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Whites Paperback – 1 Sep 1992

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About the Author

Norman Rush was raised in Oakland, California, and graduated from Swarthmore College in 1956. He has been an antiquarian book dealer and a college instructor, and, with his wife, Elsa, he lived and worked in Africa from 1978 to 1983.
His stories, essays and reviews have been published in the "New Yorker, the "New York Times Book Review, "The New York Review of Books, "The Nation, and other periodicals. He has been the recipient of numerous awards, including an NEA grant, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship.
Whites, a collection of stories, was published in 1986 and nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and his first novel, Mating, was published in 1991 and was the recipient of the National Book Award. Mortals is his second novel.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars 12 reviews
33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Perspective of a Former Peace Corps Volunteer 16 Jan. 2001
By Dr. Peter L. Glidden - Published on
Format: Paperback
I served in the Peace Corps while Norm Rush was Co-Director of Peace Corps/ Botswana. Norm's book is an excellent protrayal of volunteers and other expatriates. Moreover, it is a terrific read. Although it is "fiction," I recognized all the characters as being "real." Nevertheless, although the book does ring true, it is not a complete portrayal of Peace Corps Volunteers and volunteers from other countries. What Norm doesn't decribe, probably because they are less interesting from a novelist's perspective, are the many volunteers who did their best to learn Setswana (the national language), who did their best to succeed in the culture, and who worked hard every day. Norm's book is excellent, and although fiction, it is an accurate protrayal of expat/ volunteer life, but it is not their whole story.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Whites 20 July 2010
By reader - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Superb short stories. Underneath a light touch, the writing is serious. The sentences flow with a studied grace. Humor is used in a wonderfully clever way to make the reader think about issues of importance. The specifically African background of the stories reflect the author's close familiarity with the scene based on his years living in Botswana. His prize-winning book, Mating, is more difficult to access though certainly worth the effort. However, if you are put off by it, do read Whites. Its a not-to-be missed collection of wonderful short stories.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Stories of Expatriate Life 1 Mar. 2001
By A. Ross - Published on
Format: Paperback
Rush is an American who lived in Botswana for a number of years, and these stories about expatriate life there bear the ring the authenticity that can only come from personal experience. The stories are slightly linked through shared characters, characters who find themselves changed by Botswana in sometimes surprising ways. Funny and tender, this book is an excellent window into living abroad.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Darkest African Humor 18 Dec. 2010
By D. P. Birkett - Published on
Format: Paperback
I'd been putting off reading Norman Rush because I'd heard that he'd written The Great American Novel and every time I try to read The Great American Novel I end up not finishing it and concluding I'm a shallow-minded person who likes to be distracted and entertained. I thought a short story collection would be less of a commitment. I was well rewarded. These are not only great but thoroughly distracting and entertaining.
They are set in Botswana, the land of Alexander McCall Smith's stories. One is told form a Bakgalagdi point of view. The others are about ex-pats coping with being ex-pats. Well-meaning Americans find their patience tried by Brits, Boers and (sorry if this isn't an ok word to use) natives. Nice liberals are disillusioned. Unassuming democrats are seduced into snobbery by the prestige of officialdom. Pretensions are unmasked and virtue is tested and fails.
People die and starve and yet the effect is comic. I'm going to be reading the rest of Norman Rush.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rra Rush: Masterful Stories of Conflict & Connection 13 Feb. 2008
By SillyMoose - Published on
Format: Paperback
Norman Rush's Whites is, with one exception, a masterful collection of stories. All of the stories are set in (mostly Southern) Africa and all revolve around moments of intersect and conflict. Rush has a wonderful knack of bringing you into a story with a good amount of exposition; all the prefatory action serves a solid purpose, though: either characterization, context, or establishing what seems like a planned path to the ending. And then he usually subverts it. For instance, in "Bruns," the first story, you think you're getting a slightly cliche but better than standard creative-writing-class-high-academia story about a highly educated woman who too self-consciously calls herself an elite voyeur of the South African people in a seemingly feigned moment of moral and ethical insight. By story's end, you've turned into a voyeur of the whites who are voyeuristically devouring the natives with their eyes and, further, you're pulled into becoming the enthusiastic viewer of the murder of a European. It's a story where objectivity is impossible, and watching, that is, seeing an act proves nothing. Interpretation is all. Thus a smart tale about an anthropologist turn into a highly surprising tale about murder and how reinvention effects communities. This tale is well-crafted, and all its parts finally fall like tumblers in a lock. "Near Pala" tells the story of economically superior whites attempting to absolve themselves of responsibility for the current state and condition of a starving Africa that is also in the midst of severe drought. The climax of the story occurs when a husband forces his wife to go back and retrieve a water bottle she'd thrown out the jeep window to a dizzy mother with child. It is very disturbing and poignant stuff. Rush's only weakness comes in moments of expansiveness. (This has also been the only fault of his new novel, Mortals.) "Thieving," a story in which Rush attempts to narrate from an African character's viewpoint and vernacular is a case in point. It runs twenty-five pages of a collection of stories that is a mere 150 pages long. It's not the mere length that's the problem. The story has far too much exposition in this case for a rather small pay-off when the story picks up the reader's interest again toward the end. That being said, the rest of the stories are brilliant. "Instruments of Seduction" is about whites' fooling and preying upon one another. "Official Americans" is a dazzling tale about a man attempting to take revenge and having his problem resolved in a pitiable but perfectly acceptable way that he is actually very glad to receive. "Alone in Africa" ends the collection on a very powerful note; it's a story in which five characters are perfectly rendered, enacting a scene of connection, comfort, and protection. It is a tale of compassionate fast-thinking that allows a moment of true love to occur. Reasons to read Rush include the appreciation of a master craftsman of the short story, especially if you appreciate exposition; watching Rush set-up his brilliant endings like a mason constructing facades for perfect buildings; reading titles that are puzzles in themselves and watching as they become integral parts of the stories, becoming defined in different ways in separate stages of the narrative; the continuing need of those outside Africa to come to more of an understanding of a continent in constant turmoil. Rush has received praise from authors ranging from Nadine Gordimer to J. M. Coetzee, and such compliments are well-deserved. Rush, a conscientious objector of war and a relief workers who worked and lived in Africa for five years, obviously learned a lot in a small amount of time and can teach us much in this small but cogent book.
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