Two 2011 Great Reads

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“A touching, delicious, compulsively readable account of life after love.”    —Kirkus Reviews

In her wickedly funny book, Can’t Think Straight: A Memoir of Mixed-Up Love (Citadel Press), author Kiri Blakeley ( tells a heartbreaking tale of betrayal. After her fiancé said, “I’m confused about my sexuality,” he began to cry “huge wracking sobs” and she realized her solid, reliable relationship was anything but. “I’m not a dumb woman,” Blakeley said. “There had been no signs.” She strained to recall any “red flags, pink flags” but couldn’t think of one.

Before Aaron’s confession, Blakeley had accepted she was “a Carrie Bradshaw type” i.e., a New Yorker, 36 and a writer, who “would never taste Sex and the City adventures” because she was happily partnered with a good man. Blakeley and Aaron had been together ten years and he was her best friend. She knew everything about him.  Er… except that he was gay.

Finding herself in this particular pickle, she Can’t Think Straight. While still grappling with Aaron’s declaration of homosexuality, she finds out he’s been having unprotected sex with men for two years. So, no, this is not just another (yawn) book about a love story.

“There’s a lot of sex,” Blakeley said. “When I realized, ‘oh great, my parents are going to read this, my co-workers…’ I called my editor in a panic. She begged me not to soften the sex scenes so I buried my head and got through it. I’m good at going into denial. Besides, I don’t think it’s anything that the Kardashians don’t say every freaking week on TV.”

Blakeley, a journalist for 15 years, didn’t need to rely on memory. She wrote everything in real time. “When I began writing the book, I told Aaron and he said, ‘go for it.’ I didn’t have to worry about protecting his secret, I would never out anyone. He was already out.” Before its release she sent Aaron a copy of the book to review. “I went to Columbia Journalism School. Our motto is ‘Don’t surprise anyone.’”

The reader is the one in for surprises. A columnist for Metro called it, “A page turner” and said, “You’ll never look at your significant other the same again.”

“A marvelous, captivating debut novel.”  —Russian Life magazine


Emily Rubin’s novel Stalina (AmazonEncore) is about a Russian Jewish woman’s immigration to the United States in 1991 during the fall of the Soviet Union. Curiously named after the infamous dictator Stalin, Stalina was a real person who inspired Rubin’s journey to Russia and two years of research to create a novel based on true events.

Rubin’s central character, Stalina Folskaya, is relentlessly determined and surprisingly optimistic despite the wrongful imprisonment of her father: “It was a bad time to be a writer and a Jew.”  After the pain of losing her dad and her beloved dog, Pepe, who was taken and killed, and watching her mother become increasingly bitter and irascible; Stalina’s world had grown too oppressive. She fled to America to create a new life.

Once in JFK, she noticed people moved faster walking than they did by car. She arrived at Port Authority where she spent time with a palm reader, “The lipstick had seeped into the age lines around her mouth like the canals that split off the Neva River at home.” Stalina compared the New York City subway to a “creature suffering from a bad case of gastric distress coupled with rheumatoid arthritis.”

Despite her training as a chemist in Russia, Stalina, disheartened by her bleak prospects in the U.S., gets a job as a maid at the hourly-rate rundown Liberty Motel. Through her wild imagination and sheer force of will she transforms the motel into a thriving business.

Rubin’s book is about love and hate, sadness and joy, and about the freedom to be gained from letting go of resentments.

Pushcart Prize nominee, author Emily Rubin ( has become most well-known for her literary project, Dirty Laundry: Loads of Prose, a popular series of performances by poets, writers and musicians which take place in laundromats here in NYC and throughout the country.

This article was printed in the April 2011 issue of the New York Resident magazine.