Nov 7, 2007    #151
Contact: Angela Turner

New book of linked stories explores gap between late 20th century’s haves and have-nots

“Dream Lives of Butterflies: Stories” by Jaimee Wriston Colbert explores the discrepancy between the haves and the have-nots at the end of the 20th century in America, a time of stock-market boom and working-class bust. Colbert’s characters are mostly in the latter camp in this book to be published Oct. 15 from BkMk Press at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC). Most of the stories take place in a St. Louis, Mo., apartment complex. Other settings include Hawaii and Maine.

“Colbert’s words are like magic…it is her brilliant exploration of that no-man’s land between what we desire and what we must live without that defines Colbert’s deep empathy for her characters,” writes fiction writer Kim Barnes in her advance praise of the book.

Author Madison Smartt Bell writes that this “new episodic novel-in-stories is a jewel in both its form and its feeling, with layers of image and meaning as intricately patterned as the dust on a butterfly’s wing.”

This is Colbert’s third book. Her previous book, “Climbing the God Tree,” won the Willa Cather Prize for Fiction and won praise from the New York Times (“The scope of Jaimee Wriston Colbert’s storytelling is impressive.”) and Kirkus Reviews (“Colbert uses atmosphere the way David Lean uses scenery.”). Her fiction has appeared widely in literary magazines, including TriQuarterly, New Letters and Prairie Schooner. Born and raised in Hawai’i, she now teaches at Binghamton University in New York, though her Hawai’ian heritage continues to inform her work.

The title of “Dream Lives of Butterflies” recalls one of the book’s key characters – a scientist who studies and teaches about butterflies. “Dream Lives of Butterflies” explores psychic damage and conflicts between flesh and spirit. One character, racked with guilt at abandoning an illicit stillborn in a farmer's field, thinks Jesus is commanding her to stalk her estranged husband; a young runaway believes she can talk to writers who committed suicide; a boy whose mother died of cancer finds regeneration in the unwanted pregnancy of his teenaged friend, who is herself grappling with the ghosts of her father’s Vietnam War past.

For more information about this book, please contact BkMk Press at (816) 235-2558 or “Dream Lives of Butterflies” (ISBN 978-1-886157-59-0) is 264 pages in trade paper, and the retail price is $16.95.

BkMk Press was founded in 1971 and became a part of UMKC in 1983. The press publishes fine literature by contemporary authors. This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Financial support for this project has been provided by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency. BkMk Press also receives support from UMKC and from private donations.

The University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), one of four University of Missouri campuses, is a public university serving more than 14,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. UMKC engages with the community and economy based on a three-part mission: visual and performing arts, health sciences and urban engagement.


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