Benjamin Mautner – Telling the American Story of Immigrants in “The Book of Unknown Americans.”

For their run up to Printer’s Row Lit Fest in Chicago, the Chicago Tribune has been profiling writers who will be attending to promote their recent work. Cristina Henríquez is a Chicago-area fiction writer and author of the new novel “The Book of Unknown Americans.”Benjamin Mautner

When discussing the subject of immigration, the conversation can quickly become very heated along partisan lines. Henríquez wrote a book to do just the opposite – to the tell the quiet, human side of immigration.

The book deals with a diverse group of Latin American immigrants living in the same apartment building in Delaware. The two central characters, Arturo and Alma Rivera, immigrate from Mexico to enroll Maribel, the couple’s 15-year-old daughter, into a special-needs school. Mayor Toro is a naturalized citizen, born in Panama, who falls for Maribel, complicating the lives of all involved. The Riveras immigration status lapses from legal to illegal and Maribel is on the receiving end of bullying, both of which lend the novel its dramatic arc.

Henríquez, the daughter of a Panamanian father who immigrated to the U.S. in 1971 came to realize that discussions of immigration never extended to stories like her father’s. The author of the 2009 novel “The World in Half” and the 2006 short story collection “Come Together, Fall Apart” felt that some stories never get told, even though they should.  Despite the the subject matter Henríquez she is not particularly looking to wade into the identity politics discussions that surround writers like Junot Diaz.

“I go to see Junot, and he’s talking about identity politics,” Henríquez says. “I go to see Sherman Alexie, same thing. It’s what the audience wants them to talk about, and they do. Then I go to see George Saunders, and everybody wants to talk to him about his writing. To me, that’s unfortunate. If those conversations skew differently in the future, I think that’s a good thing.”

To learn more about Henríquez’s work and the autobiographical stories that inspired it, check out the original article at the Chicago Tribune.


Benjamin Mautner – ‘The Snow Queen’ Explores Life, Death and Hans Christian Andersen

Michael Cunningham might be writing the loveliest prose stylist in American letters today. In his new novel, ‘The Snow Queen’, the Pulitzer prize-winning author applies that exquisite gift to a tale of brothers dealing with failure and mortality in New York City.Benjamin Mautner

As The Daily Beast reports, Cunningham’s strength in capturing the ebb and flow of modern life in the big city. But ‘The Snow Queen’ is not content to simply reflect life as it is in the ever-gentrifying urban landscape, with Cunningham shooting his story with semi-supernatural elements – the book shares its title with a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale.

The novel’s protagonists, Tyler and Barrett, must contend with their complicated relationship, instilled in them by their now deceased mother, while also dealing with the personal and professional failures that have characterized their lives.  Tyler, at 43 years-old, is an unknown musician, while his younger brother is a brilliant, PhD program dropout working in a vintage store. Much of Tyler’s self-worth stems from his caring for his girlfriend who is suffering from cancer, distracting him from the music that has failed to bring him notoriety.

Barrett experiences one of the aforementioned supernatural elements, when he sees an apparition, “a pale aqua light, translucent, a swatch of veil, star-high.” He good portion of the novel attempting to ascribe this occurrences some sort of significance.

Fans of Cunningham and ‘The Hours’ understand that the author’s real preoccupation is with art and the artist. Tyler’s self-criticism over the wedding song he composes, as the article points out, is emblematic of Cunningham’s exploration of the purpose art serves in the lives of artists. It can be a source of salvation or destruction.

To read more about ‘The Snow Queen,’ head over to original article at The Daily Beast.

Benjamin Mautner Princeton – McSweeney’s 46 Showcases Latin American Crime Writing

For fiction readers in the US, Latin American fiction normally boils down to a few high-profile names like Borges, García Márquez, or Bolaño. In terms of subject matter, stories about struggle against dictatorial regimes shot through a dose of magical-realism is what a popular reader has come to expect. But as Daniel Galera, guest editor of McSweeney’s 46, puts it, “it’s not so simple anymore.” This month,McSweeney’s Quarterly, one of country’s most popular outlets for literary fiction, has chosen to devote their entire issue to the Latin American crime story.Benjamin Mautner Princeton

As an article in the Los Angeles Times points out, there is a logic to the decision. Crime writing has a way of straddling the line between “genre and literary.” The best crime writing uses the concept of crime as a gateway to tackle larger social and literary questions without necessarily resorting the ‘whodunit’ formula. And it appears as though formula was not the order of the day with this collection, with stories ranging from the relatively straight-forward “The Dirty Kid” by Argentine writer Mariana Enríquez, to Brazilian Bernardo Carvalho’s look into the mind a strange government official in his 11 page paragraph, “Jealousy.”

The latest issue of McSweeney’s contains 13 pieces from all over Latin-America, showcasing great diversity as well as some unexpected similarities, which Galara ascribes to the “anxiety of influence.” The collection works both as an introduction to writers that may not be that well-known in the states, as well as a celebration of a not often observed genre of Latin-American writing.

For more indepth discussion of the McSweeney’s 46, check out this article at the Los Angeles Times.  For interviews with authors represented in McSweeney’s Latin-American Crime issue visit here.


Benjamin Mautner Princeton-Josh Turner: Country Star and Author

Josh Turner, popular country singer of songs such as Long Black Train, Your Man, and Time is Love, has announced that his first book will be published April 29. Thomas Nelson, an imprint of Harper Collins Christian Publishing, is the publisher.

The book is titled Man Stuff: Thoughts on Faith, Family, and Fatherhood. Turner describes the bookBenjamin Mautner Princeton as “full of life lessons, life stories from my experiences, things I’ve learned throughout my life, mistakes I’ve made.” Turner decided to write the book after Thomas Nelson suggested it. Turner had been named “Hottest Dad in Country Music” in 2011 by People Magazine so Nelson thought it would be a good time for Turner to write about being a father. The cover of the book supports the family theme as it sports Turner with his three sons: Hampton, Colby, and Marion.Turner says the writing process was actually easier than writing music. “People talk about songwriting being therapy, but for me it was great to not have to be hunched over a guitar or be trying to craft a melody along with the words. I just let the words flow and told stories,” says Turner. However, editing the book took quite some time and effort. “You want to be able to say things the best you possibly can, to make sure people take the best possible lesson away from the story and not come across as preach, coarse, or harsh,” says Turner. Duck Dynasty’s Jase Robertson wrote the book’s forward. He comments on Turner’s sincerity and honesty in his writing when referring to God and His treatment of us “in our strengths, despite our weaknesses.” He also notes that Turner utilizes heartfelt experiences to express his thoughts. Turner got an advance copy of Man Stuff this week and speaks of the pride he felt after completing such a task. “Can you believe your husband has a book?” Turner asked his wife. She replied with, “yeah, and I think you have more in you.”