Monday, December 27, 2010

Featured Author of 2011: Cihan Kaan

Cihan Kaan

(Photo by Anjali Bhargava)

Our featured author for 2011 is Cihan Kaan, born on a Transcendental Meditation Commune in Texas and raised in Brooklyn. Kaan is a filmmaker and musician, which is the secret ingredient to the dynamism behind his writing.

Discovered by UpSet Press during the screening of his film: She's Got an Atomic Bomb, in 2005, Kaan has written a fantabulous first book. As his manuscript grew, so did our press. We are happy to announce Kaan as our first fiction title and our most successful author (even before the book has been released). He's gone from punk squat, to Park Slope loft, to the State Department and to university campuses on speaking engagements (and taken the press with him). It has certainly been as adventurous and, at times as surreal, as some of his stories in the collection.

Due to both the strategic title, Halal Pork (the title alone has irked or shocked or tickled new readers to our readings) and to the dashing comedic style in his readings, Kaan's book has been the most pre-ordered book during our history as a press (our first book was published in 2004).

His book will be released in 3 weeks. Stay tuned for more information on the launch and celebrations of his book. Send us a note if you are interested in reviewing the book. And for all of you who have followed the updates, written us notes of support, and wanted to teach this book in your classrooms -- THANK YOU! The book will be here soon, very soon! And we cannot wait to share it with you.

2010 Year in Review:

November 20, 2010: Philly

Nor'Easter Exchange Series
Robin's Bookstore and Moonstone Arts Center
Featuring: Cihan Kaan, Ryan Eckes, Aziza Kinteh, Eliel Lucero, and Yolanda Wisher

Read more:

October 6, 2010: NYC
That’s Absurd!
Linh Dinh's "Love Like Hate" and Cihan Kaan's "Halal Pork and Other Stories"
Asian American Writers' Workshop

September 7, 2010
: DC
Cihan Kaan was invited to Generation Change: The Next Generation of American Muslim Leaders, an event that brought together American Muslim leaders for a conference and was held before the State Department Iftar Dinner. Here is an official note about Generation Change:

This year's Iftar included a special emphasis on the young generation of American Muslims. Why the generation under the age of 30? Over half of the nearly 1.6 billion Muslims on the planet are under the age of 35, and we want to do more to build stronger long terms partnerships with these young people. Our embassies around the world are focusing on engagement with this young generation
of Muslims as well; whether in Muslim-majority countries, or nations where Muslims are a minority, we are finding ways to build partnerships and share ideas.

Farah Pandith, Special Representative to Muslim Communities
U.S. Department of State Official Blog

May 19, 2010: NYC
Brought to you by Feminist Press. Readers: Cihan Kaan, Denise Galang, Nicholas Powers, Matthew Rotando & Ben Cramer.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

2010 UpSet Press Bestseller: Suheir Hammad

UpSet Press editors wanted to take a moment to mark the extraordinary success of the rebirth of Suheir Hammad's first collection of poetry: Born Palestinian, Born Black & the Gaza Suite. Published in October, 2010 the book was not only our largest print of books but also the fastest to leave our warehouse!

(Cover Art: Aaron Kenedi)

Hammad's book is a bestseller and we do not need NYTimes Book Review to tell us that! Not surprisingly, we've almost sold out of BPBB. The tremendous surprise is that we have not held a single event to celebrate the rebirth of this book! This is what makes the book remarkable. It was as if there was a drought for her words and there in one swoop, the world drank up her words.

Yes, we mean world! We were bowled over by the love and support of her fans. And we were challenged to keep up with her international orders. Suheir Hammad is most certainly loved by the world! And we are honored by her grace and words.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Born Palestinian, Born Black & The Gaza Suite by Suheir Hammad

UpSet Press is happy to announce the release of Suheir Hammad's classic book of poetry: Born Palestinian, Born Black & The Gaza Suite. We just received the packages of books at our warehouse! For the next few weeks, UpSetters will be busy packing and mailing out the book that almost sold out even before we received it! Thanks to pre-orders and the hundreds of professors who support Suheir Hammad's work!

So if you haven't yet -- reserve your copy of the lovely Suheir Hammad's book now!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Halal Pork & Friends on May 19 8pm @ Happy Ending bar in Lower East Side, Manhattan

Wednesday, May 19
302 Broome Street
8pm (doors at 7)

Halal Pork & Friends

From surreal anarchist poetry to urban Sufi myths, four UpSet authors read works that have blurred boundaries, broken taboos, and constructed bridges on unstable foundations for the sake of literary luminescence: Cihan Kaan, Nicholas Powers, Matthew Rotando, and Denise Galang.

The Faster Pussycat Reading Series
Faster Pussycat is a renegade, lithe, and loose reading and performance series curated by the Feminist Press. We bring together writers from divergent backgrounds who share an activist spirit. Poets, punks, weirdos, and milquetoasts celebrate new works in all genres.

Denise Galang is a native New Yorker of Filipino descent. She received an MFA at Brooklyn College. Her poetry has been published in Brooklyn Review, Poetry in Performance, and Maganda Literary Journal. Recent projects include her blog, Being Home, a chapbook titled Split Islands, and turning her terrace into an edible garden. Mother to two and teacher to scores of eighth-graders. She subsists on words, bread, family, and some booze.

Cihan Kaan is a Texas-born, Brooklyn-raised writer and filmmaker. His short film She’s Got an Atomic Bomb (2004) won Best Short Film for the Evil City Festival and toured underground film festivals such as the Coney Island Film Festival, the B-Movie Film Festival (winner of the Audience Award), and the Lost Film Festival. His second short film, Shuffle Mode (2006) won Best Short Film at the Sin Cine NYC Erotic Film Festival. His book of short stories, Halal Pork and Other Stories, is forthcoming in Fall 2010 from UpSet Press. He is the first American fiction author of Crimean Tatar descent.

Nicholas Powers is a method writer who uses Lee Strasberg's techniques of affective and sense memory in his writing. He has reported from New Orleans during the flood, U.N. camps in Chad for Darfur refugees, and recently from Haiti after the earthquake. He writes for the Indypendent, teaches literature at SUNY Old Westbury, and has a poetry book, Theater of War (UpSet Press 2005). Currently he is writing a memoir titled The Internal Flood.

Matthew Rotando received an MFA from the City University of New York, Brooklyn College, and a Fulbright Foundation grant. He is a member of POG, a collective of artists and poets in Tucson, Arizona and is an avid rider of an old Italian bicycle. He is the author of The Comeback's Exoskeleton (UpSet Press 2008). Matthew received his Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Arizona and is part of the faculty at Nassau Community College.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Halal Pork!

In Halal Pork and Other Stories, Cihan Kaan projects an avant garde, post 9/11 world, from the perspective of a young Muslim New Yorker. It's a place where Coney Island meets Mars; where hijabi girls are punk rock dervishes; where identity salesmen count pigeons at insane asylums as a cream cheese conspiracy brews in gitmo; where rich boys pay to be Muslim for a day; where the transgendered are holy; and where the bacon is halal. Kaan offers up five urban Sufi tales in the swirling graffiti of Brooklyn.

Forthcoming Fall 2010

Welcome to the hip and edgy and vibrant world of Halal Pork & Other Stories, a postcolonial feast where, as the title implies, contradictions reign, the figurative is made literal, stolen homelands are bought back and not fought over, and a Coney Island circus star, garbed in a space suit and known for her levitating act, is none other than the prophetess from another planet. These five, witty stories serve up a refreshing crash course on identity, diaspora, dispossession, and on the not-so-distant future full of "alien-human hybrid forms" seeking their "way to a place of solace, grief, or limbo." An impressive debut.

R. Zamora Linmark, The Evolution of a Sigh and Leche

What do you mean you’d never even thought about reading Tatar Turkish Russian Muslim immigrant Brooklyn post-colonial sci-fi punk-rock short fiction before? After you’ve finished Cihan Kaan’s Halal Pork and Other Stories, you’ll realize how ridiculously narrow-minded you must have been. Irreverent, urgent, funny and refreshingly unpredictable, Kaan entertains and instructs in devious and delightful ways.

Moustafa Bayoumi, The Edward Said Reader and How does it Feel to be a Problem: Young and Arab in New York

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Halal Pork and Other Stories by Cihan Kaan.

Cihan Kaan is a Texas-born, Brooklyn-based writer and filmmaker. A multi-talented artist, his first work of video art premiered as part of an ensemble show at MoMA at the tender age of 17. By 21, Cihan (pronounced -- Je'han) Kaan had directed several music videos in rotation on MTV. His short film She’s Got an Atomic Bomb (2004) won Best Short Film for the Evil City Festival and toured underground film festivals such as the Coney Island Film Festival, the B-Movie Film Festival (winner of the Audience Award), and the Lost Film Festival. His second short film, Shuffle Mode (2006) won Best Short Film at the Sin Cine NYC Erotic Film Festival. He is currently finishing his book of short stories, which can only be described as a collection of urban Sufi myths from the streets of America. His day job is in Interactive Digital Media. He is the first American fiction author of Crimean Tatar descent.

In May 2009, Kaan was invited to read from his stories at Hunter College. The two classes: Muslim Diaspora and Asian Pacific American Media were asked to read the stories and offer their voices in the construction of this first draft of the manuscript. Thank you Zohra Saed for inviting Cihan into the classroom. Here are some highlights from the visit to the Muslim Diaspora course and their reading of Misli Midhib: Punk Rock Hijabi from the upcoming short story collection, Halal Pork.

Excerpt from the story Misli Midhib: Punk Rock Hijabi

The day Jamil Makam decided to do a fifteen-hundred-word story on an up and coming Muslim musician, a meteor fell from the sky. A nameless lightning bolt hit a magical Afghan carpet from a distant star, carrying on it a wandering babushka caught in a world between the skies. Drifting space rocks, a homeland memory that dropped her through our atmosphere onto the Central Asian steppe of Coney Island, New York. She walked the rustic shores, lived in broken amusement parks and worked silently inside sideshows.

Her name was an intonation of the larynx and flip of the lip, nearly incoherent by our human tongue but sounding close to Masaly or Misoul-E. She came to be known by the underbelly of New York exiles as Misili Midhib.

Misili was discovered by sideshow gals known as the Brooklyn Exiles, a group of native New York girls pushed out of their neighborhoods by the hordes of out of state kids who now occupied the surrounding lands. They lived communally under the remaining portion of the Coney Island boardwalk. All of them possessed an athleticism beyond the masses that allowed them to do things like swallow swords, hang from ropes using their teeth and tame snakes with bare hands. The amusement park had been demolished and replaced by a mega-development of condominiums alongside so-called futuristic rides flashing holograms of explosions blasting eurotrance all to entertain the new immigrants (suburban middle America fodder) and the Brooklyn Exiles would make their livelihood by performing at the sideshow, the last vestige of the original spirit of the island.

Comments on the story Misli Midhib: Punk Rock Hijabi from our test readers:

"The veil has always been seen as something out of the ordinary and this story took the meaning of that to a literal level. Misili was considered an alien because of her covering and one great example of her presenting "supernatural" powers was when she was walking away from a group of boys who were trying to "holler" at her. She was gliding in a way, with her burqa flowing and covering her feet, which made her seem like she was flying. This confirms the fact that the veil is a good way to prevent the unwanted gaze of strangers, therefore, veiling allows women to view the world while they remain a mystery." Alvina

"Although the premise is a new one, the underlying theme is not and Cihan Kaan's expression of it is brilliant. In today's day and age, the Muslim hijabi is usually isolated from the mainstream pubic. She's alienated to such a point that it wouldn't be too farfetched for her to feel as if her fellow human beings were instead treating her like an alien. Kaan takes this idea and implements it in the literal sense with the lead character being an alien hijabi who uses techniques implemented in Sufism to express herself. The average hijabi has experienced moments where she feels as if she's a stranger to the world as many do tend to treat her as such. This also correlates with an Islamic concept: The concept of being a stranger in the material world. Islam teaches Muslims concepts that are foreign to today's world, thus making them strangers. So it is not uncommon that in today's world, many Muslims represent themselves as "strangers" to the mainstream public. It was said by the Prophet (PBUH) that "Islam came into the world as something strange and it will leave the world as something strange. Thus, glad tidings to the strangers." As a result, Muslims today, particularly hijabis who are moreso treated like outsiders, embrace this "strangeness" as a part of Islam and Kaan brilliantly incorporates this apparent stigma of being strange into the physical form of a literal Muslim alien." Shehnaz

"In "Punk Rock Hijabi", Cihan Khan is basically addressing the many Muslim's who misrepresented Islam post 9-11. The character of the journalist or reporter Shiraz Ayanda reminded me of many Muslim women who took stories of oppressed women and blamed Islam for this. There was a movie made where a woman was naked in a see-through Burqah and had ayats of the Quran (Holy Book) written all over her body. Watching that movie as a Muslim disgusted me because I am aware of the true Islam but as a non-Muslim, I would only feel sympathy for an oppressed woman who has to endure abuse, force, rape, etc. because she is "obeying God". It's sad that a lot of the people that try to misrepresent the image of Islam have been Muslims prior to that. I think similar to many of the works we've seen so far, such as Lina Khan and Hanif Kureisha, Cihan Khan's approach to addressing this issue of the misrepresentation of Islam is great. In an imaginative way, he shows what Muslims are being portrayed as and how they are being alienated and being treated as the other even with their own community. I also really liked how Cihan incorporated the Sufi tradition into this story because I have a strong respect for the Sufi religion. Misli's twirling symbolizes with the direct connection twirling dervishes get with God. Even though these type of stories are new to me, I feel like I would be interested to read more of Cihan's work when it comes out." Anum

Thank you Muslim Diaspora class for participating in this test reading. Up-Set Press and Cihan Kaan have taken the suggestions, critique and the praise into account as we edit the stories. Thank you for the love!

In Zohra's amazing Asian Pacific American Literature class, they discussed Crimean Saladin the first short story to discuss the Crimean Tatar diaspora. Here are some highlights from that visit:

Excerpt from Crimean Saladin:

Mehmet Vatanoglu’s (pronounced vah-tan-O-loo) real name was Mustafa Patrov. His tie was a blend of polyester and rayon, the poor man’s silk. Polyrayon, although being a popular substitute for silk, actually feels nothing like the real thing. Mustafa, or rather Mehmet, adjusted the new tie, proud of his reflection. His mother had told him back in the homeland, “A man’s tie reflects his soul.” To that effect, Mustafa, or rather Mehmet, was reflecting a Tatar displaced from that homeland living in Brooklyn, New York wearing a silk rip-off. He brushed the dust from his over starched shirt and threw on the corduroy blazer he usurped from the local thrift store. We say “usurped” here to differentiate between the slight act Mustafa committed the day before in order to get the suit and the act committed in the part of the world Mustafa is actually from, which we shall refer to as being “stolen,” having been stolen from the Tatars, incidentally and more specifically the Crimean Tatars, by the Russians way back in 1944. Crimea or Kirim or Qirim, depending on which side of it you’re from, is a little known isthmus in the Black Sea. It is also ironically the point of origin for some 250,000 remaining Crimean Tatars on the planet, spread out like a frugal smearing of tartar sauce over a globalized fried fish fillet. Mehmet thought of his people and their cause. He thought of their search for a stolen homeland and their right to return. Mehmet thought about all the things that come with being displaced and left his house as Mustafa, the saver of the Tatari.

Comments from students:

"It was a pleasure to hear this story from the author himself. I really began to understand the true meaning of the story. I was always taught about how bad and evil the Tatars were (Especially in the History of Russian culture) class that I took. It was good to hear another side of the story for a change." Leonid

"I enjoyed this short story for a number of reasons. It was elegantly and beautifully written, which I appreciate as a creative writing major. The language used was nearly poetic in its ability to capture the reality faced by an alienated individual seeking to reconnect with his imagined homeland with the tools granted him by assimilation. The narrative voice was one of a sort of reporter, someone imparting information upon a reader who may know little to nothing of the culture being described. This voice lends to the story rather than detracting from it, in that the reader can acknowledge that she is being educated on the topic while being shown a slice of life of those members of a little known diaspora. The stark imagery of people trapped in train cars pitted against the hopeful ideal of a reclaimed glorious homeland ends with a nightmare of failure. There is beauty there, though, in the sinking of the ship." Caroline

"It takes generations to be able to see a tragic event like the genocide in Kirim and see it without all the gruesome details. It takes generations to be able to talk about because it brings back painful memories. Like in the story the old couple Altan and Janim, were both affected by Mehmet's proposal. Janim remembered how she had to throw her stillborn baby out of the train instead of having a proper burial. Taking that into consideration Cihan Kaan was able to let us know about all this in a way no one would be offended." Prianka

Thank you brilliant students for the critique and support of the story. Of course, comments have been integrated into the manuscript. The reading ended as all college class readings should end... with a pizza party!

Thank you Hunter College students for participating.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Matthew Rotando on Penn Sound

Matthew Rotando, author of this awesome book published by Upset, is archived in the Penn Sound poetry archive. Here he is reading on May 31, 2008 for the Segue Series at the Bowery Poetry Club.

Tim Peterson, author of the intro and fabulous poet himself, is the coordinator of this series.

Click here to listen to Matt's lovely reading: Matthew Rotando

Matthew Rotando reading at Cornelia Street Cafe