Kathleen Alcalá

The Clueless Eater

Readers of the Road

December 12, 2007

The weather has kicked in all over the country, from the Santa Ana winds in California to the floods in Washington State. I hear most of Oklahoma is without power. What does this mean? Time to break out the kerosene lamps and read!

I have been on a central/eastern European reading jag recently:

The Orientalist, by Tom Reiss, is the biography of Kurban Said, born as Lev Nussimbaum in Azirbaijan. This chameleon, who escaped to Berlin during the Russian Revolution, led a life similar to "Riley, Ace of Spies" in his ability to transform himself in order to survive. A handsome charmer, he romanticized a history that was already long gone in his famous little novel, Ali and Nino, still in print today. For a completely different look at this part of the world, read Gary Shteyngart’s Absurdistan, a satirical sendup of life and politics for the dispossessed that makes the movie Borat look tame.

Going to travel books, The Road to Oxiana, by Robert Byron and The Places In Between by the Scottish adventurer Rory Stewart, who walked across Afghanistan just after the fall of the Taliban. You will be glad he did and you didn’t. Nevertheless, just at the end of his trip, he experiences that transformation we seek in extreme travel.

A final road book by Michael Chabon is Gentlemen of the Road, set in the Caucasus circa 950 after the Common Era. He spends some time in an afterword apologizing for writing about Jews with swords, but my ancestors certainly spent a lot of time swashbuckling in the Pyranees and elsewhere. If you like this, look at Arturo Reverte’s series set in Inquisitorial Spain.

So visit the library or bookstore, then keep your pets and loved ones close while you hunker down and fill your brain with images of brightness and light. Blessing to all of you.

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Selected Works

Creative nonfiction, memoir, environmental sustainability.
Combining memoir, historical records, and a blueprint for sustainability, The Deepest Roots shows us how an island population can mature into responsible food stewards and reminds us that innovation, adaptation, diversity, and common sense will help us make wise decisions about our future. And along the way, we learn how food is intertwined with our present but offers a path to a better understanding of the future.
Creative Nonfiction
Essays on Family and Writing

The Desert Remembers My Name makes an important contribution to discussions of ethnicity, identity, and the literature of place.”
Bloomsbury Review
"...a mesmerizing tale... the author explores the fascinating confusions and contradictions plaguing a culture precariously poised between tradition and modernization."
"She never forgot the power of storytelling as testimony."
The Utne Reader
"Kathleen Alcalá's Spirits of the Ordinary is an enthralling book..."
–Paul Yamazaki, City Lights Books

"This book entered my dreams."
–Alberto Rios
Short Fiction
"Thoroughly satisfying."
The New York Times Book Review

"By turns touching, entertaining, and surprising, and uniquely her own."
Publishers Weekly

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