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Local News

Morton College instructor's novel 'The Fugue' tells of refugees living in Cicero after World War II

CICERO – If his new novel, “The Fugue,” provides readers with a sense of wonder and mindful awareness that allows them to understand their place in society, Morton College faculty member Gint Aras will feel like he accomplished his goal.

“Creating intimacy between people would be an amazing accomplishment, and the attempt to try to learn and see something bigger than themselves…that’s intimate. That’s sincere beauty,” said the 42-year-old Oak Park resident, whose real name is Karolis Gintaras Zukauskas. His pen name is Gint Aras. “Books should be making people more aware about the world.”

“The Fugue” was re-released by Chicago-based publisher Tortoise Books in February, after an initial release by the Chicago Center for Literacy and Photography in 2015. The novel, which is about a community of refugees living in Cicero after World War II, reflects on themes of trauma and convalescence, Aras said. The story isn’t told in chronological order and spans many decades.

“It’s not happy in the way you feel after reading something like ‘Green Eggs and Ham,’ but it’s a book that offers a path toward convalescence for people who’ve experienced trauma, which is probably all of us,” he said.

Aras grew up in Cicero, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English and American literature from the University of Illinois and has a master's degree in writing from Columbia University. He’s been on the faculty at Morton College in Cicero since 2003. He said he’s always wanted to be a writer and wrote his first book at age 12.

“I don’t know anything else, I never imagined myself as anything else,” he said. “I didn’t choose writing. Writing is my mind. I can’t say I like it, I am it. I’ve always been fascinated by stories. They’re powerful and have the capacity to change people’s point of view.”

Aras self-published his first novel, “Finding the Moon in Sugar,” in 2009, long after he’d begun working on “The Fugue.” He began writing “The Fugue” in 2000 and tried selling it in 2003 to no avail. He said he considered it a failure but used it as a learning experience.

“You get used to rejection as a writer. It happens most of the time,” he said. “’The Fugue’ is doing very well now, but it’s hard to make money selling books. I’m proud that I didn’t quit despite roadblocks and obstacles. I kept pushing to see it through.”

Jerry Brennan, owner of Tortoise Books, read “Finding the Moon in Sugar” and was impressed with Aras’ writing. He snapped up the rights to “The Fugue” shortly after Aras broke ties with the Chicago Center for Literacy and Photography because the novel crosses genres, which Brennan said is the kind of material that fits Tortoise Books.

“Tortoise publishes books that don’t always have a clear path to publication,” Brennan said. “I’m thrilled to publish ‘The Fugue.’ It’s a fast read for such a big book. Gint is a hard worker, and he’s so committed to the success of his books.”

Aras said he feels a calling to use his talent to try to change people’s points of view and to help them realize that people are “interdependent.”

“I wish that we were a literary culture, but we’re not,” he said. “We don’t value reading and language or respect communication. I take it as a privilege to be at the center of an attempt to show the world that communication and being able to see the world from others’ point of view matters. We create civility and peace when we can see that we’re not isolated individuals.”

Aras is already working on his next project, which he said has both a fiction and non-fiction component.

“I’m really excited about the next phase,” he said. “The theme of interdependence has become my project, and I like developing it and sharing it.”

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Check it out

“The Fugue” is available on amazon.com and at local bookstores, including The Book Table in Oak Park and City Lit Books in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood.

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