Tag Archives: short stories

Currently Reading . . . MEDITATIONS ON THE MOTHER TONGUE by An Tran

I am pleased to announce the publication of a volume of short stories by the young, talented author An Tran entitled Meditations on the Mother Tongue (C&R Press, 2016). I have read the first three stories and I don’t want to put the volume down in order to do my own work, but I must. So a full review will have to wait until the end of May or early June. You can read and review the stories yourself if you buy the book through Amazon HERE or Barnes & Noble HERE .

To pique your interest, here is the C&R Press press release:

A deaf child discovers to her delight that she can communicate with zoo gorillas in her native language. An old man grieving for his departed wife looks to the giant turtle in Hanoi’s sacred lake for solace, believing it to be a god. An American scientist searches the mountains and rivers of Sumatra for signs of an otter believed to be extinct. A young man finds a surprising connection to his Vietnamese heritage when he takes up the acrobatic sport of parkour, motivating him to re-learn his forgotten first language.

In rich and vivid prose across twelve stories, men and women are displaced from their loved ones, their cultures and their homes, and look to the natural and spiritual worlds in search of anything that can offer a sense of belonging and lasting satisfaction. These are careful meditations on the desire to know one’s self and be known by others, where parents and lovers alike appear as gods or as ghosts, dominating and unknowable, and where the bonds between fathers and sons and brothers, men and women, husbands and wives, are built, tested and found lacking.

Matthew Salesses says, “The stories in Meditations on the Mother Tongue build like storms. They gather on the horizon until they’re upon you without you realizing when exactly you moved inside them. An Tran has written a collection of tense skies and complex humans longing for the light beyond. Put this book on your radar.”

Justin Lawrece Daughtery says, “There are ghosts inhabiting An Tran’s Meditations on the Mother Tongue. They are not haunting, though: they are reminders and etchings. They are not echoes, but the original voices sounding their guttural howls into deep caverns and awaiting return. Each of these stories lives with a presence lingering, a remembrance attached to what we might try to leave behind us. We pick up each one, each of An Tran’s stories, and there we are, holding what the ghosts have returned, and each one trembles with history, and each one unburies a treasure we do not know hides in the earth.”

Amber Sparks says, “Early in this fine collection, one of Tran’s narrators remarks on the final tonal distinctions that are the only difference between one word and another in Vietnamese. I mention this because it’s also such a perfect description of Tran’s unique gift as a writer: he has an ear attuned to the subtlest of differences in tone that open to reveal a world of nuance and meaning in the in-between places. The people living there in his collection – second generation immigrants, a Deaf girl, the parents of a chronically ill child – are seekers and wanderers, wondering how to tell their own stories. And it is here where Tran shines: he writes fiercely into the gap for the misfits and outsiders of the world.”

Richard Peabody says, “An Tran is one of the most gifted writers to appear on the DC lit scene in recent memory. These surprisingly varied stories about communication (and lack thereof) are so adventurous, intelligent, and wise (about humans and non-humans) that when the book was over I felt like I’d been scuba diving on Mars. Damn he’s good.”

Conversations with Francesca Hampton, Author of Buddha on a Midnight Sea

Dear Francesca,

First I must thank-you, so very much, for participating in what amounts to an on-line author reading of your short story collection Buddha on a Midnight Sea for the Buddhist Fiction Blog. While our blog readers are not in your immediate presence to hear you read your stories, your voice comes through them so clearly that I, for one, feel as if I have benefited from knowing you for some time.

Second, I’m sure you will join me in encouraging all readers to post their questions about the collection of stories in Buddha On a Midnight Sea to the Buddhist Fiction Blog to engage in conversation with you. I know you are excited to hear feedback.

And so we come to the third point, my initial question for authors of Buddhist fiction, which is usually “who is your intended audience?”. Alas, you already answer this question quite eloquently in your preface when you note that you “imagined the stories as a break time activity in the context of a Lam Rim (Stages of the Path) retreat or other less intensive Buddhist religious gathering of several days duration, a relaxation activity to inspire practice even as the reader was entertained, and I still hope someday they may be. But I have discovered, sharing them informally with others over the years, that they are also helpful to those who wish a glimpse of the Buddhist path before treading it, or even just a story that brings some lightening of the heart or a useful idea of two in a time of trouble. I have learned that some of the stories have already been shared in study groups and prisons and even added to required reading lists in college courses” (Hampton, Buddha on a Midnight Sea, x – xi).

So my initial question is a bit trickier, I guess: Do you think of your stories as representing or carrying the dharma? If so, how?

I look forward to your response and a great discussion about your work.

Live!

After months of learning WordPress and gathering links and making lists, I am finally “going live” with this Buddhist Fiction Blog. I hope that this blog evolves into a space for conversation and thought about novels and short stories that have been labeled “Buddhist Fiction,” as well as discussion about the label “Buddhist Fiction” itself.

In the next two posts I will explore this label, “Buddhist Fiction,” what it could mean and/or represent. In future posts, I will write about works that have been labeled Buddhist Fiction and what they can possibly reveal about modern Buddhism as it is developing in an English speaking and reading context.

Until then, sapere aude (dare to know).