Kerri ArsenaultKerri Arsenault serves on the National Book Critics Circle Board, as Book Editor for Jewels of the North Atlantic and Arctic, and writes a column for Lithub. She is writing a book about Maine and how the disenfranchised are more susceptible to environmental injustices. Follow her on Twitter @KerriArsenault
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewWho am I? is the question troubling Maud Newton in her extraordinary and wide-ranging book ... We sink as deep into history, science and spirituality as we do into Newton’s family tree. Her genealogical investigation transforms into an investigation of genealogy itself, a subject rich with conjecture and a perennial social longing that she terms \'ancestor hunger\' ... When one inquiry reaches its natural end, she belays herself back and begins another route. It makes sense, this method — which becomes the book’s structure, too — because curiosity and lives never proceed in direct paths ... Newton’s pursuit gathers into a fist of anguish as she traces and faces \'monstrous bequests\' of racism, from Southern ancestors who enslaved people to a Northern ancestor who helped drive Indigenous people from their villages in western Massachusetts ... a powerful acknowledgment. Ancestor Trouble is also a literary feat that simultaneously builds and excavates identity, and it’s a blueprint for making something of cultural, intellectual, emotional, physical, spiritual and genetic legacies often burdened with messy debris.
RaveThe Boston GlobeOnce a decade a book like The Every advances the frontier of literary excellence: a book that reflects our culture. Predicts our future. Worm-holes into our subconscious. Delivers artful and complex characters, metaphor, ideas, narrative. Provides percussive movements of levity, gravity, grace, suspense, hilarity. Encourages deep discussion. The book’s genius is also reinforced by Dave Eggers’s pitch-perfect satiric observations of modern (mostly liberal progressive) anxieties ... Plot-wise, The Every is simple ... Eggers leads us like the ghost of Christmas future ... The Every will feed the furnace of moral outrage on actual social media while satirizing that social media moral outrage on every page.
PositiveThe Boston Globe... graceful and compassionate ... While Brown plants his flag in fiction, the circumstances in Maine are very real and still unsettled ... What emerges from the ashes of the mill’s demise are broken relationships between human and land, but also the capacity for forgiveness and exoneration, which Brown signposts with flowers emerging from the mill’s scorched soil. Brown’s most urgent story, however, is one that has largely been untold — a modern day Penobscot Nation reckoning with the manacles of the past.
RaveThe Boston GlobeIn Notes on a Silencing, Crawford lays bare the impact of violence on identity. She navigates her trauma surgically by trying to establish the parameters of its lexicon — was it rape, assault, aggravated assault, aggravated felonious assault, intercourse, nonconsensual sex? — then interrogating the terms in which to define herself, as so many sexual assault victims do ... The book underscores the complicated and oppressive machinations of a young girl’s sexuality ... The rigor and elegance of Crawford’s sentences, even while writing about such painful things, lifts this memoir into literary heights ... Crawford is forcing the unchecked power of an elite institution to answer for their violations and the victims they shoved into silent hallways of despair.
RaveOrionFracking, forced separation of aboriginal children from their families, mining for diamonds and oil, alcohol, debt, and the freight of those wounds serve to cripple the landscape and the people who live on it. Deeply observed and masterfully drawn, Sacco (John McPhee–like, always in the background) brings light to dark corners of the world and to the human condition.
RaveThe Star Tribune\"In this epic travelogue, nature writer Barry Lopez\'s slow but steady observations of a magnificent but damaged planet mirror the slow but steady exploitation of its resources and the extent of human suffering such a feat requires. Horizon is a book with no central horizon, and for that we should be grateful. You could ask for no better travel guide as long as you are open to the possibilities of tangential paths and his \'capacity for wonder\' ... Lopez is a thoughtful and careful curator, sweeping the planet to understand not only its topography but also the cultural geography of humans and the relationship between the two.\
RaveOprah.comGrief, love, wariness, empathy, the confusions of simply being a woman—these are emotions that most of us feel but sometimes find difficult to express. Lazarin gives us the tools to do just that.
PositiveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneOne of Berwald’s investigative lines is to ascertain if the jellyfish population is increasing or decreasing despite acidifying seas. In fact, it is this metaphor the book revolves around: the jellyfish as a symbol for resilience and annihilation, nature’s winners and losers. And like the semisolid state of its body, jellyfish reflect the fate of our planet: suspended between survival and oblivion at the hands of those who choose to ignore it … Yes, the jellyfish should be the new world mascot to herald our own human failings.
RaveThe Minneapolis Star Tribune…[a] tumultuous memoir that scales not only continents, but cultural and emotional landscapes, too … Guo’s eye is sharp and fearless — as are her actions and this book — for what could possibly terrify her that she hasn’t already experienced? ‘The landscape made me merciless and aggressive,’ she writes. And indeed, it did … Guo’s is a mythic journey: from poverty to fecundity, from communism to capitalism, from the ‘we’ to the ‘I,’ from inside to outside, the latter culminating in her leaving behind a harrowing past. How can a human endure so much with so little and still end up a celebrated author and filmmaker? The answers lie within the pages of this book.
PositiveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneThese interstitial interpretations not only give us deep insight to Frankie, but act as a touchstone to help her remember the artist she is and was, and as a bellwether of her own sanity. This tic also gives original perspectives on art ... Baume wrings out sentences that change the way you look at everyday things ... Baume leaves nothing unturned in this dark and sometimes funny excavation of the human heart, life’s fragility and the quest for sanity in a sometimes insane world.