With the publication of his novel The Baker’s Boy coming in May, APSU Professor Barry Kitterman (at left) has brought a ten-year effort to a satisfying conclusion. Kitterman has worked as an editor for many years, and has watched as a number of his friends enjoy publication of their work.
“This is my first book. This is better,” he says with understandable satisfaction. He says that words like “dream book” and “inspiration” don’t work for him. “I just work hard at my writing.”
Set in Central America and in Middle Tennessee, The Baker’s Boy gives us two intertwined stories: In the first, Tanner Johnson, nearing midlife, has left his pregnant wife and taken a job as a baker, working nights, trying to avoid a shadowy presence that haunts him from the past. In the second, Tanner relives his painful experiences as a Peace Corps volunteer in Belize, where he taught at a boys’ reform school nearly a quarter century ago. Haunted by the past, he struggles to find the courage to accept his role as a husband and prospective father.
Years ago, Kitterman worked as a Peace Corps volunteer and teacher in Belize in Central America. He has also taught in China and Taiwan.
Kitterman said teaching overseas is “difficult work, especially in developing countries.” He cited the need to overcome cultural barriers and the fact that at that time, he was “young teacher with no experience and no real training.” Teaching overseas…
“…differs from teaching American college student in almost every way possible. In China, I taught university students. The differences between the American system and the Chinese system of the late 80s was significant. Chinese students tend to be exceptional and bright, but they learn largely by memorization. Memorization is an all but forgotten concept in the US. Perhaps the surprising thing I discovered while teaching in Belize is how difficult it was. I came to think of second and third grade teachers as heroes.”
He came home from Belize 30 years ago, and has been writing this book for the past ten years or so.
“It’s hard to say what makes a person start writing a book. I’m a writer, and I’m working on something — stories, nonfiction, poems, plays — all the time.”
Kitterman, a writing and literature professor at APSU for the past 13 years, also has a collection of previously published short stories that he would like to see published as a collection.
“It would be nice to get them out as a book. I have two “failed” novels in boxes in my closet. Probably best to let them stay there. I’m thinking about something new. “
Among the kudos for The Baker’s Boy:
“You find out who you are in times of crisis. Almost always the discovery is not what you expected. The Baker’s Boy, like much of Joseph Conrad’s work, is about the pain of such revelation and its continuing effect on one’s life. A strong and haunting debut novel by a fine writer.” ~ Rick DeMarinis, author of The Year of the Zinc Penny
“Not since Lord of the Flies has a book haunted me like this. With his heartbreaking story of the boys of Belize, Kitterman hits the writer’s sweet spot.” ~ Paula Wall, author of The Wilde Women
“In The Baker’s Boy, Barry Kitterman gives us a haunting of the most universal kind; the ghost is a man’s mortal past, which tears through the veil of memory to demand a reckoning. Tanner, like all of us, struggles to make a whole person out of his broken parts, and how he succeeds makes for a touching read.” ~ Monica Wood, author of Any Bitter Thing
“The Baker’s Boy could be thought of as a Peace Corps novel on the Huck Finn/Moby Dick model–boy goes out into the world, finds difficulty–but that would ignore its particular excellences. Kitterman writes a fine quiet prose and presents us with idiosyncratic characters we learn to cherish and root for. A spendid work.” ~ William Kittredge, author of The Willow Field
“An electric novel that compares to great expatriate novels like Graham Greene’s The Quiet American.” ~ David Bradley, author of The Chaneysville Incident
Kitterman’s play, Mary Alice’s Ladder, was presented recently in a staged reading at the Roxy Regional Theater’s Other Space in downtown Clarksville.
Kitterman is the fiction editor of Zone 3 Magazine. He has had stories published in many literary venues, including The Long Story, Cutbank, California Quarterly, and Carolina Quarterly. He currently teaches at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee, where he lives with his wife Jill and his children Ted and Hannah.
The Baker’s Boy will be released in May, 2008 and can be pre-ordered at: http://www.tamu.edu/upress/BOOKS/2008/kitterman.htm or on Amazon.com.