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I love the way Bender leads you calmly down a well-worn path with a flashlight, shines a light the small, simple everyday then grabs your wrist while she takes you for a unexpected twist. Her stunning and subtle prose makes you curious; every story somehow slowly and thoughtfully blooms before you as though you have uncovered a gem as it first catches the light.
"Bender's willingness to go deep, to burrow down into what's right and wrong about 21st century America and Americans, is a mirror that draws us in and does not allow us to look away. --Los Angeles Times on Refund The National Book Award finalist for Refund returns with a new collection of stories that boldly examines the changes in American culture over the last two years through the increasing presence of violence, bigotry, sexual harassment, and the emotional costs of living under constant threat. In the title story, the competition between two middle school cellists is affected by a shooting at their school, and it is only years later that they realize how the intrusion of violence affected the course of their lives. In This Is Who You Are, a young girl walks the line between Hebrew school and her regular school, realizing that both are filled with unexpected moments of insight and violence. In Three Interviews, an aging reporter must contend with her dwindling sense of self and resources, beleaguered by unemployment, which sets her on a path to three increasingly unhinged job interviews. In Mrs. America, a candidate for local office must confront a host of forces that threaten to undermine her campaign and expose her own role in the dissonance between what America is and what it should be. The New Order explores contemporary themes and ideas, shining a spotlight on the dark corners of our nature, our instincts, and our country.
About the Author
Karen E. Bender is the author of the novels Like Normal People and A Town of Empty Rooms. Her fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Zoetrope, Ploughshares, Story, Harvard Review, The Iowa Review, and other magazines. Her stories have been anthologized in Best American Short Stories, Best American Mystery Stories, New Stories from the South: The Year's Best, and have won two Pushcart prizes. She has won grants from the Rona Jaffe Foundation and the NEA. She is also co-editor of the anthology Choice: True Stories of Birth, Contraception, Infertility, Adoption, Single Parenthood, and Abortion. She has taught creative writing at Antioch University Los Angeles, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and Tunghai University in Taiwan. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, novelist Robert Anthony Siegel, and their two children.