NoViolet Bulawayo on We Need New Names and Michael Jackson's Popularity in Zimbabwe

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photo by Smeeta Mahanti
NoViolet Bulawayo: has a perfectly good name, thank you very much
In NoViolet Bulawayo's debut novel We Need New Names -- a finalist for this year's Man Booker Prize -- teenager Darling moves from Zimbabwe to Michigan, where she is struck by a rather large difference between Americans and the people back home.

In Zimbabwe, Darling thinks, fatness "did not interfere with the body; a neck was still a neck, a stomach a stomach, an arm an arm, a buttock a buttock. But this American fatness takes it to a whole 'nother level: the body is turned into something else -- the neck becomes a thigh, the stomach becomes an anthill, an arm a thing, a buttock a I don't even know what."

In fiction about Africa by non-Africans, it is jarringly common for the entire continent to be exoticized into a morass of clichés, a single place in need of saving and understanding by the West. But Bulawayo, who also moved from Zimbabwe to America (and who will be reading at this weekend's Miami Book Fair International), inverts this trope to put her outsider's eye on the grotesqueries of Western living.

"It's always been a personal interest of mine," Bulawayo says of the way the West appears to peoples living outside it. "As somebody who came from another culture, moved here and had to learn all the codes of behavior, I particularly wanted to flip the script."

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Miami Book Fair: Poet and Publisher Jonathan Galassi on Coming Out as Gay in His New Book

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photo by Nancy Crampton
Like most poets, Jonathan Galassi is also the president of one of the world's most renowned publishing houses and is the foremost translator of Nobel Prize-winning Italian poet Eugenio Montale. He probably also has a cat.

Galassi runs Farrar, Straus and Giroux, which has Montale and 21 other Nobel laureates on its roster, as well as a phalanx of acclaimed authors -- Jamaica Kincaid, George Packer, Sam Lipsyte and August Kleinzahler among them -- who will be at this year's Miami Book Fair International. Galassi will be there, too, but as a Knopf author with his latest volume of poetry, Left-Handed.

"The book is about change, about stripping off layers and getting to reality," Galassi says. He readily volunteers the nature of this change: after two decades of marriage, Galassi divorced and came out as gay.

See also: Miami Book Fair International 2013: The Ten Best Events

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Cristina García Dethrones Castro in King of Cuba with Farts and Impotence

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photo by Isabelle Selby
Cristina Garcia: proven to give dictators indigestion.
The first appearance of El Comandante, the ersatz Fidel Castro in Cristina García's King of Cuba, finds the enfeebled dictator confined to lead his revolution from his bed.

"The tyrant shifted onto his left arm, aiming his scrawny buttocks at the Straits of Florida, and released a sputtering, malodorous stream of flatus," she writes. "'Take that, you fat-livered idiots,' he muttered, slumping against his padded headboard."

What follows is a series of drastically increasing humiliations that García afflicts upon her fictitious dictator, of which impotence and assassination attempts are among the most mild.

"I'm not good at controlling myself, so I let quite a bit rip," Garcia laughs. It's the sort of novel whose author an egotistical autocrat might not readily welcome back into his country.

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O Miami Poetry Festival Returns in 2014, And Wants Your Ideas

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Liz Tracy
There are a lot of things Miami does wrong -- particularly when it comes to our lack of cultural substance. But this city is also capable of utterly awesome and unique endeavors, an example of which is O, Miami, a cool, classy tribute to the written word.

This festival originally kicked off in 2011, skipped 2012, then came back with a blaze of glory earlier this year. And now, according to founder P. Scott Cunningham, the interactive poetry extravaganza is officially becoming an annual event.

See also: O, Miami Food Poems: #thatssomiami

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Karen Russell on Ghost Stories in the Grove: "In Miami, Doesn't It Always Feel Like Halloween?"

Categories: Literary

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Karen Russell is Miami's most frightening storyteller
Karen Russell writes some of the scariest, most haunting stories around. The 32-year-old also happens to be from Miami, of course. So we thought we'd take a moment on Halloween -- the most terrifying day of the year -- to ask her how local ghosts and ghouls shaped her literary career.

"In Miami, doesn't it always feel like Halloween?" she said with a laugh. "Nothing is really flagged for you as a kid as any more strange than any other thing because it's all getting narrated in this one register. So it's like, uh, a tropical storm rained tarantulas down on US-1. Or The Mango Strut parade, you know, with a man with an orange on his head wandering around in tights. Then it's school time. Time to learn fractions!"

Click through to read our complete Halloween interview with Russell, including her fear that dead bodies will crawl out of the Grove like crabs.

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Pure Imagination Live Returns to Sweat: Parallel Universes and Oldies

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Bridget Davis
An illustrated take on Gajewski's "Russkie Brewskie" story on display at Sweat Records.
Last Saturday, a packed house took over Sweat Records for the 20th installment of Pure Imagination, a live performance of storytelling, music, and quantum physics. And as usual, creator Matt Gajewski's intellectual creativity was on full display.

At the record store's small wooden stage, the Mountain Dew Code Red Terror Alert provided jazzy, instrumental musical accompaniment to Gajewski dark, comedic story about parallel universes titled "Parallelism." Told in five parts, the story details the adventures of a protagonist that leaps from setting to setting through space and time, and morphs into various characters.

"In one universe, Schrödinger's Cat Stevens has a Friday evening gig at Churchill's in Little Haiti....In one universe one of your Craigslist roommates who doesn't listen to Celine Dion starts dating a girl named Peaches....In one universe you go on another first date in a bar called Russkie Brewskie."

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Miami-Dade Libraries Director: "Nothing Is Going to Be Sold Off or Destroyed"

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Hans Morgenstern
A row of film cans inside the Miami-Dade Library Film Collection
Miami-Dade County's book lovers have been up in arms ever since Mayor Gimenez proposed the closure of 22 libraries in order to save taxpayer money during a budget meeting back in July. Today, the number of libraries marked for closure has been reduced to 13, according to the Save the Miami-Dade Public Libraries Facebook group.

With so many libraries on the chopping block, and others, like the main branch downtown, scheduled to be downsized, many feared that the library system may also be seeking to sell or even destroy part of their archives. In June, shortly before the mayor announced his library closure plans, we profiled the Moving Image Archive, a collection of hundreds of film reels that's housed inside a section of the main branch building that is scheduled for closure, the Miami Herald reports. We reached out to Miami-Dade Public Library System Director Raymond Santiago, who assured us that the film archives are here to stay.

See also: Why Libraries in Miami Are More Important Than Ever

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Why Libraries in Miami Are More Important Than Ever

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As The Dissident, J.J. Colagrande turns his critical eye on Miami culture. This week: Closing 22 libraries in Miami? You've gotta be kidding.

Closing almost half of the city libraries is wrong on so many levels, and it's time for a quick call-to-action to ensure that Mayor Carlos Gimenez changes his mind, before it's too late.

In case you didn't hear, the mayor, in a last minute reversal of plans, has flipped his position on raising property taxes, and instead, has decided to recommend cuts in community services.

According to the Miami Herald, the library system as well as the Fire Department would be hit the hardest. In a "worst case scenario," six fire stations would close down, and 22 libraries.

Not surprisingly, most of the libraries are in poor neighborhoods.

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Eve Ensler, Author of The Vagina Monologues, Discusses Her New Book

Categories: Literary

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Eve Ensler's play, The Vagina Monologues, launched a revolution. Seventeen years later, V-Day, the worldwide movement inspired by the play, has raised over 100 million dollars to help women and girls suffering from violence and discrimination.

"It's amazing; it's an incredible movement. When I wrote it I had no idea what would happen. It's been quite miraculous. Of course, that's because of so many amazing women across the planet," says Ensler.

But Ensler is more interested in talking about her new book, In the Body of the World, a memoir about her bout with cancer and her time in the Congo. "I care more about discussing the issues. I don't care about the personal stuff."

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Knight Arts Challenge Finalist University of Wynwood Plans Tribute to Miami Poet Donald Justice

Categories: Literary

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Wikipedia
Donald Justice
When the Miami Knight Arts Challenge finalists were announced last week, it was far from surprising to see cultural vanguard and O, Miami, poetry fest organization University of Wynwood on the list.

The U's plan, should it be gifted one of the $20,000 grants, is to produce a conference devoted to the awareness and appreciation of Donald Justice, the late Miami-born poet who's less-than-famous in his own city of origin. We spoke to University of Wynwood founder and director P. Scott Cunningham about the hometown hero and their potential plans to honor his good words.

See also:
- O, Miami Food Poems: #thatssomiami
- Poetry Is Dead Parade: O, Miami Invites Dead Poets to Walk the Earth

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