Homeland and Other Stories

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Overview

With the same wit and sensitivity that have come to characterize her highly praised and beloved novels Animal Dreams and The Bean Trees, Barbara Kingsolver gives us a rich and emotionally resonant collection of twelve stories. Spreading her memorable characters over landscapes ranging from northern-California to the hills of eastern Kentucky and the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, Kingsolver tells stories of hope, momentary joy, and powerful endurance. In every setting, Kingsolver's distinctive voice — at times ...

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Homeland and Other Stories

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Overview

With the same wit and sensitivity that have come to characterize her highly praised and beloved novels Animal Dreams and The Bean Trees, Barbara Kingsolver gives us a rich and emotionally resonant collection of twelve stories. Spreading her memorable characters over landscapes ranging from northern-California to the hills of eastern Kentucky and the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, Kingsolver tells stories of hope, momentary joy, and powerful endurance. In every setting, Kingsolver's distinctive voice — at times comic, but often heartrending — rings true as she explores the twin themes of family ties and the life choices one must ultimately make alone. Homeland and Other Stories creates a world of love and possibility that readers will want to take as their own.

This is a collection of 12 stories that are rich in humor, heartache, and hope.

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Editorial Reviews

Russell Banks
Extraordiarily fine . . . Kingsolver has a Chekhovian tenderness toward her characters . . . The title story is pure poetry.
New York Times Book Review
Newsday
Read Homeland and Other Stories and you will feel glad to be alive. You are delighted by a gifted storyteller. You are strengthened and healed by the toughness and tenderness she discerns in humanity's daily rounds.
Chicago Tribune
Kingsolver is an extraordinary storyteller.
Los Angeles Times
Kingsolver's humanity sounds the clearest note.telling us about characters in the middle of their days, who live as we really do, from one small incident of awareness to the next.
New York Woman
Delightful.
Detroit Free Press
Kingsolver understands in an uncanny way the significance of the ordinary, the fleeting moment that may become lost or become catharsis. She writes with refreshing clarity, humor and honesty.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
With this dazzling array of stories, demonstrating a wide range of characterizations, settings, situations and narrative voices, Kingsolver confirms the promise of her astonishingly accomplished first novel, The Bean Trees. Most of these dozen tales ring with authentic insights, leaving the reader moved, amused or enlightened. Kingsolver's knowledge of human nature, and especially domestic relationships, is breathtaking. She is able to convey the personalities and voices of such diverse characters as a feisty union organizer of Mexican ancestry; a young girl trying to be faithful to the legacy of her Cherokee grandmother; a life-scarred ex-con determined to go straight; an upper-middle-class wife and mother on a clandestine trip to the Petrified Forest with her lover; a middle-aged man whose cherished wife gives him an intimation of her mortality; a child from a poor farming family who befriends an outcast in her Kentucky community. Among the standout stories is ``Islands on the Moon,'' in which a single mother faces her pregnancy with added exasperation because her mother--also single--will be having a baby at the same time. Propelled by fresh, breezy dialogue, funny, tender and full of surprises, the story takes a poignant turn when the mother and daughter heal their estrangement on a portentous day. If the symbolism in a few of these tales is sometimes too obvious, Kingsolver handles every other narrative device with delicacy and subtle skill. First serial to Redbook and Mademoiselle. (June)
Library Journal
Kingsolver (Animal Dreams, Audio Reviews, LJ 1/95) offers a dozen tales of contemporary life that focus on relationships and the fragility of life and love. The central characters are all women or young girls who are struggling to understand themselves and those they love. In the title story, a child learns from her grandmother that home is not so much a place as it is a people and their history. In the concluding story, a tough-minded crane operator leads a wildcat strike and bears the consequences of her boldness with the sort of courage and determination that she hopes to instill in her children. All these tales of love, loss, and learning are told with insight and tenderness. There is a certain oral richness to these stories that renders them ideal for the audio format. Added to that dimension is the superb storytelling of narrator Paula Parker, who enriches Kingsolver's poetic prose with a variety of accents and voices. Highly recommended for all fiction collections.--Sister M. Anna Falbo, CSSF, Villa Maria Coll. Lib., Buffalo
Library Journal
Kingsolver's second book--her novel, The Bean Trees ( LJ 2/1/88), won high praise--consists of uniformly affecting short stories, enhanced by real wisdom and generous warmth. Her characters, mostly mothers and daughters, uncover those memories and truths, once deeply buried, that emerge in moments of sudden crisis. In ``Rose-Johnny,'' a young southern girl clings tightly to the ostracized woman she befriends. In ``Blueprints,'' an unmarried Sacramento woman endures and transforms a long relationship, once happy, that threatens to turn into cabin fever. Kingsolver is not an innovator, but her voice is sure and her narrative skill accomplished. Highly recommended.-- Timothy L. Zindel, Hastings Coll. of the Law, San Francisco
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060917012
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 11/28/2003
  • Series: Harper Perennial
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.32 (w) x 8.01 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Barbara Kingsolver

Barbara Kingsolver's work has been translated into more than twenty languages and has earned a devoted readership at home and abroad. She was awarded the National Humanities Medal, our country's highest honor for service through the arts. She received the 2011 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for the body of her work, and in 2010 won Britain's Orange Prize for The Lacuna. Before she made her living as a writer, Kingsolver earned degrees in biology and worked as a scientist. She now lives with her family on a farm in southern Appalachia.

Biography

According to the biography on her website, Barbara Kingsolver began writing around the age of nine. Her early "oeuvre" included poems, short stories, and essays, including one noteworthy piece on school safety that was published in the local newspaper, helped to pass a local bond issue, and netted the author a $25 savings bond -- "on which she expected to live comfortably into adulthood."

Kingsolver left her native Kentucky to attend DePauw University on a piano scholarship; but intellectual curiosity (the same quality that informs her writing) prompted her to transfer from the music school to the college of liberal arts where she majored in biology. Immediately after college, she traveled in Greece and France and returned to the U.S. to pursue her master's degree in science from the University of Arizona. She worked for a while as a science writer for the university before becoming a freelance journalist. In 1986 she won an Arizona Press Club Award.

Kingsolver's first novel, The Bean Trees, was composed entirely at night during a period of chronic, pregnancy-related insomnia. Published in 1988, this story of a young woman transplanted from Kentucky to Tucson was reviewed enthusiastically by critics. " As clear as air," rhapsodized The New York Times Book Review. "It is the southern novel taken west, its colors as translucent and polished as one of those slices of rose agate from a desert shop." Readers, too, proclaimed the story a delight.

Since then, Kingsolver has produced a string of bestselling novels, including Pigs in Heaven, The Poisonwood Bible (an Oprah's Book club selection), and Prodigal Summer. She has also authored collections of her poems (Another America), short stories (Homeland), and essays (Small Wonders); as well as nonfiction narratives like Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

Good To Know

In 2008, Kingsolver delivered the commencement address at Duke University, offering graduates advice on "How to be Hopeful."

She is a member of the Rock Bottom Remainders, a rock and roll band consisting of published writers, including Amy Tan, Matt Groening, Dave Barry, and Stephen King among others.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      April 8, 1955
    2. Place of Birth:
      Annapolis, Maryland
    1. Education:
      B.A., DePauw University, 1977; M.S., University of Arizona, 1981
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Chaptet One

HOMELAND

My great-grandmother belonged to the Bird Clan. one of the fugitive bands of Cherokee who resisted he year that General Winfield Scott was in charge of prodding the forest people from their beds and removing them westward. Those few who escaped his notice moved like wildcat families through the Carolina mountains, leaving the ferns unbroken where they passed, eating wild grapes and chestnuts, drinking when they found streams. The ones who could not travel, the aged and the infirm and the very young, were hidden in deep cane thickets where they would remain undiscovered until they were bones. When the people's hearts could not bear any more, they laid their deerskin packs on the ground and settled again.

General Scott had moved on to other endeavors by this time, and he allowed them to thrive or perish as they would. They built clay houses with thin, bent poles for spines, and in autumn they went down to the streams where the sycamore trees had let their year's work fall, the water steeped brown as leaf tea, and the people cleansed themselves of the sins of the scattered-bone time. They called their refugee years The Time When We Were Not, and they were for given, because they had carried the truth of themselves in a sheltered place inside the flesh, exactly the way a fruit that has gone soft still carries inside itself the clean, hard stone of its future...

Homeland and Other Stories. Copyright © by Barbara Kingsolver. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Reading Group Guide

Plot Summary:
"Remember that story," she often commanded at the end, and I would be stunned with guilt because my mind had wandered onto crickets and pencil erasers and Black Beauty.

"I might not remember," I told her. "It's too hard."

Great Mam allowed that I might think I had forgotten. "But you haven't. You keep it stored away," she said. "If it's important, your heart remembers."

I had known that hearts could break and sometimes even be attacked, with disastrous result, but I had not heard of hearts remembering. I was eleven years old. I did not trust any of my internal parts with the capacity of memory.

-Gloria St. Clair in Homeland

In these twelve tender and humorous stories, Kingsolver creates a series of memorable characters, mostly women who are barely scraping by, but whose inner lives are rich and deep as they struggle to make sense of their lives. In the midst of poverty, abandonment, or loss, these women are determined to articulate for themselves what it means to be who they are, and in so doing, assert the significance of their lives. The more remarkable of these tales evoke the legendary and visionary qualities of myth. Among these is the title story, a story Russell Banks called "pure poetry," written in a language so exquisite that "no synopsis can do it justice." In it, the narrator describes a childhood memory of her family's trip to her grandmother's homeland, Cherokee, Tennessee, so that Great Mam could see it before she died. What they see are ugly, depressing results of theviolent destruction of the Cherokee past; against these losses, the grandmother's storytelling becomes a form of genuine cultural preservation. In "Rose-Johnny" a ten-year-old girl confronts the sexual and racial complexities of the South in the figure of a strange woman. Another story, "Why I am a Danger to the Public," is about the sharp-tongued Vicki Morales, a crane operator in a New Mexico mining town, who, at great risk, leads a wildcat strike. At once realistic and idealistic, these stories suggest that humans are both poignantly fragile, but also, luckily, resilient.

-1990 American Library Association Best Books of the Year

Kingsolver on the Characters in her Fiction
"I write about people who may not automatically command respect because of their positions in life. They aren't people who are normally thought to be the stuff of literature. They're not heroes. They're the single mom who lives next door to you and runs over to ask if you'll watch her baby while she takes her cat to the vet because it just swallowed mothballs. They're two women in a kitchen, not the three muskateers. Beginning with the understanding that they are not automatically invested with greatness, I want them to tell their own stories, in their own words. I want your sympathy -- I want you to listen to these people and to believe them and to understand the value of their lives. That's why I rely so heavily on the first-person narrative. Even if hese characters don't have flashy vocabularies, they still have poetic thoughts. And there's no way you, the reader, will ever know that unless I let you inside their minds."

For additional copies, contact your local bookseller.

Topics for Discussion:
1.A number of these stories deal with mother-daugther relationships. What are some of the very different kind of mother-daughter bonds that occur in various stories (both positive and negative)? What different themes are explored in these relationships?

2. One theme of these tales is the deliberate destruction of the past, on a personal level and a cultural level. How does this annihilation of the past affect specific characters in the present? What do these stories suggest about what is happening in the world?

3. Why do you think the story "Homeland" might have been chosen to be the title story in this collection? Would you have chosen a different one, on the basis of its strength or theme that unifies the collection?

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 13 of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2010

    Any of Barbara kingslover's books

    enjoyed the book, easy read. Barbara has written another book that takes the reader to other places. Would recommend it without reservations.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2004

    Kingsolver's touch is as deft here as in her much longer works

    Lovers whose relationship nearly founders when a new environment changes both partners in ways neither expects. A woman working in a 'man's job' (mining) who suffers the consequences of a strike in ways no man possibly could. A seemingly pleasant neighbor who abuses an elderly lady's trust, but doesn't see his own actions in that light. In each of these 12 short stories, Barbara Kingsolver draws her characters clearly and says something worth remembering about life, love, and human nature. Not every writer can handle this format and the novel equally well, but Kingsolver's touch is as deft here as in her much longer works. Especially good reading for those nights when you don't want (or can't afford) to be kept up by a book you can't put down!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2003

    At Home with Kingsolver

    'Homeland and Other Stories' showcases Barbara Kingsolver's remarkable ear for heartland speech as well as her talent for painting the every day struggles of people through exquisite but understated detail. Kingsolver never falls into melodrama nor does she show disrespect for her characters. This is a beautiful and powerful collection.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2011

    Another good one from Kingsolver

    I loved this collection of short stories. I wished each one would've kept going into a full-length book! The only two I didn't care for were Bereaved Apartments and Jump-up Day. I didn't understand the point of them. But the rest were superb! You can't miss with Barbara Kingsolver. She is one of my all-time favorite authors.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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