PositiveThe AtlanticIt is a testament to Adjei-Brenyah’s idiosyncratic talents as a satirist that this premise, which initially seems outlandish, feels disquietingly plausible by the novel’s end ... Adjei-Brenyah introduces a wide cast of incarcerated fighters, each of whom—like professional wrestlers—has a signature style, moniker, catchphrase, and weapon. Although many characters appear only briefly—usually because they’re killed shortly after being introduced—they tend to be memorable, and in their descriptions and voices, Adjei-Brenyah shows off his polyvocal skill.
RaveThe Washington Post\"... stunning ... Aftershocks...spares little in the way of capturing the disorienting atmosphere of an earthquake: the fear of the earth’s sudden movement, the terror of being in the midst of a tragedy, the trauma that follows and lingers. And, of course, there are actual earthquakes in the book, the first of which, in a remarkable case of life being stranger than fiction ... a hallucinatory, harrowing tale. We witness, in sections both tantalizing and tragic, Owusu’s struggles with mental illness. The book becomes a form of attempted self-care, repair through revelation. This is no ordinary jeremiad or jejune recounting of events; instead, it is an evocation of a feeling, of what it feels like to be constantly in search of a place to call home, constantly in search of peace amid trauma ... this sense of uprooting and uncertainty feels real and resonant, and it is in her capturing of this curious sensation that Owusu shines brightest as a memoirist ... Addressing all of this is no easy feat, and Owusu succeeds overall but occasionally stumbles. Her prose is often beautiful and lyrical, as well as limber ... nonlinear, improvisational ... At the same time, despite my love for challenging nonfiction, this structure sometimes feels too disorienting, if not vertiginous; I lost track of people and places more than once, and several sections spiral through topics, places and voice changes so quickly that it becomes overwhelming.
Still, Owusu’s brilliance as a prose writer keeps me hooked even in these moments of uncertainty. \
PositiveBookforum...a new, well-balanced anthology of prose and poetry featuring many of Lorde’s greatest hits and a new introduction by Roxane Gay. The collection contains many classic essays and lectures that her fans will recognize ... Readers primarily familiar with these works will find a compelling selection of her verse, as well as some of her more personal writing about her childhood and about the cancer that would eventually lead to her death at age fifty-eight ...The anthology lacks any of Lorde’s notable public conversations, like her famous talk—published in Essence in 1984—with James Baldwin about what Black men fail to realize about the struggles of Black women; still, the new book is a good place to begin, particularly for readers yet to discover Lorde as a poet ... To read Lorde is to encounter a flame that is unashamed to be one, even in a world that fears fire. To read Lorde is to begin the work of unmanacling and decolonizing one’s mind, to begin the urgent work of learning how all things—identities, prejudices, systems, histories, desires—are linked. To read Lorde is to learn as much as to unlearn, to embrace the oft-maligned characteristic of being blunt, to feel a woman’s uncensored rage about the many Clifford Glovers that are being killed in America by white officers who desire little more than to dominate and destroy a Black body. To read Lorde is to encounter a writer whose vision of a murderous, ravenous America is, at its red core, all too similar to our own, its hunger for Black bodies and blood still just as chillingly insatiable now as it was then.
Kuniko Tsurita, Trans. by Ryan Holmberg
RaveThe AtlanticThe first authorized anthology to showcase Tsurita’s work in English, it includes an exhaustively researched afterword by Ryan Holmberg (adapted and expanded from a shorter piece by Mitsuhiro Asakawa). The essay, which recounts the story of young Tsurita’s letter in great detail, seeks to explain her place in the heavily gendered world of Japanese manga, particularly alternative or alt-manga. While the comics assembled here are uneven in quality, and though the introductory essay may seem intimidatingly academic to readers unfamiliar with early manga, the book is overall a fantastic, continually surprising look at one of Japan’s most innovative—and least remembered—manga artists ... The quality of Tsurita’s late work is remarkable, given how severely lupus ravaged her ability to draw; before her death, she was barely able to finish tracing the lines of her panels ... The Sky Is Blue With a Single Cloud succeeds in establishing Tsurita as a truly singular cartoonist whose versatile oeuvre deserves more critical attention. Her work, including somber sphinxian riddles and the quiet, unforgettable terror of the titular comic, reflects a complicated artist who fought against the sexist strictures of her era, leaving behind a rich, multivalent collection of art wholly her own.
MixedThe Atlantic\"An impressively expansive new biography by Mark Dery, Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey, attempts, often with success, to demystify the illustrator’s wide-ranging elusiveness ... To varying extents, the book and the exhibitions delve into both Gorey’s surrealism-influenced philosophy of art and into perhaps the ultimate puzzle of Gorey—the private life of the man himself ... One failing of Born to Be Posthumous is Dery’s repeated insistence on claiming Gorey was obviously gay by virtue of his \'flamboyant dress\' and \'bitchy wit\'; here, Dery falls into the trap of equating effeminacy with gay men, an archaic stereotype.\
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksClever, cruel, hilarious, heartbreaking, and at times simply ingenious, Thompson-Spires’s experimental collection poses a simple, yet obviously not-simple, question: what does it mean to be a black American in this day and age? ... Thompson-Spires’s metafictional satires, oriented around questions of blackness, join a particular tradition of African-American fiction, recalling the sardonic absurdism of Everett’s Erasure and Paul Beatty’s The Sellout, among others ... Not all of Thompson-Spires’s stories are overtly satirical, and they become progressively more serious as the collection progresses, but a thread of outrageous, glaring self-awareness runs through the collection, granting even many of the more severe tales a tone of dark comedy ... Thompson-Spires, thankfully, depicts a wide range of people, not seeking either overwhelmingly positive or negative images of a race but capturing diversity — reality — in much of its multifarious beauty and terror ... The real heads, of course, as this brilliant collection of word paintings displays, can be on anybody’s bodies.
PositiveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksSenna’s voice and narrative are distinct and compelling. And her conflicted, white-passing, multiracial protagonist Maria is both a believable — if exasperating — figure and a partial but disquietingly accurate embodiment of the United States in 2017. How do we live in our own skin, the novel seems to ask, when it is living in our own skin that causes so much grief? ... New People is a paean to the psychosocial complexities of being racially mixed, and, as a result, color-lines, passing, and double-consciousness are everywhere ... A patron saint of the eternally conflicted, Maria is always in search of an identity, even if it means doing what is most demeaning and disgusting to her. A victim of double-consciousness, Maria is forever thinking of what others think of her ... The novel’s ultimate message seems to be one both true and unsettling, if unsurprising: that color-lines have never left America and likely never will, and that those of us who walk between the lines may always be tormented, always followed by something dusky and doubtful we cannot quite catch sight of.
Pajtim Statovci, Trans. by David Hackston
PositiveThe New Yorker\"My Cat Yugoslavia draws on this compounded experience of exile to tell two parallel stories; it reads as a life reflected by flawed and foggy mirrors ... My Cat Yugoslavia is spry and warm at first, but it hardens, becoming emotionally icier, until Bekim and his mother reach parallel breaking points...This chilliness put me off at first; the novel’s coldness made me feel cold to it. But, as I kept reading, its mood and style began to make sense. The novel is a slowly shattering and re-forming reflection of the protagonists’ corresponding descents into wintry numbness, until, near the end, they begin to revive, and to love ... Statovci’s surreal, arresting novel suggests that we must look anyway, and that love and identity have many reflections, many destinies, many languages. Sometimes, a broken mirror reflects something truer—as does the kind of love, drawn from the deepest sunken places, that tries to put it back together.\