WCSU

Lily Meyer

Jennifer Croft is among the most accomplished translators working other languages into English today. She translates Polish, Spanish, and Ukrainian — and is perhaps best known for translating the Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk's Flights, a genre-straining work for which Croft and Tokarczuk won the 2018 Man Booker International Prize.

Croft's first non-translated work, Homesick, is similarly boundary-pushing, or boundary-expanding. On Homesick's website, Croft notes:

I have always looked like my mother. When I was a teenager, the resemblance was so extreme that once, two women — total strangers — stopped us on the sidewalk to demand that we write an essay about our lives as lookalikes.

"For Elle," they suggested. "Or Ladies' Home Journal." We laughed them off, but 15 years later, my mother still tells the story.

My grandfather, Bunny Meyer, ran a Chicago tannery called Gutmann Leather. When I was a child, it was a source of both terror and pride.

The tannery was full of frightening, evil-smelling machines and chemicals. It had also been in the family since 1885. Bunny took pride in providing high-quality leather and high-paying, stable employment. My father and his siblings were proud, too, but when he died in 2002, none of them wanted to run Gutmann. The tannery — like most in the United States — shut down.

The novelist Tash Aw has spent his literary career exploring migration and class tension from British-colonized Malaya to contemporary Shanghai. His fourth novel, We, the Survivors, focuses intently on social class in contemporary Malaysia, where his working-class protagonist, Ah Hock, struggles to lead a calm, quiet life. Long ago, Ah Hock killed a man under murky circumstances, which emerge over the novel's course, and was incarcerated.

Early in Family of Origin, CJ Hauser's oddball-brilliant second novel, an aging scientist tells the two protagonists, a pair of estranged sort-of-half-siblings named Nolan and Elsa Grey, that their generation is ruining the human species. The scientist, Esther, belongs to a fringe group of biologists called the Reversalists, who believe evolution has started running backwards — running away from millennials, according to Esther. Family of Origin is a spirited defense of the maligned millennial generation.

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