Books

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Listen to Sybil talk about WHILE YOU WERE GONE at WUTC Public Radio 

With echoes of Shakespeare’s King Lear and Chekhov’s Three Sisters, Baker’s novel deftly mines the personal histories of Claire, the eldest, followed by Shannon and then Paige, as they grow from gangly adolescents in 1995 to morally conflicted women in 2011, spinning away from and back to the city that both buoys them and sucks them down into its vortex of social and racial tensions.” 

-Hamilton Caine for Chapter 16

WHILE YOU WERE GONE is an open-hearted and complex story of an amazing family, told with such confidence that I could not put it down. Sybil Baker has the enviable ability to populate her work with characters who feel so nuanced and real that you can’t believe that you haven’t always known these people, that they haven’t always been a part of your life. And when I finished this beautiful story, I found myself unable to forget them.”

-Kevin Wilson, author of THE FAMILY FANG and PERFECT LITTLE WORLD

As a storyteller, Baker knows revelation is the consoler of plot and that time exists to mourn chronology. As an artist, Baker casts a bite-mark on that vividly tragic fruit as one awed into suddenness and then as three in the twilight of playing dress-up. As a voice, Baker quotes shadows beyond the reach of comment.”

Barton Smock for PANK

Baker prioritizes the subjectivity of her characters, giving each of them a comprehensive voice, making their values conflict interestingly without making any of their perspectives unreasonable.”

Katherine Coldiron for Heavy Feather Review 


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Listen to Sybil talk about IMMIGRATION ESSAYS at WUTC Public Radio and #CNF Podcast

Travel can be a luxury, a diversion, an obsession, a necessity, or a means of survival. In Sybil Baker’s IMMIGRATION ESSAYS, it’s all those things, as well as a kind of existential meditation–movement as a way of being in the world. In the thirteen pieces that make up this slim collection, Baker places accounts of her own relatively privileged experience of travel alongside stories of less comfortable wanderers, including international refugees.”

-Chapter 16

Baker proves that she is not merely a writer, but a literary humanitarian who reminds us of the greater struggle out there, and urges us to think and even exist beyond our comforts, routines, and the superficialities of the modern world.” 

-Lavinia Ludlow, Small Press Reviews

These are thought-provoking meditations on family, immigration, and the American dream.”

-Foreword Reviews 

Any reader attracted to the essays of a big-hearted, fearless, vagabond-worthy writer will absolutely love Sybil Baker’s essay collection IMMIGRATION ESSAYS. It’s like taking a great tour without all of the irritations of travel. this is one splendid, fun reading experience.”

-George Singleton, Author of CALLOUSTOWN

Sybil Baker has always been itinerant, as a writer, scholar and citizen. In IMMIGRATION ESSAYS, she charts her “reverse migration” from America to Ankara. Along the way, she sheds light on the dark corners of our global village – the housing disparities of the American south, the homeless of Bratislava, the hidden beauty of South Korea… She knits together history and current events, including the mass migration from Syria and the economic changes of South Africa. She examines her own slave-owning ancestors and makes the case for reparations on a personal level. She interviews the exiles living in her home city of Chattanooga. And gives voice to their longing for home.  Her collection is a road map to the world with all its complexities and should not be missed.”

-Lisa Page, co-editor of the essay collection WE WEAR MASKS: 15 TRUE STORIES ON PASSING (Beacon Press)

Sybil Baker’s beautifully written and compelling collection, IMMIGRATION ESSAYS, vividly dramatizes our missed opportunities to be more humane citizens of the world. From her family farm to small town and urban America, and then to places as far away and culturally different as southeast Asia and eastern Europe, Baker takes us to places in which we may be slow to recognize beauty, and she brings us thoughtfully and poignantly home, back to the heart. She begins with the fact that we share the planet with over sixty-five million refugees fleeing worn-torn regions, and she points out the likelihood that each of us lives only blocks away from families restricted by poverty and inequality. Using photographs, personal history, literature, and a generous mix of compassion, wit, and irony, these keenly nuanced and hauntingly honest essays inspire us to keep our minds and hearts open in order to richly experience the wider world. Urgently relevant for these times, IMMIGRATION ESSAYS is a book I wish everyone would read.”

-Allen Wier, author of TEHANO

The German philosopher and critic Walter Benjamin once lamented how even though every morning brings us news from around the globe, we are left ironically poorer in possessing any noteworthy stories, because what is being conveyed to us has already been “shot through with explanation.” in ranging from her own family’s history in possum valley, Arkansas to the stories of refugees from Sudan, Iraq, Cuba, the Ukraine and Elsewhere, Sybil Baker has crafted the perfect answer for Benjamin, an indispensable collection of essays on what it means to be a global citizen who prejudges no one and who remains full of empathy and perpetual engagement with the difficult, utterly crucial questions of race, place, privilege and migration. This is a compliment I would never pay lightly, but Sybil is that rarest of white writers who, because she’s worked so hard at it, genuinely understands a good part of what it means to be a person of color. In this respect, IMMIGRATION ESSAYS is nothing short of brilliant, both in its conception and use of personal photographs and in its wider historical perspective; ultimately this book redefines our very idea of home even as it writes a love letter to the world.”

-Ravi Shankar, Pushcart Prize Winning Author of WHAT ELSE COULD IT BE

More than a collection of ‘wanderings’ Sybil Baker’s IMMIGRATION ESSAYS is an amazing and essential odyssey for our times. Ranging from origins in a rural house through ten cities, shantytowns and even the effects of gentrifications in her own city and counterpointed against heartfelt experiences through Asia, Europe and Africa, Baker opens up the world of peoples from places like Sudan, Ukraine, Greece, Turkey, Iraq and more. Here we learn how every place, even our own, is foreign, how every person is an immigrant in some respect with a back story that makes you see them anew. As she writes, ‘by listening and telling stories we acknowledge each other’s value, as different as our lives are.’ Through all this there is an overwhelming hope that despite the racism and poverty she encounters we can ‘commit to embracing and forgiving the world.’ What better vision can we have? You need to read this book, and more, believe in it.”

Richard Jackson, award-winning author of THE HEART’S MANY DOORS


Listen to Sybil’s interview with a local NPR affiliate for Into This World: “Best New Read.”

​Into This World was a finalist for ForeWord’s Book of the Year Award and received Honorable Mention for the Eric Hoffer book award.

Beautifully told, Sybil Baker weaves a lush, finely wrought tale of two daughters in search of love, two sisters in search of forgiveness in the middle of a foreign land.”

Foreword Reviews

Every member of the family in this story is flawed; the beauty of the narrative lies in how they fit together anyway. With its complicated, authentic characters and a suspenseful premise, Into This World works as both a mystery and a family drama.”

Sarah Norris, Chapter 16

Sybil Baker is a startlingly good writer. The big cities and small villages of Korea feel alive on every page. And if you think there’s nothing fresh to say about the fragility of family bonds, read INTO THIS WORLD. Only in the best-told stories, like this one, may we measure and forgive one another, and ourselves.”

Nance Van Winckel, author of No Starling


Called an emerging star in fiction and poetry in the Huffington Post. See video reading here

Listen Sybil talk about TALISMANS during a WUTC interview.

Sybil Baker writes beautifully of a young woman’s journey to make peace with her past, in spite of being impeded by loss. The felt-life of her settings pulses on every page. The young woman is brave; Sybil Baker is brave, as well, for writing with such keen honesty.”

Patricia Henley, author of Hummingbird House and In the River Sweet

Baker’s language is sharp and evocative…Talismans combines the descriptive power of short fiction with the narrative swath of a novel, and it should appeal to fans of both.”

Paul V. GriffithChapter 16

Talismans is a haunting and memorable series of vignettes that will leave readers thinking about Elise, as well as the places she visits and the persons with whom she interacts, long after reading the final short story in the collection…Baker is a gifted writer, in that she has created ten individual works that stand alone, and can be read and appreciated independently of each other… her descriptions of the people and places are lush and her narration authoritative.”

Colloquim


Totally engaging voice and compelling plot. I couldn’t put it down. Bravo!”

Sue William Silverman, author of the memoir LOVE SICKmade into a Lifetime Television Original Movie

A marvelous literary romp for the 21st century. In her protagonist ‘Kat,’ Sybil Baker gives us a woman scorned, whose fury finds solace in Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, whose emotional terror finds peace in a revision of her life’s plan. You love Kat for her vulnerability, even as you laugh out loud at her convoluted, comic careening through the world. And a bonus: THE LIFE PLAN is also the most original, no-holds-barred, well-informed and readable traveler’s guide to Thailand.”

Xu Xi, author of EVANESCENT ISLES and THE UNWALLED CITY

THE LIFE PLAN is a screwball comedy for the 21st century, a witty and winning romp through one woman’s discovery that life, love, and liberty do not always go according to plan. Baker’s talent for zinging one-liners and trenchant characterization make THE LIFE PLAN a joyously touching read.”

-Robert Eversz, author of the Nina Zero novels