From the Midway: Unfolding Stories of Redemption and Belonging (Paperback)
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This richly researched collection of linked short stories transports readers to a traveling carnival in the Jim Crow South. We meet the Geek, dancing girls, a carousel operator, several performers displayed as oddities, and the African American laborers who tend them. The final story crosses the ocean, underscoring the power and mystery of unexpected connections. Lyrical descriptions of each character function like a funhouse mirror, providing just enough distance and distortion to see ourselves more clearly. The sharply striated world of a century ago aptly reflects the tensions, divisions, and shared yearning for belonging that mark us as human. It's under the tent that we ultimately find redemption.
About the Author
Leaf Seligman began writing during her Tennessee childhood where she encountered the midway, tent revivals, and the Civil Rights movement. She has taught writing in colleges, jails, prisons, and community settings since 1985 and worked as a minister, a jail chaplain, a youth services caseworker, and a restorative justice practitioner. She is the author of Opening the Window: Sabbath Meditations and A Pocket Book of Prompts. Her current projects include a novel, a memoir, and a series of death row monologues, all attuned to redemption and belonging.
Sy Montgomery, National Book Award Finalist and best-selling author of The Soul of an Octopus, says about it:
Leaf Seligman is no carnival barker; she is an honest-to-God magician: From deformity she creates beauty; from suffering, redemption; from freakishness, grace. In the masterful, linked stories in From the Midway, we meet the loving, lonely, bawdy, ballsy people of the traveling carnival in all their glorious, human complexity--and we come away changed. I'll never forget these characters and I'll never forget this book.
Ernie Hebert, author of the Darby Series, says:
The gift in From the Midway is helping readers find the divinity as well as humanity in the conditions that we all have in common, our mortality and our need to connect. For me the result was a book that made me feel in empathetic ways I never thought possible. Thank you Leaf Seligman.
Carolyn Chute, author of the New York Times Notable Book of the Year, The School on Heart’s Content Road, says:
Leaf Seligman’s never-to-fade portraits we can see with our deepest oldest eye. We are now a dozen steps closer to the wisdom that tells us time and space are illusions, only our oneness is real.
Cate Marvin, Professor of English and Creative Writing at The College of Staten Island and author of Oracle—Poems, says:
In this skillfully unified collection of short stories, Leaf Seligman tugs gently on the curtains of the lives of the many individuals who have been fated to become exhibits in Beasley’s Traveling Amusements. From Tiny Laveaux, the “world’s smallest woman,” whose desires impel her to defy her employer’s rules against the “oddities” pairing, to Flipper, a child born with fins instead of limbs, who must endure being submerged daily in a tank so that spectators believe he is indeed a creature of the sea, these stories take the reader deep inside the relationships between those who form this community, bonds both quarrelsome and tender. Most impressively, Seligman charts the historical and cultural influences that shape the circumscribed lives that inhabit From the Midway. This is a stunning collection of stories and a remarkable debut.