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A Pair of Readings

Stephen Schottenfeld
Rachel Tzvia Back

Talking Leaves Books hosts a novelist and a translator

This week Talking Leaves Books teams up with the Exhibit X Reading Series from the University at Buffalo’s English Department to bring us two book signing events. The first is at Talking Leaves Main St. location on Tuesday, (9/30) at 7pm where Stephen Schottenfeld, an English professor at the University of Rochester, will read and sign copies of his very first novel, Bluff City Pawn.

The passages Shottenfeld will be reading explore the life of Huddy Marr, owner of Bluff City Pawn Shop in Memphis, Tennessee. Huddy’s neighborhood is home to Bluff City’s most devoted and seedy hustlers and his pawnshop business is steadily declining. With the help of his two brothers, Huddy sets out to relocate Bluff City Pawn Shop before it closes down like the liquor store that was next door. Schottenfeld highlights the urban decay due to suburban development that creates a wealth gap in Memphis society. He also portrays a realistic family dynamic through the Marr brothers who are clearly affected by Memphis’s changing culture. In spite of the adversity, the characters Schottenfeld has crafted make challenging issues less serious with their humorous personalities and witty dialect. The characters are relatable to working class citizens and the plot gives hope to towns covered in foreclosure signs.

Following Schottenfeld Talking Leaves Books welcomes Isreali resident Rachel Tzvia Back to her hometown of Buffalo to read and talk about In the Illuminated Dark: Selected Poems, translations of poems from the Israeli Hebrew poet Tuvia Ruebner, and some of her own work. Ruebner lives in Galilee and is a Professor at Ormanim Academic College and the author of several books of poems.

In the Illuminated Dark: Selected Poems is a translation of poems written by Tuvia Rueber, a voice of the holocaust generation. Born in Slovakia, in 1924 he had witnessed the racisist upheaval that came with the rise of Hitler. His poems cover his shifting cultures as a result of relocating from Europe to Israel and from changing from the German language to Hebrew. There is a great sense of devastation and personal loss in his poems. The pain of losing his little sister, who was murdered in Auschwitz, and his son, who disappeared in South Africa, is reflected in his verses. Along with his heartache he explores Jewish diaspora and its consequences to Jewish culture. He mixes the personal and historical for a unique twist of perspective. In a description of her book Rachel Tzvia Back says, “loss defines the crossbeams and chronicals of Tuvia Ruebner’s life.” His poems aren’t completely full of darkness though, like the title suggests there is an Illumination that Ruebner captures within his trauma. He creates a paradox of all that had not been lost with all that has been lost. A sense of hope prevails within his poetry and Back’s translation allows us to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Ruebner’s poetry enters the English world through Back’s voice and helps its poetics grow stronger.

Come listen to Back bring light to words folded in dark times. This will take place at the Main Street location on Wednesday, (10/1) at 7pm.

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