Hard Choices by Hillary Rodham Clinton- Review

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No matter what side of the political spectrum you are on, you are going to want to read Secretary Hillary Clinton’s newest memoir, Hard Choices. Clinton released the new book about her time as the 67th Secretary of State in June 2014. She discusses what led into her taking the honorable position, her work promoting democracy around the world, and her methods and time diffusing crises around the world.

In Hard Choices, Clinton describes the reluctance she had at first to take the position. She was convinced that there were so many more qualified individuals that should have taken the job, but President-elect Barack Obama made the case to her. He pleaded that she could continue promoting women’s rights all over the world, build America’s international relations with allies, and that, frankly, the Administration would need her. She weighed her options, and then made her decision. The rest is history.

Clinton talks about working with nations in the Asian continent quite a bit. She discusses the reluctance of China to have any real diplomatic influence on its neighbors, and how some of the political leaders in that nation are as opaque as the political system. She also talks about how the fight for democracy in Burma was, at some points… interesting, to say the least. She wrote about what one of the leaders said, finding it just as humorous as when it first was spoken, “The Speaker of the Lower House of Parliament, Shwe Mann, another former general, met with me…’We’ve been studying your country trying to understand how to run a Parliament,’ he told me. I asked if he’d read books or consulted with experts. ‘Oh no,’ he said. ‘We’ve been watching the West Wing.’

European nations, and their long-standing relationships with America, are also discussed in Hard Choices. Clinton discusses why Europe’s alliance with the United States dipped before she was sworn in as Secretary. “Most of our European allies disagreed with the decision to invade Iraq.” But, as both America and Europe pursued common interests under the Obama Administration, trust, essential for democracy to thrive, was restored. During the stressful dialogue started with Iran on its nuclear program, on quelling the empty threats by North Korea, and in anti-terror operations, the United States and traditional allies, like Britain and France, regrew the relationship that has existed since the beginning of the Republic.

The operation to take down Osama bin Laden, and bring him to justice, came because of Clinton’s advocation. Her reasoning came because she is no stranger to the pain al-Qaeda brought upon America. As a Senator from New York, she helped secure the very significant $21 billion in funding to rebuild the World Trade Center site. She supported the invasion of Afghanistan, believing that it could simultaneously help root out terrorism and improve the condition of Afghani women. The opportunity to kill bin Laden was not one that came without plenty of patience, but when it did come, Clinton, “laid out the case, including the potential damage to our relationship with Pakistan and the risks of a blown operation.” She then added, “But, I concluded, the chance to get bin Laden was worth it.” The plan went forward, with US Seal Team Six storming the compound, taking down bin Laden, and recovering invaluable intelligence on future al-Qaeda operations. Clinton made the decision, along with President Obama, that trust could be placed in our troops, and it came out a complete success.

The crisis in the area of Gaza in 2012 was one that demanded undivided attention. A long-ensued battle between Israelis and Palestinians came to blows in the tiny 139-sq-ft strip on the Mediterranean one again. A fight that hadn’t been intensified to the point of mass conflict since 2008, when Israel ceased to occupy Gaza, Clinton was on the case from the very beginning. She worked hand-in-hand with (at the time) Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi to bring a ceasefire to the conflict. Over 100 people had already perished in the fighting, many women and children, both Israeli and Palestinian, and the condition of innocents has always gained the attention of Hillary Clinton. Negotiations between Morsi, Clinton, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proceeded, where an agreement was reached that set out a comprehensive plan to end the fighting, and find a final solution to the conflict as a whole. Fighting ended after the agreement, and Clinton said that, “the ceasefire held better than anyone expected.” As now, an end to the current fighting in Gaza, where over 1000 people have died already, is being pursued along the lines of the 2012 ceasefire agreement.
Clinton discusses the issues we face in today’s world. She discusses the dire threat of Russian aggression, which she sees as Vladimir Putin’s goal of “reclaiming the Soviet Empire.” Clinton explains that, “we’re all in this together,” when it comes to Climate Change and energy. She wants the upcoming 2015 International Paris meeting on Climate Change to achieve real and beneficial reductions in our emissions, while helping to grow the US economy through green-collar jobs and new energy exploration, including solar, wind, and geothermal technologies. Finally, she discusses how Cold War-esque diplomacy will not work in the modern world, where both nations and groups pose threats. She explains what she calls “smart power,” which is the advocacy of democracy and freedom though the internet, technology, and human connections with everyday citizens.

The final discussion in Hard Choices is focused upon human rights, which Clinton calls the “unfinished business” of the 21st Century. Back in 1995, in a famous speech in Beijing, Clinton proclaimed that, “human rights are women’s rights and women’ rights are human rights.” She also discusses the fact that the growth in women’s job holdings in the US from 37% in 1979 to 47% in 2009 attributed to “more than $3.5 trillion in GDP growth over four decades.” Another argument that is made in Hard Choices is the fact that when women are a part of peace processes, “they tend to focus discussion on issues like human rights, justice, national reconciliation, and economic renewal.” Hillary Clinton, as she has done for her entire life, is nowhere near stopping now in her work pursuing rights for women here in America and abroad.

All in all, Secretary Hillary Clinton’s memoir of her time as Secretary of State is candid, revealing, and truly a testament to the challenges we face in today’s world. Time will tell if future ambitions exist, but one thing is certain: Clinton isn’t done yet.

Author Biography- Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton:

Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton served as the First Lady of the United States to the 42nd President, Bill Clinton. She went on to become a U.S. Secretary of State and U.S. Senator from New York. In the 2008 election, Clinton was a leading candidate for the Democratic Presidential nomination. (Credit to The White House)

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The Demon Who Peddled Longing By Khanh Ha is A Literary Epic Of The Human Condition

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Khanh Ha is a different type of author. While some authors focus on sales, others, like Ha, write to break old boundaries and push forward literary achievement. Ha made great literary progress with his first novel, Flesh, but now, instead of falling into a ‘sophomore slump’, he has written something unprecedented.

The Demon Who Peddled Longing is set in post-war Vietnam, a nation overrun by Khmer pirates, thieves, and other malevolent beings. It follows the story of 19-year-old Nam, a young fisherman who embarks on a path of vengeance on 2 drifters who violently raped and killed his cousin, who he also shared romantic feelings with. The story begins with Nam in the Plain of Reeds, where he is stumbled upon by an abnormal fisherwoman. While assisting her and earning money Nam plans his next steps in pursuit of the drifters. When the partnership ends badly, Nam runs away from the fisherwoman and on to the South.

On the journey to Southern Vietnam, Nam meets many people, good people who have had their hearts turned black due to the longings their soul carries. This is where also we see the devastation a corrupt and violent government (Communists) and outlaws can inflict upon innocent lives. Nam’s presence in each of these lives both alleviates the darkness in their hearts but also further escalates some already tense situations.

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Credit Here.

Whether it be through the colorful markets of cities or the remote fishing villages on the coasts, Nam is always on the lookout for his cousin’s killers. When the boy uncovers the truth of his cousin’s death, he becomes a man with his own compass to guide the direction of his life. This independence lasts until the pain of further longing and oppression reveals to us all that none of us are truly in complete control and often fate isn’t black in white, but grey, in its outcome.

The Demon Who Peddled Longing is truly a literary masterpiece. Utilizing very immersive visuals and the imprint the senses leaves on each of us, the novel delivers an unconventional epic of vengeance, longing, and compassion. The dialogue, which at first may confuse a reader, emerges to enhance the writing to make it a very organic and rhythmic read.

Khanh Ha is masterful and unmatched in his ability to show how violence can lead to atonement and how, like a lotus flower, beauty can arise from the deepest depths of darkness. His writing style and structure is something unseen before, giving the reader a more realistic story of how no one is in complete control of their life’s path and how compassion and redemption can still arise out of the darkness of longing and oppression.

Khanh Ha: Author Bio

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Khanh Ha studied Journalism at Ohio University and learned the craft of writing under Daniel Keyes (Flowers for Algernon) and Walter Tevis (The Man Who Fell to Earth). He is the author of Flesh (2012, Black Heron Press) and The Demon Who Peddled Longing (2014, Underground Voices). Khanh Ha is a five-time Pushcart nominee, a Best Indie Lit New England nominee, and the recipient of Greensboro Review’s 2014 ROBERT WATSON LITERARY PRIZE IN FICTION. His work, The Demon Who Peddled Longing, was honored by Shelf Unbound as a NOTABLE INDIE BOOK.

Dead Giveaway By Charles Ramsey Is A Thrill Ride Of A Life Story

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When I had heard that the 3 Cleveland women were being rescued as I watched on TV, it was an awful but also inspiring day. It was heart-wrenching thinking that those women, those girls, were locked in a house with a monster 60 miles north of where I live. It truly was a story of courage and triumph. Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus survived that awful prison, and did not ever let Ariel Castro win. A man, with a past that wasn’t squeaky clean, stood up, mustered up courage, and became the women’s saviors. His name is Charles Ramsey.

We all know Charles Ramsey. I live in the Cleveland, Ohio area, and I remember seeing the very “Dead Giveaway” moment on Channel 3 (WKYC) even before the thousands of remixes and memes. Even people who don’t live in Northeast Ohio area know this hilarious character, quick with a joke and a hero. As TMZ said, “Charles Ramsey is the best kind of hero…the kind that saves lives, and makes you laugh your a** off.”

Now, Charles Ramsey has released his first book, entitled Dead Giveaway. Ramsey’s autobiography talks about his experiences throughout his life. He talks about how he has worked as everything from an onion-peeler to a dishwasher. Ramsey discusses his experiences with drug-dealing, earning a 0.00 GPA in the first semester of college to rebel against his father, and prison stints.

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Ramsey In An Interview With Anderson Cooper Right After The Rescue

But, for all the darkness Charles Ramsey has experienced throughout his life, he doesn’t neglect to talk about the good (and some frankly funny) events that came after his rescue of the girls. He writes about how he was made into an instant celebrity, and how that led to his phone being blasted with thousands of text messages and calls, so much that it drove him to throw his phone in the Hudson River. He also reveals his friendship with Snoop Dogg that has developed after the heroic act, and how he has received accolades from Anderson Cooper, John Walsh, Valerie Bertinelli, President Obama, and more public figures.

The best part of Dead Giveaway, at least for me, was Ramsey’s brutal honesty. He does not sugar-coat the events of his life, and it reads perfectly. It is important stories, like Charles Ramsey’s, deserve, and need, to be told, lest we forget what so many of our fellow Americans experience day-to-day in the inner city.

Charles Ramsey’s story is just beginning. We all thought that 3 survivors emerged on May 6th, 2013. I believe that 4 people were actually rescued that day, and now they all have a chance to live their full life stories. I commend Charles Ramsey for his bravery, sense of humor, and frankness expressed in Dead Giveaway. I look forward to seeing what he accomplishes next.

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Charles Ramsey~ Author Bio:

Charles Ramsey became an unlikely international celebrity on May 6, 2013 when he helped rescue three kidnapped women in Cleveland, Ohio. National media and fans called him a “hero.” He says no, he just did what anybody should have done. He lives in Cleveland, Ohio.

Daughter of The Gods Is A Long-Awaited Redemption of Hatshepsut and Her Legacy

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I am lucky enough to know the author of Daughter of The Gods, Stephanie Thornton, personally, so I was able to read the novel before release. I am so happy now everyone can read it, and be personally inspired by it.

Daughter of The Gods is the story of Pharaoh Hatshepsut, the fifth Pharaoh of the Eighteenth dynasty of Ancient Egypt. She is forced for so long to do whatever people want her to do. Marry her half-brother Thut to secure his ascension to the Horus Throne, sit pretty for the people while the men plan battle (which she longs to do), and be forced to try to produce a male heir to the throne. When another of Thut’s wives, Aset, gives him a son, Hatshepsut begins to see a real life for herself. She is tired of being what everyone wants her to be, and when Thut abruptly dies, she becomes regent for her two-year-old nephew.

As she starts to realize what ruling is like, and as she develops a strong love connection to the brilliant Senenmut, Hatshepsut decides what she must do. She herself, unheard of previously, seizes the throne and becomes Pharaoh. She gives her all to Egypt, ruling effectively and putting the people first. But, as her heart aches, she must decide if she will rule or give in to what her heart desires. And when the people around her start to work against her, she must do what she feels right to lead Egypt to great things.

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Statue of Hatshepsut. Credit Here.

Ever since I read her debut novel, The Secret History, I have loved Thornton’s writing for many reasons. The books are so well-researched we feel we actually are smelling the incense, feeling the desert sun, just as Hatshepsut does. We feel the love Hatshepsut has, for Senenmut, for the people of Egypt. Thornton is able to display Hatshepsut’s achievements as the female Pharaoh would have seen them. The implementation of trade routes between Egypt and the rest of the civilized world, the construction of temples to last millennia, and the conquest of many Nubian towns.

The greatest thing I took away from Daughter of The Gods, just as I have from Thornton’s other course-of-history changing women, is the fact that you must give your all if you are to lead. I am going to be the leader of the free world (President of the United States), and so the lessons Hatshepsut’s life teaches I can apply to my own life. She worked her entire life for the best of Egypt, and that teaches me that if I am to be President I must work for the very best for the people of the US my whole life.

Stephanie Thornton adds another shining book to her powerful women in history series with Daughter of The Gods, and the restoration of Hatshepsut as one of the most powerful, influential, and important leaders in human history.

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Author Stephanie Thornton, Biography~

Stephanie Thornton is a writer and history teacher who has been obsessed with infamous women from ancient history since she was twelve. She lives with her husband and daughter in Alaska, where she is at work on her next novel. The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora is available from NAL/Penguin and Daughter of the Gods: A Novel of Ancient Egypt hit the shelves May 6, 2014. The Tiger Queens: A Novel of Genghis Khan will publish in Fall 2014. For more information, please visit Stephanie Thornton’s website

Praise For Daughter Of The Gods

“Daughter of the Gods is a wonderfully intimate and dramatic evocation of Ancient Egypt, where one headstrong young woman dares to become pharaoh. Stephanie Thornton vividly portrays the heat and the danger, the passion and the heartbreak of Hatshepsut’s struggle, as she defies even the gods to ensure success on the throne of Egypt. A touching love story combines with a thrilling tale of death, courage and political intrigue to produce a superbly researched and powerfully written novel. This is the kind of book that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go. A remarkable story, remarkably told.” -Kate Furnivall, author of Shadows on the Nile

“Stephanie Thornton’s heroines are bold, brave, and powerful–they make me want to stand up and cheer!” -Kate Quinn, author of Lady of the Eternal City

“Daughter of the Gods is a full-out, total immersion experience of ancient Egypt. From her moving love affair with a commoner to her fierce and unwavering commitment to Egypt as a female Pharaoh, Hatshepsut crackles with fascinating complexity. Her ka must be grinning with pleasure at this richly textured account of her life, one that is worthy of the great queen herself. “ -Vicky Alvear Shecter, author of Cleopatra’s Moon

“An epic saga that brings ancient Egypt to life with vivid imagery and lovely prose. Stephanie Thornton is a rising star!” -Stephanie Dray, author of Lily of the Nile

The Debt Of Tamar Is A Modern Classic Piece Of Life-Changing Literature Spanning Generations

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There is, at least with me, a difference between my favorite books and the best books. The Debt Of Tamar by Nicole Dweck fits both categories, a rare occurrence, only also achieved by And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini and The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

The Debt Of Tamar begins with a wealthy widow in the 16th century by the name of Dona Antonia Nissim. From the get-go we are shocked with a tragic event, Dona Antonia is arrested and charged with being a secret Jew during the Inquisition. The punishment for this is death by burning.

A little known fact to the world: The Ottoman Empire was open to accepting Jewish refugees. Dona Antonia, and her children, escape to Istanbul. Their life is tranquil, their social status in good standing, until Tamar, Dona Antonia’s granddaughter, falls for the Sultan’s son. Working, trying to be together, a tragic turn comes where she disappears, causing a curse, or “debt”.

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Map Of The Ottoman Empire. Credit Here.

In the modern-day, centuries later, Selim Osman, a playboy prince and real-estate mogul, is diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. He leaves the mother of his unborn child behind without explanation and suddenly leaves to Manhattan for treatment. He has personal ills plaguing him, guilt. He meets Hannah, a talented artist, and this launches us into the story of their ancestors, taking us back to Nazi Paris and Israel, we find that there is a love that has been waiting since Tamar, and it is Selim’s job to break the curse before it destroys them all.

This, as I stated above, is both one of my favorite books and one of the best books ever. Dweck, a debut author, takes a love story and stretches it across centuries. We find how people’s paths cross, and that fate does bring us together. I enjoyed the many cultures represented in the book, especially the fact that Muslims were charitable to the Jews once, and that both religious groups have the ability to coexist like they once did again. Redemption shines through from this novel, showing that our ancestors do influence us greatly, and that they are just human too, and that we may need to correct the mistakes they made. Love isn’t always romantic, too…

The Debt of Tamar was so engaging, I seriously could not put it down. There are many historicals that are good, and then there are those that have a unique plot, where we feel the characters. Where we see their flaws, their connections, the human experience. How we are tied to our ancestors, and how they influence us even generations later. This is one of those, which make us reach deep inside ourselves and change our lives forever.

The Debt Of Tamar seriously is a rare book. I truly believe that I am a better person, a purer person, after reading it. That has only come from maybe 1% of the books I have ever read. Nicole Dweck is a ingenious storyteller, and I cannot wait for her future works of beautiful literature.

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Nicole Dweck~ Author

​Nicole Dweck is the author of the USA Today, best-selling novel, The Debt of Tamar. Her award-winning, debut novel has received critical acclaim from readers, reviewers and publications such as Writer’s Digest Magazine and The Historical Novel Society. It has also been featured on the Amazon Kindle Bestseller List, Barnes & Noble Nook Best-Seller List, and the Apple Ibooks Best-Seller List.

Her non-fiction articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines including The New York Observer and Haute Living Magazine.

Nicole holds a BA in Journalism (NYU) and a Masters Degree in International Studies (NYU).

She lives in New York City with her dashingly handsome husband and their 16 month old munchkin.

Girl On The Golden Coin Is A Fast-Paced and Highly Visual Novel Of Frances Stuart and Her Times

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I must admit, I truly was getting tired at the many novels trying to capture this era, the Glorious Revolution times, but failing to capture the essence of the period. Girl On The Golden Coin by Marci Jefferson, however, rekindled an interest of mine in this period.

Girl On The Golden Coin follows Frances Stuart, a distant relative of the famed royal Stuarts. The novel begins with Frances, exiled and in a bad state in France after the Glorious Revolution, surviving only because of her royal blood. When Charles II is restored to the throne, the Stuarts become favored again, and Frances moves to the Fontainebleau Palace, where she catches the eye of Louis XIV, the Sun King. Frances has to balance the secrets she is entrusted to protect and keep loyalty after Louis becomes furious when Frances refuses him, so she is sent to England to seduce and learn secrets for Louis from Charles II.

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One Of The Coins Featuring Frances As Britannia. Credit Here.

Utilizing her beauty, she postures herself inside Whitehall Palace, keeping secrets and securing alliances. Considered the most beautiful woman in England, she is more than a pretty face, and uses her wit to inspire King Charles with her love to greatness. They end up truly falling in love, he having her pose as the great Britannia on Britain’s coins. As loyalties are blurred, Frances finds where her love and trust truly lie, and because of this is set free.

Girl On The Golden Coin is a well-written book, hands down. I am huge on visual detail in books, so the beautiful descriptions of clothing, palaces, and even everyday life from Frances’ eyes was as immaculate as her beauty. The intrigue inside the court was also well represented, with cunning characters and plots galore. Finally, I felt that Frances Stuart was done justice by this novel, leaving behind the misconception of her simply being a pretty face. It is important to right wrongs to protect our great historical leaders’ legacies, and Girl On The Golden Coin does this with fervor and magnificence.

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Me With Mrs. Marci Jefferson at a book tour event in Cincinnati.

NOTE: I, along with my mom Erin Al-Mehairi, were lucky enough to meet Mrs. Marci Jefferson in Cincinnati on March 22nd. I was able to speak to her, along with other authors (I will be reviewing their books soon) and I believe a friendship was formed. I was grateful for her encouragement and care, and is a wonderful person.

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Marci Jefferson~ Author

Years after graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University, immersing herself in a Quality Assurance nursing career, and then having children, Marci realized she’d neglected her passion for history and writing. She began traveling, writing along the way, delving into various bits of history that caught her fancy. The plot for GIRL ON THE GOLDEN COIN evolved slowly after a trip to London, where she first learned about the Stuart royals. Marci is a member of the Historical Novel Society. She resides in the Midwest with her husband, making hair-bows for their daughter, trying not to step on their son’s Legos, and teaching a tiny Pacific Parrotlet to talk.

A Historical Fiction Full Of Imagery And Senses In 19th Century Vietnam

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Flesh. What An Amazing Cover! Credit Here.

Flesh by Khanh Ha is a historical fiction that takes you to another time and place, but also immerses you in the smells, sights, and sounds. The hero, Tai, is forged in the events, horrors, and cultural changes of 19th Century Tonkin (now Vietnam), is a portrait not only of the time but of the people. Flesh makes you feel the emotion and senses like very few other books I have ever read.

A book with a writing style similar to Khaled Hosseini (probably my favorite fiction author), Flesh follows the protagonist Tai. In the beginning, he is a witness at the beheading of his bandit father, and is determined to find the men who betrayed his father. As Tai is only a teenager, he has to become a man quickly, tempered by violence and tragedy, but always doing what is right in his heart. When he becomes desperate to find a proper burial site for his father and brother, he pledges 2 years of service to a man who is not all he may say he is.

As we travel with Tai along throughout Hanoi, through opium dens and encountering homeless men, we get an intimate feel for the world, the smell of beetles, the crimson color of blood. Flesh reads like a song. I believe, however, that the greatest part of Flesh was how all are connected in some way. The relation that sometimes is not wanted but obligated, the tragedy of love, and how sometimes healing can come from your worst enemy. It seemed that throughout Flesh people were always there, ready to help Tai, to betray him, even though most shared the blood of family. Finally, the person that you trust most may end up being your worst betrayer.

Flesh is a lyrical masterpiece by a debut author, and lets us connect with this time, and with these characters. A work that reads as a song, imagery is beautiful in this novel, and will have you picturing this world long after you put the book down.

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Khanh Ha- Author Of Flesh
Khanh Ha was born in Hue, the former capital of Vietnam. During his teen years, he began writing short stories, which won him several awards in the Vietnamese adolescent magazines. He studied Journalism at Ohio University and learned the craft of writing under Daniel Keyes (Flowers for Algernon) and Walter Tevis (The Man Who Fell to Earth). FLESH (Black Heron Press, June 2012) is his first novel (literary fiction).

For more information, please visit Khanh Ha’s Website and Blog.