, paradoxical lode of American myths about race and national identity and the human realities they mask.
Kind of Kin takes place after Oklahoma passes one of the earliest and toughest anti-illegal immigration laws in the nation. Like all such laws, it is tearing families apart and terrorizing whole communities, not to speak of riding rough shod over basic human rights.
In the novel, a grandfather’s Christian belief leads him to violate the law, a daughter’s love leads her to violate her longstanding beliefs, and a young grandson embarks on an odyssey that will put him in danger as he tries to save another. These are some of Askew’s richly drawn characters; her skillfully wielded pen offers the reader comedy, tragedy and nail-biting suspense. It also brings us face-to-face with ourselves.
Rilla Askew is the author of several novels, including Harpsong, Fire in Beulah and Strange Business, as well as numerous short stories. Among other honors, she received a 2009 Arts and Letters Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in Oklahoma.
Below is a video from a real case of how U.S. immigration policy is breaking up families. As a result of a social media storm of protest, this family was reunited. But thousands of others are not.
For our western Massachusetts listeners, Rilla Askew will be appearing at the Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley, MA on January 14 at 7:00 pm.
WEB EXTRA: Read an excerpt from KIND OF KIN
Novelist Rebecca Coleman is interested in what happens when people are driven by their obsessions to blow past the boundaries of acceptable behavior. In her first novel, The Kingdom of Childhood (hear her 2012 interview with WV), a female teacher becomes sexually obsessed with one of her students, with disastrous consequences.
In her new novel Heaven Should Fall, a young man becomes obsessed with revenge. But it’s more than a personal issue — he’s enraged by what he sees as the insults his government has inflicted on his family.
Cade Olmstead, a working class guy from New Hampshire, did all the right things. He graduated from college, he’s married his pregnant girlfriend. But he can’t find a job and he and his wife have had to move back to his parents’ home. His beloved brother, a veteran of Afghanistan, came back from the war a severely damaged man. It eats at him until he decides to take his revenge — by becoming a terrorist.
Heaven Should Fall explores how the stresses coming to bear on so many American families — war, unemployment, poverty — combine in the cauldron of one such family to produce an explosive result.
Read an excerpt from Heaven Should Fall