Review of Texaners by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

A review by Lisa Brown-Gilbert from Pacific Book Review of T. F. Rhoden’s Texaners: Eight Short Stories, published by Étoile Solitaire Press (2015).

Engaging and insightful, Author T. F. Rhoden’s incisive collection of short stories, Texaners, leads fiction readers into the world of the multicultural, multiracial denizens of contemporary Texas. No stranger to the literary world, author Rhoden has authored other well-received works, however this is his first published collection of short stories, which bears influences from his personal experiences growing up as a citizen in multiracial, contemporary Texas.

Unapologetically stereotypical at times, this collection of eight stories is varied in perspective as the many cultural and ethnic backgrounds of each character are colorfully portrayed by the author. Each story portrays an emotionally intricate variation on life by exploring brief moments in the lives of ordinary Texans. And consequently, it is through the varied lives of author Rhoden’s characters that readers are shown the real Texas of today, the younger, multiethnic face of Texas, not the old dusty, cowboy infested world, but a brave new world where the boundaries set by stereotypes are either diminished or enslaving to the character’s psyche.

Each piece is generally likable, fortified by the use of vivid imagery, curious characters and emotional vagaries that play out fairly well. Every story is a glimpse into ordinary lives that are distinctly portrayed by bringing into perspective a moment of clarity in each protagonist’s life that essentially captures those rare ephinanic moments in a life when personal realization comes to consciousness.

The stories that I found particularly well written and compelling were “Chinese Spoons”, “Oils”, “The Bat Mitzvah”, and “West Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd”… [click here to continue to read full text]

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*Book review originally published in Pacific Book Review by Lisa Brown-Gilbert for Texaners: Eight Short Stories by T. F. Rhoden; photo credit for re-post via How to Feed a Loon. Unless otherwise stated, all posts on this website are under Creative Commons licence. 

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Texaners: Eight Short Stories

A new book for all of you bored with the normal Texas stereotype!

Texaners: Eight Short Stories can be purchased through normal book distributors, including Amazon.

Description

None of us wishes to abandon stereotypes if we don’t have to. Their utility is unquestionable. Yet, this anthology cares little about all of that. Occasionally, the sensation of sheepishness often associated with a change in one’s understanding of a place or a time is well worth the trial in self-reflection. This is, of course, occasionally. The Irish apostate James Joyce succeeded in secularizing the term “epiphany” for literature.

The book in your hands now, entitled Texaners, borrows unabashedly from Joyce’s insight. Texaners is, naturally, inspired by Joyce’s Dubliners. Impish errors aside, why else bother really? Earlier versions of some of these stories have appeared in literary magazines. “Oils” appeared in The Monarch Review and Status Hat. “The Gulf” appeared in Foliate Oak Literary Journal. “Drywall” appeared in Microstory a Week. “Airfare” appeared in Weirdyear. “Rooftop” appeared in Black Heart Magazine. The stories “Chinese Spoons”, “The Bat Mitzvah”, and “W Martin Luther King Jr Blvd” are new to this collection.

Paperback: 120 pages
Publisher: Etoile Solitaire Press (2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0692512748
ISBN-13: 978-0692512746
Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.3 x 7.8 inches
Shipping Weight: 6.6 ounces

TEXANERS, rhoden (front cover only)

TEXANERS, rhoden (back cover only)

*Original paperback and ebook copyright held by T. F. Rhoden. Unless otherwise stated, all posts on this website are under Creative Commons licence. 

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Oils

A short story…

No morning romp, no private onanism; no shared breakfast, no quick snack; no pot of coffee, no shot of espresso: the two hours or so before dawn had to be used for work, had to be used solely for painting.

Sevek awoke because of despair. But he awoke quietly, disturbing neither Pranaya nor the child sleeping bodkin between her parents. His wife and daughter knew nothing of his desperation. They only had a vague sense of his plight, understood that he wanted to paint, but did not know the ultimate reason why.

Pranaya’s head lay unpillowed. She was as supine to her husband’s plight as she was to the world beyond their mattress.

Sevek’s daughter, lying flesh against her mother’s umber midriff, seemed lifeless to him. Both the females looked dead in their sleep.

The painter rolled away from his family towards the uncurtained window. The city glow of downtown Dallas murmured into the bedroom, enough to allow Sevek to read the unadorned timepiece at the other end of their bedroom. He had some time yet ere dawn.

Not a fear of failure, but a fear of having no evidence of his existence motivated him to rustle himself from bed. If he had had friends who were composers or writers or directors, he would have inquired into the muses that spark their creations.

Sevek’s sense was that struggle was the raison d’etre for any self-aware artist. He did not care if this reflection was bromidic. The reason was real and impassioned.

He despised the fight though, the artist’s fight, hated it with all his material being, wanted to choke his drive to create, drown the resilience underwater, like pushing his own daughter’s rubicund face into a shallow spring puddle—if only it were so easy? This was how he defined his desperation: unwanted, yet warranted.

Sevek willed himself into the adjoining room whither his canvases, oils, and brushes lay scattered about. Most of his paraphernalia had been relegated to one corner of their one-bedroom loft by Pranaya, but evidence of Sevek’s industry rarely stayed confined to that ignoble corner. These days, empty paint tubes and headless brushes could be found intermingled with their toddler’s playthings.

He pulled the switch to the incandescent lamp and was startled to see a man sleeping on their vintage Bauhaus.

Sevek forgot that his wife’s younger brother had come up from college for an interview in Pranaya’s company. He was to interview today. He would probably get the position, Sevek guessed, become another Indian twiddling away his existence in the American IT sector. He would later become naturalized like Pranaya.

Sevek scoffed, which was more the cliché in America: he the milksop artist-painter struggling with his middle-class demons or his brother-in-law the Indian-runaway struggling to become another computer code wallah in the West? Even though Sevek did not have to fret over finances because of Pranaya’s career—instead he enjoyed a much more expensive lifestyle than he ever would have in India—but he disliked being associated with its stereotypes.

The brother-in-law had not been disturbed by the sallow light. Sevek spotted… [click here to continue to read full text]

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*Originally published in Monarch Review: Seattle’s Literary and Arts Magazine by T. F. Rhoden; photo credit for image at top of re-post via GoodWerks. Oils is now part of the Texaners short story collection. Unless otherwise stated, all posts on this website are under Creative Commons licence. 

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