blue·stock·ing noun \-ˌstä-kiŋ\
: an educated woman who is interested in books and ideas
When a pandemic upended life as we know it, Susan Zakin founded Journal of the Plague Years. The magazine, an inspired mashup of analytical journalism and creative writing, attracted talented writers (Steve Erickson, Mikal Gilmore, Blanche McCrary Boyd, J.C. Hallman, Luisita López Torregrosa) and an enthusiastic following.
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After ten years living part-time in Africa, I came back to the United States with a new but not particularly optimistic perspective. I saw the country--my country--engaging in a dangerous flirtation with becoming a failed state. These stories examine facets of America's version of what's now been recognized as a global phenomenon.
Coyotes and Town Dogs: Earth First! and the Environmental Movement
The Cult Classic, Updated and Revised
When Dave Foreman and his environmentalist friends decided to bring a novel about eco sabotage in the Southwest to life, they never thought they'd attracted thousands of followers. Earth First! was America's radical movement of the 1980s and 1990s. Inspired by the work of conservation biologists, the hippie cowboys (and cowgirls) of Earth First! sounded the alarm on the extinction crisis -- and galvanized a generation with their vision of an Edenic continent where buffalo darkened the Great Plains and passenger pigeons crowded the sky. With their take-no-prisoners approach to activism, it was inevitable that they would attract the notice of the FBI, but history has shown that, more often than not, the guerrilla theater radicals were right about the severity of the threat to the world's natural systems. This new edition is significantly updated, with a new afterword by the author.
Noteworthy and Almost New
Waiting for Charlie: Mercenary Soldiers, Failed States and the Love That Means More Than Money
"...in the tone and style of the best work of the great travel writers, Bruce Chatwin, Paul Theroux and Eric Newby's "A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush," only the focus is Africa, which it captures with brilliant insight."
William Thatcher Dowell, Africa correspondent, Time magazine, NBC News
Hurricane Season: What Katrina Means for America
"Hurricane Season is such a good read about New Orleans and Louisiana, capturing its decadence, its history and pathos. But it also tells the lessons of Katrina that are so badly needed today as Houston and the Gulf Coast climb out of the floodwaters and into a future of change and uncertainty."
Rocky Barker, author, Scorched Earth: How the Yellowstone Fires Changed America
Susan is a world-class reporter, writer and editor whom I was privileged to edit during my tenure as deputy editor of the LA Weekly. Susan is the epitome of a journalist -- a seeker of truth who cuts no corners and tells stories an engaging, creative, lively fashion that makes readers want to follow where she is taking us.
Joe Donnelly, LA Weekly, Slake, Mission and State
As editor of the anthology, Naked, Zakin worked with a variety of talent, including T. C. Boyle to Carl Hiaasen. Zakin was impressive in her ability to walk the author through a series of line edits that would improve the story and do so without causing the writer to run screaming from the building in despair.
Jack Hitt, contributor to This American Life, author of Bunch of Amateurs, former editor Harper's
Naked: Writers Uncover the
Way We Live on Earth
Through fiction, narrative nonfiction, and memoir, this edgy anthology could have been titled "The New Environmental Writing" as Tom Wolfe once dubbed an anthology "New Journalism." Accomplished writers selected include Zakin herself, who deals with the desert, divorce and more in "Tierra Incognita"; Edward Abbey, whose unpublished letters are annotated by Zakin; and Elizabeth Royte, who spent part of a pregnancy in the wilds of Panama.
Novel: The Afterlife of Victor Kamara
With a reporter's keen-eyed understanding of politics, and a novelist's gift for inventing flawed yet sympathetic characters, Zakin tells the story of a young West African coup leader and the journalist who befriends him. The Afterlife of Victor Kamara traces the fraught, intimate friendship between two young men in an increasingly unstable world, from the dirty wars of 1990s West Africa to the present-day United States.
Inhabiting the territory of Graham Greene and Nadine Gordimer, this is a story of politics and survival, where nations are at stake and friendship rarely survives the machinations of power.
Zakin’s fiction demonstrates the same gifts so evident in her non-fiction: strong storytelling, multidimensional characterization, and lyrical description. Her first novel is an ambitious work showing the collapse of civil society in a West African country. I cannot overstate how much I admire it. I expect the book to win Zakin great distinction.
Elizabeth Evans, author, Carter Clay
A while back, Susan started writing fiction, smart work informed by her experience in the U.S. and abroad. I’ve read excerpts from her novel, The Afterlife of Victor Kamara, which deals expertly with the very contemporary issue of identity in a globalizing world. The passages I’ve read have that utter conviction of place that only authors like Graham Greene can pull off.
David Galef, director, creative writing program, Montclair State University