Aliens and Other Stories by Kathleen Wheaton
Washington Writers' Publishing House (October 15, 2013)
Paperback, 222 pages
Genre: Fiction - Short stories
Each short story in this collection can be savored or they can all be consumed in a giant gulp. Either way, it is a book to be thoroughly enjoyed. The characters in each story are so well developed that it leaves the reader wanting more...and then you get to the next one. Needless to say, I gulped.
Veteran journalist, Kathleen Wheaton, has intricately connected each tale of exiles and refugees with beautiful precision. A minor character of one story, often becomes the protagonist in another. The stories are inspired by the author's experiences working in Spain and Latin America as a journalist and travel writer. And this is all made evident by her vivid illustration of each of the settings.
The circumstances surrounding the characters fleeing their respective homelands is often haunting. Nazi control for some, Cuba ruled by "the Devil Incarnate" for others, and as the author notes in the beginning, the "dirty war" in Argentina for many.
"Several of the stories in this volume refer to the "dirty war" in Argentina, which began in 1976 when a right-wing military junta overthrew the chaotic presidency of Isabel Peron. Under the so-called National Reorganization Process, an estimated 30,000 people - suspected leftist guerillas, trade unionists, journalists, intellectuals and students - were arrested, taken to clandestine prisons, tortured, and secretly executed. They became known as the desaparecidos, the disappeared. Although democracy was restored in 1983 with the election of President Raul Alfonsín, many of the thousands of Argentineans who fled into exile established their lives elsewhere and never returned."But Ms. Wheaton has so skillfully crafted every story that each of them meets their challenges of being "alien, invisible", with resilience. And bits of humor are generously sprinkled throughout the book.
In a Q and A with the author she was asked, "What do you hope readers take away from Aliens and Other Stories?" To which she responded "...So I hope that readers who have been aliens as well as those who simply have felt that way will find they have something in common with my characters."
To that I say, Well done, my friend. Well done.
Aliens and Other Stories meritoriously won the Washington Writers' Publishing House 2013 prize for fiction.
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Disclosure: I was provided a copy of this book in exchange only for my honest thoughts.