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Elsie is a waitress at the Betsy Ross diner, living in a town that's dying after most of the brass mills have shut down. Add one Albanian line cook, fast-forward 17 years, and meet Luljeta, Elsie's daughter. In alternating chapters, and with prose that's the opposite of reserved, Aliu shares the story of a mother and daughter trying to escape their circumstances and find something better. It's a novel with a big personality and an even bigger heart. You will fall in love, and miss them deeply when it's over.
— Tyler Goodson
The American Dream exists but is on its last breath in Aliu’s debut novel Brass. There’s not much left in Waterbury, Connecticut after the brass factories left. There certainly aren’t fathers-for Elise whose dead-end waitress job rewards her with single-parent status or for her daughter Luljeta, haunted by the father who left seventeen years before. Aliu is a talented storyteller whose prose is beautiful and brusque, evoking the raw ache of want that lingers in each character.
— Rachel Watkins
"A fierce, big-hearted, unflinching debut"* novel about mothers and daughters, haves and have-nots, and the stark realities behind the American Dream*Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere A waitress at the Betsy Ross Diner, Elsie hopes her nickel-and-dime tips will add up to a new life. Then she meets Bashkim, who is at once both worldly and na ve, a married man who left Albania to chase his dreams--and wound up working as a line cook in Waterbury, Connecticut. Back when the brass mills were still open, this bustling factory town drew one wave of immigrants after another. Now it's the place they can't seem to leave. Elsie, herself the granddaughter of Lithuanian immigrants, falls in love quickly, but when she learns that she's pregnant, Elsie can't help wondering where Bashkim's heart really lies, and what he'll do about the wife he left behind. Seventeen years later, headstrong and independent Luljeta receives a rejection letter from NYU and her first-ever suspension from school on the same day. Instead of striking out on her own in Manhattan, she's stuck in Connecticut with her mother, Elsie--a fate she refuses to accept. Wondering if the key to her future is unlocking the secrets of the past, Lulu decides to find out what exactly her mother has been hiding about the father she never knew. As she soon discovers, the truth is closer than she ever imagined. Told in equally gripping parallel narratives with biting wit and grace, Brass announces a fearless new voice with a timely, tender, and quintessentially American story. Praise for Brass "Lustrous . . . a tale alive with humor and gumption, of the knotty, needy bond between a mother and daughter . . . Brass] marks the arrival of a writer whose work will stand the test of time."--O: The Oprah Magazine "An exceptional debut novel, one that plumbs the notion of the American Dream while escaping the clich's that pursuit almost always brings with it . . . Xhenet] Aliu delivers a living, breathing portrait of places left behind."--The Boston Globe "The writing blazes on the page. . . . So much about the book is also extraordinarily timely, especially when it focuses on class and culture, and what they really mean."--San Francisco Chronicle "Aliu is witty and unsparing in her depiction of the town and its inhabitants, illustrating the granular realities of the struggle for class mobility."--The New Yorker
About the Author
Xhenet Aliu's debut fiction collection, Domesticated Wild Things, and Other Stories, won the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction. Her stories and essays have appeared in Glimmer Train, The Barcelona Review, American Short Fiction, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from the University of North Carolina Wilmington and an MLIS from The University of Alabama. A native of Waterbury, Connecticut, she was born to an Albanian father and a Lithuanian American mother. She now lives in Athens, Georgia, and works as an academic librarian.
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