Fresh out of graduate school, Holly Mattox is a young, newly married, and spirited poet who moves to New York City from Minnesota in the early seventies. Hoping to share her passion for words and social justice, she decides to teach poetry at the Women's House of Detention on Rikers Island, only minutes from Manhattan. There Holly meets a woman who will change her life forever: Polly Lyle Clement, an inmate who claims that she is a descendant of Mark Twain and is capable of channeling his voice. As Holly is caught up in the drama of her students' lives, her identification with their despair leads her to lose all perspective on the nature of justice. And when she is drawn into an affair with a fellow poet, Holly risks all that is familiar and conventional in her life.
Praise for "Channeling Mark Twain"
National Book Award Finalist
"Muske-Dukes takes vast chances with both her voice and her subject matter, and ends up with a work strongly based on reality, but unquestionably elevated into the wondrous realm of art."
"-San Francisco Chronicle"
"This is a novel that asks all the right questions-about writing, about life, about our common humanity."
"-The Times-Picayune "
"A gripping story complete with a politically charged narrative, sexual tension and vividly drawn characters."
"-Time Out New York"
"Riveting . . . a powerful story."
"-The Washington Post"
"Muske-Dukes shows us there is something magical and mighty in the connections that art can forge among human beings."
"-Los Angeles Times Book Review"
" An] elegant work of prose."
"-People" (four stars)
"-The Wall Street Journal"
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE.
About the Author
Carol Muske-Dukes is the author of eight books of poems, four novels, and two essay collections, and is an editor of two anthologies, including "Crossing State Lines: An American Renga", which she coedited with Bob Holman. Many of her books have been New York Times Notable selections. Muske-Dukes is a professor of English and creative writing at the University of Southern California, where she founded the PhD program in creative writing and literature, and she recently fulfilled her appointment as poet laureate of California, appointed by the governor's office. Her poetry collection "Sparrow" was a National Book Award finalist and she is a six-time Pushcart Prize winner. She writes for the "New York Times Book Review "and the "New York Times "op-ed page, the "Los Angeles Times", the Huffington Post, and the "New Yorker"'s "Page-Turner" blog. Her poems have been published and anthologized widely, including in several editions of "Best American Poetry". Muske-Dukes has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Library of Congress award, Barnes & Noble's Writer for Writers Award, and many other honors. She lives in Southern California and New York.