Genre: Contemporary Literary Fiction
Publisher: White Bird Publications
Date of Publication: March 8, 2016
Number of Pages: 314
In the summer of 1969, a small town in west Texas prepares to send one of their finest young men off to fight a faraway, controversial war. A parallel battle of domestic violence erupts at home as a younger generation struggles to reconcile older notions of right and wrong and even fractured family ties with the inevitable price that the fighting demands.
Much like today's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Vietnam war is little understood by those left behind, but the lessons of strength, commitment and duty are timeless, then and now. East Jesus, the story of that national struggle today as well as back in 1969, is a plangent, soulful journey lived through the eyes of a wide-ranging, colorful array of characters, with a conclusion readers will never forget.
There's more. "East Jesus," said one editor, "is a message of hope for our children." Too often, teenagers who've survived a young lifetime of domestic violence believe "this is the hell I was born into, this is the hell I must accept for life." East Jesus turns that notion on its ear: though there's a price to pay, there's a better way that rises above the violence.
The novel is peopled by strong characters, particularly women, in a salt-of-the-earth, small town, west Texas community. The price of a far away, unpopular war always comes due in small town America, then (set in 1969) as well as now (Iraq and Afghanistan). But the lesson of hope, sacrifice and redemption is timeless.
To read East Jesus is to live that story, to transcend the fighting at home and abroad, and to embrace the hope and faith in what's right above all else.
Experience East Jesus, live the story--you'll never forget it.
Read More for Giveaway!
How long have you been writing?
As long as I can recall. I still remember the elementary school librarian chewing my butt in first or second grade for stapling together my own picture book and shelving it myself. “That’s not how it’s done,” I remember her scolding me. She was right—getting from that day to the publication of East Jesus has taken just about a lifetime, give or take a decade.
What do you think most characterizes your writing?
I would have to hope and pray that the prose is visceral, habitable, livable; I preach that in writing class and strive for that goal in my own prose.
What cultural value do you see in writing/reading/storytelling/etc.?
Writing is truly the fulfillment of Plato’s notion of inscription: we put into text the experiences we wish to transfer to others, to inscribe, to transcend the perishability of now and endure for as long as the writing can last. I believe it’s the nearest mortals can come to an immortality of the ages. It’s never easy and as Socrates promised, always messy. But that matters, the inscription, the transfer of a picture through words (the Greeks called that ekphrasis) and when that succeeds, humanity endures, wins, over time.
How does your book relate to your spiritual practice or other life path?
I think there’s a thread of the Latin classicism of humanismus in my work, which typically centers around the struggle of darkness and light. I think that’s the essence of humanism and the ongoing struggle of mankind and that is fertile ground for exploration through livable, habitable prose.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
The opportunity to inscribe the landscape, the people, the experience, and share that with others. As I find in cartooning (I have several published cartoon books in print), the ultimate value is in a shared smile or, in the case of prose, a shed tear as well.
Are there under-represented groups or ideas featured if your book? If so, discuss them.
A sub-text of East Jesus is domestic violence, particularly the young. This story lets--makes—the reader live that hell, but also the redemption that is possible regardless of the high price that must be paid.
Who are some of your favorite authors you feel were influential in your work? What impact have they had on your writing?
The list is long and goes way back: T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Algernon Swinburne, William Michael Rossetti, Walter Pater, and so many nineteenth century writers and literary critics influenced the way I understand both writing and reading. Plato, Aristotle (TCU is thoroughly grounded in Aristotelian rhetoric) and more modern theorists like I.A. Richards and Walter Ong bridge the gap for me between classicism, modernism and post-modernism. As for contemporary writers, I study and admire J.M. Coetzee and fellow Nobel laureate Toni Morrison; Cristina Garcia, Sherman Alexie—the list is too long to include here. I’ve always been a fan of Updike and a student of his fiction. Now, strangely enough, I find myself on a science fiction binge. This too shall pass.
What literary character is most like you?
William Michael Rossetti. Having published a 418 page dissertation on his life’s critical work, I think I have license to say so.
Do you have any strange writing habits you’d like to share with your readers?
Not “strange,” but maybe unique: a large amount of my writing gets done at 40,000 feet.
About The Author
Chris Manno matriculated from Springfield, Virginia and graduated from VMI in 1977 with a degree in English. He was commissioned in the Air Force and after completing flight training, spent seven years as a squadron pilot in the Pacific at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa and Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. He was hired by American Airlines as a pilot in 1985 and was promoted to captain in 1991. He flies today as a Boeing 737 captain on routes all over North America and the Caribbean. He earned a doctorate in residence at Texas Christian University and currently teaches writing at Texas Wesleyan University in addition to flying a full schedule at American Airlines. He lives in Fort Worth.
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Each of the 5 winners gets an author signed copy of East Jesus PLUS a free download of Chris's cartoon book #RudeLateNightCartoons
May 10 - May 19, 2016 (US ONLY)
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