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USA-1000 and Charmed Particles - Author Talk

Author Talk with Sass Brown and Chrissy Kolaya

Sass Brown Bio:

Brown is the recipient of a Ruth Lilly Fellowship in Poetry, a Vermont Studio Center fellowship, a Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference scholarship, and an Intro Journals Award from the Associated Writing Programs, among other honors. She earned her MFA in creative writing from Indiana University. Her poetry has been published in many literary journals, including Hayden’s Ferry Review, Crazyhorse, Black Warrior Review, Quarterly West, and Gulf Coast. Her work recently was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with her husband, composer Jamie Kowalski.

USA-1000 Book Summary:

Sass Brown’s darkly funny debut collection of poems explores both the isolation and absurdity of twentysomething apartment living. The world Brown creates in USA-1000 overflows with infomercials, classic Hollywood film, billboard messages, strip clubs, and fortune tellers, illuminating our complex relationship with consumerism. Brown’s dazzling poems probe the disappointment of domestic reality in the face of America’s glossy facade: abundance and emptiness hand in hand. Ultimately, the book finds beauty in the deliciously artificial, and resurrects “the missing world” with words and memory.

Chrissy Kolaya Bio: Chrissy Kolaya is a poet and fiction writer, author of Charmed Particles: a novel (Dzanc Books, 2015) and Any Anxious Body (Broadstone Books, 2014). Her stories and poems have appeared in the anthologies New Sudden Fiction (Norton), Fiction on a Stick (Milkweed Editions), Stone, River, Sky (Negative Capability Press) and in a number of literary journals, including Crazyhorse's 50th Anniversary Best of Crazyhorse issue. She lives in Minnesota, where she teaches writing and is one of the co-founders of the Prairie Gate Literary Festival.

Charmed Particles Book Summary: Rural Nicolet, Illinois, is a city anchored between two opposing forces, a living history museum and a laboratory for experiments in high-energy particle physics. When the proposal to build the Superconducting Super Collider under the town sparks debate between the scientists and the locals, two families find themselves on opposite sides of the controversy that fractures the community, exposing deep cultural rifts between longtime friends.

Abhijat, a scientist from India now working at the National Accelerator Research Laboratory, has a sole obsession: making a name for himself as one of the great theoretical physicists. The search for answers to abstract questions blinds him to the burgeoning distance between him and his wife, Sarala, who devotes herself to their daughter Meena and assimilating into suburban America. Across town, Rose Winchester strives to raise her precocious daughter Lily, stitching together an unconventional marriage from the brief visits and astounding letters of her husband Randolph, the last great gentleman explorer.

With incisive prose and infinite humanity, Charmed Particles traces the collision of past and progress, science and tradition, and the unimagined elements that may arise in the aftermath. This debut novel about the conflict between two small-town
families—the immigrant Mitals from India and the local Illinoisan Winchesters—is reminiscent of both Andre Dubus III’s House of Sand and Fog and Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake.

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