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Tad Simons and Catherine Dehdashti read from their new works of fiction

The Bleeder
by Tad Simons

Twin Citian Simons, who has won more than 30 local and national awards for arts coverage, offers eight varied and often funny stories in this collection. Seven are lots of fun; one is so upsetting it seems to have wandered in from another book.

In the title story, a boy who's prone to nosebleeds enjoys being in the pretty school nurse's office so much he figures out how to make himself bleed so he can spend time with her. But something is going on with her and the principal, whose office is next door. What happens next changes the boy's life.

"Exit 43" is about a man and woman falling in love, until he refuses to stop to help someone involved in a car accident. The conclusion is a nod to O. Henry.

"The Vision" is a meditation on the scary consequences when a company continues to downsize, and "Air Diablo" is like an episode of "The Twilight Zone" in which a man experiences the airplane trip from hell.

"Mother's Day" is the funniest story in the collection. It's told in the voice of a frazzled mother -- a wholly unreliable narrator -- who's trying to get her daughter ready for her first communion on a Mother's Day that includes a horrendous trip to the Rainforest Cafe with her supercilious mother-in-law and her discovery that the young communicant was told by her dad she didn't have to swallow the communion wafer so she hid it in the hem of her new dress.

"Humaninanotarianism" is also a delight. It's about a guy who convinces a young woman living on a raw food diet that it's really helpful to her health, the environment and animals to eat cheeseburgers and soft-serve ice cream. We won't reveal his loopy logic. In "The Great Sparrow War" a guy lures birds to poop on his annoying neighbor's roof with unexpected consequences.

And then there's the depressing "Some Kind of Animal." (Spoiler alert: Ending revealed.) It's about a nebbish of a guy who's in love with a woman in his office to whom he has never spoken. When she leaves, he decides he has to do something masculine to show his love, so he smears himself with dog feces, strips to his shorts and kills a sleeping zoo elephant with a spear. The last sentences make you wish you could un-read this one.

Review by Maryann Grossmann in Pioneer Press

Roseheart
by Catherine Dehdashti

A story about family, Roseheart is set in the 1990s, and told through the sardonic voice of Valerie Kjos. She’s a young Midwestern Gen X’er whose life is just barely coming together with her boyfriend when his Iranian mother, Goli, comes for a visit that seems to never end.

Valerie will have to decide what’s more important to her—doing everything her own way, or her beloved Naveed with his live-in mother, who might not approve if she knew everything about her. But as she’s about to learn, Goli has secrets of her own.

“Sometimes funny, often moving, Roseheart is a novel that reads like a diary, and also like a mystery, as the story builds toward a surprising revelation,” says Jeremy Iggers, a long-time Minneapolis journalist and author. “And for anyone with a fondness for or curiosity about Persian culture and cuisine, Roseheart offers special rewards.”

While it is fiction, Dehdashti admits the novel is semi-autobiographical, taking place in Wayzata, around Lake Minnetonka, and Minneapolis during the era of her own coming-of-age. “I was faced with a situation much like Valerie’s: my boyfriend’s mother came from Iran for a “visit,” by which I mean she moved in with us,” says Dehdashti. “She never learned much English, but she changed my life.”

Dehdashti (born Catherine Kjos) grew up in Plymouth, Minn., attending Wayzata public schools and the University of Minnesota. She has written for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Midwest Living, Iranian.com, the Minnesota Daily, and many other publications. Nowadays, she lives in Eagan, Minn., with her husband and their two children.

With its many culinary vignettes, Roseheart tends to make readers hungry. To find recipes for some of the dishes that appear in the novel, visit www.catherinedehdashti.com.

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