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What We Choose to Remember

What is the relationship between memory and imagination? How unbridled is the power of story? How intimidating? The narrative essays in What We Choose to Remember tread the tenuous, shifting grounds of memory, revealing how our imperfect recollections shape not only how we live our lives, but the act of storytelling itself.

Author: Steve Heller
Paperback, 2009, 106 pages

ISBN-10: 0982546262
ISBN-13: 978-0982546260

About the Author

Award-winning novelist, essayist, and short story writer Steve Heller grew up on a small acreage in the wheat country around Yukon, Oklahoma, where many of his fictions take place. He earned his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Bowling Green State University in Ohio, and his Ed.D. in English Education from Oklahoma State University in Stillwater.

Heller is best known for his novel The Automotive History of Lucky Kellerman, originally published by Chelsea Green and subsequently reprinted by Anchor/Doubleday. Lucky Kellerman was a selection of both Book-of-the-Month Club and the Quality Paperback Book Club, and also received the Friends of American Writers First Prize Award for the best published book of fiction or nonfiction related to the Midwest.

Heller’s second novel, Father’s Mechanical Universe, was published in 2001 by BkMk Press. Novelist Brent Spencer calls Universe “a touching, elegiac book that races with 120-octane insight.” According to W. D. Wetherell, “Father’s Mechanical Universe combines the sharp, concentrated focus of a novel with the tender, lyrical quality of the best memoirs to create one of the most moving accounts of family love I’ve read in years.”

Winner of many distinctions for his short fiction and creative nonfiction, Heller’s short stories have appeared in numerous magazines and national anthologies, and twice have received O. Henry Awards. He has also received an Individual Fellowship Grant in Fiction from the National Endowment for the Arts. Many of Heller’s stories have been set in Hawai`i, where he has lived for several extended periods. His first collection, The Man Who Drank a Thousand Beers (Chariton Review Press), has been called “a Hawaiian Winesburg, Ohio.” Hawai`i is also the focus of his most recent fictions, including stories in Nebraska Review, Bamboo Ridge, South Dakota Review, Spirit of Aloha, and A.I.M.: America’s Intercultural Magazine. Heller’s creative nonfiction has appeared in such publications as Manoa, Fourth Genre, Colorado Review, New Letters, American Cowboy, and In Brief: Short Takes on the Personal, from W. W. Norton. What We Choose to Remember, a collection of narrative essays, was recently published online in the World Voices Chapbook Series, edited by Walter Cummins and Thomas Kennedy, on Web del Sol. A print-on-demand version, including additional essays, will be available before the end of 2009. Heller is working on a new novel called Return of the Ghost Killer and a collection of new and selected stories about Hawai`i called Private Island.

Heller teaches at Antioch University Los Angeles, where he is Professor and Chair of the MFA in Creative Writing Program, an acclaimed low-residency program devoted not only to the education of literary artists but to community service and the pursuit of social justice. Heller also serves as a “New Voices” mentor for PEN USA. Heller lives in Marina del Rey with his wife Sheyene and their son Truman.

What We Choose to Remember is a romance with family—its many and varied (and complicated) ingredients—but in the end, the nature of memory itself becomes the focus as it casts its flickering light on the moments that shape us.  Knowing that his story cannot be the story, Steve Heller casts a wide narrative net to probe the places where past and future collide.  Under his careful scrutiny, these “crosscurrents of memory and imagination” provide a scaffolding on which to build a “knowable” truth.

—Judith Kitchen, editor of In Short, In Brief, and Short Takes, author of Distance and Direction and Only the Dance

“Steve Heller is already a solid citizen of American Letters with his novels and short stories.  Now, with What We Choose to Remember, his first book of essays, he demonstrates his mastery of yet another genre. His beautifully crafted prose leads the reader through moments of joy, humor, sorrow, terror (the robbery piece!) and, ultimately, wisdom.  These essays are powerful witnesses of both life’s inevitable sadness and its triumphant love.”

—Thomas E. Kennedy, Author of The Copenhagen Quartet; Advisory Editor, The Literary Review

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Jack Smith, The Writer Magazine