Prose : Sunday Salon

The Thing About Luzhin


An Excerpt from Baron’s Chronicle

Here’s the thing about Luzhin: from the night we met, I knew he was not an honest person. It’s an opinion never changed, even as we became what some would call friends. There was something about him that inspired me; here was a person who came to America in the early ‘90s when he was twenty, abandoning Russia in spite of its imminent overhaul. And by the way he tells his story, you can tell Luzhin wasn’t discouraged by the abrupt, life-altering move. After all, living in Russia, as Luzhin explained it to me, …

Chicago | April 27, 2008

You won’t want to miss the literary talent in Chi-town this Sunday! The powerhouse lineup includes a renowned Iraqi novelist, a veteran crime writer, and the co-founder of the Quickies! reading series.

Mahmoud SaeedMahmoud Saeed is a prominent and award-winning Iraqi novelist. He has written more than 20 novels and short story collections, including Port Said and Other Stories, which was published in 1957. The first military-Baathist Iraqi government seized two of his novels in 1963. Saeed was imprisoned several times and he left Iraq in 1985 after the authorities banned the publication of some of his novels, including Zanka bin …

Nairobi | April 20, 2008

Nairobi glows incandescent with four more writers at this month’s reading. The luminary literary lineup includes: an architect turned journalist, a travel writer from Canada, a prize-winning fiction writer, and a singer/poet.

Millicent Muthoni is a trained architect turned journalist in real estate and a columnist with the Standard. Her short story was published in the Caine Prize anthology, Jambula Tree and other Stories, 2007.

Arno Kopecky is a freelance journalist and travel writer from Vancouver, Canada. He is based in Nairobi and is an editor at Kwani

Kingwa Kamencu is a journalist writing for the Media Institute’s magazine- Expression Today (ET) and a contributor with ‘The Standard’ newspaper. Her first …

How We Remember


My grandmother has $7,000 under her mattress in case she has to flee to Israel. My father won’t go to Germany, and he especially won’t buy German made ovens. I grew up in a new era, the politically correct environment of an East Coast American suburb. As a third generation Jew of an assimilated non-religious family, it was my job to forget. Not only did I think my family was crazy for holding a grudge, I had German friends.

There was a great divide between my generation and the ones that had lived through the Holocaust. It was their identity. To me, it was a history lesson. …

Understanding My Kenya


I have often seen youth as the lyrical age, that is the age when the individual, focused almost exclusively on himself, is unable to see, to comprehend, to judge clearly the world around him… then to pass from immaturity to maturity is to move beyond the lyrical attitude. [Milan Kundera, The Curtain]

I search for meaning everywhere as I try to understand what is happening in my country, Kenya. Lyrical implies something beautiful, pure, good, even. Does it speak for the stage of being that Kenya has gone through, or does it speak for me as an individual, or can I even separate my country from myself as our birthdays …

Giants: Parade or Election?


Monday evening, I was walking down a desolate street, on my way to a church meeting. I heard a boy screaming something in the distance. I saw a couple carrying a box of Pizza from the Pizza parlor from the Main Avenue. Thinking about the New York Giants. My joy for them. My loyalty to New York. But when I heard that their parade would be on election day, my conspiracy theorist personality surfaced. What difference would the parade make on votes? How many would waste much of their day at the parade celebrating only to forget to vote? How many people held the election in the back …



MarijanaKutina, Ilova, Banova Jaruga, I keep track of the names. Each time the train stops at a station, I search my map for the village. Where am I? How far? With my fingertip, I trace the line from Zagreb to Oriovac, which I have circled in blue ink. For years it seems as though I have been inching toward this elusive village, the place where my mother was born between two World Wars, the place where she spent the first five years of her life, the place I have written about, but have never seen.

I …

Hawxhurst Road, Circa 1981


We have been tucked in, pleaded with, and threatened. “Go ahead and stay up all night,” my father said before closing the door, “but don’t you dare get out of those beds.” As usual, I am not tired. I am eight years old and I think I have insomnia. I have smuggled into bed whatever book I am reading that day, either a Beverly Cleary or a Judy Blume. Sometimes, I plan to read all night. I pull the blanket over my head and get lost between the pages. In the bed across the …



Still in short pants, but tall enough to peer into a cradle of elaborately carved roble, a small boy watched an infant kick her pink-bootied feet and announced that when that little girl grew up, he was going to marry her. Four generations later not a living soul knows if Manuel Rovelo formally asked for Antonia Argüello’s hand in marriage before or after he held the deed to El Retiro, a cattle ranch near the border of Guatemala, just this side of the gem green lake La Esmeralda.

Only one other fact brackets the life of Antonia: she allowed no one to see her feet. …



Toby stuffed the new singlet into his bag along with a thermal and two sweatshirts, then sat at his desk and logged onto the school’s home page. He needed to see the name again. Plus, he knew his mom would be waiting for him in the kitchen, and if he showed his face before leaving, she’d start nagging him about breakfast, and it would just spiral out from there: from not eating properly, to being too skinny, to the wrestling team, to his father. “You only wrestle to please him,” she’d say, wielding a box of Eggo’s. “Can’t …

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