All Things Are Labor



The enigmatic stories in this haunting collection deal with individuals striving to live outside the dominant American culture—people who do not want to be incorporated, appropriated, or consumed. Their battles are waged on interior and external landscapes, pitting clarity against confusion, faith against fear, the marginalized against the powerful, the passive against the aggressive.

In one story, a Mennonite mother leaves her alcoholic husband and moves with her three children into an abandoned house and back to a life of faith, though a new faith, one of her own making. In another story, a teenager living in the darkness of a failing rust-belt city holds before her the only light she sees, her child, to guide the way as she moves across the border and beyond.

A young artist in New York City pursues a simple life, a passive life, the yielding life of a Mennonite, even as she immerses herself in the gritty urban culture of the East Village. Another woman, given a short time to live, sets up ant farms on her stoop in Alphabet City and is determined to discover how worlds are made by watching the ants and only the ants. A Vietnam veteran finds meaning as a dishwasher at the Catholic Worker, where he circles on his stump of a leg, aware that the thing that is missing, that cannot be seen, is most present.

Many of these stories experiment with the form of writing itself. They reflect the vision of an artist who remains separate—in the world, but not of the world—and whose goal is not to dazzle or entertain, but simply, humbly to be present for each word.

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