Braverman, Kate 1950-
BRAVERMAN, Kate 1950-
Born February 5, 1950, in Philadelphia, PA; daughter of Irving D. and Millicent (an executive) Braverman; married Alan Braverman (marriage ended); married Alan Goldstein (a scientist), 1990; children: Gabrielle. Education: University of California—Berkeley, B.A., 1971; Sonoma State Univerity (Rohnert Park, CA), M.A., 1985. Politics: "Radical." Religion: Jewish.
Office—P.O. Box 794, Alfred, NY 14802.
Freelance writer, 1971—; professor of creative writing, California State University, Los Angeles, 1990-93; gives fiction and poetry readings nationally.
Venice Poetry Workshop.
Best American Short Story Award, 1991, 1995; O. Henry Award, 1992; Economist Prize (bronze), 2003.
Milk Run, Momentum Press, 1977.
(Editor) Cameos (anthology), Crossing Press, 1978.
(Editor) Ten Los Angeles Poets (anthology), Momentum Press, 1978.
Poems, Harper (New York, NY), 1979.
Lullaby for Sinners, Harper (New York, NY), 1980.
Lithium for Medea (novel), Harper (New York, NY), 1979.
Palm Latitudes (novel), Linden Press (New York, NY), 1988.
Squandering the Blue (stories), Fawcett Columbine (New York, NY), 1990.
Wonders of the West (novel), Fawcett Columbine (New York, NY), 1993.
Small Craft Warnings (stories), University of Nevada Press (Reno, NV), 1998.
The Incantation of Frida K (stories), Seven Stories Press (New York, NY), 2001.
Contributor of poems and reviews to literary magazines and newspapers.
Poet and fiction writer Kate Braverman often sets her work in and around Los Angeles, California. "I am a native daughter of Los Angeles," she explained in a Time interview with Christina Garcia. "There is so little tradition here that it lends itself to experimentation." Los Angeles, she said, "is a new cosmopolitan refugee city for the world."
In her novels, including Lithium for Medea, Palm Latitudes, and Squandering the Blue, female characters hold the central voice, sharing the author's distinctive and descriptive language. Braverman's debut novel, Lithium for Medea, concerns Rose, who is involved in a manipulative relationship with a drug addict while facing the wrath of her successful mother. "I am twenty-seven years old," thinks Rose, "and a pine tree my age knows more." Katha Pollitt of the New York Times Book Review found that Braverman writes with "energy to burn" and with "passion and a sense of urgency." Pollitt commented that Braverman's attributes sometimes lead to overwriting. "Rose," noted Pollitt, "when elated or high, is prone to remarks like, 'I am windsong.'"
Pollitt reserved most of the praise for Braverman's knack for characterization. "The vigor with which Miss Braverman has endowed Rose's parents undermines what little sympathy one might otherwise have felt for Rose's attempts to indict them," Pollitt wrote. "While that may not have been the effect Miss Braverman was seeking, it suggests a latent gift for naturalism that I hope she won't neglect. Angst is easy. Only a novelist of real perception and wide sympathies could have invented this pair."
Braverman's Palm Latitudes explores the life of a poor Latin woman in Los Angeles. "I lived in the barrio for ten years," the author told Garcia. "I spoke the language. The Los Angeles novel, in a purely abstract sense, would not be about Anglo people." The story focuses "on the limitations placed on women's lives in a male-dominated society," noted Los Angeles Times Book Review contributor Jesus Salvador Trevino. The women depicted in Palm Latitudes—a prostitute who calls herself "La puta de la luna," or moon whore; long-suffering housewife Gloria Hernandez, and insightful grandmother Marta Ortega—represent three Latina archetypes, according to Trevino. The women endure irrevocable changes in their lives; "abusive men," Trevino noted, "are the ones who usually orchestrate these fundamental life changes." Indeed, the depiction of men as "shadowy and sometimes treacherous good-for-nothings," as Alexander Coleman put it in a New York Times Book Review piece, contribute to what Trevino called "one-dimensional, offensive and perhaps even racist" writing from Braverman. Similarly, one character's interior monologue on English versus Spanish as a language ("English hurt my lips… It was offensive to my aesthetics," while Spanish "flows like the ocean, aware of cycles, waves, completion and return") caught the eye of Coleman, who called such views "facetious cultural romanticism." However, Trevino concluded that Palm Latitudes "is an impressive testament to the magic of language and a powerful rendering of the struggles, defeats and victories of women on their own." Wonders of the West, about a mother and daughter cross-country road trip to Los Angeles in the 1960s, received mixed reviews.
Braverman made her debut as a short-story writer with Squandering the Blue. In a departure from the Latina focus of Palm Latitudes, the women in these stories are "[Joan] Didion women: WASPy and skinny and neurotic," stated Michael Harris in the Los Angeles Times Book Review. Further comparing Didion to Braverman, Harris noted that the former came to fiction via journalism, while Braverman had poetry as her background. Braverman's style, he said, "is quite distinct from Didion's: more inward, less political, symbolically rather than explicitly sexual." While Harris labeled Squandering the Blue "uneven," he went on to cite the author's voice, which he called "one of L.A.'s most compelling." The themes of drug and alcohol addiction, terminal illness, and psychosis do not make for an upbeat images, commented a West Coast Review of Books contributor, but Squandering the Blue challenges the reader with its "jarring reality and insight," ultimately making the collection "powerful stuff, a joy to read."
The female characters in Small Craft Warnings, published in 1998, include abandoned adolescents, a drug-addicted mother, and a photojournalist who is rejected by her parents after giving birth out of wedlock. She "senses that she is 'part of an enormous midnight circle of women alone in winter,'" as New York Times Book Review contributor Bill Goldstein quoted the book. In this work the lushness of language, Goldstein suggested, blurs the characters' identities, "and dilutes the urgency of the harsh reality that they appear to be living through." Still, said Goldstein, the collection "is filled with beautiful language studded with sharp observations."
In 2002 Braverman published The Incantation of Frida K, a fictionalized biography of the twentieth-century painter Frida Kahlo. Kahlo's life had been chronicled before; in Braverman's reading, the artist at age forty-six lies on her deathbed recounting her life during morphine-induced hallucinations. Salient points from her adulthood—such as Kahlo being impaled on a metal pole at age seventeen, and her tempestuous marriage to muralist Diego Rivera—serves as a framework for Braverman's fiction. Like many of her previous publications, Frida K received mixed notices, ranging from "shockingly bad" from Yxta Maya Murray in Calendar Live, to "piercingly lyric and psychologically acute," from Booklist's Donna Seaman. A Publishers Weekly critic took the view that while certain "cartoonish" recreations of Kahlo's life "may put some readers off," the author ultimately produced "a commendably bold and strenuously imaginative" take on the standard literary biography.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Braverman, Kate, Lithium for Medea, Harper (New York, NY), 1979.
Braverman, Kate, Palm Latitudes, Linden Press (New York, NY), 1988.
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 67, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1992.
Bloomsbury Review, January, 1999, review of Small Craft Warnings, p. 9.
Booklist, December 1, 1992, Donna Seaman, review of Wonders of the West, p. 647; September 15, 1998, Donna Seaman, review of Small Craft Warnings, p. 198; March 1, 2002, Donna Seaman, review of The Incantation of Frida K, p. 1086.
California, August, 1988, Sheila Ballantyne, review of Palm Latitudes, p. 106.
Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 1992, review of Wonders of the West, p. 1269.
Library Journal, July, 1980, Suzanne Juhasz, review of Lullaby for Sinners, p. 1520; June 1, 1988, Andrea Caron Kempf, review of Palm Latitudes, p. 138; September 1, 1990, Mary Soete, review of Squandering the Blue, p. 256; November 15, 1992, Faye Chadwell, review of Wonders of the West, p. 100; October 1, 1998, Yvette Weller Olson, review of Small Craft Warnings, p. 137; March 15, 2002, Rachel Collins, review of The Incantation of Frida K, p. 107.
Los Angeles Times, April 14, 1996, Glen Janken, "Neither Here Nor There," p. 4; June 9, 1996, John de Jong, "And the Homes of the Braverman"; January 26, 1997, "The State of Kate," p. 5; September 19, 2001, Jonathan Kirsch, "West Words," p. E2; March 19, 2002, Victoria Clayton, "The Words Come Hard, but Payoff Is Sweet," p. E1.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, August 7, 1988, Jesus Salvador Trevino, "Whore, Wife, Matriarch," p. 2; October 14, 1990, Michael Harris, review of Squandering the Blue, p. 6.
New York Times, June 25, 1988, Michiko Kakutani, review of Palm Latitudes, p. 13.
New York Times Book Review, August 5, 1979, Katha Pollitt, review of Lithium for Medea; March 22, 1981, review of Lithium for Medea, p. 35; August 21, 1988, Alexander Coleman, review of Palm Latitudes, p. 22; December 16, 1990, Sarah Ferguson, review of Squandering the Blue, p. 18; January 24, 1999, Bill Goldstein, "Squall Lines," p. 17.
People, November 26, 1990, Sara Nelson, review of Squandering the Blue, p. 35.
Poetry Flash, December, 1990, p. 1.
Publishers Weekly, May 23, 1980, review of Lullaby for Sinners, p. 62; April 29, 1988, Sybil Steinberg, review of Palm Latitudes, p. 64; August 3, 1990, Sybil Steinberg, review of Squandering the Blue, p. 62; November 9, 1990, Lisa See, "Kate Braverman" (interview), p. 42; October 26, 1992, review of Wonders of the West, p. 35; August 24, 1998, review of Small Craft Warnings, p. 50; March 11, 2002, review of The Incantation of Frida K, p. 52.
Time, November 20, 1989, Cristina Garcia, "From the Tropic of L.A.," p. 18.
West Coast Review of Books, February-March, 1991, review of Squandering the Blue, pp. 28-29.
Calendar Live,http://www.calendarlive.com/ (April 7, 2002), Yxta Maya Murray, "Life Is Elsewhere."