Hope Wabukeis a Ugandan American poet, essayist, and writer. She is the author of the chapbooks The Leaving, Movement No.1: Trains,and Her, a contributing editor for The Root, and has published widely in various magazines, among them The Guardian,The Sun, Creative Nonfiction Magazine and elsewhere. Hope has received fellowships and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Book Critics Circle, The New York Times Foundation, the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund for Women Writers, the Awesome Foundation, Yale University’s THREAD Writer’s Program, and the Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation (VONA). She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best New Poets, and Best of the Net Awards, and was a finalist for the 2017 International Poetry Award. Hope is also an Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and an incoming board member of the National Book Critics Circle.
RaveNPRWhat is revealed in these letters is both the immense strength Emezi has nurtured in order to sustain a belief in who they are despite the destructive noise of the world, as well as Emezi\'s own brave and poignant vulnerability in charting this journey ... Written in imagistic language that is both poetic and crystalline, Dear Senthuran is an honest and lyrical accounting of a boundless mind exploring the wide expanse of creativity and experience. Authentic and vulnerable, the writing winds through the depths of wrenching wounds, but also explores the beauty in not pretending to be less that one truly is.
RaveNPRIn rich, evocative language, Smith synthesizes first hand research, textual sources, and interviews as he weaves a lyrical and precise tapestry of the truth of America\'s past that many would like to continue to hide ... The detail and depth of the storytelling is vivid and visceral, making history present and real. Equally commendable is the care and compassion shown to those Smith interviews — whether tour guides or fellow visitors in these many spaces. Due to his care as an interviewer, the responses Smith elicits are resonant and powerful ... Smith deftly connects the past, hiding in plain sight, with the today\'s lingering effects. ...
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
RaveNPR... one of our century\'s most gifted artists of language makes visceral the experience of death and grieving. In poetic bursts of imagistic prose that mirror the fracturing of self after the death of a beloved parent, Adichie constructs a narrative of mourning — of haunting and of love ... Reflecting upon moments of her father\'s life in vivid, richly saturated details allows some comfort ... A daughter\'s love and respect for a father who was pivotal in her formation of self saturates these pages ... becomes a work larger than its slim size, universal in the experience of the loss of a parent, and the struggle to mourn that loss, during a pandemic when airport closures and social distancing push funerals months and months past their scheduled dates. Of not knowing when the funeral will be, the delaying again, and then again ... Perhaps, in the reading of this book, in this personal lament made universal, so too will the rest of us who have lost so much over this past year of loss and grieving.
Charles M Blow
RaveNPRCharles Blow\'s own declaration of radical thought — for Black Americans to reconsider their Great Migration North and imagine new possibilities of Black political might ... Blow\'s main point is this: Racism is everywhere — it\'s just about what kind of racism you can live with. And for Blow, Southern racism is preferable to its Northern cousin. In cogent arguments bound together by his customary incandescent prose, Blow explores how the white backlash towards the Great Migration that never really ended has created a situation where racism in these Northern \'destination cities\' of the Great Migration makes life untenable for Black Americans. Through research undertaken by Project Implicit, Blow found there is no difference between anti-Black bias in the North and the South. There are only the ideas that people will admit to out loud. In other words, writes Blow, \'white people outside the South say the right words but many possess the same bigotry.\' ... Weaving together deeply thought out analysis and in-depth sociological and historical research, Blow details how, as Black folks migrated North, \'white people in Chicago found a way to formalize and ensure segregation: restrictive covenants\' that made Black people unable to lease, buy, or even use property in certain areas of the city ... It is also important to note the space Blow gives here to Black women social justice leaders who are often ignored, spending time with the mothers of the murdered black children — Samaria Rice, Sybrina Fulton; honoring the work of the great Shirley Chisolm; honoring the work Stacey Abrams. Indeed Abrams\' work, like Belafonte\'s call to action, is an impetus of sorts for Blow\'s book ... Blow does not call himself an activist and does not admit to any political aspiration; since starting his first newspaper in high school he has thought of himself as a newspaperman through and through. His job, writes Blow, is this: \'I bear witness. I interpret the world. I record history in real time.\' But for Blow, Belafonte\'s call still comes through loud and clear. Imagining free Black futures requires radical thought.
RaveNPRTo read Isabel Wilkerson is to revel in the pleasure of reading — to relax into the virtuosic performance of thought and form one is about to encounter, safe and secure that the structures will not collapse beneath you ... [Wilkerson] does not disappoint ... a masterwork of writing — a profound achievement of scholarship and research that stands also as a triumph of both visceral storytelling and cogent analysis ... Wilkerson supports her analysis with an immense compendium of documented research that spans centuries ... The descriptions are vivid in their horror; the connections travel across history and time to resonate in the mind. This structural move is a classic trademark of Wilkerson\'s style, and one of the attributes of her unique voice that imbues her writing with such textured depth. Wilkerson\'s use of a poetic focus on imagery and detailed characterization allows us an intimate and personal relationship with the lives of those she chronicles; when this empathic closeness is juxtaposed with the harsh brutality of the historical record the contrast is resonant and haunting, becoming a towering memorial to those violated by the violence of caste ... Although a claim can be made that the opening chapter or two on the fallout of the 2016 election appear dated, this to be fair, is only because of what has happened to America in the interim since Wilkerson penned those words ... What is problematic is the glaring absence of Africa in a book that aims to position itself as a seminal text on the concept of a global caste system and the positioning of Blackness within that global caste system. Wilkerson glances at this briefly with a scant mention of South Africa in a couple of paragraphs and by quoting a woman identified only as a Nigerian playwright saying that \'there are no Black people in Africa\' — and then keeps it moving. Both are moments that do need to be unpacked. It is understandable why Wilkerson does not walk through this door to explore caste in Africa — Caste is 400 pages before adding the impressive list of research sources. But if Wilkerson is not opening that door, there does need to be an acknowledgement of why not, an acknowledgement of that absence.
RaveNPR... we see the deep saturation of luminous images and resonant meaning that Trethewey\'s work is known for. And while it can be tempting to take for granted this stunning language that characterizes Trethewey\'s poetic voice, it is important to note here the high level of craft that sustains this quality of resonant, imagistic intensity through the several hundred pages of linear prose narration that is here. In Memorial Drive, the musicality of language combines with imagistic intensity to create a world of heightened subjectivity in which the small moon that is the young Trethewey orbits the constant planet that is her mother and her entire world; thus her mother\'s death and its aftermath — the emptiness of her absence — rockets loud across the constellation of Trethewey\'s life ... This work of closely looking at the line of women in one\'s personal family history as far as can be discovered is a fundamental aspect of the American Black women\'s literary canon. This structure is characterized by the juxtaposition of personal, familial, and community history in conversation with archival texts and/or other evidence in search of identity and agency in conversation with a larger social history and ideas ... By giving this space to her mother rather than speaking for her or over her, Trethewey centers the victim of the abuse and trauma. Again, agency and voice, not erasure, is Trethewey\'s project here ... In this moment, Trethewey offers us a powerful way to decolonize and reconsider this question of the representation of the trauma of the self and of others. You cannot ethically represent another person\'s experience of trauma, Memorial Drive tells us here; you can only ethically represent the experience of your own trauma. But when engaged with representing the pain of others, Memorial Drive tells us also, one must step back and de-center the self; ethically, one must — one can only — center and amplify the voices of the those who have experienced the trauma instead.
RaveNPRIn Fairest\'s carefully nuanced and detailed analysis, Talusan articulates the ways in which people of color create solidarity when there are only one or two non-white individuals in these elite, predominantly white spaces of privilege ... This nuance, this careful attention to looking and attempting to understand this journey not just from her own perspective, but also from those affected by it, gives a welcome maturity, depth and resonance to Talusan\'s memoir ... While an argument can be made that the vehicle of a mirror as a tool for self-reflection is a bit on-point, a bit overused, it does hold a productive presence both narratively and structurally in this gorgeous and lyrical debut ... The language we have now, the spaces and community support to exist firmly within a gender fluid and/or nonbinary gender identity are developments made mostly within the last 50 years. They have been made, in large part, because of the work of inspiring trans activists like Talusan. Because of them, people are no longer faced with erasure or binary opposition as the only realities.
MixedNPRKhakpour\'s work is correction and visibility: about centering the brownness that has been erased from this literary cultural analysis — and accompanying conversations ... There is a refreshing anger, at times, in these pages and rightfully so ... Within this anger there is a risk, and an accompanying bravery ... This is not to say that there is only one tone in Khakpour\'s collection of essays ... Khakpour, with bitingly cleverness, depicts the classism, microaggressions and loneliness in being one of a handful of P.O.C. at an elite liberal arts school ... Throughout the collection, the figure of Los Angeles becomes a palpable breathing character ... Khakpour\'s narrative work is strongest when she turns the lens on herself to do the self-critical work of examining how she, too, is complicit; it is less convincing — verging on judgmental — when she turns her critical lens solely on others. Thus, at times, Khakpour\'s usually sophisticated understanding of race and class appears problematic: There is a lack of interrogation about her own privilege in America ... Additionally, Khakpour here continues the tradition of non-black people of color appropriating blackness as Brown Album itself conveys a lack of interrogation about her own adoption of hip-hop music, AAVE, braids, \'passing\' for black and co-opting her black boyfriend\'s experience of blackness; there is also the confusing choice to project onto white people racist comments solely from Khakpour\'s imagination ... many of these previously published essays, written for shorter venues, are just too tantalizingly brief to allow Khakpour space to do the deep analytical work needed here. And this is especially evident in an essay collection whose title lays claim to reckoning with one of the masters of deep and cogent essayistic analysis: Joan Didion ... Missed reflective opportunities are not the only way the Didion allusion is handled rather clumsily ... Khakpour writes Didion as a vehicle weaponized by others to showcase discrimination Khakpour deems unfair instead of creating a vibrant conversation with Didion\'s ideas to fully analyze Didion\'s problematic racial erasure ... One wonders, as well, what the thrilling mind of Khakpour would have done if these essays were double, or even triple, their length and allowed to consistently revel in the reflective work that, when done, is razor-sharp and acute.
PositiveNPRThe representation of violence against Native peoples is a driving engine of the book. Whether it be historical or present violence...saturates these pages ... Diaz revels in one of the greatest marks of her poetic genius: her move from realism to the fantastic made real, bound and anchored by theme, language, metaphor and allusion as the doubled layering creates a construction in which the brother\'s demons haunt him just as he haunts both the family and the text ... In the very present absence of the Mojave language, Postcolonial Love Poem becomes a very present love poem to self and community, post colonialism.
RaveNPRValentine\'s pain when her mother refuses to let her attend a school dance because her date is black, dismisses black people as lazy welfare spongers who live in the ghetto or bans Valentine from watching TV shows with black people is palpable ... Valentine is at her best when we see her sift through this history, creating well-crafted scenes that resonate with depth and emotional weight in a commitment to get to the truth—even if it paints her in a negative light ... As the United States continues to become more brown and black and less white—resulting in a xenophobic backlash against brown and black Americans and a nostalgia by some for white European immigrants—the ideas in When I Was White become even more necessary. Here, quite simply, is a masterful explication on the formation of self and identity—of learning to trust yourself instead of the lies other people, no matter how close, tell you about who you are.
PositiveAV Club\"With My Sister, The Serial Killer, debut novelist Oyinkan Braithwaite has crafted a refreshingly original story, evocative of the best psychological thrillers ... The novel is propelled by Braithwaite’s energetic, fast-paced prose and self-aware, modern voice, carried with buoyancy and lightness. Braithwaite revels in placing relatable, familiar characters in unexpected situations ... While My Sister, The Serial Killer is a bit thin at times—a wider scope in its world-building, characterization, and action would not have been unwelcome—an argument can be made for the structural and thematic claustrophobia created by the intensity of its focus ... My Sister, The Serial Killer is a smart thriller that reckons with age-old questions of family, loyalty, and desire.\