RaveBookPageWhen Krys Malcolm Belc sees pregnant women, he turns the other way. He doesn’t want to hear pregnancy stories and finds it difficult to share his own. But in The Natural Mother of the Child: A Memoir of Nonbinary Parenthood, the transmasculine author doesn’t turn away from his story. Instead, he lays it out page by page, with pictures and legal documents juxtaposing his poetic prose ... The Natural Mother of the Child refuses easy stories or pat answers. Instead, Belc tells a counterstory that resists hegemonic narratives and pushes toward something messier and truer. Belc’s devotion to his son—and especially his bodily devotion—comes through powerfully, a clear signal. By comparison, some of the other signs that supposedly tell us who we are—birth certificates, marriage certificates, adoption certificates—seem desperately incomplete.
RaveBookPageSun’s captivating and immersive book invites readers to listen in as he thinks aloud on the page ... This book is at once sad and hopeful. It’s sad about the cultural pressure to be constantly working. It’s sad about the inevitability of change. It’s sad about the many ways we say goodbye to each other, whether ending a visit or moving away. But it’s also attentive to life and movement in unlikely places ... Through descriptions like these, the reader feels Sun’s desire for renewal. The book is hopeful as it shows how little moments from the past, something as simple as cooking an egg, can reverberate in the present. In this way, we never really say goodbye. We are still together, still remembering each other in small daily ways ... To spend time with this book is to spend time in the private world of a creative, sensitive person who finds life inviting, beautiful and rich, but also overwhelming, scary and exhausting. Goodbye, Again acknowledges the crushing constancy and anxiety of work, but it also celebrates the joy of creating something where nothing was before—the pleasure of being totally immersed in work and the way that work can make us come alive. By acknowledging both sides of this reality in gentle and specific ways, Sun ultimately gives his readers license to experience their own contradictions and to be fully human.
Quiara Alegría Hudes
RaveBookPage... Joyful, righteous, indignant, self-assured, exuberant ... in this extraordinary memoir [Hudes] actually remakes language so that it speaks to her world ... Like the best translators, Hudes occupies the in-between ... This is a book of bringing together dissonant stories, one that Hudes alone could write ... she has invented a language of love and to-the-bone happiness to tell stories only a Perez woman could share.
Catherine E McKinley
PositiveBookpageRather than an exegesis, then, what McKinley offers in this compelling, quixotic book is something closer to a testament—a bold declaration of the enduring strength, beauty and power of African women, many of whom gaze at the camera with evident self-possession. The book is a pleasure to absorb, whether you already know about the history of photography on the African continent or are new to the conversation. All the images are from McKinley’s personal collection, gathered over many years, and they seem to announce themselves with joy. From colonial-era photographs to studio portraits to postcolonial expressions of cosmopolitan poise, the collection offers a vibrant, inchoate and compelling snapshot of African women over time ... McKinley puts African women at the center of their own stories, exploring their pictures with admiration and respect and inviting readers to look alongside her.
Emily Rapp Black
PositiveBookPage\"If you are someone feeling a hurt that will never go away, someone who would be affirmed and comforted by real stories of people moving forward while wounded, then Black’s new memoir will be a balm to you, too.\
PositiveBookPageWhat emerges is not a detailed profile of any one woman, though certain women are referenced several times, but rather a collective portrait of how women have navigated the music industry ... Robinson is uniquely situated to write this book ... Robinson herself, like the best critics, emerges as a strong and likable figure with a clear point of view ... Whether you are tuned in to the history of rock or a casual fan, this book has something to offer. The quotes Robinson has gathered over the years are surprising and intimate, bringing figures like Lady Gaga, Alanis Morrisette and Bette Midler to life. Though no one may have asked Robinson about \'the girls,\' this reader is glad she found space to write about them anyway.
PositiveBookPageUltimately, Parravani is interested in how individual women make reproductive choices in the face of complex geographical, medical and financial circumstances. In tangible and heartbreaking ways, she illustrates how each of these things impacts both her already born daughters and her soon-to-arrive son. In particular, the medical care she receives in West Virginia makes this reviewer cringe ... Parravani carefully situates her narrative in the context of reproductive journalism and research ... What emerges is not simply a portrait of Parravani’s difficult marriage, painful health issues and stressful financial burdens, but a complex picture of the unsayable circumstances that shape one woman’s relationship to her body, to her choice to have children or not, and to the cost of that decision. In saying the unsayable, Parravani is unflinching and brave, offering a sometimes brutal yet undeniably powerful testimony of the mundane and tragic conditions that influence many abortion-seeking women. Parravani does love and want her children, yet the world in which she lives makes it difficult to receive them with open arms without a high personal cost.
PositiveBookPage... compulsively readable ... blends research (the notes section is nearly 50 pages long), reflection and richly rendered personal experience ... Noting how a person’s economic norms are largely determined by their social group, Biss brings people from her life into this story—acquaintances she sits by at dinner parties, friends with whom she swaps books, academics at Northwestern and fellow parents. She thinks about her mother and brother, her husband and son, her house and belongings, her old neighbors and new neighbors, and the big abstract things that inevitably shape how she sees and moves through the world: gentrification, whiteness, privilege and consumption. Through all of this, she keeps a careful eye on how engaging in capitalist economic systems—even as someone experiencing success—brings an unavoidable sense of alienation ... For Biss, art can address this feeling of alienation. And the artfulness of Biss’ prose is fully on display in this memoir, which is made of tiny short-form pieces strung together like beads on a necklace, each one leading to the next yet also standing alone like a perfectly formed droplet. This is a book that asks to be read, absorbed and read again.
RaveBookPageGiggs has an eye for unforgettable and disturbing details that probe at the ancient and ongoing relationship between humans and whales ... Giggs explores the contours of humans’ obsession with whales over time in terrific specificity. Her investigation is historical, cultural, biological and personal ... All of this is engaging. Yet it is Giggs’ poetic and insightful analysis that elevates this book into something unforgettable ... In the whale, Giggs truly does find the world ... Her prose, previously published in literary outlets such as Granta, is luminous ... In tracing humankind’s continuing intersection with these alluring creatures, Giggs ultimately uncovers seeds of hope and, planting them in her fertile mind, cultivates a lush landscape that offers remarkable views of nature, humanity and how we might find a way forward together.
RaveBookPage... ushers readers into fundamental questions of identity, community and belonging. The writing is vibrant, edgy, scenic and exciting. The figures of Adjmi’s childhood come off the page as though the reader is meeting them in person. Adjmi also emerges as a sensitive and faithful—and funny!—narrator who is keen to notice his own reactions to particular moments and perceptive about how his early experiences fostered a kaleidoscopic inner life that informed both the formation of his identity and the art he would later make.
PositiveBookPageAt each step of her journey, Talusan interrogates the complex intersection of who she feels herself to be and how others perceive her. Through this fearless self-awareness, Talusan demonstrates her intellect, creativity, sexuality and, most of all, a true dedication to expressing her inner self. For anyone who has wondered how their identity is impacted by the ways others see them, Fairest is an extraordinary story of one woman’s self-reckoning.
PositiveBookPageGoudeau illustrates that though stories of refugees like Mu Naw are everywhere, they can be hard to access and understand, even for those who have known the refugees for years ... As Goudeau’s careful history demonstrates, attitudes toward refugees are shifting, and the current rhetoric surrounding refugee resettlement uneasily echoes the rhetoric of 80 years past. To keep history from repeating itself, it is time to understand the roots of refugee resettlement in the U.S. and to look fully into the faces of those who are being affected.
PositiveBookPage[Gleeson\'s] relationship with her body is both intimate and mundane, and she writes about pain with an absorbing intensity, telling stories of condescending doctors, creating metaphors that push the sanitized pain scale to its limits and, most passionately, describing artists who have rendered their pain into something more ... Constellations: Reflections From Life will make you think differently about the body in all its weaknesses and feel grateful to the artists and writers who—like Gleeson—have transfigured their suffering into a sacred creative release. Though Gleeson is skeptical of heaven, she finds solace in the stars and their many constellations. In this book, she offers us a unique map of her own constellations, one that has clearly helped her find her way when navigating a wide and painful world.
RaveBookPage... engrossing ... soaring descriptions of Bach’s music ... offers deep and pleasurable ruminations on how our obsessions—musical and artistic—can contribute to an inner life that is both satisfying and difficult to share ... it is Kennicott’s intimate insights into the towering music of Bach, and to the way music speaks to all our lives as we approach our inevitable deaths, that make this book an unforgettable triumph.
RaveBookPageA former Midwesterner who is equally comfortable in farmers’ kitchens as in her high-rise apartment in Beijing, Hvistendahl is uniquely situated to tell this unexpectedly dramatic story ... Hvistendahl traces the particulars of Mo’s case, but she also explores the racialized history of FBI investigations into Chinese immigrants. Her careful contextualization of the case makes its particulars loom with the uncertainty of a fun house mirror ... read this fascinating story, which speaks to the larger geopolitical tensions shaping our time.
PositiveBookPageIn What It Is, the reader experiences, via Thompson’s plaintive and disillusioned voice, the discomfort of personal recalibration. Thompson explores the world as it is and carefully thinks through how each of us can find our place within it.
RaveBookPageAzadeh Moaveni offers what is sure to become a modern classic, answering the question of how Muslim women become, as the Western media puts it, \'radicalized.\' In Guest House for Young Widows: Among the Women of Isis Moaveni persuasively argues that the West’s broad narratives of radicalization fail to account for the lived experiences of Muslim women ... The stories are utterly captivating ... Moaveni not only provides granular views of particular women as they navigate this sociopolitical minefield but also situates these stories in a broader cultural context, rendering them legible in compelling ways. She raises as many questions as she answers, wondering, for example, what will fill the void left by ISIS and how the home cultures of these vulnerable women could have interceded in their responses to online rhetoric. I couldn’t put the book down.
RaveBookPageA tattoo that runs up the arm of acclaimed essayist Leslie Jamison reads Homo sum: humani nil a me alienum puto, or \'I am human. Nothing human is alien to me.\' Her new collection, Make It Scream, Make It Burn, puts her tattoo to the test ... In my favorite essay, she traces the unraveling of Walker Evans and James Agee’s trip to the South, which they completed on Fortune magazine’s dime in 1936 and which resulted in the widely acclaimed Let Us Now Praise Famous Men in 1941. Her astute analysis of the differences between the draft of the magazine article and the published book blew me away ... Nothing human is alien to me. For her readers’ sakes, I hope Jamison will keep pursuing this ideal.
RaveBookPage...Karen Abbott tells the story of Remus’ rise and fall with a novelist’s eye, and incredibly, every line of dialogue is taken directly from a primary source. Without embellishment or overt psychologizing, she pulls readers into the kaleidoscopic world of Jazz-Age America, full of flappers and whiskey parties, boisterous criminals and crooked government agents ... I was transfixed, not only by the incredible research that informed this compulsively readable book but also by what the story reveals about human nature, the interplay of brilliant and unpredictable individuals and the societies in which they live, and the way that greed, fame and lust can—and have—corrupted the motives of both lovers and enemies. If you are a fan of true crime, historical nonfiction and the Jazz Age, this is not a book to miss.
PositiveBookPageWhat endures about this portrait is how deeply human it is to be uncertain, to be driving a hundred miles an hour toward nowhere and longing to have a buddy in the car ... While reading this book, you are ultimately grateful that they have each other and are reminded of the precariousness of the emotional inner life that undulates just beneath the surface, even for people who look as though they have it all.
Rachel Louise Snyder
PositiveBookPageSnyder’s careful reporting about Michelle’s case lays the foundation for the many other stories she examines ... Although No Visible Bruises is not easy or light reading, Snyder’s willingness to tell the intimate stories of domestic violence sheds light on an often neglected subject. All of us have a stake in becoming more aware of and responsive to private violence, and this book proves why.
RaveBookPageThis substantial book, written for the aging and those who love them, offers a stage-by-stage look at the path toward death. It might not seem like fun reading, but the salience of the topic is undeniable ... Butler’s book is a nuts-and-bolts guide to supporting ourselves and each other through the final stages of life ... What Butler offers here is an overview of the terrain and helpful commentary about empowering, meaningful actions for people in a wide range of circumstances. If you are aging or love someone who is, this is a book to add to your list.
PositiveBookPageBusch offers a timely and thoughtful exploration of visibility in our current moment. To be seen or to disappear is political, technological and psychological. It impacts how we move through the world and how we occasionally try, like living things always have, to hide.
PositiveBookPageKing offers a comprehensive look at Rogers’ life ... Rogers emerges from this biography much like I imagine he did every morning from his swim: fresh and glowing with health, secure in his identity, calm and creatively focused. His passions for puppetry, childhood development, faith and music come through clearly. It is undeniably heartening to read about someone who cared so deeply for children and childhood.
PositiveBookpage...Thomson’s Unthinkable features case studies of people who inhabit unimaginable realities, among them a man who believes he is a tiger, a woman who is continually lost and a man who feels the bodily sensations of others as he observes them ... Thomson travels thousands of miles to meet her contacts and visit their homes. She asks the kinds of personal questions scientists might avoid. For instance, she queries one subject, who strongly associates people with colors, what color he associates with his mother—and even with Thomson herself ... Yet Thomson’s aim, ultimately, is to shed light on what each case can tell us about our own life experiences, particularly as they are mediated by the three-pound lump of flesh in our heads. How do we find our way around, perceive our bodies and record our memories? ... Fans of Sacks will enjoy and quickly devour this insightful and very readable book.
PositiveBookPageHaving reviewed a seemingly endless array of archival materials, Horn brings this subject to light in stunning detail. Readers will instantly see how this history continues to haunt us, as the boundaries between the four classes of people on the island (the poor, the mad, the sick and the criminal) are, in the public imagination, as blurred as ever.
RaveBookPage\"Enlightenment Now posits that life has improved by several measures over the last 350 years, in large part because of the Enlightenment … Pinker measures progress as related to particular topics, such as health, wealth, sustenance, equal rights, safety, quality of life and happiness. He does not limit himself to the Western world, but instead seeks a global point of view, relying on academic works from a dizzying array of disciplines (medicine, history, sociology and psychology) to provide evidence for his claims. Because of this vigorous approach and Pinker’s articulate authorial voice, as well as the elegant graphs that accompany each chapter, this ambitious book is an entirely absorbing read.\
RaveBookPageFrancisco Cantú’s quietly heartbreaking memoir The Line Becomes a River explores the reckless contours of the U.S.-Mexico border...comprised of journalistic dispatches and lyrical descriptions of troubling dreams and landscapes, is both intimate and unforgettable ... Cantú is forever changed by this work, and while he becomes good at it, he finds he cannot see it through. Even after he leaves, he is haunted ... This memoir—already much acclaimed and the winner of the prestigious Whiting Award—helps readers see the border as Cantú does, a place full of ambiguity and danger, a place hidden in plain sight, a place Americans should try to see.
PositiveBookPage...Young pulls back history’s curtain to reveal hoaxes, humbug and circus tents with a sideshow of spiritualism and sensationalism ... Shifting effortlessly from the 19th century to the 21st, Young draws connections between words like swindler, diddling and confidence man and contemporary buzzwords like plagiarism, truthiness and fake news ... More than simply recounting these incidents and dozens more, Young uses them to facilitate his larger goal: a theory of the hoax itself and the fantasies that it reveals ...examines the effects of deception on American politics, literature and everyday life ...a powerful, far-reaching read.
RaveBookPageThe many pleasures within Isaacson’s thick tome include gorgeous illustrations, beautiful and precise writing, surprising glimpses into Leonardo’s thinking and, perhaps most satisfyingly, a stunning survey of the artist’s best-known works ... Rather than viewing Leonardo’s broad interests as distractions from his artistry, Isaacson helps readers see how the vigorous curiosity that animated these investigations enriched both Leonardo’s life and his art.
PositiveBookPageThe pleasure of this book, beyond the funny anecdotes and poignant reflections, is getting a behind-the-scenes look at a treasured series of novels and reading a first-hand account of a significant human rights movements in our nation’s history. Maupin offers a vivid look at key moments—such as the murder of Harvey Milk—and the impact these had on the gay rights movement and his life. Unsurprisingly, Maupin is a sympathetic and soulful storyteller. His account of a past struggle for equality is especially important in our fraught present.
Danielle S. Allen
RaveBookPageLike The Other Wes Moore and Between the World and Me, Danielle Allen’s Cuz presents a rich personal narrative in trenchant historical and political context ... The devastating effect of prison on Michael is beautifully wrought in poetic, heartfelt and restrained prose by his cousin, who frequently visited him ... Having read several books like Cuz in an attempt to understand what is happening in this country, I can say that Allen’s is one of the strongest. This book—part elegy, part history, part political philosophy—is wholly unforgettable.