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I loved "Kind of Kin." I so admire your skill as a writer in taking a politicized subject and showing it to us in highly personalized ways -- rendering it through the specifics of each individual character. And what great characters they are! Sweet is a completely sympathetic narrator who recognizes her own flaws even as she succeeds through her strengths. Her father is tough and independent... and right. Dustin is totally lovable and we want the best for him.
The way you handled the political side of things, through Monica Moorehouse's perceptions and striving, filtering everything through her desire for career advancement, was brilliant. I kept thinking, how can Rilla know all this? All the inner workings? You really presented that authentically.
Also loved the whole community you created -- felt I was there and could know many of the townspeople. Thank you once again for an absorbing read!
All best..........joe freda
Oh, my. I just finished KIND OF KIN and want you to know how much I admire both your ability and your compassion. You put a human face on an issue that too many people claim is purely financial, and you introduced the many shades of grey of an issue that too many people claim is black and white. And you speak Okie perfectly!
I'm so glad that your name caught my eye in the Dallas paper, and can't wait to read your other books. I might not be kin, but I am definitely a fan.
I took your writing workshop at Quartz Mountain a couple of years ago, and it was a great priviledge to spend time with you and glean all you shared as a writer. I have since read your books, and you have influenced the way I view the world, and specifically Oklahoma, for some time now.
As a Spanish teacher, and simply as a human being and a Christian, I have for some time questioned the hard-line conservative stance on immigration. I have never been able to allign with the views that "it's not fair", etc. I have read the Old Testament, but not until I was reading the scene today where Oren Dudley is quoting verses about the alien and the sojourner that a missing puzzle piece clicked into place. I had to share it with my students right away, I was so excited. Several of them are hispanic and we have had many talks about the hardships of immigrants. That scene was so powerful, with the pastor facing down the Law, while we are in the church nursery with Sweet talking about the details of finding some saltines in the kitchen.
I just had to tell you how much I enjoyed the book. I didn't get to see you when you were in Norman, sadly.
Keep writing! I'm recommending this book to everyone.
From Francoise Palleau in Paris:
I have just finished your novel, which I loved. It is a page turner, and full of heart. You write so well, nothing is decorative, it is pared down and essential. I really love it. The plot is so well done, the action so vivid, I could see it in my mind's eye. it would make a great film. Make sure they get the right actors. I see Tommy Lee Jones in the role of the father in jail. Melissa Leo would be nice for Sweet, although a bit angular. For the Mexican man who goes away with Dustin, I have this image in mind of a Mexican William T. Vollmann photographed in Imperial (the book of his photography, not his text by the same title). I wish we could chat in real life. I miss you guys. Guess who I have in mind for the pastor? Husband of yours. He would be great. Unless he wants to be the evil sheriff????
Hope you meet some nice people in your reading tour. Tell me if you know Ben Fountain in person. I've just written an article about his works for Transatlantica, where I last published your text with an intro.
Yours KINDLY, KINLY,
From Tom & Joyce Beman in Victory, NY.
Received your book as a Christmas gift and a wonderful book it is! Really helps to put your thoughts on immigration in order. I can use the word "exciting" easily, it was a "page turner" and "couldn't put it down" type for both of us. Loved to see it pictured in a recent Reader's Digest magazine as a selection suggestion. Thank you for this book!
From Kathleen Reid in New York, NY:
Though it has been more than a month since I (regretfully) put down Rilla Askew's Kind of Kin, I find my mind returning to its characters and its themes. Once you've finished, you don't return to think of the humor or the "Oh, God, NOW what's going to happen?!" parts, but the wyas the book makes you think.
I belong to a Christian church -- I was going to say "very different" but it is only partly different from the one in Cedar, OK. Mine is an open, non-doctrinal, seekers community -- but all the members are also enrolled in "humanity," so some are warm and welcoming and would look to the needs of Lucha, the Mexican-American toddler whose name means "struggle."
You might say we pride ourselves on "welcoming the stranger" -- and that means different things to different ones of us. Having read this book, I'm thinking more about how I reflect that idea in my mind and in how I live. How honest I am about that.
Maybe not as wide-eyed, openly thoughtful and spiritual as Ms. Askew.
From Kathryn Ramsay in Norman, Oklahoma:
Rilla Askew’s new book, Kind of Kin, addresses an age-old paradox in human existence. The stranger among us is also a “kind of kin” to us because of the humanity we share.
The Old Testament, the Hebrew scripture, is very interested in the concept of the stranger. Abraham and then Jacob were strangers in the land of Canaan. Moses was a stranger in Midian, describing himself as “a stranger in a strange land.”
The Hebrew bible does not mince words about how the stranger should be treated. “Vex not the stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” “Do not oppress an alien for you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens.“
The people of Israel were so often strangers in strange lands that the treatment of the stranger is central to their faith. They believe that God rescued Israel when the people were slaves and fugitives and gave them a homeland. Torah, the law, commands welcoming the stranger, the alien, with generosity and hospitality. The people of Israel know about being strangers and, through that, they know that the stranger in their midst is also kin to them, because of the human suffering that they have shared.
Rilla Askew is one a long line of novelists who have been fascinated and deeply concerned intellectually and theologically with the concept of the stranger and the painful necessity of welcoming the stranger, and who have sought to illuminate the paradox of how we can be both kin and strangers at the same time. We walk the earth as human beings, as children of God. We are all part of the family of humankind. But we feel ourselves strangers so often, aliens, rejected. And we in turn encounter strangers and reject them as aliens. “Strangers in a strange land,” everyone of us.
Kind of Kin is a book about Oklahoma and Oklahomans, mostly about every day working class people just trying to get through the day. It is also a book about strangers, specifically, immigrants from Mexico.
Oklahoma is one of the 10 most religious states in the United States, with 80% of its citizens identifying themselves as Christians, as followers of Jesus. Followers of the Jesus who was descended from Abraham and Jacob and Moses, whose Hebrew religion was centered on hospitality and on a God-given directive to welcome the stranger.
“Welcome the stranger!” some of Rilla’s characters declare, standing firm and locking arms to give meaning to their words. Others of her characters, however, refuse to heed this ancient rule, working instead to round up, imprison, and deport those strangers. Strangers who are, like those who seek to deport them, children of God, kindred in the family of humankind. The irony is that all of these people call themselves Christian. But Jesus said, “I was a stranger and you took me in.”