PODCASTS: Celebration of Diverse Literary Voices in Austin and Texas
Listen to podcasts of interviews with 19 multicultural authors as KAZI Book Review Celebrates Diverse Literary Voices in Austin and Texas.
Thanks to the City of Austin Cultural Arts Division, Austin Revitalization Authority, and HEB for their support.
The enclosed interviews are from the archives of KAZI Book Review, which airs Sundays, 12:30 p.m. – 1 p.m. and Mondays, 8 a.m. – 8:30 a.m. Central Standard Time, on KAZI 88.7 FM in Austin, Texas. At the top of the list of interviews featured are the winners of the inaugural KAZI Book Review 2016 Diverse Literary Voices Texas Fiction Award:
- Evelyn Palfrey, winner of the Legacy Award
- Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, winner of the Fiction of the Year Award
- Antonio Ruiz-Camacho, winner of the Rising Star Award
- Jacob Grovey, winner of the Rising Star Award
The other authors featured in alphabetical order are:
- Monica Anderson
- Willie Anderson
- Julissa Arce
- Simel Bey
- Anthony Brown
- Keffrelyn Brown
- Nina Godiwalla
- Marcus Guillory
- Varian Johnson
- Attica Locke
- Karan Mahajan
- Irene Mata
- Sherry Matthews
- Tyina Steptoe
- Natalia Sylvester
2016 Legacy Award Winner Evelyn Palfrey (Austin)
As the winner of the Legacy Award, Evelyn Palfrey is being honored for writing inspiring novels for 20 years about black protagonists that are “marvelously mature,” set in Texas. Evelyn Palfrey is a native Texan and a lawyer who writes romantic suspense for the ‘marvelously mature’—because romance is just as sweet with a little gray at the temple. She is the author of five novels that deal with issues that are common to the middle passage of life, and reflect her 30 years practice of criminal and family law—and her love of RV travel.
Evelyn began writing fiction in 1995, driven by the realization that although many romance readers were like her—at middle age and starting a new phase of life—they weren’t represented as romance heroines. Three Perfect Men was the first book of a trilogy about three women who had been college roommates in the ‘60’s. Three women take an RV trip to a placid East Texas lake, and become involved in a murder—and three perfect men. The Price of Passion, a novel about marriage and betrayal set in Austin, followed the next year. Her sister’s remark about the absence of full-figured women as romance heroines propelled her to write Dangerous Dilemmas. Her fourth novel, Everything In Its Place, grew out of recognition that many women who thought they had finished raising children, are now raising grandchildren. Going Home is the story of a retired woman who invites a Katrina evacuee to move into her home.
Evelyn’s novels have been on the Essence Magazine bestseller list, the BookSense ‘76 list, and have been Black Expressions selections. The Price of Passion was awarded Best Multicultural Book by Romantic Times Magazine. Evelyn’s story, “The Lady at the Bus Stop,” was published in Chicken Soup for the African-American Soul, and her story, “Mama’s Hands,” was published in Chicken Soup for the African-American Woman’s Soul. She has also been a contributor to Black Issues Book Review. Evelyn was nominated for a Career Achievement Award by Romantic Times. She has served on the Board of Directors of the Austin Public Library Foundation, Travis County Lawyer Referral Service, Austin Community Radio, Inc., Writers League of Texas, Texas Municipal Courts Education Center, and the State Bar of Texas. In 2012, she was awarded the Emma Author of the Year by Romance Slam Jam. To purchase copies of her books go to: http://evelynpalfrey.com/novels.htm. To listen to the KAZI Book Review interview with Evelyn Palfrey click the play button below:
2016 Fiction of the Year Award Winner Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (Houston)
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s wonderful 2016 novel, BEFORE WE VISIT THE GODDESS, is the 2016 Texas Fiction of the Year. It is a multigenerational novel covering the emotional lives of three Indian women, Sabitri, the matriarch born and raised in India, her daughter Bela, who runs away to America with a college radical never to come back to India, and Tara, the granddaughter in America that Sabitri never sees. Spanning from the 1940s to 2020, the novel charts the efforts of each of the women to take control of their lives while overcoming the consequences of bad decisions and tragedies. With settings in India, Oakland, Houston, and Austin, BEFORE WE VISIT THE GODDESS, brings to light the immigrant experience of Indians, and the impact of the weakening of family ties to their native land.
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is an award-winning and bestselling author, poet, activist and teacher of writing. Her work has been published in over 50 magazines, including the Atlantic Monthlyand The New Yorker, and her writing has been included in over 50 anthologies, including The Best American Short Stories, the O.Henry Prize Stories and the Pushcart Prize Anthology. Her books have been translated into 29 languages, including Dutch, Hebrew, Bengali, Russian and Japanese, and many of them have been used for campus-wide and city-wide reads. Several of her works have been made into films and plays. She lives in Houston with her husband Murthy and has two sons, Anand and Abhay, who are in college. She loves to connect with readers on her Facebook page. To purchase copies of her books go to: http://www.chitradivakaruni.com/books/. To listen to the KAZI Book Review interview with Chitra Divakaruni click the play button below:
2016 Rising Star Award Winner Antonio Ruiz-Camacho (Austin – UT Austin graduate))
With his short story collection published in 2015, BAREFOOT DOGS, former journalist Antonio Ruiz-Camacho stormed on Austin’s book scene with a literary debut that captured the angst and tragedy of a Mexican family whose patriarch is kidnapped. Currently working on his debut novel, Ruiz-Camacho is truly a rising star in Texas fiction.
Antonio Ruiz-Camacho was born and raised in Toluca, Mexico. A former Knight Journalism fellow at Stanford University, a Dobie Paisano fellow in fiction by the University of Texas at Austin and the Texas Institute of Letters, and a Walter E. Dakin fellow in fiction at Sewanee Writers’ Conference, he earned his MFA from The New Writers Project at UT Austin. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Salon, Texas Monthly, The Millions, and elsewhere. His debut story collection BAREFOOT DOGS won the Jesse H. Jones Award for Best Book of Fiction, and was named a Best Book of 2015 by Kirkus Reviews, San Francisco Chronicle, Texas Observer and PRI’s The World. It was published in Spanish translation by the author, and is forthcoming in Dutch. Antonio lives in Austin, Texas, with his family, where he’s currently at work on a novel.
To listen to the KAZI Book Review interview with Antonio Ruiz-Camacho click the play button below:
2016 Rising Star Award Winner Jacob Grovey (Austin)
Although he is not even 40 yet, Jacob Grovey has published three books and is founder of Global Genius Society, a global community of artists and art lovers. His 2016 novel, DANCE OF THE BROKEN, tells the inspirational story of a young black girl who dreams of being a ballerina, despite society’s opinion that she’s cut from the wrong cloth.
Jacob began writing early in life. At the age of eight, he first saw people actually valued his words. He was offered the opportunity to write for a magazine, but as great as the opportunity was, Jacob passed on it because he didn’t want any pressure to be associated with his writing. As the years passed, he found himself writing less and less, and before he knew it, he had gone several years without writing anything. As he thought back to the times when he wrote daily, he soon became upset with himself for going so long without putting his thoughts onto paper. In 2003, he vowed to never let that happen again. Now he says, “I promise you, the times that you’ll catch me without some sort of notepad and pencil are gonna be few and far between because you never know when the inspiration will hit.”
To purchase copies of his books go to: To listen to the KAZI Book Review interview with Jacob Grovey click the play button below:
Monica Anderson (Austin)
Dr. Monica “mOe” Anderson has published six books, including three novels, SINPHONY, WHEN A SISTAH’S FED UP, and I STAND ACCUSED. Her latest book, SUCCESS IS A SIDE EFFECT: Leadership, Relationships, and Selective Amnesia, is an inspiring work on personal development based on Dr. mOe’s professional and personal experiences. She is a graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry and Baylor University.
This how Sinphony is described on Monica Anderson’s web site: “Third grade teacher Nona Huff has two dreams: a promotion to Vice Principal and making her parents proud. There are only three things standing in her way–
Franklin, mature and successful. Terry, the much younger artist. And Vince, her new colleague, who would be the perfect man if he wasn’t after her dream job.”
Willie Anderson and Simel Bey (Austin – joint interview)
Willie S. Anderson, M.Ed., author of WYNTER, TAKE A BOW, is an educator, visionary, writer, speaker, sojourner, and community advocate. Blessed to live her passion through service, Anderson firmly believes that we must use our God-given talents to uplift our community. Ms. Anderson is abundantly blessed with supportive family and friends. She is especially grateful for her magnificent mama, two lovely, dynamic daughters; a dedicated, sensational son-in-law; and three energetic, brilliant “baby grands.” A native of Henderson, Tennessee, Anderson resides in Pflugerville, Texas.
Every child is gifted. WYNTER, TAKE A BOW!, poetically illustrates the creative genius and exuberant spirit of one amazing little girl. Featuring phenomenally vivid art by Keturah Ariel, each illustration is simply beautiful. Wynter, Take a Bow is Willie S. Anderson’s first published children’s book. Though written primarily for youngsters, this brilliant “work of heart” is sure to inspire and rejuvenate the child in each of us. Keep the pages turning!
Simel E.J. Bey, author of MYSTERIOUS ONE OF KAPWERA ENGOLO, is a Licensed & Board Certified Acupuncturist and teacher. Simel earned a bachelor’s degree in Radio, Film, and Print and his master’s degree in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. He is the CEO of Bey Acupuncture, a thriving and accolade-winning practice specializing in Oriental Medicine. He made his publishing debut in 2010 with Children’s Initiatic Tales: Stories from The Immortal Light, a collection of six original tales inspired by traditions of myth, spiritual folklore, and ancient fairy tales.
Based on the true story of Mestre Benedito, one of the innovators of the unique and beautiful martial art Capoeira, THE MYSTERIOUS ONE OF KAPWERA ENGOLO celebrates the life of a young man named Besege taken from his home and sold into slavery in the New World. Swiftly escaping to a multi-racial community of freedom fighters, Besege survives to witness turbulent times, including the birth of capoeira from a mix of African and native Brazilian arts, the abolition of slavery in Brazil, and the rise of Afro-Brazilian culture as an enduring force.
Listen to the podcasts of these interviews on KAZI Book Review of Simel E.J. Bey, author of THE MYSTERIOUS ONE OF KAPWERA ENGOLO and Willie S. Anderson, author of WYNTER, TAKE A BOW!:
Julissa Arce (Austin-UT Austin graduate)
Julissa Arce, author of MY (UNDERGROUND) AMERICAN DREAM, is a political commentator, speaker, and writer. She is a leading voice in the fight for social justice, immigrant rights and education equality. She is a contributor for CNBC and the Huffington Post. Her writing has been featured in CNN, The Hill, Refinery29, CNN en Español, and Fusion among other national outlets.
She is the chairman, and co-founder of the Ascend Educational Fund (AEF). AEF is a college scholarship and mentorship program for immigrant students in New York City, regardless of their ethnicity, national original or immigration status. She made national and international headlines when she revealed that she had achieved the American Dream of wealth and status at Goldman Sachs while undocumented.
Julissa uses her inspirational story to change the conversation around immigration in her book, MY (UNDERGROUND) AMERICAN DREAM (Entre Las Sombras del Sueño Americano). The book explores the polarizing question: for an undocumented immigrant, what is the true cost of the American dream?
Anthony and Keffrelyn Brown (Austin)
Anthony and Keffrelyn Brown are co-authors, with Carl Grant, of BLACK INTELLECTUAL THOUGHT IN EDUCATION. Keffrelyn D. Brown (Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison) is Associate Professor of Cultural Studies in Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Texas at Austin. She holds the Elizabeth Glenadine Gibb Teaching Fellow in Education and has appointments in the Department of African and African Diaspora Studies, the Warfield Center for African and African American Studies and the Center for Women and Gender Studies. Her recent book, published in 2016 by Teachers College Press is After the “AT-RISK LABEL”: Reorienting Educational Policy and Practice. She has received the AERA Division K Early Career Research Award and the Regent’s Outstanding Teaching Award, the highest honor given for excellent undergraduate teaching across the University of Texas System.
Anthony Brown is Associate Professor of Curriculum & Instruction in Social Studies Education. He also is an affiliated faculty in the areas of cultural studies in education, the John Warfield Center of African and African American studies and the Department of African and African Diaspora Studies. He received his B.A and M.A. in political science from California State University-Long Beach and received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is coauthor of RECLAIMING THE MULTICULTURAL ROOTS OF THE U.S. CURRICULUM: Communities of Color and Official Knowledge in Education. Professor Brown is the recipient of numerous awards, including: Texas Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award and the AERA Division B, 2016 Outstanding Book Award.
Nina Godiwalla (Austin-UT Austin graduate)
Nina Godiwalla is a recognized expert on leadership, diversity, and women in the business world. She is the bestselling author of SUITS: A Woman on Wall Street, which The New York Times describes as The Devil Wears Prada of investment banking. The book is an insider’s perspective on her experience at Morgan Stanley from an outsider’s point of view—woman, second-generation Indian American and Texan. USA Today chose Suits as a top pick, and FORTUNE Magazine calls it a “must read.”
Godiwalla is also the CEO of MindWorks, which provides leadership and stress management training to corporations and other professional organizations. In addition to running MindWorks, she is an industry leader for The Wall Street Journal Executive Task Force for Women in the Economy, leadership instructor for The University of Texas MBA Program, and writer for Wharton Magazine. Godiwalla has been a keynote speaker at a variety of venues including The White House, NASA, The World Affairs Council, Smithsonian, Harvard, and TEDxHouston Conference. Before becoming an internationally sought-after speaker, Godiwalla spent almost a decade working for Fortune 500 corporations.
Marcus Guillory (Houston)
Marcus J. Guillory is the author of the novel RED NOW AND LATERS, In his debut novel, Guillory weaves together the many obstacles of a young man growing into adulthood in Houston, Texas. The book deals with the realities of urban life, the history of Louisiana Creole culture, the glory of the black cowboy, and the role of religion in shaping lives.
Houston-born, Los Angeles-based, writer/producer has established a reputation for strange, subversive material. He has worked as a screenwriter for over 10 years and is the first American to have written a produced Bollywood film. Under the moniker “Mateo Senolia”, Guillory has recently teamed up with LA radio icon/tastemaker Garth Trinidad (89.9 KCRW) to create a fusion of spoken literature and house music called “Lit House” with the intent of introducing non-readers to literature with an upcoming EP “Postcards From Strangers” on house legend Osunlade’s Yoruba Records. His shorts stories and magazine articles can be found on the web and better newsstands. His debut novel entitled “red now and laters” released Spring 2014 on Atria Books/Simon & Schuster Publishing.
Varian Johnson (Austin)
Varian Johnson is the author of six novels, including the Jackson Greene middle-grade series. The first novel in the series, THE GREAT GREENE HEIST, received two starred reviews and was named an ALA Notable Children’s Book Selection, a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year, and a Texas Library Association Lonestar List selection among other accolades. His latest caper, TO CATCH A CHEAT, was released in 2016. Kirkus praised the novel in a starred review, calling it, “A satisfying stand-alone sequel; new readers and old friends will be hoping for further adventures.” Varian has also written for the Spirit Animals middle-grade fantasy series as well as novels and short stories for YA audiences.
Varian was born in Florence, South Carolina, and attended the University of Oklahoma, where he received a BS in Civil Engineering. He later received an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Varian now lives outside of Austin, TX with his family.
Attica Locke (Houston)
Attica Locke’s first novel, BLACK WATER RISING, was nominated for a 2010 Edgar Award, an NAACP Image Award, as well as a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and was short-listed for the prestigious Orange Prize in the UK (now the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction). Her second book, THE CUTTING SEASON, published by Dennis Lehane books, is a national bestseller, and is a winner of the Ernest Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. Her third novel, PLEASANTVILLE, was the winner of the 2016 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. In PLEASANTVILLE, lawyer Jay Porter—hero of her bestseller BALCK WATER RISING—return to fight one last case, only to become embroiled in a dangerous game of shadowy politics and a witness to how far those in power are willing to go to win.
A graduate of Northwestern University, Locke was a fellow at the Sundance Institute’s Feature Filmmakers Lab. She’s written scripts for Paramount, Warner Bros, Disney, Twentieth Century Fox, Jerry Bruckheimer Films, and HBO, and is a writer and producer of the Fox drama, Empire. A native of Houston, Texas, Attica lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband and daughter.
Karan Mahajan (Austin)
Karan was born in 1984 and grew up in New Delhi, India. His first novel, “Family Planning” (2008) won the Joseph Henry Jackson Award and was a finalist for the International Dylan Thomas Prize. It was published in nine countries. His second novel, “The Association of Small Bombs,” was released by Viking USA in March 2016 and by Harper India and Chatto & Windus UK in May and July 2016. Karan’s writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker Online, The Believer, NPR’s All Things Considered, The San Francisco Chronicle, Granta.com, Bookforum, Tehelka, and the anthology Stumbling and Raging: More Politically Inspired Fiction.
Karan has worked as an editor in San Francisco, a consultant on economic and urban planning issues for the New York City government, and a researcher in Bangalore. A graduate of Stanford University and the University of Texas at Austin Michener Center for Writers, he currently lives in Austin, Texas. He is at work on his third novel.
Irene Mata (El Paso)
Irene Mata, author of DOMESTIC DISTURBANCES, is an Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Wellesley College. In her bio, Irene writes, “Growing up in the border city of El Paso, Texas, has deeply informed my research. I have combined my background in women’s studies, border studies, and my work in popular culture in a second project on the U.S.-based cultural productions representing the feminicides (often referred to as the maquiladora murders) taking place in Northern Mexico. I’m interested in looking at how cultural producers portray the changes taking place in the U.S./Mexico border area with the mass migration and heavy industrialization of the region.”
DOMESTIC DISTURBANCES: Re-Imagining Narratives of Gender, Labor, and Immigration, examines the treatment of the traditional immigrant narrative in popular culture, illuminating the possibilities of alternative stories by reading Chicana/Latina-produced texts through a new interpretation of the immigrant paradigm. DOMESTIC DISTURBANCES suggests a new framework for looking at these immigrant and migrant stories, not as a continuation of a literary tradition, but instead as a specific Latina genealogy of immigrant narratives that more closely engage with the contemporary conditions of immigration.
Sherry Matthews, author of WE WERE NOT ORPHANS, has spent most of her life working for social change through her advocacy marketing firm and has won many awards on behalf of government agencies, nonprofits, and socially conscious companies.
“We were not orphans. Our parents were living; they just couldn’t take care of us.” This poignant remark captures the heartbreaking reality faced by thousands of Texas children from the 1920s through the 1970s. The Waco State Home provided housing and education for “dependent and neglected” children, but residents paid a price in physical and sexual abuse, military discipline, and plantation-style labor. Even so, the institution was the only home they had, and it rescued many children from an even worse fate.
Now for the first time, oral histories and newly unearthed documents reveal what went on behind the gates of the Waco State Home. Sherry Matthews has tracked down former residents and uncovered criminal abuse that went unpunished and unpublicized. She first became aware of the Waco State Home at age three, when her three brothers were taken there to live. Years later, she attended a reunion at the Home and began collecting the alumni stories with assistance from author Jesse Sublett.
We Were Not Orphans gathers riveting recollections from nearly sixty alumni who share the horror of abuse as well as their triumphs of spirit and ingenuity. Some alumni recall only the positive—bountiful food, caring teachers, victorious sports teams, and friendships and values that have lasted a lifetime. Others recount bloody beatings and sexual molestation that have left physical and emotional scars. These personal narratives and Matthews’s relentless pursuit of the truth show how much can go wrong when a government-run institution operates without adequate public oversight. The Waco State Home finally closed after a landmark federal court decision and a courageous superintendent stopped the abuse and helped shepherd the children out of institutionalized care.
Tyina Steptoe (Houston)
Tyina Steptoe, an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Arizona, is the author of HOUSTON BOUND: Culture and Color in a Jim Crow City. Her work as a professor focuses on the cultural and social history of the United States. She is especially interested in race, ethnicity, and gender. Beginning after World War I, Houston was transformed from a black-and-white frontier town into one of the most ethnically and racially diverse urban areas in the United States. HOUSTON BOUND draws on social and cultural history to show how, despite Anglo attempts to fix racial categories through Jim Crow laws, converging migrations—particularly those of Mexicans and Creoles—complicated ideas of blackness and whiteness and introduced different understandings about race. This migration history also uses music and sound to examine these racial complexities, tracing the emergence of Houston’s blues and jazz scenes in the 1920s as well as the hybrid forms of these genres that arose when migrants forged shared social space and carved out new communities and politics.
She is currently working on a project that explores how rhythm and blues performers Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton and Little Richard subverted and challenged gender norms in the 1950s.
Natalia Sylvester is author of a debut novel, CHASING THE SUN. Set in Peru in 1992, Chasing the Sun is the story of a disintegrating marriage told through the lens of the kidnapping of a businessman’s wife and his struggles to raise the money and negotiate her release. The backstory is the social upheaval and violence of Peru brought about by the Shining Path guerrillas terrorist’ attacks.
Born in Lima, Peru, Natalia Sylvester came to the U.S. at age four. as child she spent time in south Florida, central Florida, and the Rio Grande Valley in Texas before her family set roots once again in Miami. A former magazine editor, Natalia now works as a freelance writer in Austin, Texas and is a faculty member of the low-res MFA program at Regis University. Her articles have appeared in Latina Magazine, Writer’s Digest, The Writer, and NBCLatino.com. CHASING THE SUN is her first novel. It was named the Best Debut Book of 2014 by Latinidad, and was chosen as a Book of the Month by the National Latino Book Club. Her second novel, EVERYONE CARRIES THEIR OWN WATER, is forthcoming from Little A in 2018.