book review: Tangerine


Tangerine by Christine Mangan. Ecco| March 20, 2018| 320 pages | $26.99| ISBN: 978-0-06-279213-6

RATING: ****/5*

–review by Amy Steele

“It is in these moments—when the air is thick and hot, threatening—that I can close my eyes and inhale, when I can smell Tangier again. It is the smell of a kiln, of something warm, but not burning, almost like marshmallows, but not as sweet. There is a touch of spice, something vaguely familiar, like cinnamon, cloves, cardamom even, and then something else entirely familiar.”

With another March snowstorm predicted for New England, most of us are more than ready to welcome spring and warm weather. Set in Morocco in 1956, Tangerine is the perfect antidote to winter restlessness. It’s super interesting for Americans to be in this North African country on the brink of its sovereignty. Alice moved to Tangiers with her new husband. She’s still acclimating when her former college friend Lucy makes a surprise visit.

During college something pushed the roommates apart, to such a degree that Alice isn’t happy to see her. They met at Bennington College which in itself provides lots of information for the novel’s characters. Alice is from a wealthy British family while Lucy is a scholarship student from a neighboring town in Vermont. Alice’s mother graduated from Bennington and then moved to England and married a Brit. Apparently the two immediately hit is off with Alice treating Lucy as she would her wealthy peers. Of their friendship, Lucy thinks: “The relationship that Alice and I had formed after only a few short weeks, the partiality that we felt for one another—it went beyond any rational description. Affinity, I decided, was a good enough start.” This sets up a perfect scenario for jealousy and competition and obsession. As open-minded as Alice might be, her circumstances provide her with a level of comfort which Lucy won’t have. It becomes increasingly clear that Lucy feels romantically attracted to Alice, that she’s become possessive of Alice and she becomes upset when Alice doesn’t feel the same.

They bond over their tragic childhoods and become inseparable friends until Alice’s new boyfriend pushes them apart. Lucy grows jealous that Alice spends more time with the boyfriend than she does with her. That boyfriend dies in a car accident. But was it really an accident or something more sinister? Lucy enjoys the perks of her friendship with Alice: “I had shaken my head then, had told myself no, I could not be made to go back, to return to my full little life, a life of obscurity, of mediocrity.

Generally overwhelmed by Tangier, Alice remains in her apartment most days. She warily ventures out once a week to the market. She doesn’t even know what her husband does for work. The couple met and married rather quickly. John seems to be the standard scoundrel, a good-looking manipulative man Of John: “John was bad at money, he had once told me with a grin, and at the time, I had smiled thinking he meant that he didn’t care about it, that it wasn’t a concern for him. What it really meant, I soon learned, was that his family’s fortune was nearly gone, just enough remained to keep him well dressed, so that he could play at pretending to still claim the wealth he once had, that he had been born into and still felt was rightfully his.” At one point, John admits to Lucy: “We need each other, Alice and I. Haven’t you already figured that out? I need her money—well maybe not need, perhaps appreciate would be the better word. And she needs me to keep her out of the looney bin.” Lucy manages to encourage Alice to venture out and explore the city, to drink mint tea at a cafe, to walk around and to even hear music and a nightclub. When John disappears, it forces Alice to delve into that dark incident in the past and question her friend’s motives. “It seemed to hang: thick and humid. Languid. That would be the right word to describe it, I decided.” This novel unfolds in a languid manner. Author Christine Mangan wrote her PhD thesis on gothic literature and her expertise translates to a smart, engrossing read.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Ecco.

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new music: Janice releases new song for International Women’s Day to benefit Red Cross

In honor of International Women’s Day today, Swedish RnB singer Janice collaborated with Swedish artists Sabina Ddumba, AMWIN and LASH for a redux version of her song “Queen.”  The project is an initiative of the Red Cross for women by women campaign [#Medsyster] to raise money for women in conflict areas around the world.  Money raised from the campaign will benefit the Red Cross’s disaster work, maternity care, as well as work on genital mutiliation in Sudan, preparation for natuaral disaster in Bangladesh and Myanmar, increased access to healthcare for women in Afghanistan.
“Queen” (Medsyster Version) is a remake of the song on Janice’s debut album, Fallin Up. In the new version, produced by Natali Noor, artists interpreted what sisterhood means to them. The new video was directed by Nicolina Knapp. 100 people worked on the production, all of them identifying as women.


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on tour: La Luz

la luz

“California Finally” is the Los Angeles band’s dreamy tribute to the “weird golden paradise” of the place they call home. The new album, Floating Features, will be out May 11, 2018.  The indie surf-rock band will be on tour this spring after SXSW. See dates below.

La Luz is:

Shana Cleveland [singer/guitar]

Marian Li Pino [drums]

Alice Sandahl [keyboards]

Lena Simon [bass]


Floating Features Track listing:

  1. Floating Features
  2. Cicada
  3. Loose Teeth
  4. Mean Dream
  5. California Finally
  6. The Creature
  7. My Golden One
  8. Golden Dozer
  9. Greed Machine
  10. Walking into the Sun
  11. Don’t Leave Me on the Earth


03.18.18 – Dallas, TX – Not So Fun Wknd
03.20.18 – Tucson, AZ – 191 Toole
04.26.18 – Austin, TX – Levitation Festival
05.11.18 – San Francisco, CA – Rickshaw Stop $
05.12.18 – San Francisco, CA – Rickshaw Stop $
05.13.18 – Arcata, CA – The Miniplex $
05.14.18 – Eugene, OR – Wow Hall $
05.16.18 – Vancouver, BC – The Biltmore Cabaret $
05.17.18 – Seattle, WA – The Crocodile $ *
05.18.18 – Seattle, WA – The Vera Project $ * &
05.19.18 – Portland, OR – The Aladdin Theater *
05.22.18 – Boise, ID – The Olympic *
05.23.18 – Salt Lake City, UT – Kilby Court *
05.24.18 – Ft. Collin’s, CO – Hodi’s Half Note *
05.25.18 – Denver, CO – Larimer Lounge *
05.28.18 – Omaha, NE – O’Leavers !
05.30.18 – St. Louis, MO – The Ready Room !
05.31.18 – Chicago, IL – Subterranean ^
06.02.18 – Grand Rapids, MI – Pyramid Scheme ^
06.03.18 – Toronto, ON – Horseshoe Tavern ^
06.04.18 – Montreal, QC – L’Esco ^
06.05.18 – Portland, ME – SPACE Gallery ^
06.06.18 – Boston, MA – Once Ballroom ^
06.08.18 – New York, NY – Public Arts ^
06.09.18 – Brooklyn, NY – Northside Festival at Baby’s All Right &
06.10.18 – Philadelphia, PA – Underground Arts Black Box %
06.11.18 – Washington, D.C. – Songbyrd %
06.12.18 – Raleigh, NC – The Pinhook %
06.13.18 – Atlanta, GA – The Earl %
06.14.18 – Jacksonville, FL – Root %
06.15.18 – New Orleans, LA – Santos %
06.19.18 – San Antonio, TX – Paper Tiger #
06.20.18 – El Paso, TX – Monarch #
06.21.18 – Tucson, AZ – Club Congress #
06.22.10 – Los Angeles, CA – Teregram Ballroom #

& – All-Ages
$ – w/ Ancient Forest
* – w/ Savila
! – w/ The Whiffs
^ – w/ Gymshorts
% – w/ Timothy Eerie
# – w/ Summer Twins

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new music: Eleanor Friedberger; Danielle Duval

eleanor friedberger

“In Between Stars,” Eleanor Friedberger

vigorous, edgy and catchy new synth-pop, goth pop. Eleanor Friedberger will release her new album Rebound [Frenchkiss Records] on May 4, 2018. instead of live instrumentation, she utilized programmed drums, a Juno synthesizer, and muted guitars for a different sound.  She recently spent some extended time in Greece, where she has family. She said: “After a month in Athens I asked my friend, the Greek musician Σtella, “What’s one thing I have to do before I leave?” After some long and careful consideration she smiled and said, “you have to go to Rebound. It’s a time warp; kind of an 80s goth disco where everyone does the chicken dance; you’ll love it… but it’s only open on Saturdays after 3:00 AM.” Rebound proved to be a revelation in terms of finding the sound and energy for my fourth album. The club was very dark and despite the no smoking signs, like everywhere in Athens, it was very smoky. The “chicken dance” Stella mentioned was a solitary one. I copied the slouchy strut, moving back and forth in line, swinging my arms in time to the music that at first sounded like Joy Division or maybe The Cure, but never revealed itself– one could only assume it to be knock-off by an unknown Baltic band. It was alienating and exhilarating. “In Between Stars” is an attempt at a song you could hear at Rebound. It’s a dark and disorienting; my warped version of 80s goth disco.”

“Whenever You Want It,” Danielle Duval

Supercharged and empowering indie rock song with super cool guitar riffs from the sophomore album LOSE IT which is out now. About the song, Danielle Duval says: “It’s a song about no fear; being open, ready, and up for anything. The quest to find, cash in, and go for what or who you’re after. It’s a song about the recognition of love when it comes, and to go for it no holds barred, no reservations, no apologies.”


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new music: Kira May

kira may

“Muscle Memory,” Kira May

After the release of an EP in 2014, Canadian artist Kira May decided to take some time to focus on treatment for anxiety and depression. A daunting task, she wrote about this experience for her upcoming album Sense which will be released this spring. Using a mic and a loop pedal, May creates lush pop songs.  “Muscle Memory” simmers with emotion, strength and resilience. It’s darkness and light colliding, murkiness and hopefulness.

She explained: ““Muscle Memory” explores the ways in which our bodies hold onto our painful histories. This is partially a love song for my body, which continuously strives to protect me and push for my physical and emotional survival, but it is also an exploration of the “letting go” required to move forward. When past traumas are no longer dangerous to us, although well-meaning, our bodies’ attempts to protect us can actually become harmful. This song looks specifically at the damaging effects of negative interpersonal relationships as a very young person who is still forming. In my case, the response was to retreat so deeply into the safety of my own body that it became difficult to get out.”



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book review: An American Marriage


An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. Algonquin Books| February 2018| 320 pages | $26.95| ISBN: 978-1-61620-134-0

RATING: 4.5/5*

“Ours was a love story, the kind that’s not supposed to happen to black girls anymore.”

As its title suggests, this is a novel about marriage. About an American marriage. about the institution of marriage and how it fits or does not fit individual aspirations and dispositions. Recently married couple Celestial and Roy have promising careers in Atlanta—Celestial as an artist and Roy in business. Celestial earned an advanced art degree in New York. She’s focused and determined to excel in the art world. Both she and Roy graduated from historically black colleges. Growing up with weatlhy parents affords Celestial the ability to pursue her creative endeavors. Marriage often doesn’t align with a creative spirit.

“Celestial was a tricky woman to figure out; she almost didn’t marry me although I never doubted her love. For one thing, I made a couple of procedural errors with my proposal, but more than that, I don’t think she planned on getting married at all. She kept this display she called a “vision board,” basically a corkboard where she tacked up words like prosperity, creativity, passion! There was also magazine picture that showed what she wanted out of life. Her dream was for her artworks to be part of the Smithsonian, but there was also a cottage on Amelia Island and an image of the earth as seen from the moon.”

While visiting Roy’s parents in a small Louisiana town, Roy gets arrested and he’s sent to prison soon after. Celestial turns to Andre, her oldest and closest friend, for emotional support. Andre actually introduced Roy to Celestial during college. Celestial becomes immensely successful creating dolls.

Roy argues his innocence and remains focused on a return to Atlanta. He and Celestial exchange letters at least initially. Being in prison fuels Roy with self-doubt about the tenacity of his marriage. It’s difficult to maintain a relationship through letters and limited visiting time. Roy helps other prisoners write letters/emails to earn a bit of income and respect. The sections which focus on Roy’s prison time prove to be at turns upsetting and frightening. Roy meets his biological father in prison. After several years, Roy’s conviction finally gets overturned and he returns to Atlanta.

“A dozen of us were released that day. For a young cat, no more than twenty, a family waited with metallic balloons shaped like Christmas ornaments; a little boy wearing a red rubber nose squeezed the bulb on a bicycle horn, somehow causing the nose to glow. Another dude didn’t have anybody. He didn’t look left or right but walked straight to the gray van that would carry him to the bus station, as though pulled by a leash. All the rest were picked up by women; some mamas, others wives or girlfriends.”

At its core it’s a novel about the black experience. About what it means to be black in America. According to the NAACP, African Americans comprised 34% of the 6.8 million correctional population in 2014. African Americans are incarcerated at a rate of 5 times that of white Americans. It’s a reality that black Americans will be more likely to know someone in prison or be personally affected by the criminal justice system. It’s a reality that black men get targeted and get wrongfully accused or generally screwed over by the system.

As the novel progresses, the strong, vibrant writing allows readers to become absorbed in Celestial and Roy’s marriage and relationship as well as their relationship to their friends and family. Through these characters, author Tayari Jones explores family and love by delving into step-parenting, wandering biological fathers, fidelity and abandonment. How does the type of family the characters grew up in affect them as adults.

This is a beautifully written and thoughtful novel that should elicit some fascinating discussions. Oprah recently named An American Marriage her next book club pick. Tayari Jones will be at Harvard Book Store on Monday, February 12 at 7pm.

–review by Amy Steele

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new music and tour dates: Kate Nash

kate nash

Enviably accomplished at 30, Kate Nash is not merely a fantastic musician, she’s also a feminist activist and stars as Rhonda Richardson on Netflix’s GLOW, one of my favorite new shows. It’s brilliant, inspirational and female-centric. Her fourth studio album, Yesterday Was Forever will be released March 30, 2018 and she will be on tour this spring. Her bubblegum pop music with smart and thoughtful lyrics seriously helped me through some brutal times. Empowerment with infectious beats. The first single– “Drink About You” is out now.

About the new single, Kate explains: “’Drink About You’ is about breaking up with someone and becoming obsessed with an idea of who they are, to the point you can’t think of anything else or move on. It’s an unhealthy obsession, you imagine things are better than they are and latch on to whatever you can about the relationship that could be turned to good. And you deal with the pain in an unhealthy way too.”

04/04 – Vancouver, BC – Imperial
04/05 – Seattle, WA – The Showbox
04/07 – Portland, OR – Hawthorne Theatre
04/09 – San Francisco, CA – The Fillmore
04/10 – Los Angeles, CA – The Fonda Theatre
04/12 – Santa Diego, CA – The Observatory – North Park
4/13 – Santa Ana, CA – The Observatory OC
04/14 – Phoenix, AZ – Crescent Ballroom
04/16 – Salt Lake City, UT – The Depot
04/17 – Englewood, CO – Gothic Theatre
04/19 – Minneapolis, MN – Fine Line Music Cafe
04/20 – Chicago, IL – Park West
04/21 – Detroit, MI – Majestic Theatre
04/23 – Toronto, ON – Mod Club
04/24 – Montreal, QC – Theatre Fairmount
04/25 – Boston, MA – Royale
04/26 – Philadelphia, PA – Theatre of Living Arts
04/28 – Atlanta, GA – Buckhead Theatre
04/29 – Charlotte, NC – The Underground
04/30 – Washington, D.C. – 9:30 Club
05/02 – New York, NY – Irving Plaza

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