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Book Review :: Dear Park Ranger by Jeff Darren Muse

Guest Post by Susan Kay Anderson

Imagine zoning out during a campfire talk at a National Park, wondering what the ranger’s life is really like during their off-hours. . . This book of essays satisfies some of that curiosity as Jeff Darren Muse takes readers through his life’s journey. Muse offers the ins and outs of his profession through carefully constructed prose and is very entertaining in his telling. In his chapter “SAR Talk,” Muse describes being behind the counter while his co-rangers pack up gear: “The counter is important, I tell myself. The lead ranger put me here because I’m good with people. […] I’ve got a shiny badge that looks like a toy. I’ve got a buzz cut, a thinning hairline. I’m in my own damn storm. On a ledge. Stuck.” Here, Muse is talking about his own anger that has put him “on a ledge.” This writing explores how Muse rescues himself by acknowledging what is around him and what and who has traveled before him. Gary Snyder is one of his role models, and Muse shares private thoughts and experiences walking in Snyder’s footsteps, traveling further and further into ranger adventures.

Dear Park Ranger by Jeff Darren Muse. Wayfarer Books, May 2023.

Reviewer bio: Susan Kay Anderson lives in southwestern Oregon’s Umpqua River Basin. Her long poem “Man’s West Once” was selected for Barrow Street Journal’s “4 X 2 Project” and is included in Mezzanine (2019). Anderson also published Virginia Brautigan Aste’s memoir, Please Plant This Book Coast To Coast (2021).

Sponsored :: New Book :: Michikusa House

cover of Emily Grandy's award-winning novel Michikusa House

Michikusa House, Novel by Emily Grandy

Homebound Publications, September 2023

Winner of the Landmark Prize for Fiction

Winona Heeley spent the last year of recovery from eating disorders in rural Japan, at Michikusa House, alongside one other full-time resident: Jun Nakashima. Like Winona, Jun was a recovering addict and college dropout. While they bonded over rituals of growing their own food and preparing meals, they changed each other’s lives by reconstructing long-held beliefs about shame, identity, and renewal.

But after Winona returns to her Midwest hometown, Jun vanishes.

Two years pass and Winona, seeking revival through gardening, accepts a job as a groundskeeper at a local cemetery…and begins searching for Jun Nakashima once more.

Book Review :: Writer in a Life Vest by Iris Graville

Writer in a Life Vest by Irish Graville book cover image

Guest Post by Deborah Nedelman

Iris Graville, author of the award-winning memoir Hiking Naked, lives on an island in the Salish Sea and writes as a citizen of the planet. Writer in a Life Vest as a collection of essays is a journey of discovery and an education about a delicate ecosystem which supports some of the world’s most iconic creatures. The first Writer in Residence on the Washington State Ferries, Iris spent a year riding the interisland ferry through the San Juan Islands of the Salish Sea. Readers cycle with her as the ferry glides and rocks through the home of the endangered resident orcas (killer whales) and meet scientific experts who are devoting their knowledge and energies to saving these rare creatures. As we learn about riding this ferry — including witnessing a moveable ukulele jam, where players board the ferry at various ports, play together for a while and move on — Graville teaches us about the current state of the sea’s health and our connection to it. The multiple essay forms Graville employs keep readers off-kilter, as if standing on the deck of a rocking ship, yet they invite us to hang on and to look deeper. Like Graville, I live on an island in the Salish Sea, though not in the San Juans, and I swim in the sea year-round. It is my concern for the fragile state of this body of water, of the resident orcas, and of our planet that has led me to write this review. Graville’s collection belongs in the genre of books alerting us to the precarious state of our planet, but it stands out by pointing our gaze toward hopefulness and action.

Writer in a Life Vest by Iris Graville. Homebound Publications, March 2022.

Reviewer Bio: Deborah Nedelman, PhD, MFA is co-author of two non-fiction books: A Guide for Beginning Psychotherapists (Cambridge Press) and Still Sexy After All These Years (Perigee/Penguin). Her novel, What We Take for Truth (Adelaide Press, 2019) won the Sarton Women’s Book Award for Historical Fiction. Deborah is a manuscript coach and leads writing and watercolor painting workshops.