PositiveThe AtlanticWritten with dark humor and a striking lack of sentimentality, these stories are vehicles for characters who each use tech to try to retrieve that which is irrevocably lost: the freedom of the pre-violated body, the child taken from the world prematurely, the normalcy that vanishes after the death of a loved one. Like episodes of Black Mirror, in which futuristic devices propel psychological unraveling, South’s stories explore tragedy as it flits uncomfortably between the digital and physical worlds ... they also double as aching reminders of forms of human coping that aren’t currently possible ... throughout the collection, South humanizes the compulsive behaviors associated with loss, eloquently rendering the experience of bereavement ... South’s precise, morally unburdened prose allows ample room for an exploration of the limitations of caregiving and the oft-futile human desire to rescue others ... a haunting reminder that grief, whether as a part of our current, sobering reality or as a constant condition of humanity, will thwart our attempts to control it.
RaveGuernicaIn Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, the collected stories of Bette Howland, we encounter a writer questioning the meaning of existence, playfully knocking over a sacred jar and watching the contents slowly spill across the counter ... Howland’s stories all interrogate living through varying degrees of explicitness: in the title story, overtly, in an interlocution with the dead, or, more subtly, in libraries, apartment buildings, movie theaters, and court rooms throughout the rest of the book ... It is in these disquieting moments of candor when Howland’s prose holds a magnifying glass up to a room we’ve all inhabited before and reveals something staggering and obvious that the privileged among us may have chosen not to look at ... Howland’s insights into the shifting gender dynamics that would reshape, or at least disrupt, the patriarchy, are just one facet of the revolutionary nature of her work. Why then, did it disappear from the discourse? When we consider legacy—whose work is canonized, taught in universities, anthologized, widely accessed—it’s perhaps more important that we recognize whose work is absent. All too often women. All too often members of marginalized communities, of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender binary, or class status, whose art must fight for recognition, whether due to categorization or due to the dominance and presumed default of the white heterosexual male ... On the level of language, Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage is filled with sentences of such astonishing poignancy that Howland’s prose feels as exacting as it does resonant ... The hole that was left by Howland’s absence was glaring. A gushing wound on an empty shelf. Now that her work has returned, we know the difference. Perhaps we always did.
RaveThe Chicago Review of Books[Zaman] seamlessly weaves the intersection of her racial identity and gender identity, skillfully exploring the compounding oppression and inherent racism ... Her story is told with an exacting, at times, compulsive attention to detail ... an intensely vivid tapestry that threads intimacy with realism, that captures the particularities of childhood ... There is an unwavering confidence to Zaman’s prose ... Zaman does not look away from trauma, she does not let us sit outside it, watch from the window. We are forced inside the room ... This insistence on resisting categorization and oppression, both systematic and intimate, is the beating bloodied heart of I Am Yours ... an unabashed declaration of self-love.
RaveThe MillionsWe’re never entirely certain where these stories of recognition and reinvention are going to go, of what the rules are. What keeps us here is the intelligence and precision of Bullwinkel’s prose, which allows her to mine the deeply strange and deeply intimate with abandon and exactitude ... Belly Up is full of reckoning, full of curiosity, full of characters attempting to pull themselves out of the mundane, out of what is expected of them. This feels akin to yanking a plant out of the soil from its root; the experience is intensely odd and simultaneously invigorating ...The surrealism that floats through these stories feels in conversation with Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties, which transcends genre and vibrates with emotional intensity ... The juxtaposition of the surreal and the introspective strikes a remarkable a balance that is alive and well in Bullwinkel’s collection. The characters in Belly Up demand our attention, they demand to be seen, to be recognized.
RaveThe Masters Review\"Jamel Brinkley’s debut collection, A Lucky Man, comprised of tenderly poignant narratives of boys becoming men, of fractured intimacy, of masculinity as learned performance, is vital and necessary ... A Lucky Man is not a book about race, it is a book about longing, about intimacy. A collection about navigating the space between adolescence and adulthood, about understanding the powers and limitations of the body, about the ways in which we let traumas fester when we leave them unattended. Brinkley uses his profound gift of language to speak for characters who themselves do not have the words to express their pain ... What is most astonishing about A Lucky Man is how Brinkley carves a space for men to examine theirs in the presence of humor, sensuality, adolescent curiosity and grief. He lets all of these deeply human experiences coalesce.\
RaveBOMB\"Much like the relationship between one’s expectations of life and lived reality, Abandon Me is an assemblage of parts that resist both linear description and codification. It’s comprised of lyric essays as intellectually sophisticated as they are emotionally stirring; a series of unflinching reflections and honest accounts of transformation that Febos refuses to let pass without scrutiny ... Throughout, Febos complicates the human desire for connection with explorations in philosophy, psychology, and accounts of historical repression that seduce readers into inhabiting her myths while resisting sentimentality by dismantling the fictions with deft intellectual probing reminiscent of the work of Maggie Nelson ... One of Febos’s greatest literary strengths is her ability to make these intimate experiences feel universal. As readers, we feel our failings and insecurities acknowledged with each of her admissions: the piercing honesty of her prose, the self-effacing exploration of being both the abandoned and the abandoner, the loved and the unloved, \'the conquered and the conqueror.\'”