Posts Tagged Cari Luna

STEELE Picks: 20 Best Books of 2013

woman upstairs

1. The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud [Knopf]
–a brilliant novel about anything but that typical woman upstairs. It’s about aspirations present and past, realized and forsaken.

cari-luna-cover

2. The Revolution of Every Day by Cari Luna [Tin House Books]
–an intense book about squatting, community and political activism in the 90s

ghana must go

3. Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi [Penguin]
–a beautifully written book. haunting and lyrical. family, race, country, belonging.

MenWeReaped-HC

4. Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward [Bloomsbury]
–this memoir. raw. upsetting. the author mediates on the poverty in Louisiana and the black men she lost in its depths.

claire-of-the-sea-light_original

5. Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat [Knopf]
–another novel in which I’m in awe of the writing style. gorgeous mystical tale about Haiti.

FEVER

6. FEVER by Mary Beth Keane [Scribner]
-wondrous historical fiction about “Typhoid Mary.” fascinatingly imagined.

inbetween people

7. The Inbetween People by Emma McEvoy [The Permanent Press]
–stunning, powerful novel. Avi Goldberg writes from military prison because he refuses to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces [IDF]. He writes about his friend Saleem, an Israeli Arab he met. Their lives intertwine despite cultural differences and past troubles.

in the body of the world

8. In the Body of the World by Eve Ensler [Metropolitan]
–not only a memoir about Ensler’s personal journey with cancer but it’s a call to community, to get involved. so powerful I cried when I finished reading it.

valley of amazement

9. The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan [ECCO]
–sweeping story about mothers and daughters set in turn-of-the-century Shanghai

Harvard Square

10. Harvard Square by Andre Aciman [W.W. Norton]
–melancholic, nostalgic autobiographical novel about belonging and assimilation that focuses on immigrants finding their place in America in the 70s.

sister mother husband dog

11. Sister Mother Husband Dog (etc.) by Delia Ephron [Blue Rider]
–the this essay collection, Delia tackles the profound to the superficial with wit, perception and charm. She maintains a steady wisdom-filled tone. She’s a woman who’s experienced plenty and shares mistakes, some secrets and reflects upon life-lessons with those willing to listen.

vampires in lemon grove

12. Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell [Knopf]
–This collection of stories transports you to places you never imagined going to. Russell writes stories about variations on monsters. Beautiful, peculiar, unusual and tragic monsters. She creates bizarre, macabre and funny settings. Complete with vivid imagery, creepiness and potent emotions without an excess of verbiage. She writes dark, funny and tender.

freuds mistress

13. Freud’s Mistress by Jennifer Kaufman and Karen Mack [Amy Einhorn]
–long rumored to have had an affair with his wife’s sister, Kaufman and Mack vividly imagine this sister’s character and life with the Freuds.

montana

14. Montana by Gwen Florio [The Permanent Press]
–MONTANA drew me in immediately with its stellar page-turning plot, terrific characters and stunning descriptions of Montana scenery. Also Lola’s an independent feminist journalist determined to uncover the truth at any cost.

dirty love

15. Dirty Love by Andre Dubus III [WW Norton]– author interview
–one of my all-time favorite authors writes vignettes about love, sex, relationships and the gritty, sticky, messy aftermath.

Lillian-Dash-Sam-Toperoff-Cover-200x300

16. Lillian and Dash by Sam Toperoff [Other Press]
–What a charming novel that delves into the long affair between playwright Lillian Hellman [Little Foxes, The Children’s Hour] and noir author and screenwriter Dashiell Hammett [The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man].

big brother

17. Big Brother by Lionel Shriver [Harper Collins]
–Lionel Shriver expresses so many thoughts about obesity epidemic, how we indulge, how food is a treat, a central focus for holidays, outings, dates, meetings etc. Dazzling writing, vocabulary and character creation up until the ending.

together tea

18. Together Tea by Marjan Kamali [ECCO]– author interview
–insight into the immigrant experience. Humor, love, respect and mother-daughter bonding make this a book you’ll long remember after finishing the last page. It’s a love story to Persia as well as an acceptance for the United States.

hypothetical girl

19. The Hypothetical Girl by Elizabeth Cohen [Other Press]– author interview
–in this astute story collection, Elizabeth Cohen writes about dating in the digital age.

nothing serious

20. Nothing Serious by Daniel Klein [The Permanent Press]
–brilliant meditation on print media and its changing format and relevance.

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The Revolution of Every Day: book review

cari-luna-cover

The Revolution of Every Day by Cari Luna. Publisher: Tin House Books (October 2013). Literary Fiction. Paperback. 392 pages. ISBN 9781935639640.

“She knows people have their own lives, their own things to do. It’s a squat, not a commune. But still, some Wednesdays, it seems they’re all down there together, everyone from Thirteen House and everyone from Cat House, squatter from Maus Haus and Utopia, kids from the park and a steady stream of the homeless. In summer they all spill out onto the sidewalk like a party. Those nights are the best. Those nights she could believe lentils and rice are the best damn thing she ever ate.”

This novel takes place in New York on the Lower East Side in the mid-90s when there’s a movement to take abandoned buildings back from the city. I’m not sure about the logistics and politics but some committed people get together to make the buildings living spaces, to make them communities. They make them safe and livable with electricity, running water and communal spaces. They rotate watch shifts or go dumpster diving and distribute food. Some become leaders. Some cling to relationships. Some find comfort in this strange lifestyle as if it’s the only lifestyle they’ve ever know. Others find that after so many years this is all they’ve got and they’re not going to quickly abandon it.

It’s about low-income housing, low-income living, survival, activism and community. This is about the American Dream becoming increasingly harder to reach. This is about living in a major city being nearly impossible anymore without drastic measures. Everything’s changed. There’s no longer rent control. People get pushed farther and farther away from where they truly want to live.

Intense. Enlightening. Spirited. Author Cari Luna focuses on several people in particular from varied backgrounds and how they came to live at a house they dub Thirteen House. She skillfully places the reader inside the house. Vivid depictions capture New York’s vital essence. A captivating array of characters will draw you in from page one.

Five squatters realize their own internal turmoil and disagreements might weaken foundations faster than city planners, officials and attorneys can evict them. Amelia entered the house as a teen runaway and drug user. While Gerrit believes they’re a couple, she’s having sex with his best friend Steve and is pregnant with Steve’s child. Amelia seems to be growing up and becoming independent and liking it. She’s finally making her own decisions. When she’d arrived at the house, drug-addled she relied on her sexuality and youth. Now she wants more. Gerrit isn’t all that great. He’s rather a pushover for everyone.

Although Steve’s been married for over a decade he constantly cheats on Anne and they don’t have an open relationship. Anne, Steve’s wife, questions both her commitment to Steve and the squatter lifestyle. Steve and Gerrit work well together when focused on the building’s needs and in leading people to fight gentrification taking over their neighborhood. They both have varied experiences as community organizers and protestors. Cat, a former downtown legend of the club/music scene and leader in the squatter movement, might be giving in to a former drug habit. Cat surprised me the most. I didn’t expect her to use again but became so tired with everyone expecting so much from her when she wanted quiet. Seemed the stagnation finally got to Cat.

“Forty-one years old and worried about being late to a job selling onions. This isn’t’ what she’d expected from her life. Though, truth be told, her expectations ran out at thirty and she’s been winging it since then.”

Communal living interests me. I like my privacy and alone time but also prefer not to live completely alone. I’ve often wished I could live in a boarding house but I don’t believe those exist anymore. I doubt I’d survive on a commune because I don’t favor manual labor unless it’s taking care of horses. I don’t like yard work or gardening so I’d be pretty useless on a commune. Maybe I could do the cooking as I’m a pretty good vegan cook. However I could never be a squatter. If I’m living somewhere on principle to be in the city that I want to be in I want to be there and experiencing everything I can.

RATING: *****/5

–review by Amy Steele

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Tin House Books.

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