Ilana Masad is an Israeli-American writer, reviewer, editor, and proofreader/copy editor living in New York City. She is a freelance writer for a variety of publications such as Broadly, Electric Literature, Read It Forward, and more, and in 2015 launched the podcast The Other Stories. She can be found on Twitter @ilanaslightly
RaveNPR...as a tracing of Western epistemology, of the ways we have collected knowledge and made meaning out of it, Sea People is a roaring success that addresses observer bias ... Still, and unfortunately, the book\'s very structure supports the hegemony of European knowledge-making, discovery, and ways of thinking ... Thompson is certainly an engaging writer, deftly weaving her fascinating narrative of European travels and the newcomers\' attempts to understand and \'crack\' the Polynesian puzzle ... There is much to be fascinated with in these pages ... Sea People is undoubtedly a deeply interesting read, and at points incredibly moving.
RaveThe Los Angeles TimesAllen, in this book, pushes back against the singular narrative of suffering in these states, choosing instead to showcase the resistance, the community-building and the culture of LGBTQ folks who live in Utah, Texas, Indiana, Tennessee, Mississippi and Georgia ... Allen shares her path to transition in short anecdotes that unfold over the chapters, cleverly keeping readers enthralled with both her careful reporting and personal narrative ... far more than one trans woman’s coming out story ... The bulk of the book is spent doing what Allen has been doing for years, and doing well: reporting ... doesn’t try to sell middle America as a fuzzy, warm place that is unilaterally safe for or welcoming of queer folk. Real Queer America is a book necessary for anyone in — or allied with — the queer community, especially those of us who see the bad news day after day. But she’s sharing the beauty of the spaces that LGBTQ+ people have carved out for themselves, and she’s giving credit where credit is very much overdue, because it’s the queer folk who live and stay in red states — whether by choice or due to a lack of options — who have to survive there and work to make them better.
T Kira Madden
PositiveNPR\"Readers searching for this kind of redemptive story may not like T Kira Madden\'s memoir, Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls. But the other readers? The ones who value seeing the mess that is childhood, the volatility of desire, the madness of girlhood and what is expected of it? They may well wear out the book\'s covers with fervid rereading ... The honesty and vividness with which Madden writes and the tightly controlled structure she utilizes only emphasize the fact that Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls is a deeply compassionate book, though not an apologetic one. In baring the bad and ugly alongside the good, Madden has succeeded in creating a mirror of larger concerns, even as her own story is achingly specific and personal.\
Devi S Laskar
RaveThe Washington Post\"The Atlas of Reds and Blues is a quick read, in part, because of these short sections, some only two sentences long. But it’s a page-turner, too, because of the urgency of each small story, each revelatory memory ... In her acknowledgments, Laskar thanks her publisher for \'embracing this experiment.\' If The Atlas of Reds and Blues and the lyric, thematic and structural care the author has lent it are an experiment, then it is certainly a successful one.\
RaveNPREven more than these delightfully surprising turns, the novel\'s strength lies in Kin\'s actions as he tries to save Miranda, both from a miserable life in which she believes her father abandoned her entirely — and from his own bosses ... Ultimately, Mike Chen\'s time travel narrative feels like an extended metaphor, and it\'s no surprise to see that Here and Now and Then is dedicated to his own daughter, Amelia.
PositiveNPR\"... [the book] is heavily researched and uses as much contemporary information as it can gather ... Robertson has clearly done her research, and while the actual trial material is absolutely fascinating with its statements and witnesses and arguments by the prosecution and the defense, it was the journalists\' takes that kept me most riveted ... For true-crime enthusiasts, The Trial of Lizzie Borden is a deeply satisfying read that will give us plenty of fodder to disagree over who-really-dunit.\
Esme Weijun Wang
RaveNPR\"In 13 tightly organized essays, The Collected Schizophrenias, winner of the 2016 Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize, reveals different aspects of Wang\'s diagnoses... through simply-conveyed research, powerful metaphor, and personal experiences ... The Collected Schizophrenias is riveting, honest, and courageously allows for complexities in the reality of what living with illness is like — and we are lucky to have it in the world.\
PositiveNPR\"Soniah Kamal\'s new novel, Unmarriageable, is billed as \'Pride and Prejudice in Pakistan\' and it is that, certainly ... In general, the plot of the novel is pretty much the same as Austen\'s, with the addition of Pakistani traditions and the bells and whistles of the new millennium, so you know what\'s going to happen. In this way, Unmarriagable seems at first glance like a par-for-the-course retelling, and for readers simply looking for a fun twist on the classic English novel ... But if you\'re tempted to look further, as I was, you\'ll find a cheeky undercurrent that echoes Austen\'s novels\' ability to work on two levels... Kamal\'s Unmarriageable succeeds in being both a deliciously readable romantic comedy and a commentary on class in post-colonial, post-partition Pakistan, where the effects of the British Empire still reverberate ... While at times the dialogue is heavy-handed, ultimately Unmarriageable manages to be both a fun, page-turning romp and a thought-provoking look at the class-obsessed strata of Pakistani society.\
RaveNPRA Tale of Two Murders: Guilt, Innocence, and the Execution of Edith Thompson by Laura Thompson is, remarkably, a blend of all these: escapism, a search for justice, and an attempt at realizing, as fully as possible, the essence of a real person — and that very person\'s search for herself through words.
PositiveNPR\"Brottman meticulously follows any and all threads she can, including a long and fascinating detour into the world of Agora, a somewhat sinister and extremely wealthy company Rivera worked for shortly before his death ... But Brottman\'s book is, sneakily, more than just a true crime narrative. It is also a history of the Belvedere and its long association with death ... [The book\'s] colorful stories often seem to have little to do with Rivera\'s death, and yet Brottman\'s confidence in dropping them in, seemingly at random, belies that they are not random at all ... The extremely human anxiety Brottman seems to be grappling with is one many of us may consider at one time or another: If we went missing, would anyone look for us?\
Hiro Arikawa, Trans. by Philip Gabriel
RaveNPRThe Travelling Cat Chronicles is no less valuable for facing issues of friendship, family, loss, and grief with an optimistic and loving outlook. In fact, the book\'s greatest strength is that it allows its readers to experience vicarious happiness even as a sense of impending loss begins to creep through the pages ... I found myself sobbing through the last 40 pages or so, unable, unwilling, to let this joyful little book go. I doubt many readers — as cynical and hardened as they may be — will get through it dry-eyed themselves. And you know what? Sometimes a good happy-sad cry is just what the doctor ordered.
PositiveNPR\"... [The stories in the book are] eerie, often spare, and contain uncomfortable examinations of childhood, adulthood, gender, and whiteness ... The collection as a whole is restless — and this is a good thing. The characters are almost always physically moving, but listlessly, commuters in their own lives. It\'s the kind of collection you want to read on a subway or in a moving vehicle or out in a café, as if to remind yourself that humans really are so often this way — inexplicable, urgent, slow to change, and unfathomable.\
RaveThe Washington PostComing out the day of the midterm elections and soon after our newest Supreme Court justice was accused of assaulting several women — and then got confirmed anyway — the novel’s obsession with silence, its damnation of false liberalism, and the fine line it draws between complicity and trauma feel eerily prescient ... Somehow, though the book is slim, we know these characters and their desires intimately by the end ... Novey — a poet and translator as well as a novelist — is a skillful wordsmith with descriptions that are poetic yet never overwrought ... Those Who Knew is not only an important book about silence and its consequences, but also a sheer pleasure to read.
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksLove Songs for a Lost Continent...is a marvel of nuance, each and every story complicating the narrative it sets out to explore. It provides no easy answers—and thank goodness for that. Love Songs for a Lost Continent explores many kinds of stories—about love, escape, independence—but at its core, it tackles the difficulty of living in the in-between, in the interstices of identities, and the often deeply flawed way human beings deal with this liminality and confusion ... Felicelli has that rare and wonderful quality as a writer: she doesn’t require each story to end neatly, letting the lingering frustration and injustice remain in a reader’s mind, just as they would outside the bounds of fiction ... Felicelli’s ability to try to empathize with the villains of one story by making them the protagonists of another is another testament to her nuanced writing. By attempting to get at the heart of painful spaces, by exploring the complex realities of her characters, and by refusing to let any of them emerge from a history-less vacuum, Felicelli seems to be asking us to pause, to consider, to try to understand those around us. Her stories ask us to recognize that marginalization and privilege are so often dependent on space and context, and that no one is easily categorizable as good or evil. Instead, we are all human, flawed in different ways, dependent on others to understand ourselves.
PositiveThe Paris Review\"A nine-hundred-plus-page tome, [These Truths] is a full history of the United States ... Lepore’s book—which over its first half or so mentions slavery and free black people on almost every page—is full of people like [Benjamin] Lay, who didn’t sit idly by as human beings were treated like property. It is full of statements by men like Jefferson, who saw the horror of the institution and yet refused to end it for his own comfort and monetary gain ... as I read These Truths, I realized again how important it is to search for the truth ... Lepore doesn’t give us any answers [to questions about how to fix the country\'s relationships with marginalized groups], though she does appear to be unfortunately impatient with millennials’ insistence that language—how people are spoken about, joked about, belittled—matters.\
RavewildnessReid is back with another harrowing, strange story in Foe ... unlike many a futuristic novel, Foe doesn’t try to tell us that this future is good or bad, safe or unsafe, progress or collapse ... As with Reid’s previous novel, the plot here—the actual storyline—is far less important than the mood and discomfort it conveys and the glaring question marks it brings up ... Reid’s spare writing somehow manages to convey urgency, discomfort, an uncanniness, while leaving large swaths of the character’s personalities and the setting to readers’ imagination. But he gives us enough, just enough, to keep us hungry up to the marvelous turn of an ending.
Anne Boyd Rioux
RaveNPR\"Rioux\'s claim here is substantiated. She has found dozens of allusions by a variety of authors (and not only women, by the way) to the ways in which Jo, the headstrong and ambitious sister in Little Women, has influenced them and allowed them to express their own desire to write and be recognized ... But Rioux goes beyond the personal experience of the book, that holy space between reader and book that is ultimately so individual. She points out that Little Women is remarkable for its look at how gender is not inherent but rather learned and performed, a fact recognized in gender studies scholarship to an extent ... Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy isn\'t a stuffy scholarly work — it\'s a love letter written not by a smitten youngster naïve to her beloved\'s drawbacks but by a mature adult who can recognize complexity and nuance.\
RaveNPR\"[Unsheltered] is incredibly relevant, painfully familiar, gorgeously written ... This dual storyline has the potential to be gimmicky, but Kingsolver makes certain that it isn\'t, especially as the parallels between the time periods and families are not overt, and it\'s only over time that we connect them ... Kingsolver doesn\'t give us solutions, but she reminds us to take comfort in one another when we can, and that hope is necessary even when all seems lost.\
RaveNPRYoung women occupy a perilous space in the world: Their bodies are desired, their youth fetishized, and they\'re simultaneously placed on a pedestal and reviled as maddeningly seductive ... It is against the grim backdrop of this reality that Lisa Locascio\'s debut novel, Open Me, shines so brightly ... Locascio manages in this novel to critique white supremacy and false tolerance while also celebrating a young woman\'s sexuality and her right to it — a difficult, and often joyous feat that marks her as a remarkable author to keep your eyes on.
MixedThe New York TimesSatire is a difficult genre to neatly define, but if we call it the use of humor, irony and exaggeration to expose the stupidity of certain parts of contemporary culture, then Inappropriation, Lexi Freiman’s debut, is certainly a satirical novel ... Ziggy Klein, the protagonist, has a fitting name. She zigs and zags through opinions and ways of seeing the world over the course of the book, always in search of understanding. We meet this curious Australian teenager just after she leaves her Jewish school and begins attending the upper-crust Kandara, a private school for girls in Sydney ... Inappropriation is certainly intelligent and has its finger on the zeitgeist of the Instagram and Tumblr generation, but it also paints the worst possible picture of teenagers trying to understand themselves. Who is the book’s intended audience, really? Those of us who understand our own complexities and nuances, and can laugh at the book’s exaggerations of them? Or those who think that all identity politics is nonsense? Surely both groups will enjoy it, but for very different, and in the latter case perhaps troubling, reasons. In satire as in life, there’s a difference between laughing with people and laughing at them.
R O Kwon
RaveThe Los Angeles Times...this slim, intense novel is the rare book that lives up to its pre-publication hype ... The narrative jumps around, like memory does ... The Incendiaries isn’t an easy novel to parse. Who here is the perpetrator, who is the victim and is it possible to know? Some sins may be worse than others—and certainly, both John Leal and Will fall on the worse side of the spectrum—but ultimately, as much as they yearn for it, none of the novel’s central characters really deserve easy absolution. And yet the beautiful writing and nuanced storytelling invites compassion; such is the power of Kwon’s narrative.
Positivewildness\"Give Me Your Hand, Abbott’s newest novel, places reproductive systems at its center, but not in the way we’re used to seeing them addressed. Instead of the womb’s power to create life, the novel examines its more painful aspects in the form of scientific research into premenstrual dysphoric disorder or PMDD ... The novel is, as all of Abbott’s books are, thoroughly emotional and full of intellectual fodder to parse out while also remaining an intensely readable page-turner.\
MixedPortland Press HeraldIn A Breath After Drowning, the protagonist is a psychiatrist, but the field is misrepresented ... unfortunately, we get little substance to Kate ... Everything is entangled in the novel early on, which makes Blanchard’s misdirections work well ... The plot is engaging, and throws enough misdirection at the reader to ensure that even if you thought you knew whodunit at first, you will doubt yourself again and again. But the book’s inconsistencies are disappointing: it includes a host of wild inaccuracies, several bizarre dialogues that don’t track, and it manages in equal measure to malign and idealize severe mental illnesses ... Despite its inaccurate representations of the psychiatric field, the novel is a fast-paced read written in the style of many easy-to-digest psychological thrillers.
RaveNPR\"It\'s the kind of book that reminds you of nights—and they are somehow always nights—when you discussed Big Concepts like Life and the Universe and Reality with your friends, and fell asleep with your mind gently buzzing ... But the novel isn\'t all wordplay and clever conceit—it has a true heart, and many of the characters are achingly full of pathos ... Whatever your jam is—mind-bending logic, beautiful, lyrical writing, or a deep dive into contemporary life—there is something brilliant here for everyone.\
RaveNPR\"... the collection is intent on recognizing what masculinity looks like, questioning our expectations of it, and criticizing its toxicity — and somehow managing to do all of that with love ... There\'s a fine line between outright, blatant, or malicious sexism and this more comfortable, seemingly less offensive place where men are merely ignorant of the ways they take possession of women — their looks, their labor, their humanity. And this is the line Brinkley knows how to straddle, creating fully formed characters who wrestle with what they think they have a right to ... And while it\'s clearly a topic that concerns him, Brinkley\'s book isn\'t only about masculinity. It also deals in family relationships, love, aging, loss, and disappointment — the universal themes that keep us coming back to literature — while also conveying versions of black male experience. In fact, the collection may include only nine stories, but in each of them, Brinkley gives us an entire world.\
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksAnxious, whimsical, and deeply felt, Ausubel’s stories weave a remarkable and beautiful tapestry of emotion ... they deemphasize the presumed centrality and greatness of the United States in favor of a more global view of the world ... Over and over again, characters underestimate and misunderstand lands not their own, and always they are humbled by those spaces, by the un-Americanness of it all. Throughout, Ausubel’s irony-tinged third-person narration conveys the limitations of her characters’ simplistic beliefs ... Ausubel’s signature ability to create atmosphere is in full force throughout Awayland ... By also touching upon social and political issues, she adds a new layer to her work that invites readers to move away from their comfort zones as well.
RaveThe Los Angeles TimesThis kind of drama is quiet and subtle, but Raeff knows how to wield her words in this space, and makes small pronouncements devastating ... Indeed, one of the most remarkable things about the novel is how quiet it is, and how much respectful space Raeff allows her characters. While their inner thoughts and feelings are sometimes conveyed in a sentence or two, as above, Raeff largely documents these without dwelling there. This isn't a book obsessed with its people's thoughts, and there are no long paragraphs of internal monologues. Instead, these characters are in the thick of their lives, and Raeff shows us their fullness in quick sketches, the way a skilled artist may convey movement and attitude with only a few penciled lines.
RaveThe Los Angeles Times\"...a beautiful example of possibility, nuance and passion coexisting, even in our heightened political moment ... The focus of these points of tension is the way our society treats black women as inhuman, their bodies consumable or publicly available. Jerkins allows her lens to go deep into contemporary culture, with her essays almost free-associating at times ... there is a brutal honesty Jerkins brings to the experiences of black girls and women that is vital for us to understand as we strive toward equality, toward believing women\'s voices and experiences, and toward repairing the broken systems that have long defined our country.\
László Krasznahorkai, Trans. by George Szirtes, Ottilie Mulzet & John Batki
RaveNPR\"The World Goes On, while it features an array of disheartening narratives, feels more like a celebration of tiny moments of odd, inexplicable joy ... There is a lot of wandering in The World Goes On. Men — and they do seem to always be men — get drunk and lost, get obsessed with conspiracy theories, paint women like valleys in an attempt to return to their own homes and mothers, and almost always monologue for pages and pages in endless run-on sentences. But there are moments of light and joy within the ramblings of these apparent madmen ... Reading The World Goes On is like accidentally getting on the wrong train — the writing style pulls you inexorably on, and you never quite know where you\'ll end up. Whether you want to stay on or get off remains your choice.\
MixedElectric LiteratureHere, in my estimation, is what the book is about, at its core: it is about terrible, terrible love … In between the extremes of aggression and surrender lies the muddy space of compromise, which Englander seems like he wants to explore through a romance between an Israeli and a Palestinian. But though their existence is interesting?—?intelligence operatives but for opposing sides, both admits in conversation to their own side’s failings and wonders how they’ll be able to bridge the gap between them?—?the characters themselves aren’t really fully developed. They’re placeholders for ideology more than they are people. The implication, whether intended or not, is that compromise is indeed the least understood space in this conflict, the most romanticized yet least practiced.
RaveThe Los Angeles TimesThe Mountain, is not what you’d call delightful — the stories are sober and the prose is quiet, yet in that is the howling of the human condition that makes the best short fiction stand out ... This is where much of the drama in these stories occurs: rippling, under the surface, in that quiet desperation for safety. While the stories are seemingly quiet, they are all set against the backdrop of violence, from World War II to present-day fights for independence and confusing acts of terrorism ... The stories in The Mountain are linked through key themes as well as a somewhat overemphasized use of shared images. The moon, a bicycle, a horse that is taken for a ghost or a living statue, company names with the word ;Sunshine' in them: For close readers, these shared images and character backgrounds may be a little on the nose, a little forced. This is a small grievance, though, in what is ultimately a fantastic collection.
PositiveNPRHesse doesn't provide a satisfying simple answer. Instead, she gives us a truth according to Charlie, Accomack county firefighters, transcripts of 911 calls — in other words, a truth that is messy and nuanced, complex, and sometimes contradictory ... thankfully Hesse doesn't spend too much time using the fires as a metaphor for the larger Rust Belt. While she does allow herself to generalize occasionally, she mostly focuses on this particular place, its people, and its story. What emerges is a vivid depiction of a community that is struggling economically in present-day America, but is rich in its human connections.
RaveThe Portland Press Herald[I became] engrossed in its haunting pages ... the way Chaffee writes Hannah’s eating disorder cuts to the core of the psychology that is rarely the focus of eating disorder narratives, even though it is at the center of so many eating disorders themselves ... Society’s fixation on unrealistic bodies does not help, but eating disorders are broader, wider and deeper, and Jessie Chaffee succeeds admirably in mining them as she depicts a woman’s journey away from her earthly self – and then back again.
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of Books\"...this is not a novel of refugees, of tent cities or starvation. Instead, it is a novel that examines the middle class and the very real pain that the loss of home has even on the privileged ... In many ways, then, this is a novel about privilege. Alyan takes groups we often see as disadvantaged, demonstrates their advantages, but shows us that privilege is still relative, and that trauma can still be experienced within such constructs ... Alyan is doing important work through this novel, even without the discussion of these deeper meanings. Thus, Salt Houses can be read very simply as a family drama, proving Alyan’s talent as a master of both the family drama genre as well as the depths and complexities of the Palestinian displacement.\
Patty Yumi Cottrell
PositiveThe San Francisco ChronicleSorry to Disrupt the Peace, is a strange and lovely thing ... Cottrell fills every page with an impossible-to-ignore voice, characterized by its idiosyncrasies and intelligence ... her brother’s ultimately plain, simple life eludes her grasp, as he slipped away rather quietly and neatly from her and their adoptive parents. Instead of the distress of the suicidal, we see that of the surviving.
PositiveThe Washington PostDeepak Unnikrishnan’s new novel is made even more moving by the author’s statement about writing it: 'Temporary People is a work of fiction set in the UAE, where I was raised and where foreign nationals constitute over 80 percent of the population. It is a nation built by people who are eventually required to leave' ... There is nothing comfortable about Unnikrishnan’s Temporary People, but it is challenging, thought-provoking and timely.
RaveElectric LiteratureThe stories in Alexandra Kleeman’s new collection, Intimations, both distressingly and beautifully convey a different message: there is no escape ... [Kleeman] manages to both draw us entirely into her fiction and keep us at a distance, as spectators glancing through a window or walking through the stories like ghosts able to walk through walls.
PositiveElectric LiteratureWhat Annie DeWitt does best in this book is center you in each moment ... More than a novel of plot, this is an atmospheric book, one that reads somehow like a Southern novel though it is set in New England ... there is a search for adolescence here from a woman who is both a teenager and a grown-up at the same time, and it is a marvelous, beautiful, and painful journey.
PositiveElectric LiteratureI’m Thinking of Ending Things is being marketed as 'The Psychological Thriller of the Summer'?—?this is wonderful in terms of getting the book a wider readership than it may have gotten if it were marketed some other way, but the fact is that the book’s thriller aspects are almost a kind of gloss to the deeper, far more uncomfortable positions to which it places the reader...It has thriller elements for certain, but they don’t mask the questions the novel poses. On the contrary, they serve as enhancements ... he mind of the narrator is not a safe place. It is incredibly intelligent, and incredibly lonely. Read with capital-C-worthy Caution ... While the ending of the novel was somewhat disappointing, the journey was ultimately more than worth it.
RaveBustleA Little Life explores just what the title implies — the little bits of the little lives, so big when looked at close up, of four characters who live together in college and keep alive their friendship for decades after … Because they are so alive on the page, it is a joy to live alongside them. But because they are also so self-aware, so often confused and self-loathing and anxious, it can also be a torment … The level of abuse Jude has undergone and the amount of success his friends attain over the course of the novel's three decades is almost too amazing to be entirely believable, but it doesn’t matter.
RaveElectric Literature...a beautiful, brilliant, evocative collection of (somewhat) linked short stories...We need more books like Oyeyemi’s; to challenge us, to make us think, and to remind us that it is all right, sometimes, not to know all the answers to the riddles that plague us.
RaveElectric LiteratureA masterful work of literature that is also a page-turning dramatic family saga, Yun’s first book had better be as successful as it reads.
RaveElectric LiteratureThe urgency with which Chee has Liliet telling her tales, while continually creating a bait and switch narrative in which she yanks away knowledge at crucial moments only to come back to them later, keeps the reader off balance, racing through the pages without any possibility of stopping for fear of falling flat. It is that kind of novel, the kind one devours in a weekend or stays up too late reading.