RaveChicago Review of BooksKei Miller probes these silent places: what it means to be silent, to break that silence; what it means to risk one’s words and, in turn, the truth. Using his experience as a Black, Jamaican, queer man, he digs into the silence through letters to James Baldwin, Carnival, conversations with white writers, family secrets, and the experience of discrimination of the body and the histories and stories the body can tell ... Some of the most powerful and moving moments in this powerful and moving collection is Miller performing a kind of literary ventriloquism in which thoughts and ideas and feelings are expressed without always being said ... Much of the work in Things That I Have Withheld examines risks—risks in speaking, risks in remaining silent. What do we lose when we don’t use our voice, what do we lose when we do ... One of the questions Miller asks has been stuck in my head: \'How does one unlearn privilege, especially the kind that is given to you daily and without question, so it does not seem like privilege at all but simply the everyday-ness of life?\'
PositiveChicago Review of BooksAnimal is a feminist revenge killing tale ... but it also feels reductive to label Animal as such. Yes, there is revenge, there is a reckoning, and there is a killing, but they seem secondary. Unlike other pieces of pop culture and art that revel in the what (the violence, the rage, the revenge), Animal is concerned with the why—it is a novel that is concerned with making us aware of all the reasons the what happens ... It’s easy to say the audience for a book like Animal is other women—women who can see themselves in the sexual politics of the novel: the everyday ogling and harassing, indignities suffered during the most banal of activities, like going to a farmer’s market. But maybe the audience is—or should be—men ... Taddeo is fed up, and she is telling us to listen, pay attention, that our actions, our looks, our words mean things, have consequences. Animal is a book less about the enacting of female rage and revenge and more about showing us all the terror and microaggressions that build to a tipping point—from sexual assault to mansplaining; from instantaneous, life-changing trauma to slowly being boiled alive in lukewarm water.
PositiveChicago Review of BooksNutt is never explicit, never spells it out. Rather, she lets the images do the work. \'That a shore exists—even if its line doesn’t cross the horizon—is not likely a comfort to someone swimming in the middle of the ocean.\' It’s haunting and beautiful. And it makes me feel sad and alone, like that sadness and loneliness will never end. It’s a metaphor that makes me feel rather than parse ... The essays...are fragmented, lyrical, full of white space for ideas and themes to echo through. They bleed into one another maintaining the same structure, rhythm, voice, and tone—this observation is not meant as a slight; Nutt is in full control of how form and content are playing together. As self-contained essays, they are ephemeral, in that their bleeding leads to a loose conglomerate—a container made of containers.
RaveThe Chicago Review of Books... sprawling yet focused ... clear and engaging. It offers fresh insight to the idea of liberty — an idea that is increasingly at the fore of societal concern. Stovall doesn’t preach; he doesn’t try to convince anyone to come to his side. He offers important context to the history of the development of freedom, and engaging analysis supported by carefully researched evidence. Stovall gives us all the information we need, and then challenges us to look deeper ... an historical analysis; it is not a polemic — Stovall has no obligation to provide a blueprint for a way forward ... Perhaps the best way to read Stovall’s history is to use the book as an object through which to examine our own experiences of liberty. White Freedom has much to tell us, if we let it, about how racism has been built into so many of our systems and institutions, and about how what we see as freedom isn’t really freedom for all.
PositiveThe Chicago Review of BooksThere is a reason that all the men seem similar or like cardboard—this book is not about them. They don’t really matter. They are there to function as sounding boards for Nina ... Gerard resists giving us a Lancelot moment with Nina—no knight in shining armor shakes her, Nina doesn’t run off to another relationship. We never see Nina get free; but there is hope of her doing so—or at least a moment in which I choose to see hope. The last scene of the novel is simple and devastating. It leaves Nina in a liminal space, and how we read, what we choose to imagine happens next, will say a lot about what we think love is, and what it isn’t.
PositiveThe Chicago Review of BooksThese minor plot points never quite connect. They are only resolved in summary, in the novel’s coda—this proves unsatisfying, yet intriguing ... What I most appreciate about Quotients is the same thing I find most difficult, and that is O’Neill’s syntactical and stylistic play. The language in this novel is all things all the time: challenging, playful, exciting, and opaque ... If O’Neill wanted to write a simple literary thriller, she would have. What she has given us with Quotients is a piece of art that eschews convention, one that forces us to take a fractured narrative and turn it inward ... This is a book for our paranoid age, the one where we keep our secrets pressed tight against our chests; the one where we have no secrets at all.
PositiveThe Chicago Review of BooksGeddes employs a third-person limited point of view, introducing each character in a sort of vacuum. And this is the joy of the novel. Geddes shapes and molds each character in relation to the stuff they own, sell, and covet ... Not only does the use of objective correlative provide a vivid psychological representation, it also implicates us, the reader: what you carry, what you wear, what is it transmitting to those around you? Geddes knows which characters to stick with, and which ones to move on from. Some are better drawn than others, but it is to Geddes’ credit that each are imbued with their own voice and vitality ... There is little action in the novel—lots of thinking, lots of talking—but when it is time for doing (and big, important things are done), the action serves as revelation and allows for real, meaningful change in more than one character ... Geddes doesn’t so much skewer our current materialistic society as pick at it. Picks at it until it starts to bleed enough that we have to take notice. Take notice of the stuff we use to tell the world who we are, or who we want to be seen as, at least.
PositiveThe Chicago Review of Books... a quiet, contemplative novel. And Sister Johanna, her even-toned, melancholy tinged voice, her always calm demeanor never belying the storm inside her, is an ideal stand in for Olafsson’s Iceland. At once austere and full of passion. The whole book is a kind of mood ... Olafsson may not have given us a new story, but he has reminded us it is still a relevant one as institutional power continues to prey on both the weak and the resolute.