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Ninja Meets Navajo Code Talker

The YA collisions of Leza Lowitz and Shogo Oketani

Shojo and Leza, international authors of mystery
Shojo and Leza, international authors of mystery

I think maybe Leza Lowitz and Shogo Oketani have the coolest marriage ever. The pair not only travels back and forth between homes in Tokyo and Santa Fe, but they’re both writers and translators with a host of titles under their respective belts. I recently had the chance to chat with Leza via email about a new young adult novel she and her husband worked on together, Jet Black and the Ninja Wind (Tuttle, $17.99). The first in a planned trilogy, it’s both a balls-out adventure tale and an intriguing portrait of multiple cultures. It’s also the recent winner of the Asian/Pacific American Award for Young Adult Literature, putting it in company with folks like Ruth Ozeki, whose A Tale for the Time Being won for Adult Fiction.

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Shift Your Paradigm

Jimmy Santiago Baca to appear at Bookworks

I want to tell you:

don't lie! If you're going to read a poem

about a kid getting his head blown off,

don't raw jaw your cotton-tipped tongue

to gain the sugary aplomb and donut favor

of English Department heads, who like you

and never scavenged food from dumpsters, who like you

and never stood in welfare lines, who like you

while gleaning misery topics from The New York Times.

excerpt from “Set This Book on Fire!”

Jimmy Santiago Baca is one of New Mexico's treasuresthe living, breathing kind. Born in Santa Fe, he spent five years in prison back in the '70s on drug charges. Since then, with as words sharp and clear as a knife, he's become an award-winning poet and a powerful voice for social justice.

His new collection of selected poems, Singing at the Gates, opens with an author's note that delves energetically into his broken youth, how his “work with words, like a blacksmith on his anvil, was slowly breaking the tangible attachments to my criminal and illiterate past and creatingthrough writing and language and reading booksa paradigm shift.” For anyone who's ever had their life changed through art or words, Jimmy Santiago Baca is a poet that speaks your language. See him at Bookworks tomorrow at 3pm.

Jimmy Santiago Baca Reading

Saturday, Jan. 4, 3pm

4022 Rio Grande NW, 344-8139

7 Books in 7 Categories That’ll Delight This Christmas

Pages from Flip the Script: A Guidebook for Aspiring Vandals & Typographers
[click to enlarge]
Pages from Flip the Script: A Guidebook for Aspiring Vandals & Typographers

Here at the Alibi, we suspect that the death of print has been blown a bit out of proportion. Whether you’re getting or giving this Christmasor just going out for Chinese foodyou can’t go wrong with the written word. Here are seven books in seven categories united only by their general awesomeness.

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First line rundown pt. 7

Novel openings, continued

“Aliens suck at music.”

Year Zero, Rob Reid

“We arrived in an undignified heap of witch and vampire.”

Shadow of Night, Deborah Harkness

“They were hanging white folks in Louisiana and shooting black folks in Richmond.”

The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln, Stephen L. Carter

“Lin Daiyu crushes apricot kernels and black sesame seeds in a marble mortar.”

The Red Chamber, Pauline A. Chen

“It felt like the first morning of spring.”

The Crowded Grave, Martin Walker

“ ‘Oh mon dieu,’ Cloquet said, when he opened the lodge door and saw me on the floor.”

-Talulla Rising, Glen Duncan


First line rundown pt. 6

More openers to new novels

“Here is the first thing you need to know about me: I’m a barefoot girl from red-dirt Oklahoma, and all the marble floors in the world will never change that.”

In the Kingdom of Men, Kim Barnes

“At first glance, she mistook him for something else.”

Inside, Alix Ohlin

“Her steps were leaden as though La Llorona rose from the dead, which indeed she had.”

The Witch Narratives: Reincarnation, Belinda Vasquez Garcia

“I keep the Beast running, I keep the 100 low lead on tap, I foresee attacks.”

The Dog Stars, Peter Heller

“The lights go out.”

The Undertow, Jo Baker

“Lord God is talking again.”

The Bird Saviors, William J. Cobb


First line rundown pt. 5

Usually this blog column is used to highlight the first lines of a plethora of new works of fiction. But since I just read and reviewed Ted Heller’s Pocket Kingsa novel about a novelist full of quotes from said novelist's fake novelsI thought I'd just draw from there.

"It is a cold and harrowing morning in the life of a man the day he wakes up, looks at himself in the mirror, and finally realizes that he is not, never has been, nor will ever be George Clooney.”

Opening line to Ted Heller's Pocket Kings

"In the small village in which my grandmother was born, the giant men flew down from the violet mountain mists after every monsoon season to take our women away."

Heller's protagonist Frank W. Dixon positing the kind of opening line that usually gratifies NY Times book critics

"Things were very bad then but still we carried on."

The opening line to one of Dixon's books; an opening line that Dixon is incredibly proud of

“An hour late to work I’m riding the D train to work in a short tight black BCBG mini skirt and not only do I feel Seth the Sommelier dribbling down my right thigh but I also see some of Antonio the Busboy sticking to my left calf.”

The lead sentence from Saucier: A Bitch in the Kitchen, a novel Dixon reads and criticizes within Pocket Kings


First line rundown pt. 4

More (potentially) famous first lines

“The strangest thing about my wife’s return from the dead was how other people reacted.”

The Beginner’s Goodbye, Anne Tyler

“The one clear thing I can say about Wednesday, the worst and most amazing day of my life, is this: it started out beautifully.”

From “The Infamous Bengal Ming,” the first in Rajesh Parameswaran’s collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

“They live on a housing estate outside of the town of Worcester, between the railway line and the National Road.”

Scenes from Provincial Life, J.M. Coetzee

“This is when and where it all begins, with all the dreamers champagne-drunk and stumbling on the head of the Needle.”

Truth Like the Sun, Jim Lynch


First line rundown pt. 3

More novel openers to weigh against “Call me Ishmael”

“Elaine’s, late.”

-Unnatural Acts, Stuart Woods

“If you had been across the street, pretending to investigate the local summer roses outside Holliday’s Flower Shop, you could have seen them through the café’s plate glass, the two sitting in the booth by a window, eating lunch.”

-What You See in the Dark, Manuel Muñoz

“The left engine backfired again and began to stumble as Jabe Rainwater rolled the old Beechcraft left and right in an effort to drain the last of the fuel from his nearly bone-dry wing tanks.”

-Bad Medicine, R. Barry King

“Just as the keynote address was winding down, the rain came hissing up the little valley in sheets.”

-West of Here, Jonathan Evison

“‘Read this,’ my father said as he tossed a leather-bound journal at my chest, trying to catch me by surprise.”

-Until the Next Time, Kevin Fox


First line rundown pt. 2

More openers to recently published novels

“Tribal Police Investigator Ella Clah stood next to her department’s cruiser, a dusty, white SUV that had more miles on it than a Two Grey Hills sheepdog.”

-Black Thunder, Aimée & David Thurlo

“Dr. Alexander Hoffman sat by the fire in his study in Geneva, a half-smoked cigar lying cold in the ashtray beside him, and angle-poise lamp pulled low over his shoulder, turning the pages of a first edition of The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals by Charles Darwin.”

-The Fear Index, Robert Harris

“Reuben was a tall man, well over six feet, with curly brown hair and deep-set blue eyes.”

-The Wolf Gift, Anne Rice

“In the time when the animals were men, Coyote was living in a certain place.”

-Gods Without Men, Hari Kunzru

“A tree is brought down slowly, unlimbed, unbarked, laid bare but not barren.”

-Bring Me One of Everything, Leslie Hall Pinder


Oedipus sex

A few thoughts on an odd book about incest in the Pacific Northwest

Ed King  , Oedipus Rex—get it?
Ed King , Oedipus Rexget it?

I recently read a book called Ed King, by David Guterson. I enjoyed it at first. When I began it I was having Thanksgiving with my family in Olympia, Wa., which is about an hour south of Seattle. The book is set in Seattle. It also takes the reader on a trip to the Orcas Islands (about and hour and a half north of Seattle). There’s something magical about those little islands off the western seaport of Anacortes. They have this time-lost feeling, kind of like the Aran Islands off the coast of Galway, Ireland. And it’s nice to read about places you’re staying when you’re on vacation. Hell, it’s nice to read about anywhere that has a seaport when you spend 11 months of the year living in the desert.

Anyway, back to Ed King. Started great. Really good job with the scenery. But man, is it one of hell of a headache when it starts getting all lofty with analogies to Greek tragedies. Enough, though. This tangent is just my way of trying to get you to read my review of Ed King.

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    3 BAD JACKS9.23.2014