Finalist, ForeWord Reviews Book of the year
Recommended Book, Julia Ward Howe Book Awards, Boston Authors Club
Featured on ForeWord Reviews Book Club
Publication Date: November 30, 2008
Fiction. The tales of Bluestein's book unfold as the small fictional South Asian country of Ayama Na recovers from war and prepares for its inevitable Westernization. "In the tradition of Robert Olen Butler and Bob Shacochis," writes Marly Swick, O. Henry Award winner who selected this book for the G. S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction, "Bluestein is a writer who illuminates our cultural differences, while exploring the intricacies of the human condition." Publishers Weekly writes, "Bluestein brings a versatile, captivating voice to her debut story collection set in the fictional Asian country of Ayama Na." Booklist calls Bluestein "a writer to watch." Bluestein's Ayama Na may be a fictional place, but the characters, their struggles, their cruelty and their hearts are authentic.
From Publishers Weekly
Editor and educator Bluestein brings a versatile, captivating voice to her debut story collection set in the fictional Asian country of Ayama Na, a tiny nation recovering from a violent coup and just developing a global identity (i.e., ambivalently welcoming Western influences). In The Artist's Story, an American businessman travels to Ayama Na's capital to retrieve his girlfriend's schizophrenic brother, only to be met with opposition from the man's caretaker, a one-legged prostitute. Skin Deep digs into the conflicted psyche of a Miss Ayama Na contestant whose education has been put on hold to compete in the pageant. From the robot-smitten factory worker in Aibo, or Love at First Sight to the saintly tour guide in The Blanks whose virtue is sorely challenged by tourists from Hell, Bluestein explores with affection and a wicked sense of humor the excesses and arrogance of American culture amid a nation so much older, wiser, and sadder than theirs. Though the allegorical overtones can be initially off-putting, the intricacy of Bluestein's imagination will quickly draw readers in. (Nov.)
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In this award-winning debut story collection, Bluestein invents a war-torn Southeast Asian country, Ayama Na, and its capital, Pin Dalie. While the fates of Ayama Na’s inhabitants range from triumph to tragedy, redemption, and acceptance, their yearnings converge around the search for something more. In Aibo or Love at First Sight, Dali-Roo, a farmer forced into factory work after a devastating drought, risks his family’s well-being by stealing factory parts to build a robot pet. In The Artist’s Story, Alan, an American, travels to Pin Dalie to save his girlfriend’s starving-artist brother, Peter, and meets seemingly insane Peter’s girlfriend, a one-legged whore, who upends all his assumptions and makes him think perhaps he’s the one who needs to be saved. The development and resolution of her characters’ curious plights often feel rushed, and their motivations remain unclear, but readers will appreciate Bluestein’s originality and the simplicity of her style. The universality with which she approaches human suffering and desire, regardless of race, culture, or place, makes Bluestein a writer to watch. --Heather Dewar
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