Her entry begins:
HulaAbout The Celestials, from the publisher:
W.W. Norton, 1994
The epigraph of Lisa Shea’s celebrated, but now neglected, first and only novel is from a Jorie Graham poem: “Nothing will catch you. /Nothing will let you go.”
In its ambiguity, it’s the perfect introduction to the slim volume that follows. “Nothing will catch you”: is that comfort or torment? “Nothing will let you go”: is that to be celebrated or lamented? A source of solace or fear? Hula concerns itself with two sisters in Virginia over the course of two summers in the 60s, and it’s the kind of book that reminds us of the possibilities of the unknown even as it depicts its often terrible consequences.
This is a novel that I return to again and again.
A daughter describes two summers in her life with her older sister, her largely absent mother, her tormented father. One of the challenges of writing from a child’s point of view is...[read on]
In June of 1870, seventy-five Chinese laborers arrived in North Adams, Massachusetts, to work for Calvin Sampson, one of the biggest industrialists in that busy factory town. Except for the foreman, the Chinese didn’t speak English. They didn’t know they were strikebreakers. The eldest of them was twenty-two.Learn more about the book and author at Karen Shepard's website.
Combining historical and fictional elements, The Celestials beautifully reimagines the story of Sampson’s “Chinese experiment” and the effect of the newcomers’ threatening and exotic presence on the New England locals. When Sampson’s wife, Julia, gives birth to a mixed-race baby, the infant becomes a lightning rod for the novel’s conflicts concerning identity, alienation, and exile.
Writers Read: Karen Shepard.