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
RaveThe Los Angeles TimesI loved it. By the end of the novel, I was emotionally exhausted but also deeply appreciative of the care and nuance on every page, the characters’ messiness and the plot’s purposeful irresolution ... There are off-key moments that will likely elude most readers: There isn’t a lone tattoo artist in Jerusalem but tattoo shops aplenty; one transliteration collapses two different phrases into one; and the weight placed on whiteness rings false in a place where colorism certainly exists, but ethnicity, religion and nationality are far more meaningful than American connotations of race. For the most part, however, Sacks skillfully balances her characters’ daily dramas and relationships — crushes, parents, siblings, engagements, babies and sex — with the ever-present hum of underlying ideology and potential violence.
RaveNPRStovall could not have foreseen his book\'s release coming on the heels of such a terrifyingly and precisely relevant event ... [Stovall\'s] arguments are extremely convincing, at least to me, and for anyone doubting his sources, there are some 70 pages of notes at the end of the book that detail his extensive research material.
RaveNPRThere are other threads, or cracks in the earth of her life, that she weaves in and out of these narratives, so that at times there is a sense that we are wandering away from the main question a chapter opened with. Owusu always brings us back just on time, so that what seems at first like free association is revealed, instead, as potent context. The effect ties directly into another of Owusu\'s main themes: Storytelling is how we understand ourselves, others, and the worlds we live in, and any story that is too simple or that holds no contradictions is suspect, for that means it lacks the nuance necessary for a deeper understanding. In her capable writing, stories become nearly tangible objects she holds to the light, turns over and over, eager to discover a never before glimpsed sparkle or a surprising divot in their familiar shapes.
RavePortland Press HeraldMeredith Hall, who splits her time between Maine and California, and whose memoir, Without A Map, was concerned with the tensions between good intentions, love and the capacity to cause harm, has now turned her quiet and stirring prose to fiction. Her debut novel, Beneficence, brings readers achingly close to these ultimately existential questions of goodness and love by focusing on a single family’s unspooling ... Beneficence is a glorious book, its joy as quietly beautiful as the tragedy at its center echoes loudly through the lives of its characters. Hall acknowledges that each life is very small, on its own, but that the love we each bear for one another is immense, our capacity for it endless.
RaveNPRViolence is not one-dimensional in Bestiary; Chang doesn\'t excuse it, especially when it takes place between the family members, but she has her narrators contextualize it in their stories, reaching back through memories dressed up with myths to find the beauty that coexists with hurt and trauma ... Though Grandmother, Mother, and Daughter each endure traumas, they are storytellers, their words both plumbing and transcending their pain to weave a wide range of additional emotions and experiences. Their stories color their everyday lives with magic ... Chang\'s facility for making even mundane or traumatic events beautiful with words is a reminder that stories are, among other things, some of our very best survival tools.
PositiveNPRShe complicates and nuances this narrative [about conservative Midwesterners] in Tomboyland, whose essays are a love letter to, reckoning with, and examination of her midwestern upbringing ...Throughout her essays, Faliveno is constantly straddling just such blurry lines, never willing to let any of her topics lie comfortably still, always turning them over to look at another facet ... Faliveno doesn\'t always definitively answer the questions she asks—and after all, how could she, when existential issues of identity, belonging, language, and the body are rarely if ever static static—but she does manage to get satisfyingly close her essays in emotional or narrative catharsis.
RaveNPR... full of self-deprecating, self-aware humor ... Indeed, what Tomine has managed to do so well here is reveal something that few artists are able to discuss without sounding unaware or falsely humble: the incredibly hard, exhausting, and often can\'t-see-the-trees-for-the-forest kind of work involved in building a career in the arts, where there is too little funding, an overabundance of egos running rampant, and layers upon layers of gatekeeping. By using humor and framing his trajectory via professional and personal setbacks and moments of mortification, the cumulative effect of Loneliness is mesmerizing, funny, and deeply honest. Tomine refuses to dwell in the lie that much artistic success publicly perpetuates (whether or not by choice) that it\'s always fun, or that it even feels like what many of us imagine success to be. It\'s work — work that Tomine is conscious of being lucky enough to be able to keep doing, and there have been perks here and there for sure, but work nonetheless. No one made it easy for Tomine to get to where he is — least of all himself.
PositiveNPRKhar writes candidly ... One of the strengths of the book is Khar\'s frank discussion of her relapses, the profound difficulty of those experiences and their utter mundanity ... It\'s notable that Khar makes no secret of the particular advantages she grew up with — her white-passing privilege, her parents\' affluence — and doesn\'t claim at any point in the book that there is one correct pathway towards recovery. She knows that she had access to facilities and healthcare and a safety net that other people didn\'t.
RaveNPR... isn\'t a simple, direct comment on our present era; instead, it\'s a questioning book, one that puts its faith not in any particular social justice movements but rather in a collective, existential desire for freedom and a plurality of stories and myths ... acts as a series of fables that interlock and lead to what is a pretty clear moral, but one that has to be deeply felt, and truly believed, because it\'s not actionable in any immediate way ... Another way to look at it is as a set of richly symbolic and evocative dreams that explore themes of storytelling and what humanity as a whole loses when stories told for the sake of forging connection are replaced with stories spurred by a desire for money, social cache, or power. In other words, it\'s a complex book to talk about. And yet, it\'s a deceptively simple read, written in a style that manages to convey certain rhythms of oral storytelling despite being a printed text ... an unsettling read — its tone lulled me, as if I were a child reading a fairy tale, into a sense of comfort, only to yank me to attention when it reminded me this wasn\'t the Disney version, as it were, but the one with all the blood and injustice left in — but it is not hopeless. Hope is everywhere in it, because its very form — storytelling — is a slap in the face to the terror looming over it.
RaveNPRThe title of Kiley Reid\'s debut, Such a Fun Age, works on so many levels it makes me giddy—and, what\'s better, the title\'s plurality of meaning is echoed all over the place within the novel, where both plot and dialogue are layered with history, prejudice, expectations, and assumptions ... a page-turner with beautifully drawn characters and a riveting plot ... This is a book that will read, I suspect, quite differently to various audiences—funny to some, deeply uncomfortable and shamefully recognizable to others—but whatever the experience, I urge you to read Such a Fun Age. Let its empathic approach to even the ickiest characters stir you, allow yourself to share Emira\'s millennial anxieties about adulting, take joy in the innocence of Briar\'s still-unmarred personhood, and rejoice that Kiley Reid is only just getting started.
RaveNPREach story feels like it belongs here, but also like it stands alone so well you want to read it on repeat, and while the range of emotions evoked in the collection as a whole is broad, I found myself most often sitting with that indescribable ache that characterizes the bittersweet ... It\'s hard to overstate the unspeakable sorrow of friendship breakups to those who haven\'t gone through one, but how incredible—and painful—it is to witness Sparks holding up such a clear mirror to it ... many titles in this collection should win awards all by themselves ... It\'s a terrible thing to pick favorites among so many stories full of vivid language, compelling imagery, sharp wit, and an abiding tenderness, and so I won\'t.
Burhan Sönmez, trans. by Umit Hussein
MixedNPR... deeply concerned with how memory and the body — and the links between them — define us ... subtle, quiet ... The overarching metaphor that makes the novel avoid entirely solipsistic concerns seems to be that Boratin is demonstrative, perhaps, of what a society could be if it forgot its past as well as all the things it couldn\'t...But this metaphor doesn\'t entirely hold water, for Boratin is uniquely situated to think about himself in a way many individuals, never mind societies, cannot: He is independently wealthy, and his friends and his sister are all patient and loyal and willing to help him through this difficult time without giving up on this man who both is and isn\'t who they once knew ... Boratin\'s unstable identity is entirely believable and often stirring, and the narrative\'s moves between first and second person, sometimes within the same chapter, certainly press home his dissociation. But Sönmez seems to shy away from some of the most interesting existential questions he asks ... These narrative decisions made me wonder — how is Boratin\'s permission to dwell in such mediations tied to his positioning in the world? ... A thoughtful novel that asks many unanswerable questions worth pondering, Labyrinth is a mind-twister that may leave some wanting more.
Saud Alsanousi Trans. by Sawad Hussain
RaveNPR... translator Sawad Hussain has succeeded in bringing this beautiful, affecting novel to an English-reading audience and has captured clearly the emotional, political and aesthetic concerns preoccupying the book ... Right in the center of the book comes a long, unbroken portion of Katkout\'s novel that deals entirely with Iraq\'s invasion and annexation of Kuwait in 1990. Alsanousi creates in these chapters a deeply moving portrait of the effects of occupation and war through the eyes of a boy growing up too fast, relying on stories and chosen family to get through the fear, uncertainty and grief ... a rich and resonant book that asks more questions than it (or anyone) can answer ... Alsanousi\'s book, reflective of his own particular country, culture and sociopolitical context, can serve as both window and mirror to Western readers.
PositiveThe Washington Post... often humorous descriptions ... Kavenna’s cleverness doesn’t come at the expense of the book’s depth (and I was impressed at her restraint, for example, in managing to avoid the term \'Beetlemania\'). Rather, her wit helps ease readers into what becomes a novel of ideas ... Definitive answers are dangerous, Zed
RaveNPRMeticulously researched — the footnotes take up about a sixth of the book, and are worth looking at ... Stolen is a remarkable narrative, in part, because of how Bell manages to clearly relate the complex politics of the time without ever legitimizing the choices made by those who bought and sold human lives. It\'s also wonderful for the ways in which Bell infuses each stage of the children\'s harrowing ordeal with empathy, focusing in on what they might have been feeling, drawing either from the precious little that remains of their own voices or from contemporary accounts of similarly traumatic kidnappings. In telling as full a story as he can, Bell gives voice to the broader implications of this episode while not losing sight of all that is specific and singular about Tilghman, Manlove, Johnson, Sinclair, and Scomp\'s experiences.
PositiveThe Washington Post... a deeply satisfying and mysteriously tear-inducing story to those willing to follow this sometimes confounding journey ... It can be frustrating at times, feeling always in the dark, but the interactions nevertheless keep propelling us forward ... [has] a dreamlike quality, as we stumble around in scenes that alternate between fantastical and achingly, if absurdly, real ... In its opaquest moments, the novel serves ingeniously as a Rorschach test for our own perceptions and concerns, leading us to look for the answers and logic we want and maybe even find them — until the next scene upends our previous analysis, the blots all changing shape. It takes a certain kind of reader to go for this book, but anyone enjoying the experimental, the strange and the dreamy — not to mention Tifft’s exquisitely specific and strange descriptions — will surely find much pleasure in From Hell to Breakfast.
RaveNPRThis meta-commentary about the book itself is all over, making a reader feel like we\'re going through the process — of writing, of remembering, of approaching a deeply nuanced topic — in real time along with the author ... Even though Vanasco worries, in these pages, that some readers will be upset at how much of a voice she gives the rapist, I think all the other voices — hers, especially — overpower Mark. But he, of course, was granted the choice to consent.
PositiveNPR... a pleasingly genre-bending novel ... the novel\'s premise could have been hokey, but Harris doesn\'t rely too heavily on references to our present. Instead, through Fairfax\'s shifting beliefs about the past causing changes to his present, Harris makes a more subtle point — both a dire warning and a somewhat hopeful possibility.
Peter Catapano and Rosemarie Garland-Thomson
MixedNPRWhile there\'s something of value in each of these essays, partially because they don\'t toe to a single party line but rather explore the nuances of various disabilities, there\'s an unfortunate dearth of writers with intellectual disabilities in this collection. I also noticed that certain sections focused more on people who\'ve acquired a disability during their lifetime and thus went through a process of mourning, coming to terms with, or overcoming their new conditions. While it\'s true — and emphasized more than once — that many of us, as we age, will become disabled, the process of normalization must begin far earlier if we\'re to become a society that doesn\'t discriminate against or segregate people with disabilities.
RaveNPRWild Game is a memoir, but it reads very much like a novel with a first-person narrator, bringing readers closely into scenes with vivid sensual detail that paints the atmosphere with the adoring eyes of the enthralled daughter the author once was ... what makes this book especially novel-like is how close Brodeur remains to the mindset she was in at the time of the events unfolding. For the first third or so, even as occasional lines hint at the more mature and removed author, the narrative stays close to the Brodeur\'s inability to see her mother as anything but a wonderful, glamorous, wounded woman who led a hard life and deserves happiness, no matter who might get trampled along the way ... It\'s not often we get to read about the sexual and romantic lives of people past middle age, since they\'re so often condemned by popular imagination to sexless existences, but Wild Game, for all its luscious prose and tantalizing elements, is ultimately about the slow and painful process of losing a mother.
Jan Stocklassa, trans. by Tara F. Chace
RaveNPRStocklassa closely examines the work Larsson did on the Palme case and picks up the thread where it was left off, delving even deeper into the mystery ... In the first half of the book, Stocklassa does a fantastic job at illustrating how Larsson went about trying to get to the bottom of it all, using letters, original research and summaries from the archives to bring the man\'s voice to life as well as to walk readers through the timeline of Larsson\'s detective work and his two main theories ... While the \'Stieg\' section is fascinating, it also dramatizes Larsson\'s life and work in invented scenes that, like dramatic reenactments in true-crime documentaries, are a matter of taste for readers who will likely find them either annoyingly distracting or helpful in entering the dense political detail of the subject matter ... Especially interesting, and honestly thrilling, is how one of Stocklassa\'s attempts to reach out to all possible leads brought him into communication with an ally of such dedication and talent that it\'s hard not to compare her, at least a bit, to Lisbeth Salander of Larsson\'s books ... It\'s rare, I\'ve found, to see true-crime narratives that convincingly and humbly enter the realm of spy thrillers, but Stocklassa\'s book really, really does. Whether or not you buy his conclusions — they\'re well-argued, to be fair, and have led the Swedish police into renewing old lines of inquiry — Stocklassa certainly reveals the sinister underbelly of governmental operations.
MixedNPRThere\'s a bit of a Law & Order structure to Ghosts, as Abbott sets up the events chronologically and at a sometimes dizzying pace — I wished in vain for a cast of characters section — and explores crime followed by trial, crime followed by trial ... Yet for all the successful and suspenseful storytelling, much of it gleaned from a 5,500-page-long trial transcript, it\'s somewhat unclear who and what we\'re meant to believe ... I personally needed more context about the time and place ... I wanted more of this in Ghosts of Eden Park, a deeper understanding of the politics surrounding Prohibition as related to immigrants (like Remus himself), African Americans, and the Ku Klux Klan\'s use of the new anti-liquor laws to recruit members and terrorize \'un-American\' communities. But this might speak to my own sentiments regarding true crime and its ability to showcase the repetition of history ... As it stands, Karen Abbott\'s newest is a page-turner, teasing readers with its central mystery, and reaching its climactic final trial with a satisfying bang.
PositiveNPRThe novel\'s setup and inciting incident suggest it will be a simple whodunit, a novel whose central mystery is discovering the ins and outs of Mike\'s murder. Instead, it\'s a story of obsession ... The Churchgoer uses all the hallmarks of its genre — from punchy sentences to profound and sometimes overwrought observations about the gloominess of life and the terribleness of people, to the youthful ingénue, to the unfolding of a possible conspiracy — in order to tell a story that criticizes every element of these dynamics ... As a narrator, Mark is fantastic precisely because he\'s self-aware in a way that noir doesn\'t tend to showcase.
RaveNPR...a new, necessary and brilliant book ... Monroe treats each individual narrative with nuance, empathy and transparency, allowing both the protagonists and their supporting cast to remain complex. She delves into the social and political ramifications of each narrative, making accessible and visible what so often gets overlooked in these stories because it\'s too complicated to put into a headline or summary. Monroe\'s book is a pleasure to read because it is smart, well-researched and well-written — beautifully, really ... But more than that, Savage Appetites is important because it refuses to sit inside binaries of good vs. evil, victim vs. perpetrator, innocent victim vs. mastermind criminal. It doesn\'t give us easy answers for why women are the main consumers of true crime narratives, because there aren\'t any because women as a category are not monolith and because it\'s complicated and nuanced and different for everyone. The book is important also because I suspect there are more than a few of us who, like Monroe herself, feel conflicted about their desire to consume stories of murder and mayhem and wonder what it reflects about the world around us and ourselves.
Kira Jane Buxton
RaveNPR... Buxton takes a joyfully original approach to apocalyptic fiction ... don\'t read this book while you\'re eating if you\'re squeamish. Buxton is extremely talented at writing the more horrifying descriptions of the MoFos\' physical condition ... S.T. is a brilliant narrator, partially because he has reverence for human things like Cheetos and baked goods and football fandom, but also because he has only half a grasp on what certain human things mean ... But S.T.\'s love of MoFos, and the deep ache he feels for Big Jim and the life he used to lead read as incredibly sincere ... While it\'s deeply disconcerting, reading about our own extinction, there is a lot we can learn from S.T. and Dennis the dog\'s symbiotic relationship in this novel. There\'s a lot we can learn from S.T.\'s getting over his own prejudices about other animals — like seagulls and penguins — in order to work with them ... S.T. ultimately gave me hope that maybe, just maybe, we still have a chance to turn things around before Nature is so fed up that she really does set her sights on destroying us for good.
MixedFiction AdvocateI can already hear the roars of dismay from various factions of the feminist and LGBTQIA communities; as someone who considers herself a part of both, it is often hard to remember that the novel’s irreverence toward political correctness is (probably) purposeful. Whether it is satirical, however, is harder to decipher. Whatever the intention, there is no doubt that Mislaid is full of social criticism from start to finish ... The novel is rife with...dry statements (pretty much one per page) that reveal a deeply cynical core ... The novel’s climax and denouement become a screwball comedy that feels like a racy, drugged-out version of The Parent Trap with a smatter of campus-rape issues thrown in. I’m not going to spoil what actually happens, if only because it matters so very little. The ending is not satisfying, and it feels rushed ... At a mere 242 pages, Mislaid is a manifesto for every social issue being talked about in America today ... It’s a mirror to our social conscience, and as such it is effective ... But the novel, though well-written enough, isn’t much more than shaggy-dog morality tale. The plot is convenient and occasionally amusing and sometimes gasp-out-loud politically incorrect in the way a Louis CK standup is...Zink tells us we’re all complicit in the issues, but reading her novel felt like being underneath a trampoline she was jumping up and down on. She seemed to be having lots of fun; all I got was a nose bent out of shape.
Amanda Lee Koe
RaveNPRIt is hard to summarize a sprawling and ambitious novel like this, so I won\'t—but it is expertly woven, its characters alive and full-bodied. Blending questions about pop culture, war, and art, Delayed Rays of a Star is that rare book that is neither high- nor low-brow, refusing such facile dichotomies and playing, instead, in the messiness of the grey areas.
PositiveThe Washington Post... deftly and confidently written, full of experimental fun ... Bob-Waksberg manages to balance his ironic humor with a deep sincerity that continues to surprise and delight. While some pieces are certainly more successful than others — a couple of stories rely too heavily on their structural gimmick or go on too long without giving us a reason to care — the majority do that mysterious thing that good art can do: make your heart clench with feeling, your eyes fill with tears, your lips twitch toward a smile or all three at once.
PositiveNPRIf the links between these disparate moments seem tenuous, that\'s only because listing them doesn\'t do justice to the way Drager weaves together their themes ... There is something both nihilistic and deeply hopeful in Drager\'s looping novel. Nihilistic, because in so many ways it indicates that as parts of a continuum of human storytelling, life, love, and hate, none of us matter; but hopeful because that continuum means our stories are related, our narratives interlocking, and so while we may be insignificant, we are also never alone.
Jessica Francis Kane
PositiveNPR... has too many fun, hilarious, and extremely touching twists and turns to detail further here, and its coming out right around Mother\'s Day is no coincidence. By the end of the book, I loved May as a character, and I understood her; she reveals elements of her own history and choices slowly, in dribs and drabs. She doesn\'t need me to like her, though. She has her plants, her father, some new or revitalized friendships, and her own sharp and witty mind to keep her company. She is no Grendel — only a deeply alive human.
PositiveNPRThrough incredibly involved reporting that clearly required not only a slew of interviews but a vast swath of documents that had to be cross-referenced and compared in order to figure out the timeline and the many names—including alternate spellings—that Taylor used, Levin has managed to bring the human being out from under the stereotype. He does so in clear, concise writing that refrains from overwrought editorializing, and though there is so much material in the book that it sometimes seems to lose the plot, Levin succeeds in always drawing readers back to his main subjects: systemic oppression, the rhetoric that feeds it, and how Taylor fits into both ... The Queen isn\'t about trying to exonerate Taylor—it\'s an attempt to put her in the proper context. She learned early that race marked her ... Taylor was a lifelong criminal, yes, and she was also the product of racism that shamed her from birth.
RaveNPRGrief can be a kind of deadening, a latching onto the past in order to fill in the gaps left by the person who has died or exited our lives. Yet life goes on, no matter how absent from it a mourner may feel. It\'s in this precarious emotional space that Kristen Arnett\'s debut novel, Mostly Dead Things is set. But lest you cringe at what sounds like a difficult read, this isn\'t a depressing book: it\'s darkly funny, both macabre and irreverent, and its narrator is so real that every time I stopped reading the book, I felt a tiny pull at the back of my mind, as if I\'d left a good friend in the middle of a conversation ... One of the best things about the book is its description not only of the work involved in taxidermy but in its ability to render that work beautiful and loving, an art all its own ... [a] queer, boozy, sexy growing up story.
RaveThe Washington Post... methodically and unapologetically engages with choices women do and should be allowed to make, and as with her last novel, Here Comes the Sun, does so with nuance and grace ... Dennis-Benn explores themes of gender, sexuality, motherhood and freedom, as well as colorism and classism and the ways the two intertwine both in Jamaica and here in the United States. But none of this feels didactic or moralistic so much as integral to the characters’ lived experiences and seamlessly woven through their emotional arcs ... a deeply queer, sensitive and vividly written novel about a woman’s right to want and a child’s right to carve her own path.
RaveThe Washington PostThe novel is full of parallel moments ... The looming possibility—and eventual reality—of teetering over the edge is increased with the lawsuit against Gavin’s father, creating a sense of slow dread that permeates the book ... Lin’s attention to detail is startling, and though she keeps close to Gavin’s childhood experience, she also allows us to read between the lines and intuit the depth of the family’s grief ... Anyone who has ever grieved—be it the loss of a person, home, country or security—will feel a sense of recognition. The Unpassing is a remarkable, unflinching debut.
RaveNPR\"...what I didn\'t see coming was the emotional response I would have as I blazed through the last 20 pages of the book—yet there I was, weeping ... Each section of the book could stand on its own, making it feel, in a way, like three books in one. But, ultimately, Furious Hours delivers a gripping, incredibly well-written portrait of not only Harper Lee, but also of mid-20th century Alabama—and a still-unanswered set of crimes to rival the serial killers made infamous in the same time period.\
Ed. by Michele Filgate
RaveLos Angeles TimesThis generous, mature recognition of the ways in which so many of us overestimate the capacities of mothers — who were people with lives and loves and wants and hurts and complexities before they ever gave birth — colors many of the stunning essays in this anthology ... Though no two essays feel even remotely alike, there are recurring themes ... While each essay is its own beast, containing its own wild, wonderful, woeful, willful or warring mother figure, the collection as a whole holds together precisely because there is something recognizable in each and every piece ... each and every one comes to recognize this fact: that every mother is human first, mother second.
MixedNPRThompson is certainly an engaging writer, deftly weaving her fascinating narrative of European travels and the newcomers\' attempts to understand and \'crack\' the Polynesian puzzle... But issues of European colonization are often glossed over ... Such eliding is perhaps a matter of length and focus, as well as a decision to move chronologically from the European perspective, but it\'s a shame that it isn\'t until the third part of the book (titled somewhat glibly \'Why Not Just Ask Them?\') that Thompson begins to deeply explore the various Polynesian oral traditions that relate (often in tandem) genealogies, histories, myths, navigational lessons and practical skills and which have, in most recent scientific discovers, proved to be quite accurate in terms of timeline and historical voyaging.
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.