RaveThe Womens Review of BooksIt’s not surprising that Sow and Friedman chose to narrate the work in one voice, using we and us. Although the decision requires differentiation in first names that results in some awkward phrasing, the linguistic choice is one way the couple signals their entwinement. Regardless, their unified voice feels authentic. Long-time listeners of the podcast will recognize their banter and conversational quips about the merits of denim skirts, Midwest divas\' dip-making expertise, and about how they’ve \'steamrolled each other to success\' by way of Shine Theory, a phrase they’ve coined about supporting each other without envy or jealousy ... the pair hasn\'t divulged any practical tips. Sow and Friedman\'s true intervention is that they provide a cogent argument for cultivating Big Friendship and establishing such relationships in the first place ... Ultimately, Big Friendship is a neccessary disruption to teh widely held believe that one person, often a sexual partner, can and should satisfy every need. It rejects the understanding that intimate friendships are auxiliary but still unneccessary, and through their example, offers a glimpse at the support and meaning to be derived from robust companionship. Sow and Friedman provide a powerful argument for expanding our affections and help us to imagine a new reality.
PositiveChicago Review of BooksEmploying simple vocabulary and succinct explanations of complex concepts, Williams’s style reflects her background in journalism. She is a master of contextualization ... The comprehensive text proves both Williams’ aptitude and that her project is as deep and complex as she argues. While each personal story leads to a larger point, though, some sections feel tedious and could be trimmed ... For such a historically situated text, Williams subtly threads in more recent cultural references ... With its contemporary references and (sometimes) gruesome explanations, The Language of Butterflies ultimately proves one basic point: that human superiority is a myth, especially when evolution continually engenders more complex and advanced organisms.
PositiveChicago Review of BooksMidwesterners, Christman argues, are seen as average ... Of course, there are dangerous implications that underlie these long-held notions, which Christman brilliantly unravels. He provides a perceptive take on how capitalism, environmental destruction, and oppression are intertwined throughout the region’s history ... Christman is snarky, sarcastic, and undeniably funny, providing quips and facts I’d love to use the next time I argue with my family members about why they can’t vote for Donald Trump again ... while Christman writes with fact-based and intellectual arguments, I found the critical work validating and even hopeful. As Christman unpacks the complicated narratives surrounding the Midwest and argues for a sort of radical compassion for the very diverse people living in the region, the easier it is for me to understand my own complex relationship to the Midwest. The writer requires that we think more deeply about what can be gained from laying bare the hypocrisy hidden in the well-known stories about Midwestern values and life.
PositiveChicago Review of BooksThose who have listened to Frances-White’s work may recognize her humorous quips and breadth of pop culture knowledge ... The nearly 300-page work generally falls at the intersection of gender studies and self-help ... [she] avoids diving into semantics and the theory, making the book accessible for those just starting to wade into activism ... The Guilty Feminist probably won’t be revelatory for readers with a solid background in feminist discourse, although that’s not to say the work won’t be useful ... Perhaps the book’s greatest accomplishment is that it tasks its readers with employing one of the most basic principles of feminism: to recognize the full humanity of women and of those who don’t identify as male.
Cathy Park Hong
RaveThe Chicago Review of BooksWhereas many personal narratives present a singular perspective, Hong’s approach is more expansive ... Hong’s work is an intellectual demonstration of how deeply rooted race relations in America are and how their manifestation differs across generations ... at-times funny, often deeply thought-provoking ... Some lines in Minor Feelings flow just as a lyric would while others rail against the English language and reject literary forms long cemented within canonical texts. As Hong writes, \'illegibility is a political act\' ... Some of Hong’s dialogue feels forced and more rigid than the rest of her writing ... What Hong provides in Minor Feelings is a sort of groundwork for asking questions about projects that defy convention, form, and content and that look very different from canonized texts and lauded works found in museums ... an urgent consideration of identity, social structures, and artistic practice. It’s a necessary intervention in a world burgeoning with creativity but stymied by a lack of language and ability to grapple with nuance. Hong takes a step in remedying that.
RaveThe Chicago Review of BooksFrancis exposes her mental acuity by effortlessly and persuasively weaving together history, science, and literature—not to mention tales of emotional struggle relating to her love life—in an autobiographical work that triumphs as a meditation on darkness and hope. Dark Skies questions and historicizes what it means for people to spend time in the natural world, which often remains unknown and elusive to us in modern life, especially after the sun sets ... There’s something especially compelling about the ways Francis explores ... Her writing is clear and not at all pretentious, the way you’d want it to be in a narrative about the disheartening state of our shared environments. It’s easy to appreciate clarity and a straight-forward take on something so grim and immediate. Dark Skies is an urgent lesson in observation, one we need in a world that tramples carelessly over those who are too easily overlooked or disregarded ... In a world struggling daily with environmental catastrophe and the slog of news surrounding such life-affecting issues, there always remains one reassuring thought: the dark night is always followed by the dawn. At least for now.
PositiveThe Chicago Review of BooksSklenicka denies any ambiguity in the association between daily life and theory by intersecting the two in a way that would be meaningful even to those who are not well-versed in literary analysis. Her ability to prove the practical applications of such conceptual ideas to both literature and life is enviable ... While she easily analyzes the tribulations of gender for Adams and women more broadly, Sklenicka’s conceptions of race are less explicit. While there are multiple conversations about rampant anti-Semitism during World War II and Adams’s own comments on racism during the war and throughout her life, Sklenicka’s language surrounding Adams’s family history, particularly her mother’s, lacks that same critical consideration and admonishment she applies to gender. At times, Sklenicka comes off as somewhat sympathetic toward white southerners who felt shame and guilt for the crimes committed against black people during slavery, while failing to account adequately for the black experience. In a text that otherwise thoughtfully accounts for various oppressions, these passages don’t meet the mark ... But Sklenicka is clearly a skilled biographer. Her writing is engaging yet simple and lacks the pretense and gentility Adams seemingly would have hated. No detail, story, or analysis feels unnecessary, an accomplishment for a work totaling more than 500 pages. She also proves her depth of research as she includes the political and cultural contexts surrounding the events that impacted Adams and later appeared in her fiction.