Tucson-area authors offer books on cancer, teaching and magical realism | Entertainment
Special for the Arizona Daily Star
“Everything is written: a novel” By Adnan J. Almaney. 360pp. Outskirts Press. $23.95; Kindle $3.99.
They’re not star-crossed lovers, not exactly. Musa, a graduate student from Iraq, firmly believes it’s preordained that he will marry his American sweetheart Sandy, despite their parents’ objections – but the course of true love is nonetheless a cultural minefield to be carefully negotiated.
Musa’s coming of age in the mid-20th century Middle East and his growing awareness of what it will take to become the person he is destined to be are at the heart of this picture-perfect, story-rich novel. details. Although not a devout Muslim, Musa is deeply attached to his parents and aware of his responsibilities to them and to his country; his education at Indiana University, however, expanded his expectations beyond the confines of the family home in Baghdad. “Learning”, as he understands it, “is a never-ending process.”
Iraqi-born author Adnan Almaney divides his time between Tucson and Chicago. He is a professor emeritus at DePaul University and a member of the Chicago-North Romance Writers of America.
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“The Kris: The fastest way to a man’s heart is through his sternum” By Mark Wolfson. Independently published. 273 pages. $9.99; Kindle $4.99.
An ancient dagger and a cast of cutthroats create a lot of chaos in this debut sci-fi thriller set in Indonesia. Prang, a biochemistry student, is trained in Pentjak-Silat, the Indonesian version of martial arts, by his grandfather, a rather mystical elderly character about whom Prang surprisingly knows little.
Shortly before the old man passed away, he bequeathed to Prang his prized kris, a wavy snake-like knife made of meteoric metal which Prang quickly discovered was endowed with remarkable powers. The kris is so unique and valuable that a number of people suddenly appear and are determined to own it.
Pushing them back while trying to come to terms with the extent of the knife’s powers becomes a foray into quantum science and a deadly race against time that takes international corporations to the Javan outback. Author Mark Wolfson is an internal medicine specialist, reptile enthusiast, and promoter of the Tucson Reptile & Amphibian Show. He lives in Tucson.
“Miao Miao” By Yun Rou. Earnshaw Books. 268 pages. $23.99; Kindle $6.99.
Monk Yun Rou offers a double narrative imbued with magical realism with this latest novel. “You are the yin to my yang,” Lulu tells Solomon at the start of their intoxicating relationship. Seduced by this astonishing Chinese beauty, Solomon is nevertheless taken aback: shouldn’t it be otherwise? Doesn’t “yin” refer to passive femininity, “yang” to aggressive masculinity? No matter.
Solomon finds her unconventional character intriguing, and he’s willing to ignore her baffling refusal to share details of her past, until a random shooting leaves her in a coma. The slim hope of finding a cure sends him rushing to China where he encounters a bizarre scenario involving reincarnation, bloody revenge, and the tradition of the indomitable women of Lulu’s rebellious Qingdao family.
Alternating chapters set in ancient China tell the story of Miao, tiger slayer and female warrior, which inform the current narrative. Yun Rao, born Arthur Rosenfeld, is an ordained Taoist monk and the award-winning author of 21 books. The recent transplant in Tucson is also a tai chi master and teacher.
“Sex, diet and tanning: the curious history of medicine to induce a natural tan, including everything you ever wanted to know about tanning” By Terence Winters, PhD, and Robert Dorr, PhD. Dorrance Publishing Co. 178 pages; $15; Kindle $9.99.
The incidence of skin cancer is “equal to the sum of all other cancers combined,” and the darker a person’s skin, the more protected they are from the sun’s UV rays.
Given that southern Arizona is a “hot spot” for skin cancer, it makes sense that the University of Arizona has been studying the effects of sun exposure for decades. With this book, its co-authors – a venture capitalist and a medical pharmacologist from AU – discuss the development and commercialization of a new class of drugs that produces a natural tan in sunless humans.
The subtitle is a little ironic: there’s probably more information here than the average reader ever wanted to know about human pigmentation, but the book is split into two sections, with the hard science largely relegated to the shortest part.
Most of the story covers the development and testing of melanotropic peptides, including the unintended benefits they confer on sexual performance and appetite suppression. In an informal style, the authors recount the ups and downs experienced by their team – including the tragic murder of a colleague – on the way to creating a successful start-up.
Robert Dorr, who lives in Tucson, is professor emeritus of medical pharmacology at the UA College of Medicine. Its co-author, Terence Winters, is a retired venture capitalist and biotech CEO who lives in Scottsdale.
“Editing Christian History: Natural Science as a Window to Grounded Faith and Sustainable Living” By Ron Rude (RESOURCE Publications). 127 p. $33 hardcover; $18 paperback; $10 Kindle.
Campus pastors—those who are successful, approachable, and articulate—can also push theological boundaries. Tucsonan Ron Rude, UA Lutheran college pastor for 17 years, demonstrates these qualities in this thoughtful and challenging work.
In “Amending the Christian Story”, Rude stops the readers. By reminding us how brief Homo sapiens was in the world’s existence, he asks us to step back and examine our arrogant, neglectful, and anthropocentric sense of our place in the universe.
Rude argues that the Judeo-Christian scriptures (contained in the Bible and which are only 2,000 to 3,500 years old) are incomplete and imperfect guides to human behavior – especially with regard to God’s management of the world – which has its own, largest, 3.8 billion years. “writing.” Using biblical and current accounts, he urges us to incorporate natural science and a revised sense of man’s role in protecting and sustaining life on Earth.
—Christine Wald Hopkins
“Crossknit: a twisted yarn” By Bill Armstrong (Dreamwise Books). 218 pages. $14.95 paperback; $9.99
With echoes of Jane Austen, the historic Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire, and plenty of savvy social media, Tucson-based writer Bill Armstrong brings together a vengeful dead woman and a quiet 15-year-old girl in a novel captivating and quirky.
As Armstrong’s narrator suggests in the prologue, “The dead bear witness to the world they left behind. … Many are tormented to settle unfinished business. … But the powers have set firm limits that no one can cross. Until there was an app for it.
Thus, thanks to a chance of cyberspace, “Knitty”, victim of the fire of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory of 1911, is able to contact the “folding” Tracey to avenge her premature death.
Murders ensue. The same goes for Tracey’s step sister, Ariel, a bit of romance. As is often the case with 15 year olds, Tracey becomes less flexible and a scheme is devised to further thwart the chaos of the “astral plane”. With the narrator periodically turning to the audience with revealing and witty asides, “Crossknit” is, as advertised, “serious fun” indeed.
—Christine Wald Hopkins
“Kacro” By Chandrakant S. Desai (independently published). 349 pages. $8.54.
Author/editor of numerous technical books and hundreds of articles, engineering professor Ameritus Chandrakant S. Desai of UA Regents opens this fictional work in a non-technical voice: we see the central Indian character, Kachro, both to be born and to die. We see him witness his own cremation and remember the imperfect cremation of his mother. We see images of him roaming the world in search of meaning, savoring sounds and scents, following his raven companion, and seeming to travel back in time as he philosophizes about life. Desai’s prose is so impressionistic at this point that it seems to manifest Eastern spirituality.
Kachro’s story then settles into myriad and concrete, overlapping family and village stories (Desai himself was born in a village in India) – of good and evil, ghosts, songs, stories ; castes and religious differences, magic and gods. Like India itself, it is so full that you cannot pin it down; you just have to mount it.
—Christine Wald Hopkins
“Schimmels’s Maxim: The Quixotic But Heartwarming Adventures of an Inner City Teacher” By Alan Voelkel (Tensegrity Publishing Company). 137 pages. $24.
Emphasize the “comforting” in the title of this memoir. Then add ‘Dedicated’, ‘Creative’ and ‘Endangered’ – as in ‘endangered species’ given the current political climate regarding public education.
“Schimmels’ Maxim” chronicles Alan Voelkel’s three decades teaching science, journalism and media at Wakefield Middle School in Tucson. Voelkel returned to work downtown after a decade of community building in rural Dominican Republic and southern Sonora. He would need this altruist’s zeal to care for economically disadvantaged, trouble-ridden, hormone-fueled, and emotionally unfiltered college kids who would “gleefully insult and publicly disrespect you; glory in pointing out your weaknesses and failures.
Challenged by these realities, Voelkel recalled the advice of his favorite education professor at Wheaton College, Dr. Clifford Schimmels: if students know their professor really loves them, they will do anything for him. Voelkel therefore decided to draw inspiration from it. This book follows him as he admirably and successfully applies this maxim to problems with students (especially hard-to-love ones) and situations outside of the classroom – to secure funding, defuse raging parents, develop the program. Creative and intelligent, Voelkel would apply the initiative in his roles of school remediation and community liaison with family.
Voelkel’s book – complete with photos over the years – is a master class in teaching. He tells the stories of his children and highlights both how truly caring for students can reverse bad behavior and how unexpected students can soar.
Expect inspiration and aqueducts of the right kind. Then go out and buy a copy of “Schimmels’ Maxim” for a potential teacher at a public school.
—Christine Wald Hopkins
Helene Woodhams is retired from the Pima County Public Library, where she was Literary Arts Librarian and coordinator of Southwest Books of the Year, the library’s annual literary review.
Christine Wald-Hopkins, a former educator and occasional essayist, was a long-time book reviewer for national, regional and local newspapers.
If you are a Southern Arizona author and would like your book considered for this column, send a copy to: Sara Brown, PO Box 26887, Tucson, AZ, 85726-6887. Give the price and contact name. Books must have been published within the year. Authors may not submit more than one book per calendar year.