About Eleanor Bluestein
Tea and Other Ayama Na Tales won the G.S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction in 2007. “In the tradition of Robert Olen Butler and Bob Shacochis,” writes Marly Swick, O. Henry Award winner who selected this book for the prize, “Bluestein is a writer who illuminates our cultural differences, while exploring the intricacies of the human condition.”
Publisher’s Weekly calls Bluestein’s voice “captivating,” and Al Christman, author of Target Hiroshima writes, “These Ayama Na tales are sly, sensuous and sagacious-profoundly funny and profoundly serious.”
Eleanor Bluestein has worked as a science teacher, editor of science textbooks, and designer of multimedia educational materials for Internet delivery. For a decade she co-edited Crawl Out Your Window, a San Diego based literary journal featuring the work of local writers and artists. She wrote fiction and studied French language in Paris, France, in 1989-90. Currently, she lives with her husband in La Jolla, California, where she writes, tends a vegetable garden, and volunteers as a court appointed special advocate for foster children. She has a son and a daughter.
About Tea and other Ayama Na Tales
The ten stories in Tea and other Ayama Na Tales take place in the fictional country of Ayama Na, a small Southeast Asian nation recovering from a devastating internal coup and a long drought, both of which have left the population reeling.
During the coup and its aftermath, roughly a quarter of the population died, including (because they were targeted for extinction) almost all of the country’s artists, intellectuals, musicians, writers, poets and teachers. Land mines pock the countryside, amputees beg on the streets, and in this fledgling democracy, graft and corruption infect every level of government.
Against this backdrop of sorrow and loss, as the ordinary citizens of Ayama Na struggle to rebuild their nation and their personal lives, westernization and pop culture are rushing in, threatening whatever cultural traditions have survived. The characters pulsate with the tension between the modern and the traditional, between personal desire and the impulse to sacrifice for family or country.
Yet, with open hearts and minds, and a huge will to thrive, the gritty characters in these stories go about their daily lives. They cook burgers in McDonald’s, work the streets as prostitutes, run car dealerships, or compete for the Miss Universe title-just some of the circumstances in which the reader encounters them-and they yearn for, strive for, and ache for meaningful lives. Whether kind or cruel, resilient or crushed by their problems, the people of Ayama Na exhibit the tragic and comic elements of people everywhere.
The fictional country of Ayama Na is inspired by the sights and sounds of Southeast Asia. A street of fortune tellers in Ayama Na borrows details from one in Singapore; royal palaces, Buddha shrines, and hill tribes echo their counterparts in Thailand; sidewalk cafes in Ayama Na’s capital roll up corrugated metal exteriors and blare music to the street as they do in Viet Nam. But in emotional content and historical detail, Ayama Na most closely resembles Cambodia, where a brave young population, still rebuilding both country and culture in the wake of the Khmer Rouge genocide, operates with a seriousness of purpose and good humor that fills the author of this collection with awe and admiration.
She could only imagine these people’s lives….