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Left Bank Books

Sarah Kendzior is the author of the new book Hiding in Plain Sight.
Photo provided by Sarah Kendzior

On the latest edition of Politically Speaking, St. Louis-based author Sarah Kendzior talks with St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum about her new book "Hiding in Plain Sight"which chronicles President Donald Trump’s decades-long rise to power.

Kendzior, who holds a doctorate in anthropology from Washington University in St. Louis, has become a nationally known voice in opposing Trump’s presidency. Her last book, "The View from Flyover Country," was a New York Times bestseller.

February 12, 2020 Candacy Taylor

Author Candacy Taylor’s stepfather grew up in the Jim Crow South. But it wasn’t until she began researching her new book, “Overground Railroad: The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America,” that she started to understand what he’d endured. 

Black travelers in 20th-century U.S. might be stopped by police on any pretext — and face serious harassment. They might be turned away by hostile hoteliers or gas station attendants. And that’s not even mentioning “Sundown Towns,” all-white towns that sometimes even featured signs warning black people to stay out in the harshest of terms. Missouri and Illinois were among the five states having the most Sundown Towns, Taylor writes.    

From left, Kelly Von Plonski, Ignacio Sanchez Prado and Kris Kleindienst joined Tuesday's program.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Twenty-nine years ago this spring, Jeanine Cummins lost two of her cousins in a brutal attack on the old Chain of Rocks Bridge that spans the Mississippi River about 10 miles north of downtown St. Louis — now a popular pedestrian bridge. Her brother was also a victim in the incident. He survived, but the impact on the Cumminses and their loved ones reverberated for years.

In 2004, Cummins published a memoir about the aftermath of that crime, “A Rip in Heaven: A Memoir of Murder and Its Aftermath.” But the strong attention it got pales in comparison to the press Cummins’ latest book, a work of fiction titled “American Dirt” (January 2020, Flatiron Books), has garnered in recent days. 

Oprah Winfrey endorsed the novel for her book club, and the New York Times’ book review gave it a rave. But not all of the press has been good. Some critics blasted it, saying its ascent came at the expense of authentic Latino voices. The outcry led Left Bank Books to cancel Cummins’ planned appearance on Jan. 26 at the Ethical Society of St. Louis.

Oprah Winfrey selected "American Dirt" by Jeanine Cummins for her popular book club in January 2020.
Left Bank Books

Updated Jan. 25 with the event cancellation

Left Bank Books has canceled Sunday’s scheduled discussion and book signing with "American Dirt" author Jeanine Cummins, citing strong opposition toward the book from the Latino community. 

Cummins’ latest novel tells the story of a Mexican woman and her son migrating to the U.S. border. The book has been skewered by some critics who say the nationally hyped release leans on stereotypes damaging to Latinos. It was released this week.

January 14, 2020 Miranda Popkey
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Miranda Popkey is a California native, and much of her debut novel, “Topics of Conversation,” is set in the state. But the novel has a St. Louis origin story. It’s while she was in the MFA program at Washington University that she wrote much of it. And it’s at Wash U that she realized it could be, and was, a novel.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, Popkey joined us to discuss her novel. 

The novel’s focus on ideas over plot — and its sometimes “unlikeable narrator” — have drawn pushback from some readers, she acknowledged.  

Novelist and comic writer Gabby Rivera is touring the U.S. to promot the re-release of her hit young adult novel, Juliet Takes a Breath.
Julieta Salgado

When a small press published "Juliet Takes a Breath" a few years ago, the work of young adult fiction first found critical acclaim from online LGBTQ and Latina publications before soon winning awards and attracting scores of dedicated readers. 

The book tells the story of Juliet Milagros Palante, a queer Puerto Rican from New York who leaves her family for a summer of self-discovery after a stressful coming-out. It’s a semi-autobiographical piece of fiction for its author, Gabby Rivera, who went on to write Marvel Comics’ first LGBTQ Latina superhero in 2017.

Chavisa Woods is the author of "100 Times: A Memoir of Sexism" as well as three books of fiction.
Seven Stories Press

While many writers pen memoirs because of something particularly distinctive or unusual about their lives, the reason Chavisa Woods gives for writing hers is pretty much the opposite.

“I felt that it was incumbent for me to put this on the page ... because my life is not exceptional,” Woods, the author of “100 Times: A Memoir of Sexism,” said on Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air. “And I think when people hear that you’ve experienced 100 formative incidents of sexism, maybe the first reaction is, ‘Oh, I can’t believe that it influences your life so much.’ But I think when most women stop and think about discrimination, harassment, groping, sexual violence and also microagressions, you’ll see that you could easily compile [such a list]. ”

Left Bank Books event host Shane Mullen recommends 10 books written in or about the St. Louis region.
Kae Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio

With summer in full swing, book enthusiasts are looking for poolside reads and plane trip entertainment. 

Authors from St. Louis and elsewhere in Missouri have written dozens of books released this year by major publishing houses. To learn about some of the most popular local reads, we turned to Left Bank Books, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. 

“St. Louis has a wealth of fantastic authors,” said Shane Mullen, who brings area authors to the indie bookstore for signings and readings. 

Kris Kleindienst is co-owner of Left Bank Books.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Left Bank Books is turning 50 this year, and on Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, co-owner Kris Kleindienst talked about the shop’s storied history with St. Louis Public Radio’s Rachel Lippmann.

Located in St. Louis’ bustling Central West End neighborhood, the independent bookseller got its start in 1969 when a group of Washington University graduate students set out to create a place where one could find all kinds of literature.

Left Bank will formally celebrate its 50-year milestone in October.

Sherry Jones (at left) is the author of "Josephine Baker's Last Dance," her latest historical novel about a "kick-ass" woman from history.
Simon & Schuster

Before she became a celebrity, a war hero and civil rights activist, Josephine Baker was a girl growing up in early 20th-century St. Louis. Historical fiction writer Sherry Jones has a new book out inspired by Baker’s remarkable life and is headed to her late heroine’s hometown this week to discuss it at Left Bank Books.

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, Jones talked about the book, “Josephine Baker’s Last Dance,” and the woman behind it, with St. Louis Public Radio’s Jeremy D. Goodwin.

Caitlyn Collins, author of "Making Motherhood Work: How Women Manage Careers and Caregiving," discussed the role of public policies in improving the the balance needed to accommodate the two roles of motherhood and career.
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

Issues on the forefront for women in the workplace include wage equity and advancement opportunities. More conversations are now encompassing the balance needed to accommodate the two roles of motherhood and career.

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked with Caitlyn Collins, author of "Making Motherhood Work: How Women Manage Careers and Caregiving." The newly released book looks at working mothers' daily lives and the revolution in public policy and culture needed to improve them.

Collins, an assistant professor of sociology at Washington University, compared policies in the United States with other well-developed countries such as Sweden, Italy and Germany – and found staggering differences in cultural attitudes towards child care.

Fiction writer Michael Nye (at left), Left Bank Books co-owner Kris Kleindienst (center) and Kathleen Finneran, a senior writer in residence at Washington University, are among those involved in this weekend’s festival.
Erica Ott & St. Louis Public Radio

Kris Kleindienst need only glance out toward the entrance to her bookstore at the corner of Euclid and McPherson avenues for some solid reminders of St. Louis’ literary legacy. The busts of four canonical writers adorn the intersection – T.S. Eliot, Tennessee Williams, Kate Chopin and William Burroughs, all of whom spent formative years in the city.

But Kleindienst is just as enthusiastic about St. Louis’ contemporary writing community as she is about the region’s historical claims to writerly fame.

“We’re a great literary town, and that – in my 44 years of bookselling – has really just become clearer and clearer to me,” the Left Bank Books co-owner said on Monday’s St. Louis on the Air during a discussion ahead of Bookfest St. Louis.

Left Bank Books

On Tuesday's St. Louis on the Air, we aired host Don Marsh's conversation with St. Louis-based journalist and author Sarah Kendzior that was recorded April 17 at Left Bank Books.

Kendzior is the author of “The View from Flyover Country: Dispatches from the Forgotten America.”

Kris Kleindienst, co-owner of Left Bank Books, stand next to the ResiSTL display table.
Maria Altman | St. Louis Public Radio

The protests in St. Louis over the last three weeks have topped the news almost daily.

Even for those who stay up on what’s happening, there may be questions about how this came to pass again, just three years after race-related protests in Ferguson.

Delving into St. Louis’ history of racial division and relations between police and black people can seem overwhelming. St. Louis Public Radio’s Maria Altman set out to make a reading list with recommendations from people who are used to being asked.

Author Nick Pistor and St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh discuss "Shooting Lincoln" at Left Bank Books on Sept. 27.
File Photo | Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

The men who took the most memorable photographs during the Civil War are the subject of local author Nick Pistor’s newest book, “Shooting Lincoln: Mathew Brady, Alexander Gardner, and the Race to Photograph the Story of the Century.”

At a special St. Louis on the Air event last week at Left Bank Books in the Central West End, host Don Marsh talked with Pistor, who is a former reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

A file photo of Augusten Burroughs accompanies this image of the cover of his new book, "Lust and Wonder."
Christopher Schelling

From the beginning of his writing career, Augusten Burroughs was determined to be honest, even if writing about his often messy life would be a daunting process.

In his memoir “Running with Scissors,” and his later works, Burroughs has engaged in self-reflection, an approach that has won him a loyal following and inspired a hit movie. He continues that process in his latest book, “Lust and Wonder.”

“That’s really the key: to understand what happened to you, what your role in it was,” said Burroughs, who speaks tonight at the Schlafly Branch of the St. Louis Public Library. “Just becoming more and more and more truthful with yourself.”

This collage of file photos shows the "Words for Love" book cover and author Emily Robbins.
Collage images provided by Riverhead Books

Author Emily Robbins was a Washington University grad student in August 2013 when she saw St. Louisans protesting in University City against U.S. plans to attack Syria. She was profoundly moved by the local activists and incorporated those feelings into the book she was writing, called “A Word for Love.”

On Wednesday night, Robbins will appear at Left Banks Books to sign copies, and speak about the book and its St. Louis roots.

“There is a very active community here,” Robbins said. “That was something I really drew on and felt proud of in St. Louis.”

Mark Sundeen, author of "The Unsettlers," followed families who opted to live outside of the traditional American economy.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

The trend of rural to urban migration across the world has been well-documented and is going strong. But what about people who migrate the opposite way? Or who choose to live a life outside of the traditional American economy? These people choose a different life with different challenges, but they also make up a community all their own.

Kea Wilson recently published her first novel, "We Eat Our Own," with Scribner.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

“Canny, funny and impressively detailed.” That’s what the New York Times had to say about Kea Wilson’s first novel “We Eat Our Own,” published earlier this year with Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.

Chris Hebert.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Angels of Detroit” is author Christopher Hebert’s second novel.  It delves into the fictional lives of those experiencing Detroit’s decline and redevelopment. 

Hebert joined St. Louis on the Air on Thursday to discuss the book and the parallels between Detroit and St. Louis. 

Hebert lived in St. Louis in 1998 after finishing college.

"It was brief but meaningful," Hebert said.

Kelly Moffitt, Wikimedia Commons

Everybody has that one song — that one song that immediately takes you back to a time, a place, a friend, a poignant memory. Now, try to imagine your life as told by a whole series of such important songs. That’s exactly what St. Louisan Dave Holmes, the runner-up in MTV’s inaugural “Wanna Be a VJ” contest in 1998, has done.

You’re invited: On July 11, St. Louis on the Air will take you back to the beloved era of music videos with St. Louisan and former MTV host and runner-up in the network’s inaugural “Wanna Be a VJ” contest. His name is Dave Holmes, a graduate of Saint Louis Priory School, who recently wrote the book “Party of One: A Memoir in 21 Songs.”

LWYang | Flickr | http://bit.ly/29LQomS

Summer is in full swing and whether you’re looking for a book to read poolside, at the park, or just staying indoors to get away from the heat, we’ve got you covered.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked with three local book experts about what they’re recommending as the top summer reads. We also heard from listeners who shared their favorite summer reads so far. 

Five suggestions from Kris Kleindienst, co-owner, Left Bank Books:

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis  author John O’Leary wasn’t supposed to survive the burns that covered 100 percent of his body when he had an accident at age 9. No one thought he would walk, write with a pencil, or play a piano ever again. O’Leary, now 38, is not only able to do those things, he also found love, married and fathered four children.

Author Gail Pellett of "Forbidden Fruit: 1980 Beijing" spoke with "St. Louis on the Air" host  Don Marsh.
Alex Heuer

Author Gail Pellet recently released a new memoir called “Forbidden Fruit: 1980 Beijing,” which details her experience working for Radio Beijing as a foreign expert.

“I was hired as the first experienced broadcast journalist to work at Radio Beijing,” Pellett told host Don Marsh.  

Pellett discussed her experiences in China as well as her connection to St. Louis — she was a student at Washington University during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Eileen Myles
Libby Lewis

Writer Eileen Myles’ seems poised on the brink of widespread recognition. This fall she’s publishing two books: “I Must Be Living Twice” and “Chelsea Girls,” which collect new and selected poems and capture the downtown New York of the 1970s in a novel. Much of Myles’ work deals with life in New York City yet the author said her themes and content also exist in cities like St. Louis.

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

To touch the subject matter of King David, “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22), is a daunting prospect.

Geraldine Brooks is up to the task. The journalist and Pulitzer-prize winning fiction author, who has written about everything from the hidden world of Islamic women to the Sarajevo Haggadah, one of the oldest surviving Jewish illuminated texts.

Revisiting an American classic: the potential of ‘Go Set a Watchman’

Jul 10, 2015
President George W. Bush awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to author Harper Lee during a ceremony Monday, Nov. 5, 2007, in the East Room.
White House photo by Eric Draper / Public Domain

“To Kill a Mockingbird” cemented Harper Lee’s place in the list of classic authors of American literature almost as soon as it was published in 1960. “Mockingbird,” with its frank and poignant handling of race and discrimination in the U.S. South, electrified a nation as the Civil Rights Movement swelled in power. Fifty years later, Lee’s new book “Go Set a Watchman” stands to accompany a similarly meaningful time for civil rights and social justice.

Host Don Marsh talked to (from L to R) Kris Kleindienst, Emily Hall and Holland Saltsman.
Alex Heuer / St. Louis Public Radio

Mark your calendars, bookworms, because Independent Bookstore Day is Saturday, May 2 and various independently owned bookstores in the St. Louis area will host a day of fun, crafts, and yes—books!

Independent Bookstore Day was founded in 2014 in California and is modeled after the music world’s “Record Store Day.” Some of the participating bookstores in the St. Louis area are Left Bank Books in St. Louis, Main Street Books in St. Charles, and The Novel Neighbor in Webster Groves.

St. Louis' Dorothy: A Publishing Project Gains Critical Acclaim

Oct 17, 2014
Provided by Dorothy

Dorothy: A Publishing Project is small literary press that’s making big waves in the literary community. The press publishes only two books each fall. This year Dorothy released Nell Zink’s "The Wallcreeper" and Joanna Ruocco’s "DAN." Critical acclaim continues to grow for Dorothy. "The Wallcreeper" is reviewed in the influential New York Time’s Book Review this weekend.