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About Joan Silber
Joan Silber is the author of eight books of fiction--her most recent is Improvement, fall 2017.
Her previous book, Fools, was longlisted for the National Book Award and a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. Other works include The Size of the World, finalist for the LA Times Fiction Prize, Ideas of Heaven, finalist for the National Book Award and the Story Prize, and Household Words, winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award. Her short stories have appeared in O. Henry Prize, Best American Short Stories, and Pushcart Prize collections, and in The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction. She's known for stories that leap over long blocks of time, and this led her to write The Art of Time in Fiction. She lives in Manhattan and teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and in the Warren Wilson College MFA Program. Her website is joansilber.net.
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Books By Joan Silber
When a man discovers his father in New York has long had another, secret, family—a wife and two kids—the interlocking fates of both families lead to surprise loyalties, love triangles, and a reservoir of inner strength in this "expansive and elegantly crafted novel" (Fresh Air, NPR).
"Rich with the complexities of life . . . the stories create a world made fully dimensional through changes of perspective—major characters appear and reappear as part of one or another’s experience and testimony . . . Pull any life’s thread and you discover a mesh of involvement that soon takes in all the others. It is a fine thing, subtly done, and truly exhilarating." —The Wall Street Journal
Ethan, a young lawyer in New York, learns that his father has long kept a second family—a Thai wife and two kids living in Queens. In the aftermath of this revelation, Ethan's mother spends a year working abroad, returning much changed, as events introduce her to the other wife. Across town, Ethan's half brothers are caught in their own complicated journeys: one brother's penchant for minor delinquency has escalated, and the other must travel to Bangkok to bail him out, while the bargains their mother has struck about love and money continue to shape their lives.
As Ethan finds himself caught in a love triangle of his own, the interwoven fates of these two households elegantly unfurl to encompass a woman rallying to help an ill brother with an unreliable lover and a filmmaker with a girlhood spent in Nepal. Evoking a generous and humane spirit, and a story that ranges over three continents, Secrets of Happiness elucidates the ways people marshal the resources at hand to forge their own forms of joy.
Reyna knows her relationship with Boyd isn’t perfect, yet as she visits him throughout his three–month stint at Rikers Island, their bond grows tighter. Kiki, now settled in the East Village after a journey that took her to Turkey and around the world, admires her niece’s spirit but worries that she always picks the wrong man. Little does she know that the otherwise honorable Boyd is pulling Reyna into a cigarette smuggling scheme, across state lines, where he could risk violating probation. When Reyna ultimately decides to remove herself for the sake of her four–year–old child, her small act of resistance sets into motion a tapestry of events that affect the lives of loved ones and strangers around them.
A novel that examines conviction, connection, and the possibility of generosity in the face of loss, Improvement is as intricately woven together as Kiki’s beloved Turkish rugs, as colorful as the tattoos decorating Reyna’s body, with narrative twists and turns as surprising and unexpected as the lives all around us. The Boston Globe says of Joan Silber: "No other writer can make a few small decisions ripple across the globe, and across time, with more subtlety and power." Improvement is Silber’s most shining achievement yet.
"Without fuss or flourishes, Joan Silber weaves a remarkably patterned tapestry connecting strangers from around the world to a central tragic car accident. The writing here is funny and down–to–earth, the characters are recognizably fallible, and the message is quietly profound: We are not ever really alone, however lonely we feel." —The Wall Street Journal
Longlisted for the National Book Award
"'Linked' doesn’t begin to describe the complex web Silber has woven…Emotionally, it’s astounding…[A] beautiful, intricate, and wise collection." —New York Times Book Review
When is it wise to be a fool for something? What makes people want to be better than they are? From New York to India to Paris, from the Catholic Worker movement to Occupy Wall Street, the characters in Joan Silber’s dazzling new story cycle tackles this question head-on.
Shortlisted for the National Book Award: "Joan Silber writes with wisdom, humor, grace, and wry intelligence. Her characters bear welcome news of how we will survive."—Andrea Barrett
Intense in subject yet restrained in tone, these stories are about longings—often held for years—and the ways in which sex and religion can become parallel forms of dedication and comfort. Though the stories stand alone, a minor element in one becomes major in the next. In "My Shape", a woman is taunted by her dance coach, who later suffers his own heartache. A Venetian poet of the 1500s, another storyteller, is introduced to a modern traveler reading Rilke. His story precedes a mesmerizing narrative of missionaries in China. In the final story, Giles, born to a priesthood family, leans toward Buddhism after a grievous loss, and in time falls in love with the dancer of the first story. So deft and subtle is Joan Silber with these various perspectives that we come full circle surprised and enchanted by her myriad worlds. National Book Award finalist. Reading group guide included.
Love and family loyalty meet up with the allure of far-off vistas in elegant new fiction by an acclaimed novelist.
A richly imagined novel—set in wartime Vietnam, Thailand, Mexico, Sicily, and contemporary America—about men and women whose jolting encounters with the unfamiliar force them to realize how many "riffs there are to being human." Travelers, colonials, immigrants, and returned ex-pats meet or pass one another in narratives spanning lifetimes.In the book's opening, an engineer in Vietnam is shaken to discover why his company's planes are getting lost. A modern marriage between a Thai Muslim and an American woman leads to a terrible family fight. In 1920s Siam a young woman experiences the colonial stance of her tin-prospecting brother. The last section returns the brother to the States, older now but ever in love with Asian women.Love, loss, yearning, self-delusion, and forgiveness are here in ways fresh and surprising. And in the tradition of E. M. Forster, seeing the size of the world changes the meaning of home-sickness for all the characters.
Winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award
"Unqualified praise goes to this rarity: an extraordinary novel about ordinary people." —Chicago Tribune
The year is 1940, and Rhoda Taber is pregnant with her first child. Satisfied with her comfortable house in a New Jersey suburb and her reliable husband, Leonard, she expects that her life will be predictable and secure. Surprised by an untimely death, an unexpected illness, and the contrary natures of her two daughters, Rhoda finds that fate undermines her sense of entitlement and security. Shrewd, wry, and sometimes bitter, Rhoda reveals herself to be a wonderfully flawed and achingly real woman caught up in the unexpectedness of her own life.