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Brass
by Xhenet Aliu


Overview - "A fierce, big-hearted, unflinching debut"* novel about mothers and daughters, haves and have-nots, and the stark realities behind the American Dream

*Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere

A waitress at the Betsy Ross Diner, Elsie hopes her nickel-and-dime tips will add up to a new life.  Read more...


 
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More About Brass by Xhenet Aliu
 
 
 
Overview
"A fierce, big-hearted, unflinching debut"* novel about mothers and daughters, haves and have-nots, and the stark realities behind the American Dream

*Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere

A waitress at the Betsy Ross Diner, Elsie hopes her nickel-and-dime tips will add up to a new life. Then she meets Bashkim, who is at once both worldly and naive, a married man who left Albania to chase his dreams--and wound up working as a line cook in Waterbury, Connecticut. Back when the brass mills were still open, this bustling factory town drew one wave of immigrants after another. Now it's the place they can't seem to leave. Elsie, herself the granddaughter of Lithuanian immigrants, falls in love quickly, but when she learns that she's pregnant, Elsie can't help wondering where Bashkim's heart really lies, and what he'll do about the wife he left behind.

Seventeen years later, headstrong and independent Luljeta receives a rejection letter from NYU and her first-ever suspension from school on the same day. Instead of striking out on her own in Manhattan, she's stuck in Connecticut with her mother, Elsie--a fate she refuses to accept. Wondering if the key to her future is unlocking the secrets of the past, Lulu decides to find out what exactly her mother has been hiding about the father she never knew. As she soon discovers, the truth is closer than she ever imagined.

Told in equally gripping parallel narratives with biting wit and grace, Brass announces a fearless new voice with a timely, tender, and quintessentially American story.

Advance praise for Brass

"With all-the-way-live characters, vigorous observation, combative dialogue, bravado metaphors, and ninja parsing of social class, immigrant struggles, bad behavior, and stubborn hope, Xhenet] Aliu has created a boldly witty and astute inquiry into the nature-versus-nurture debate, the inheritance of pain, and the dream of transcendence."--Booklist (starred review)

"Aliu's riveting, sensitive work shines with warmth, clarity, and a generosity of spirit. Her characters are nuanced and real, capable of taking risks, making mistakes, and growing in unexpected ways. Aliu's writing is polished and precise, bringing her characters glowingly to life."--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Striking first novel . . . This is a captivating, moving story of drastic measures, failed schemes, and the loss of innocence."--Publishers Weekly

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780399590245
  • ISBN-10: 0399590242
  • Publisher: Random House
  • Publish Date: January 2018
  • Page Count: 304
  • Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Literary
Books > Fiction > Cultural Heritage
Books > Fiction > Family Life - General

 
BookPage Reviews

My mother before me

BookPage Top Pick in Fiction, February 2018

Xhenet Aliu’s bright and brash debut novel bursts forth with fearless wit and a take-no-prisoners attitude. While the story’s reluctant mothers and delinquent dads may be familiar, this is not a voice you’ve heard before.

Set in the mid-1990s in the depressed industrial town of Waterbury, Connecticut—the brass manufacturing capital of the United States, which attracted Eastern European immigrants in the 1980s and ’90s—Brass tells the story of Elsie, a waitress at the Betsy Ross Diner. Despite vague intentions to become a dental technician, Elsie is swept off her feet by a brooding Albanian cook, Bashkim, and soon becomes pregnant. Bashkim has a wife in Albania and a batch of mysterious investments that fail to provide financial stability. Although he encourages Elsie to have the child, his increasing volatility and plans to return to Albania make him an unlikely marriage prospect, and Elsie raises their daughter, Luljeta (Lulu), on her own.

Seventeen years later, Lulu receives a rejection letter from NYU and is suspended from high school for fighting on the same day. A lifetime rule-follower, Lulu figures that playing by the book hasn’t helped her much. When Lulu discovers that some of her father’s relatives are still in the area, she decides to seek out the family she’s never met.

Mother and daughter tell their stories in a series of alternating chapters, and both women share the self-deprecating wit of survivors. Elsie’s disintegrating relationship with Bashkim is juxtaposed with her gradual inclusion in Waterbury’s Albanian community (you won’t know whether to laugh or cry at her description of the world’s most depressing baby shower), while Lulu corrals a young man to help her get to Texas, where her father is rumored to live.

Exploring similar themes to Aliu’s short story collection, Domesticated Wild Things (winner of the 2012 Prairie Schooner Book Prize), Brass is a unique twist on a mother-daughter story as well as an immigrant’s tale, with reflections on abandonment, dreams, disappointment and the kind of resilience it takes to endure, despite all odds.

 

This article was originally published in the February 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
BAM Customer Reviews