RaveThe AtlanticDennis-Benn, in her novels, is unsparing in her scrutiny of love and the sacrifices—not the gauzy and selfless kind—that it can demand ... Yet for all the bleak determinism and brutality in Dennis-Benn’s fictional worlds, what stands out in Patsy is yearning—for opportunity, for pleasure, for connection, almost exclusively among women. That yearning, coexisting as it does within the cold-eyed realism of its setting, helps Dennis-Benn’s second novel strike a solemn balance between entrapment and escape ... Patsy is a portrait of black queer women grasping for self-determination, and a challenge to the conventions of what is expected of good mothers and good women and good immigrants. Tru’s inheritance from Patsy isn’t years of doting or gifts from America, but instead the permission to thrive in a society that will always threaten to crush her will and desire. In writing beautifully about that unending struggle, Dennis-Benn finds a way to extend to black girls and women some of the love that the world may never offer.
RaveThe AtlanticSing establishes Ward as one of the most poetic writers in the conversation about America’s unfinished business in the black South. Set post–Hurricane Katrina, the novel resonates at a time when the devastation of Hurricane Harvey and the protests and violence in Charlottesville see many Americans returning to missed lessons about racial identity and the Old South ... Over and over in this novel, individual burdens tangle with long-held familial ones. By oscillating between past and present, Ward paints a picture of intergenerational trauma that feels almost inescapable. She returns often to the theme that everything 'happens at once,' and it’s difficult to distinguish where sorrow ends and desperation begins. Instead of allowing those memories to suffocate her characters, the novel interrogates what being tethered to a collective black experience means ... She uses a haunting, magical-realist style to masterfully warp two of life’s most inflexible realities: time and death. Her book seems to ask whether a family or a nation can atone for inequities that remain well and alive.
RaveThe AtlanticWhile Gay is grappling with a painful, first-person story, she gracefully weaves in the sharp commentary that she’s come to be known for ... She relies on the repetitive descriptions of her rape and her brokenness in a way that might in other circumstances seem gratuitous, but which in Hunger serves to give readers some emotional insight into the unrelenting nature of trauma. Woven into this repetition is a ruminative preoccupation with strength, in all its varieties ... Hunger is arresting and candid. At its best, it affords women, in particular, something so many other accounts deny them—the right to take up space they are entitled to, and to define what that means.