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Book by Janet Peery Gets Plug on ‘Diane Rehm Show’

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Janet Peery, University Professor of creative writing in the English department at Old Dominion, got an unexpected - and pleasant - surprise last week when she learned that her book "The River Beyond the World" (Picador USA, 1996) was highlighted on "The Diane Rehm Show" Wednesday, March 26. The show is produced by National Public Radio member station WAMU and distributed nationally by NPR.

On the show, a special "March Readers' Review," Rehm and her guests discussed why fiction matters. A recent study indicates that fewer than half of all Americans are reading novels today. It suggests that those who do read fiction are better able to understand the emotions of others. Joining this conversation about the social and personal benefits of reading fiction were four guests, including author Mark Brazaitis, professor of English at West Virginia University and director of the West Virginia Writers' Workshop.

At the end of the show, Rehm asked her guests to "give our listeners one fiction recommendation that you would offer at this moment and we'll put it on our website." Brazaitis' response was Peery's "The River Beyond the World," which was a National Book Award finalist for fiction in 1996.

"In light of new studies of how reading fiction prepares minds and enhances compassion and emotional engagement, the show explored the issue of the importance of fiction," Peery said. "My Amazon sales numbers went way up! They'll go down again, but it was a real boost to see the power of the media in selling books, even those that are almost 20 years old."

(Peery's books are also available for sale at the University Village Bookstore.)

Peery, who usually listens to "The Diane Rehm Show," said she had to miss the March 26 program because of a meeting. A cousin from Phoenix contacted Peery to tell her about it.

The cover of Peery's book (with a link to its page on Amazon), as well as a transcript of the discussion from the show, appears on Rehm's website: http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2014-03-26/special-readers-review-why-fiction-matters.

A State Council of Higher Education for Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award winner, Peery is also the author of "What the Thunder Said" (St. Martin's Press, 2007) and "Alligator Dance" (SMU Press, 1993). "What the Thunder Said" won the Library of Virginia Literary Award for Fiction in 2008 and the 2008 WILLA Award from Women Writing the West for Contemporary Fiction. She won a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1998 and was listed among Writer's Digest Magazine's "25 Fiction Writers to Watch in the Next Decade" in 2000.

Peery's short stories have appeared in Southern Review, Shenandoah, Kenyon Review, Quarterly West, Black Warrior Review, Chattahoochee Review, Kansas Quarterly, Southwest Review, Oklahoma Today, New Virginia Review, 64 Magazine and American Short Fiction.

The following is a synopsis of "The River Beyond the World": "Luisa Cantu is a girl from a Sierra Madre mountain village. After being impregnated in a fertility ritual of ancient origin, she leaves Mexico to work in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas as a housemaid for Mrs. Eddie Hatch, a woman with a strong will and a narrow worldview. Their complex relationship - by turns mystical and pragmatic, serious and comic - reveals the many ways human beings can wound one another, the nature of love and sacrifice, and the possibility of forgiveness."