Achy Obejas

City Lights welcomes Achy Obejas reading from her new short story collection The Tower of the Antilles from Akashic Books.

The Cubans in Achy Obejas’s story collection The Tower of the Antilles are haunted by an island: the island they fled, the island they’ve created, the island they were taken to or forced from, the island they long for, the island they return to, and the island that can never be home again.

In “Supermán,” several possible story lines emerge about a 1950s Havana sex-show superstar who disappeared as soon as the Revolution triumphed. “North/South” portrays a migrant family trying to cope with separation, lives on different hemispheres, and the eventual disintegration of blood ties. “The Cola of Oblivion” follows the path of a young woman who returns to Cuba, and who inadvertently uncorks a history of accommodation and betrayal among the family members who stayed behind during the revolution. In the title story, “The Tower of the Antilles,” an interrogation reveals a series of fantasies about escape and a history of futility.

With language that is both generous and sensual, Obejas writes about lives beset by events beyond individual control, and poignantly captures how history and fate intrude on even the most ordinary of lives.

ACHY OBEJAS is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Ruins, Days of Awe, and three other books of fiction. She edited and translated (into English) the anthology Havana Noir, and has since translated Junot Díaz, Rita Indiana, Wendy Guerra, and many others. In 2014, she was awarded a USA Ford Fellowship for her writing and translation. She currently serves as the Distinguished Visiting Writer at Mills College in Oakland, California.

Tanwi Nandini Islam

Author Tanwi Nandini Islam joins Achy Obejas in conversation at City Lights to celebrate the release of her critically-acclaimed debut novel, Bright Lines, published by Penguin Books.

For as long as she can reTanwimember, Ella has longed to feel at home. Orphaned as a child after her parents’ murder in the aftermath of the Bangladesh Liberation War, Ella came to Brooklyn to live with the Saleem family: her uncle Anwar, aunt Hashi, and their daughter, Charu, from whom she couldn’t be more different. Ella has never felt entirely comfortable in her own body, and spends hours tending the garden behind the Saleems’ brownstone.

When Ella returns home from college one summer, she is surprised to discover Charu’s friend Maya—a local Islamic cleric’s runaway daughter—asleep in her 87286100954240Mbedroom. The two grow close, and suddenly Ella is forced to come to terms with her sexuality and the increasingly blurry line between friendship and love.

As the girls harbor their secrets, Anwar—owner of a popular neighborhood apothecary—has his own, one that threatens his thirty-year marriage. When tragedy strikes and the Saleems are blamed, it nearly tears apart the family. Ella, Charu, Anwar, and Hashi travel to Bangladesh to reckon with the past, their extended family, and each other.

Tanwi Nandini Islam is a writer, multimedia artist, and founder of Hi Wildflower Botanica, a handcrafted natural perfume and skincare line.  Her writing has appeared in Elle, Fashionista.com and Billboard. A graduate of Vassar College and Brooklyn College’s MFA program, she lives in Brooklyn.

Achy Obejas is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Ruins, Days of Awe and three other books of fiction. Her poetry chapbook, This is What Happened in Our Other Life, was both a critical favorite and a best-seller. She edited and translated, into English, Havana Noir, a collection of crime stories by Cuban writers on and off the island. Her translation, into Spanish, of Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao / La Breve y Maravillosa Vida de Óscar Wao was a finalist for Spain’s Esther Benítez Translation Prize from the national translator’s association. She is currently the Distinguished Visiting Writer at Mills College in Oakland, CA, where she lives with her wife, Megan Bayles, and their son Ilan.