14 June 2012

Alexi Zentner and Meira Levinson

Alexi Zentner
photo: Laurie Willick
Today at 4:15, Alexi Zentner, author of the exquisite debut novel, Touch (WWNorton 2012), a fluid, magical tale that unfolds in the majestic wilderness of the northern Canadian woods. The narrative of Touch follows the fortunes and foibles of Jeannot, who at sixteen years of age travelled the width of Canada and settled the town of Sawgamet, "a town of motion, light, and sound," by the banks of the Sawgamet River. The time is early twentieth century, the First World War yet to explode, and the Sawgamet River was a fast-flowing, secretive, and unforgiving avenue to the outside world and to the affluence gained from the magnificent Canadian hardwood forests.

In Sawgamet, the mythic character of Jeannot meets the fearsome and the fabulous---the ghosts and legendary creatures that inhabit the wild forests surrounding Sawgamet, and the river creatures who would grab a person and dive into the depths.

The magical realism of Zentner's narrative opens one's imagination to the many possibilities of compassion and redemption---all of which coexist in the human psyche; and it maps the rarified points of contact between  reality and the supranatural, a confluence of imagination and awe-inspiring nature:

The muffled light began to fall away into darkness and the wind settled. Jeannot stopped paddling, let the canoe drift through the clouds and curtains of snow. Martine slumped into her seat, seemingly unaware of her own demise, but Jeannot looked out at the angels that had appeared beside the canoe. He had not expected to go to heaven, but as long as he was here, he thought he should show some reverence and marvel at the miracle before him.... Each angel they passed seemed like it was dancing methodically, reaching down and the up, pushing and puling, or swinging its arms in gentle circles. He could see such a short distance ahead of him, and the current caused the canoe to pass each angel so swiftly, that Jeannot was unable to make out more than a little detail: the way the angels' robes seemed like they were made from snow, a lack of wings or halos, a preponderance of beards.... It was only when the voices came through his wind-touched ears that Jeannot realised he was not seeing angels, but rather miners in rubber boots standing in the river, panning for gold despite the onset of snow. They were nearly home. (119-120)

Touch "may remind readers of Gabriel Garcia Marquez or may echo the landscape of Snow Falling on Cedars, but Zentner's superb debut is a world unto itself" and I have yet to read more luscious and strikingly layered descriptions of snow in all its diverse materializations--- anywhere.
So that's at 4:15 today, June 14th on Woman-Stirred Radio. Click here to stream us live on WGDR and WGDH, Goddard College's community radio stations. Want to join in the conversation? Call 802.454.7762 or email me: merrygangemi@gmail.com.

Then at 5:00,  I welcome Dr. Meira Levinson. We'll discuss her new book: No Citizen Left Behind (Harvard 2012), an accessible and highly relevant analysis of a "civic empowerment gap that is as shameful and antidemocratic as the academic achievement gap targeted by No Child Left Behind" (GLW). 

Meira Levinson, who is an associate professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, wrote No Citizen Left Behind after  eight-years experience teaching in the Atlanta and Boston public school systems. "Drawing on political theory, empirical research, and her own on-the-ground experience,  Levinson shows how de facto segregated urban schools can and must be at the center of.... Recovering the civic purposes of public schools" (GLW). 

No Citizen left Behind explores questions such as:

  • What is the civic empowerment gap and why does it matter? How large is it?
  • What is Cultural Capitalism?
  • Why has Obama failed to carve away at the civic empowerment gap?
  • What forms of disrespect and mistrust do students in urban schools encounter on a daily basis? What effect do these have?
  • Why are lunch hours and bathroom policies so fraught and indicative of future expectations for students in under-funded and undervalued urban public schools?
It's a far cry from the old north woods of Canada to present-day Atlanta and Boston, but in the educators' world of Meira Levinson, imagination, creativity, and the surrounding environments of America's public schools, are as complex if not far more complicated then the past; so please join us, today, June 14th, from 4 to 6 PM (eastern) on Woman-Stirred Radio.

feminist arts and letters. Woman-Stirred Radio broadcasts live on WGDR 91.1 fm and WGDH 91.7 fm, Goddard College's community radio station located in Plainfield, Vermont.

Woman-Stirred Radio is underwritten by Sinister Wisdom, celebrating 35 years of  lesbian-feminist arts and letters. Woman-Stirred Radio broadcasts live on WGDR 91.1 fm and WGDH 91.7 fm, Goddard College's community radio station located in Plainfield, Vermont.