Anakana Schofield’s bold second novel Martin John centers on a deeply disturbed man who has been exiled to London by his mother after an “incident” in Ireland involving a young girl.
Brian Evensonnominated for the Shirley Jackson Award, finalist for the Edgar Award and the World Fantasy Award, winner of the International Horror Guild Award, the American Library Associations award for Best Horror Novel, and recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and three O. Henry Awardsis considered a master of American horror.
It's been said that most people live small lives of quiet desperation. While this is true of many of the people in her stories, Deb Olin Unferth writes their desperation large. Reviews of Unferth’s new collection, Wait Till You See Me Dance...
Sherman Alexie recently posted a frank letter on his Facebook page explaining why he was canceling the rest of his book tour.
Although Nancy Lord has been writing powerfully about our role in the destruction of our natural environment for a long while, this is the first full-length fiction by the famed Alaska naturalist and former Alaska Writer Laureate (2008-10).
I first read Darcey Steinke’s Suicide Blonde at some point in the 1990s. I was around the same age as Steinke’s protagonist, Jesse, and although my life had taken a different trajectory, I remember recognizing too much of myself in Jesse.
Kathy Acker’s influence over an entire generation of disaffected young women has yet to be fully explored, but with Chris Kraus’s new biography, Acker’s importance as a writer is finally being acknowledged.
The first thing you need to know about this memoir is that it gets better. Not only does life get better for Laura Jane Grace (née Tom Gabel), but the book itself gets better.
In Our Lady of the Prairie, Thisbe Nissen’s rambunctious and roving new novel (her third), Nissen weaves several disparate narratives into what she calls a “crazy quilt” of a novel—emphasis on “crazy.
Denis Johnson (1949-2017) was, as many critics would agree, one of the most important American writers of the last several decades. While many cite Jesus’ Son (1992) as his best work (it is likely his best-known), he wrote nine novels, a few plays, several essays, and many volumes of poetry.
When Margaret Atwood, Marlon James, and Louise Erdrich rave about a book before its release, it had better live up to the hype and Tommy Orange’s debut, There There very much does.
Every once in a while a book comes along that merits special attention. Shelley Jackson’s Riddance; or, The Sybil Joines Vocational School for Ghost Speakers and Hearing-Mouth Children is one of those books.
Daphne’s isolation in Altavista is deepened by a lack of WiFi, which makes it difficult for her to Skype with her husband. While at a café with WiFi, Daphne meets the ninety-plus Alice, who speaks some Turkish. Hearing her husband’s language encourages Daphne to reach out, and the women develop an awkward friendship; some of the only moments of adult intimacy in the novel. Alice’s grudging kindness and abrupt way of speaking make a great counterpoint to Daphne’s frenetic energy.
I first met Roy Scranton when he was at The New School. He was finishing up one degree on his way to more and I was an editor at the MFA program’s journal, LIT. He gave me a story to read that I loved so much I championed it and we ran it. This wasn’t some great victory—Scranton’s a great writer. His mastery of language is apparent from the first time you open of any of his books. So when I pitched this review to my editor I thought it would be a wholly enjoyable experience: reading a writer who understands language writing about the most pressing issue(s) of our time.
The women in Ivelisse Rodriguez’s debut collection differ in age, opportunity, and background but all share one commonality: they want to believe in love. But in a culture where they are taught that to be in love, to be desired by a man, is paramount and that little else matters, it is difficult for any woman to survive. Rodriguez’s women (and one boy) are complex, well-wrought, but cannot teach us anything except perhaps how to believe in or to survive love. These nine stories present a complex, multifaceted, and somewhat connected narrative of Puerto Rican life.
The eight stories in this collection feature varied characters in different states of diaspora each with their own powerful voice. Set in both China and the United States, not all of Chai's characters are immigrants, but each suffers from different kinds of displacement. With a vision that is both sharp and compassionate, Chai allows us to see just what it is to be “different” in a world that embraces conformity.
Kim Sagwa's English-language debut is both a difficult and complex read. Loosely comparable to the Mean Girls and Pretty Little Liars genre with tones of Bright Lights, Big City, the novel focuses on two young women failing to cope with their lives and with each other. Set in South Korea’s “P City,” Mina and her sometimes-best-friend Crystal suffer pressures common to most teens and while also specific to South Korea. These are girls of privilege whose parents are mostly absent but expect perfect grades, perfect performance. Driven and lost with virtually no adult supervision, the end can only be tragic.
Originally published in 1950, this slim novel packs a major wallop. Somers (1914 – 1994, pen name for Armonía Liropeya Etchepare Locino) was a Uruguayan writer, pedagogue, and a major force in Latin American feminism. And although she was a prolific writer, this publication of The Naked Woman is Somers only novel translated into English.
Every once in a while a book comes along that is so powerful, so replete with well-sculpted prose and telling such an urgent narrative that I find it impossible to put down. Sophie Mackintosh’s debut novel is just such a book. I want everyone to read it, especially every woman, every writer.
There is a depth of storytelling and world-creating in Black Leopard, Red Wolf that rivals Beowulf, Lord of the Rings, EarthSea, or even Dune. This is fantasy at is most complicated, entertaining, and mythically weighty.
Some years back a friend told me I had to see Sean Penns film Into the Wild (2007) based on Jon Krakauers biography of Christopher McCandless, a privileged young white man who gave up his worldly goods to journey into the Alaskan wilderness.
Elvia Wilks debut novel Oval is a speculative meditation on the evil humans doto the planet and to each other. Its also a distinctly millennial love story and a sometimes sharp and sometimes meandering critique of modern society.
Danticats writing is language stripped bare which lets her stories and characters breathe. There is a rising intensity in these stories from the first sentence of the first page that draws the reader in and demands we pay attention.
Cutting Edge: New Stories of Mystery and Crime By Women Writers is a patriarchy-challenging collection of noir by women. Not all of these tales are told from a womans perspective, nor are they all presenting a feminist perspective, but most are wonderfully wrought, chilling tales of revenge, redemption, the evil that men do, and just what these women do about it.
There is a complex grace to The Glass Hotel thats often lacking from contemporary fiction, particularly contemporary thriller fiction. Its not simply Mandels deft prose, her ability to write Dickensian networks of coincidence, but her keen observation of human behavior: our fears, our dreams, what drives us, and what might ultimately destroy or save each of us.
These 10 stories focus on a variety of unrelated characters grappling with loss, violence, sexual jealousy, and the terrible ways technology can be wielded in a data-dependent world.
In a recent interview, ONeill focuses on the paradigm of what she calls watchednessthe state of watching and being watched; a state many of us find ourselves in right now. The novels critique of internet privacy is of course vital and current, but so is the notion that all of us, everywhere are watching and being watchedall the time. Living in a city on lockdown, where we are encouraged to report our neighbors who may not be practicing safe social distancing and where we are encouraged to self-isolate, to only connect through technology, makes ONeills critique seem almost soft.
Whenever I read a celebrity memoir, I ask myself, Why does this story matter? What can readers learn from this? There has to be more to a celebrity memoir than just tales of sex, drugs, name dropping, fame, and survival. What Valentine provides is not only a thorough accounting of her harrowing childhood, her hard-fought rise to stardom, subsequent collapse and redemption; she provides a window into an important part of rock history.
While offering a slice of punk rock nostalgia around influential punk band X and frontwoman Exene Cervenka, the book also explores racism, sexuality, and the ways society often positions young women as transactional commodities with their worth based on their whiteness, their appearance, and their ability to please men.
In Jarrars new book (a memoir), Trumps rise to power is an undercurrent as, in over more than 200 pages, across decades, time zones, and borders, Jarrar explores what it is to live as an American who is also Palestinian, a woman, and a woman of a certain size who also self-defines as queer. We can all learn a lot from Jarrar: about racism, privilege, oppression, fat-phobia, sexual violence, and the way this country (and others) treats women.
In this equally exhausting and well-executed debut, Lauren Oyler turns her sharp critical eye on the world of social mediathe lies we tell online and the lies we tell ourselves. Already a respected critic, this is Oylers first foray into fiction.
In a culture that is built to support white male voices, the attempt to carve a space as a writer-outsider is incredibly difficult, a task, Salesses argues, made that much more difficult by the traditional workshop structure where the author is workshopped while sitting, completely silent, in a room full of other students discussing her work.
I sat on the beach with Jonathan Franzens forthcoming almost-600 page novel balanced on my knees, deep in his version of 1971 America. But as I dove into wave after wave, I was thinking instead of the glorious sea-infused debut by Mombasa-born Khadija Abdalla Bajaber.
These two very different novels explore issues of race, gender, and the history of white supremacy in the U.S.
The Sea of Tranquility (Mare Tranquillitatis) is a lunar mare that sits in the Tranquillitatis basin on the moon. Its the first off-world place ever visited by human beings. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left footprints there. Its also the location of the first moon colony in Emily St. John Mandels new novel.
While Meng Jin and Mieko Kawakami are very different writers, and these are two very different books, there are some shared threads, including a deep contemplation on what it means to be human, the terror of isolation and the solace of being alone, and an ongoing questioning of female identity.
Emma Donoghues new novel explores themes of faith, obedience, isolation, and survival in a harrowing story that is ancient and alien but also holds truths for our own time.
In the 1990s, Daniel Clowes’s wildly creative, darkly funny Eightball comics were a must read.
In 2005 James Wood in The New Yorker wrote, To read Cormac McCarthy is to enter a climate of frustration: a good day is so mysteriously followed by a bad one. McCarthy is a colossally gifted writer, certainly one of the greatest observers of landscape. He is also one of the great hams of American prose. Now eighty-nine, McCarthys two new novelsat least on the surfacefocus on the tragic relationship between a brother and sister, Bobby and Alicia (Alice) Western. The first, The Passenger, is novel-length and the second (much shorter text), Stella Maris, is structured as a series of therapy sessions between Alicia and her psychiatrist at the psychiatric facility where she has committed herself for the third and tragically final time.
When Ursula K. Le Guin died earlier this year, some obituaries referred to her as a “leading fantasy” writer, but some were smart enough to simply call her what she was: one of our greatest writers.
Writers can learn a lot from reading Atwood: not just the shape of her sentences, the way she moves seamlessly between topics, but also in those moments when she is very specific about process.
I wish I’d had Holly Black and A.G. (Angela) Slatter’s books to read when I was growing up. As it is, I’ve recently devoured nearly everything they’ve written.
In these two very different works on writing by two very different writers, there is much for fans and for writers alike.
Viv Albertine is an erudite and elegant woman, an accomplished writer whose first book, the 2014 Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys.: A Memoir achieved both critical and popular acclaim. Apart from her writing career, Albertine is best–known as a member of the British all–women punk band, The Slits.
Living on the Borderlines: Stories, by Melissa Michal and Sabrina & Corina: Stories, by Kali Fajardo-AnstineBy Yvonne C. Garrett
Theres a lot of talk these days about the need to listen to marginalized voices and yet so many of us continue to limit our readingby chance, circumstance, or desireto narratives written by and for a largely white literary audience.
At first pass, these two novels have little in common, but there are some parallels. Both are about a process of change, a shift into adulthood, and the sharp and difficult journey that can be for many of us.
In 2004, Eleanor Suzuki sees Leena Shah in an elevator in their college dorm. For Eleanor, its love at first sight (or at least young lust); Leena isnt so sure. From that moment, we see the development of their friendship, intense love affair, its collapse, and later coincidental meetings that complicate both their lives.
Much has already been written about Meg Wolitzer’s lengthy new novel The Female Persuasion, calling it everything from the “Great American Novel” in the New Yorker to retro elitist white middle-class feminism. I would argue that this novel is neither of those but exhibits both elements of genius and significant limitations for a twenty-first century feminist novel.
Deb Olin Unferth's Barn 8 starts out seemingly as the narrative of two women but eventually it becomes clear that this book isnt so much about the human characters but instead about the animals, specifically the hens: long-suffering, much smarter than we give them credit for, abused beyond comprehension, and ultimately transcendent.
In these three disparate books written by women, there are moments that shock and commonalities that illustrate the importance of diverse voices. In her new collection of essays, Jacqueline Rose writes with her usual precision about violence and its deadly grip on modern life. Black Box is the English translation of Shiori Itos groundbreaking account of surviving sexual violence in Japan. And in While Justice Sleeps, political powerhouse Stacey Abrams brings us a complex thriller focused on a young mixed-race woman investigating corruption at the highest levels of the US government.
Each of these books presents a master class in craft while also providing a perfectly honed narrative that draws the reader in and wont let go.
These two very different tales share few themes beyond the nascent power of young girls and a characterization of the natural world as essential in understanding our own humanity. Where Booker Prize winner Ben Okris (The Famished Road) magically graceful environmental fairy tale is full of light and hope, Mónica Ojedas Jawbone is rife with gothic body horror and the darkness of the jungle and within ourselves.
Claire Kohda’s debut is a deeply moving contemplation on love, food, art, and what it means to be alive. It’s also a vampire novel.
Erin Morgensterns new novel The Starless Sea is a beautifully wrought and many-layered tale; a riveting, rollicking, and complex quest for the very heart of story. For those who loved the magical depths and wondrous spaces of Morgensterns debut The Night Circus (2011), there is much here in her second novel to entertain and enthrall.
Addressing perceived injustice and giving us metaphors to understand suffering and redemption is some of the work modern fiction can do. Two recent novels that work to do this are Suzette Haden Elgins Native Tongue and Nell Zink's Doxology.
Like any good gothic novel, there is a dark old house full of noises and things that go bump in the night, there are ghosts and there are witches. But these are not malevolent ghosts and the witches are there to resist, to protect, and to balance male violence.
The nightly news has become a flood of narratives of sexual harassment and the rape of women and young girls by men in positions of power which lends a decided appeal to Naomi Alderman's tale of young girls suddenly getting "the power"—an ability to zap others with their own self-generated electrical charges.
Across some 200 pages, Garza applies a lingual scalpel to the narrative of systemic violence: a narrative enacted on both sides of the border by governments, law enforcement, drug cartels, and the media who sensationalize, erase, or ignore the violence. She
Sayaka Muratas (Convenience Store Woman, 2019) new novel is a deeply disturbing exploration of one womans attempt to try to survive outside cultural norms in Japanese society.
In her debut, a memoir, Jones catalogues family violence as a part of her remembering; violence becomes a framework and connecting thread for the 13 vignettes that explore her own, her familys, and her hometown, Myrtle Beachs troubled and collective past.
This slim volume confronts what the author identifies as a fundamental issue in academic librarianship—the perception that librarians are not teachers.
Cristina Rivera Garza’s The Iliac Crest is both a novel of ideas and one of visceral emotion written with language so precise and rich that at times it can feel overwhelming.
I’ve always been opposed to the whole “women in rock” categorization as a ploy for lazy critics to write about musicians who also happen to be women. But the current wave of memoirs by women musicians leads me to acknowledge that something is going on and I should pay attention.
Chris Offutt is a masterful writer. His ability to immerse a reader in his narrative, his clean and clear sentences and his powerful descriptive passages all have served over time as examples of American writing at its best.
The young female narrator has become incredibly popular particularly in American Young Adult fiction. YA is big business with a plethora of formulaic narratives and often mediocre writing.
Michelle Tea, queer countercultural icon, has a new book out. Against Memoir (Feminist Press, 2018) is a collection of essays and articles written for various places (some new for this book) and various audiences. All share Teas ability to get at the heart of difficult topics: struggles for non-binary people to survive in a largely unwelcoming binary world, women making space for themselves in punk rock, and fights over definitions of feminism and woman.
I’ve spent decades listening to what other people from other places think the Pacific Northwest is all about. Reading Monica Drake’s first collection of short stories, The Folly of Loving Life, I feel I’ve finally found a way to ward off all those mis-imagined fairy tales of the cities of the Northwest that so many people have created.
Welcome to Lagos has been described as comic by some reviewers but aside from a few slapstick-esque moments and some sharply funny critique of English race relations, it reads as modern African tragedy.
The Wardrobe Mistress is Patrick McGrath’s ninth novel, and he is top form as he paints a grim portrait of grief, fascism, and madness in post-war London.