RaveChicago Review of BooksIf I could only have one book on my coffee table, it would be Chet’la Sebree’s Field Study, winner of the 2020 James Laughlin Award. Field Study skillfully synthesizes writing genres and resists general categorization, upending the conventions of poetry, memoir, and autoethnography ... But it is the delightfully misleading simplicity of its form...which invite \'casual\' reading about topics that are anything but casual ... This is a book that demands the verb form of its title. You must study it, there is simply no other way to engage. Field Study is full of unexpected starts and stops. If you’re not paying careful attention to the velocity, a sentence may resonate poignantly...and then offer a rhyming punch to the stomach in the next ... Through open, flexible language, and a speaker who simultaneously demurs and delights in her appetites, Sebree has penned a portrait of ongoing discovery and reclamation.
RaveThe Cleveland Review of BooksIn Stranger Faces, Harvard professor Namwali Serpell uses semiotics to describe her version of a \'failed face.\' An award-winning novelist, Serpell’s writing spans literary criticism, short stories, and film reviews, and Stranger Faces adds to her skill in writing across genres. The second book in the Undelivered Lectures series, Stranger Faces reads more like a collection of intellectually rigorous long-form blog posts than an academic monograph ... With a sharp eye and critical wit, Serpell topples [the] Ideal Face from its pedestal. She offers robust counterexamples of faces in history, literature, and film that do not embody this Ideal: disabled faces, racially-ambiguous faces, substitutive faces, animal faces, and emoji faces ... And here is what I think is Serpell’s most intriguing take on strange faces: she says that we should take pleasure in these facial failures, to see them not as indexes of human worth, but as art ... Playing with this faciality phenomenon, is, in fact, something we already do; Stranger Faces says we should not deny this impulse, we should embrace it. Serpell ushers in an ethics that does not adhere human value to something as fickle—and paradoxical—as the facial surface.