Book Club Discussion: Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas

Barracuda Banner FL2W Book Club

Barracuda Banner FL2W Book Club

Today we’re talking about  Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas, our second September book club pick. For Dan, the novel’s main character, life is divided in before prison and after prison. A powerful swimmer, he once had a chance at the Olympics, but throws it away in an act of violence. The novel is a powerful story about our definitions of success, failure and redemption.

From Left to Write members had plenty to say about Barracuda. Head over to their sites to join our discussion:

The novel is on sale now, so grab your copy of Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas, and join our discussion!

Follow news from Aussie Christos Tsiolkas via his website.

Book Club Feature: Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas

Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas

Barracuda Banner FL2W Book Club

Our second book club read for September comes from Christos Tsiolkas, Man Booker Prize-longlisted author of The Slap.  From Left to Write members are reading his newest novel Barracuda (Hogarth), a story about a young athlete’s coming of age:

Fourteen-year-old Daniel Kelly is special. Despite his upbringing in working-class Melbourne, he knows that his astonishing ability in the swimming pool has the potential to transform his life, silence the rich boys at the private school to which he has won a sports scholarship, and take him far beyond his neighborhood, possibly to international stardom and an Olympic medal. Everything Danny has ever done, every sacrifice his family has ever made, has been in pursuit of this dream. But what happens when the talent that makes you special fails you? When the goal that you’ve been pursuing for as long as you can remember ends in humiliation and loss?
Twenty years later, Dan is in Scotland, terrified to tell his partner about his past, afraid that revealing what he has done will make him unlovable. When he is called upon to return home to his family, the moment of violence in the wake of his defeat that changed his life forever comes back to him in terrifying detail, and he struggles to believe that he’ll be able to make amends. Haunted by shame, Dan relives the intervening years he spent in prison, where the optimism of his childhood was completely foreign.

Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas

Moving between present day and Dan’s teenage years, you won’t be able to stop reading until you figure out what happened to him. I love this book trailer about the themes of success, failure, and redemption in the book. Don’t worry, there are no spoilers in the video:

The novel is on sale now, so grab your copy and join us next week, September 30 as From Left to Write book club members discuss Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas.

Follow news from Aussie Christos Tsiolkas via his website.

Book Club Discussion: The Underground Girls of Kabul

The Underground Girls of Kabul From Left toWrite Book Club

The Underground Girls of Kabul From Left toWrite Book Club

Our book club has been abuzz for the past couple of weeks as we read our advance copies of  The Underground Girls of Kabul by investigative journalist Jenny Nordberg. Today, on the book’s release date, we can finally share our discussion of this thought provoking look into a well-known secret practice in Afghanistan: families with no sons who raise their young daughters as boys.

Nordberg interviews and follow several girls (and their families) to further understand this practice of pacha posh, but also digs deep into gender roles in Afghanistan and in western society. I found this book utter fascinating and other From Left to Write members did as well. Head over to their blogs to read their essays inspired by The Underground Girls of Kabul.

Seriously, buy a copy of The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg and one for a friend. You’ll want to discuss it with someone once you’re done. Whether you’re reading the book solo or with your book club, download the Reader’s Guide to Underground Girls of Kabul.

Follow Jenny Nordberg via her websiteTwitter, and Facebook.

Book Club Feature: The Underground Girls of Kabul

The Underground Girls of Kabul From Left toWrite Book Club

The Underground Girls of Kabul From Left toWrite Book Club

Our first September Book Club selection is The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg. I’ve already finished reading it, and I can’t wait to discuss it with our members.  You’ll definitely want to pre-order the book now because journalist Jenny Nordberg jumps right into a hidden practice of Afghanistan:

In Afghanistan, a culture ruled almost entirely by men, the birth of a son is cause for celebration and the arrival of a daughter is often mourned as misfortune. A bacha posh (literally translated from Dari as “dressed up like a boy”) is a third kind of child – a girl temporarily raised as a boy and presented as such to the outside world. Jenny Nordberg, the reporter who broke the story of this phenomenon for theNew York Times, constructs a powerful and moving account of those secretly living on the other side of a deeply segregated society where women have almost no rights and little freedom. 

The Underground Girls of Kabul 
is anchored by vivid characters who bring this remarkable story to life: Azita, a female parliamentarian who sees no other choice but to turn her fourth daughter Mehran into a boy; Zahra, the tomboy teenager who struggles with puberty and refuses her parents’ attempts to turn her back into a girl; Shukria, now a married mother of three after living for twenty years as a man; and Nader, who prays with Shahed, the undercover female police officer, as they both remain in male disguise as adults. 

At the heart of this emotional narrative is a new perspective on the extreme sacrifices of Afghan women and girls against the violent backdrop of America’s longest war. Divided into four parts, the book follows those born as the unwanted sex in Afghanistan, but who live as the socially favored gender through childhood and puberty, only to later be forced into marriage and childbirth. The Underground Girls of Kabul charts their dramatic life cycles, while examining our own history and the parallels to subversive actions of people who live under oppression everywhere.

The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg


The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg releases September 16, 2014 but pre-order it now. Seriously, it’s good. You’ll want to crack it open after reading From Left to Write members’ discussion on September 16.

Whether you’re reading the book solo or with your book club, download the Reader’s Guide to Underground Girls of Kabul.

Follow Jenny Nordberg via her website, Twitter, and Facebook.

Book Club Discussion: 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas

2AM at Cat's Pajamas FL2W Book Club Banner

2AM at Cat's Pajamas FL2W Book Club Banner

After a slightly relaxed summer, we’ve jumped right back in our book club reading. This month we’re discussing  2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajama by Marie-Helene Bertino, a novel about the seemingly unconnected lives in a small Philadelphia neighborhood. Thanks to the The Cat’s Pajamas jazz club, the characters discover how music intertwines their lives and those around them.

From Left to Write book club members loved the novel. Head over to their blogs to read their stories inspired the novel and join our book club discussion of 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajama’s.

Want to see what books are on Marie-Helene’s nightstand? Learn more about Marie-Helene Bertino at her website, on Facebook and on Twitter.

Did you read 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajama? Share your thoughts in the comments!

What’s On Your Nightstand: Marie-Helene Bertino

Marie-Helene Bertino

What's On Your Nightstand-From Left to Write

Since we’re reading  2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas for our August From Left to Write book club, I asked author Marie-Helene Bertino to share the books she’s currently reading. One of her books was already on my to-be-read list. Take it away, Marie-Helene!

Marie-Helene Bertino

Photo courtesy of author

I just finished reading Ramona Ausubel’s story collection, Guide to Being Born. I had read a few of the stories but not altogether, at once. You will note that it came out last year. I am eternally late to every reading party, but at least I am normally holding some delicious sort of fruit tart. How delicious this collection is! It is fearless, deeply felt, and wildly beautiful on the line level. Admire this line: “The whole world squirmed with hunger and desire, in the thick and thin places, in the trees and in the clearings.” It’s not often I read a collection and think: this writer has imagination coming out of his/her gesastahagen! This collection is stunning.

I’m reading Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I don’t think it’s ruining anything to tell you that it begins with a famous actor dying onstage in the middle of a production of King Lear. That alone would be reason enough for me to read it—I’m a former theatre kid, and a sucker for anything set amidst that eccentric and enigmatic world. In addition to that, Mandel’s reputation precedes her. I heard someone refer to Mandel as “her favorite writer.” There can many times be a difference between writers we admire and writers who are our “favorites.” I’m excited to discover the work that has inspired this kind of loyalty.

On deck is another enigmatic book, Preparing The Ghost  by Matthew Gavin Frank. This book had me at “giant squid,” as the classification and documentation of marine life is endlessly fascinating to me. As a child I “classified” many “heretofore unknown marine animals” at my grandmother’s home on The Delaware Bay. By that I mean I took many walks on the sandbars with my dog, taking notes and pretending to be a marine biologist. I admire this book’s refusal to commit to a genre—it’s part fiction, part memoir, part philosophical essay, part poetry. As someone who often thinks the scrims between genres should be permeable formalities at best, I admire Frank’s scope and imagination.

2 AM at The Cat's Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bartino

Marie-Helene Bertino is the author of Safe as Houses, winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Prize. An Emerging Writer Fellow at New York’s Center for Fiction, she has spent six years as an editor and writing instructor at One Story. A Philadelphia native, she currently lives in Brooklyn.

Follow Marie-Helene on Facebook and Twitter and make sure to grab a copy of  2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas and join our book club discussion on August 28.