Friday, October 19, 2018

Meet Joe English Writer of - A Place Called Schugara

Recently we have reviewed a wonderful book called "A Place Called Schugara" by Joe English. We have Joe with us to talk more about the same book. Those who have missed the review can check here - Review Link 

Tell us a little about yourself and what got you into writing?
In his poem, “Lovliest of trees,” A. E. Housman wrote,
Now, of my three score years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And, since for watching things in bloom,
Fifty years is little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

Well, I’m now entering my seventy-fifty year. I understand that this is OLD. Doesn’t register much, however. I have led an interesting life, raised as a child in Mexico City, Mexico, though I am a North American of mongrel European descent. I have lived my entire adult life in Black America. Like my age, my skin color is something I know to be what it is, but, again, doesn’t register much. I believe the most important rule of writing is having something to say. I am disappointed that so many of the dreams of my young adulthood–the inspiring sixties, in particular, have gotten detoured.  How is it that we take residential racial segregation as the norm? That we have adjusted our entire society to its continuation? Why are white folks, for the most part, so clueless when it comes to the Black experience? So… I write about what I know, what I have lived for close to half a century.
Do you have a favourite time and place where you write?
Early mornings. Anywhere quiet. Good sunlight.
Where do your ideas come from?
My themes come from all around me, from everywhere, if my eyes are open and mind aware, of my immediate surroundings as well as the world at large. Is ours a nation that intentionally separates families and brags about it? That’ll show them. That’ll each them. A nation that incarcerates millions of our fellow citizens for the slightest of offenses while letting perpetrators of major crimes off either scot-free or with a slap on the wrist?
Do you have a plan in your head of where the story is going before you start writing or do you let it carry you along as you go?
Both. The plot is a clothesline on which to pin ideas, thoughts, themes. People tend to wander in. Characters, an unruly bunch, try to monopolize.
What genre are your books and what drew you to that genre?
Literary fiction. There is no reason to destroy forests so that banal ideas, titillation, tripe, and stupidy go on and on. Have something to say and say it well. Razzle-dazzle ’em with an unusual pairing of words, a deft pirouette of phrase, some word blendings to dance like a firefly.
What dream cast would you like to see playing the characters in your latest book?
I would intentionally want unknown and struggling actors to play the major roles. I could see John Candy as Albert Sidney McNab except for the lamentable reality that John Candy is no longer with us. Morgan Freeman for Zero Washington Roosevelt Lincoln. Daniel Katuuya for Schugay.
Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors?
I read all the time. Mucho. Frank Norris.Chinua Achebe. John Steinbeck. Fitzgerald. Barbara Kingsolver.
What book/s are you reading at present?
Birds Without Wings. The Undoing Project. I just finished a biography of Woodrow Wilson, hypocrite extraordinaire, by Patricia O’Toole, The Moralist.
What is your favourite book and why?
Can’t pick one. The Poisonwood Bible. Things Fall Apart. Giovanni’s Room. All have something to say. All say it well.

Recent disappointments: Beautiful Ruins (stupid; dishonest; cheap:  the author, in the third person talking to me, as reader, lies)
A Gentleman in Moscow [yeah, a revolution was taking place; starvation widespread, state terrorism taking over: really?)
What advice would you give for someone thinking about becoming a writer?
Do not have children. Live simply. Pay attention. Do not get stuck in the rat race.  Seek the unknown. Branch out. Ask. Listen. Shop at second hand stores. Move to the ghetto.
What are the best Social Media Sites for people to find out about you and your work?
Luddite that I am, I have never sent a text message. I hate Facebook. I do not understand Twitter. My caring friends have created a website, which I rather like:, simply, A radical answer: read A PLACE CALLED SCHUGARA.

About the book
A story of life, death, love lost and meaning found in Schugara and beyond.

Who among us has not dreamed of going to the corner store and simply disappearing? Travers Landeman, a businessman from Ohio, fakes his death on the Caribbean island Mabouhey. The question is: does he get away with it? Travers flees: from a loveless marriage, from a failing business, from blackmail. He had had a close relationship with his nephew Matthew, but, as the years passed, he let his nephew slip away, he let himself slip away. Matthew, a teenager, is sexually abused by his parish priest, Father Art. Matt reaches out to his uncle for help, but Travers turns away. Matthew commits suicide by shooting himself, but Travers knows it is his selfish fear that pulled the trigger. On Mabouhey Travers is injured when he rescues a child, Schugara, from the great shark, Kintura. Travers and Schugara’s mother, Marguerite, fall in love and build their home on the side of a volcano at a place they name after Marguerite’s daughter, a place called Schugara. The years pass. It appears that Travers has gotten away with it. . . .until a private investigator, Albert Sidney McNab, shows up. He has been hired by the Atlantis Fidelity Insurance Company to bring Travers back to Ohio.
A Chicago bookseller, Joe Rogers, leads a group of amateur archeologists to Mabouhey. At the dig site he unearths an ancient treasure, a jeweled mask dating to the Arawak era. His ankle is broken. Joe is carried on a stretcher to Schugara, where Marguerite tells him Travers’ story.
What then transpires at a place called Schugara, is, if not a state of wonder, certainly matters worthy of thought. This much happens: the mask is taken to the United States, where it is auctioned at Sotheby’s by Esmerelda McNab, United Nations Ambassador of the world’s newest nation, the Commonwealth of the Island of Mabouhey, despite protestors from Columbia University, who denounce the sale as “cultural genocide.” This much happens as well: Father Art is beaten to death in his jail cell while awaiting trial. Are the other aspects of SCHUGARA’s denouement, its dotting of “i”s and crossing of “t”‘s, satisfying and satisfactory? The reader must decide.
More about the Author:
Along with William Carlos Williams, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, and Victor Cruz, Joe English is a proud son of Paterson, New Jersey (with one “t.”) He came of age in Mexico City, Mexico. He worked as a ranch hand at the Wild Horn Ranch in Florissant, Colorado. He has a B. A. cum laude from Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and an M. A. from Rice University in Houston, Texas. English is a Woodrow Wilson Fellow.

He has lived for 47 years in the Austin neighborhood on Chicago’s west side. When Austin resegregated from 100% Caucasian to 95+% African-American in 1970-71, English was one of a handful of residents who cast down their buckets with their new neighbors. As a minority in a majority minority community, he has a unique perspective on the state of urban America. English was featured in a 60 Minutes broadcast as a first hand witness to neighborhood resegregation in Chicago.
He was a professor at Triton College in River Grove, Illinois, for sixteen years. He founded Oak Park Real Estate in 1984, which provided decent, safe, and affordable housing, primarily in the Austin neighborhood. At its peak, Oak Park Real Estate managed 900 residential apartments. He still maintains a residence in Austin but now spends much of his time in Sosua, Dominican Republic, founded by Jewish refugees in the late 1930’s. “I live in two soulful places,” English says. “I am doubly blessed.” English’s writings have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Reader and Co-Existence, the literary journal which featured the works of Henry Miller. His most recent publication, the short story Mrs. Padgett’s Pearls, was selected by Zimbell House Publishing for the anthology After Effects.
The book can be found at Amazon USA and Amazon India
Reviews from other readers can be found at GoodReads


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