PositiveNPR... comes alive with period illustrations, as well as meticulous attention to primary sources. Kars recounts a tale of oppression, bloodshed, and some triumph; rebelling slaves held off their masters for nearly a year ... a gripping tale about the human need for freedom. It is also a story of shifting loyalties among slaves from differing backgrounds, between slaves and Amerindians, and among the Europeans themselves ... While Kars did not set out to write cultural history, readers may have trouble retaining the minutiae she so carefully presents. However, because her scrupulous research provides spellbinding detail, perhaps that is beside the point ... The story of the Berbice Rebellion begs to be told, and Kars\' telling is impressive.
PositiveNPRLitt refreshingly debunks myths about our founders, pointing up false narratives and warped historical perceptions. He is explicit on the calamitous risks of a widening income gap that concentrates power in the one percent. The racism that erodes our democracy bears repeating as well, and loudly ... breezy, digestible prose ... a no-nonsense guide for how we, the people, can fix ourselves.
RaveNPRShah brings important, refreshing, and depressing observations about what it means to have dark skin and an \'exotic\' name, when the only country you\'ve ever lived in is America ... The essays in this slim volume are engaging and thought-provoking ... The essays are well-crafted with varying forms that should inspire and enlighten other essayists ... A particularly delightful chapter is the last, called \'Voice Texting with My Mother,\' which is, in fact, written in texts ... Shah\'s thoughts on heritage and belonging are important and interesting.
Stephen Graham Jones
RaveThe Washington PostJones, a Blackfeet writer who has published more than 20 books, \'likes werewolves and slashers,\' according to his author bio, but he has also spent a lifetime interpreting Native American culture and mythology for contemporary readers. So he does here, exploring Native American deer and elk mythology and delving into the importance of elk ivory ... Jones writes in clear, sparkling prose. He’s simultaneously funny, irreverent and serious, particularly when he deploys stereotype as a literary device ... The Only Good Indians is splashed with the requisite amounts of blood and gore, but there’s much more to it than that.
MixedThe Washington PostTanabe shows the gaping disparities between the life of leisure and richesse led by the French occupiers, and that of the oppressed Indochinese, who can barely scrape by ... This is a book of secrets, but not of great subtlety. Where the reader could have been left to make inferences, the characters spell out their emotional conditions. The plot moves quickly, often in long passages of expository dialogue ... has a cinematic quality — which may be telling, given that Tanabe’s second novel, The Gilded Years, is being made into a film starring Zendaya. This view of French occupation in Indochina is replete with love affairs, revenge and secrets, not to mention a history lesson about the evils of colonialism.
RaveNPRDoty\'s memoir is not only an exaltation of America\'s troubadour, but also a celebration of gay manhood, queerness, and the power and elasticity of poetry ... Doty devotes the largest number of pages to Whitman\'s \'uncharted desire,\' how Whitman navigates and proclaims queer sexuality. Doty\'s fascination is as a poet, teacher, and as a man. He\'s at the top of his game in these chapters ... Doty examines his sexual life with rigor as well as a sense of wonder. He relishes the moment — insatiable — while simultaneously standing on the sidelines commentating ... Doty both embodies queer liberation and rejoices in it. But his relationship with Walt Whitman extends way beyond the political. Doty is on intimate terms with Whitman ... What is the Grass provides a deeper understanding of both Mark Doty and Walt Whitman.
RaveNPRKennicott\'s descriptions will resonate with any aspiring musician ... Kennicott provides insight into many classical pieces and artists but focuses on Bach ... Kennicott plumbs Bach the composer, architect of the Goldberg Variations\' brilliant symmetry, grounded in fractals and written with mathematical precision. Over the course of the book, Kennicott meticulously deconstructs the variations, but cannot answer the central mystery — why this piece moves us — because no one can. What can be said is that players and listeners alike experience this piece not as a set of cold calculations, but as soul-wrenching art ... Like all serious thinkers, Kennicott raises more questions than he can answer, both about music and about his family ... Given the wounds his mother inflicted, Kennicott\'s account is gracious, even loving. He takes pains to empathize with her, putting her furies in a context personal to her. His musical journey provides balance and balm and depth, in concert with struggle ... a thought-provoking and accomplished memoir.
RaveNPRHis analysis of...relationships is part revelatory for his keen powers of observation, part heartbreaking, and all human ... Lisicky is a gifted writer. With meticulous emotional nuance, he not only captures his day-to-day, but manages to translate lessons from the day-to-day into a manual for living ... gorgeous ... Later is beautifully composed and structured ... \'every death will always be an AIDS death; everyone will always die before their time, whether they\'re twenty-one or ninety-one.\' And that perhaps, is Later\'s greatest lesson.
RaveThe Washington Post... a novel overflowing with unadulterated humanity ... Card is a natural storyteller. Whole family histories are compressed into two pages, stories building upon stories like strata of earth ... Card writes in first, second and third person, and presents one story through a journal. She has a marvelous ear for dialect. Because stories unfold quickly through a range of narrators, it’s not always clear who’s speaking. Nevertheless, the result is a rich stew, teeming with grudges, humor, doubt, loss and love ... It is a measure of Card’s skill that we come to know these characters in three dimensions, even as they struggle to know themselves.
MixedNPRCohen, in his new book, explores the court\'s opinions over the past five decades and comes to a rueful conclusion: These decisions have greatly exacerbated America\'s gap between rich and poor ... Cohen shows, the Supreme Court has narrowed individuals\' rights to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, awarded police more power, severely limited federal tools to address voter suppression and much more. Read Supreme Inequality for a breathtaking, if depressing, catalogue ... Cohen proves his argument that the Supreme Court\'s decisions have widened the wealth gap, diminished consumers\' abilities to right wrongs, limited individuals\' say in our democracy and greatly empowered corporations. His objections are clear, but he does not offer a path forward other than the unstated: Since the court fostered this concentration of corporate power and exacerbated the 1%\'s rise, it has the power to reverse itself. At the dawn of 2020, it is unimaginable that the Roberts court would do so. On the contrary, this reviewer observes that conservative justices continue to actively seek cases that allow them to overturn decades of precedent favoring ordinary people.
RaveNPR... exquisite ... Greenwell displays a precocious ability to take readers into his narrator\'s mind and body ... Greenwell submerges readers in the bedroom, sharing his protagonist\'s intense attractions and doubts ... expertly rendered flashbacks ... Greenwell\'s backward glance, humming with insight. The book traverses an arc that is part heartbreaking and part forward looking ... Greenwell\'s prose sings, even as much of the music occurs in the rests. This writer understands beauty and loss, sorrow and hope, his fluid writing making the telling seem effortless.
Aarti Namdev Shahani
RaveNPR... riveting ... a bruising critique of colonialism ... This story is heart-rending, but perhaps more compelling is Aarti\'s struggle to understand her father ... If you\'re moved by frequent calls to deport so-called criminal or undocumented immigrants and refugees, please read Here We Are ... contains multiple messages: the value of grit and hope and determination; the relentless work immigrant families undertake just to tread water; the fortitude and generosity of such families; and the gaping flaws in American justice. These messages risk going unheard, however, if readers fail to acknowledge that unless your ancestors arrived in chains or were indigenous, you, too, likely hail from immigrants who cut a few corners to survive.
PositiveNPRI\'m not sure I would have argued for another memoir in which a white man\'s life implodes from alcohol and cocaine addiction. But now comes Idiot Wind by Peter Kaldheim, its title from the Bob Dylan song, with something to offer ... Kaldheim channels his inner Jack Kerouac to guide him, and conjures additional substance-abusing, macho, white writers. Frederick Exley, Jay McInerney, Ernest Hemingway, Henry Miller, and others make appearances. Perhaps as a consequence, Kaldheim\'s language can feel dated ... Fortunately, Idiot Wind picks up steam on the road, with some train hopping thrown in ... Even if we weren\'t in need of another road-trippy-addiction memoir, Idiot Wind recounts Kaldheim\'s very human efforts to swim to shore with compassion and gratitude.
Margarita Liberaki, Trans. by Karen Van Dyck
PositiveNPRThree Summers, by Magarita Liberaki (1919-2001), weaves a dreamy, cinematic tapestry of Greek village life ... Katerina\'s efforts to assemble a framework that reconciles her fantasies with the bewildering and disturbing facts she encounters make Three Summers both engaging and provocative. Liberaki skillfully raises questions; it\'s up to the reader to wrestle with them. As the book concludes, Katerina offers a resolution about love, women, and family. It may not tie up the novel\'s many mysteries, but it conjures a lovely rose-colored vision[.]
MixedNPRMerlan...provides horrifying details about conspiracies ... If you want more detail on a parade of horrifying twists of truth, read the book ... Merlan\'s recitations are chilling, as are her warnings that fringe beliefs tend to go mainstream ... Republic of Lies would have been strengthened with deeper analysis of the extent to which these theories take hold and the weight our society accords them. Where do these theories fall in the metrics of our political discourse? Are we comparing apples and oranges when we talk about falsehoods versus reality, or are we comparing apples and dump trucks? How potent are the false equivalencies?
PositiveNPR... an absorbing family history that spans continents and epochs ... With a clear point of view, Hayoun weaves in his family history with the politics that shaped their lives. When We Were Arabs is a nostalgic celebration of a rich, diverse heritage. It is also a diatribe against white supremacy in the form of European oppression ... In a sweeping gesture, [Hayoun] proudly proclaims his identity ... Perhaps that declaration of love is his most important takeaway.
RaveNPR...a thoroughly engaging memoir ... It is Cary\'s recounting of her upbringing and ancestry that provide the most engaging parts of Ladysitting. Her family is a fascinating pastiche, and her narration captivates with humor and forthrightness ... Her strength and clear-sighted resolve, as well as the support she receives from the loving family she has created, form an important and uplifting through line to this memoir. Cary may have demons to tackle, but she does so with admirable grace ... Read Ladysitting...for its candor and singular take on a familiar tale.
Jean Frémon, Trans. by Cole Swensen
PositiveNPRElegantly translated by Cole Swensen, Now, Now, Louison portrays a woman whose mind never rests, whose capacious memory serves as a bottomless source of artistic inspiration ... Frémon brings Bourgeois\' art to light through her keen observations on life. Frémon\'s portrait is convincing; artists of Bourgeois\' intensity do not separate life from art ... The best way to read Now, Now, Louison is to surrender to it, to observe in tandem with Louise, to feel alongside her. Individually, the vignettes may not always be decipherable, but collectively they portray a woman of great complexity and imagination. Her life is her art, and vice versa ... Mixing media is a challenge; translating visual art into words impossible by definition. But with Now, Now, Louison, Jean Frémon delivers a special pleasure — he invites us into Louise Bourgeois\' head as she creates. In so doing, Frémon opens up our understanding of both the artist and her art.
Edouard Louis, Trans. by Lorin Stein
PositiveNPR\"... a brief, poetic telling of the myriad ways societal contempt, homophobia, and poverty can kill a man ... Louis\' clear-sighted awareness of this masculine insanity allows him to paint a sympathetic portrait ... There is a universality to this story — the child\'s longing for acceptance contrasted with the mature son\'s painful journey to understand why his father behaved as he did ... Capturing the macro and micro culprits in Who Killed My Father, Louis serves as both raconteur and son, expressing deep and considered empathy for a man whose absence looms large.\
Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman
RaveNPRA memoir with bite ... profiles the challenges of the 99 percent with humor, sarcasm, and wit ... shows us what it takes to become a fully realized adult — or at least this fully realized adult ... Hindman doesn\'t shrink from the big, systemic picture, but her fascinating personal story, with its unexpected twists, puts the memorable into this memoir.
PositiveNPRAllen uses this little world to explore larger issues of race, class, and gender. Writing primarily in the present tense, she gives us a set of characters who are odd and often lovable, characters who wrestle with sticky parts of their pasts and try to imagine life beyond Doc Bell\'s ... Entropy is at the heart of Tonic and Balm. More than constructing the show, the book deconstructs it, as if designed to shed characters at the same pace that Haydn\'s Farewell Symphony requires musicians to leave the stage. It\'s a tricky premise, but in general, it works ... The characters may disappear one-by-one from Dr. Bell\'s, but Miss Antoinette\'s strong, mysterious presence holds their reflections.
PositiveNPR\"McColl delivers thoughtful and finely crafted prose to vivify this emotionally intense relationship. From time to time, her writing becomes obscure as she tries to make sense of herself and Allison ... McColl may have her linguistic surfeits, but she should be applauded for unstinting efforts to put her heart on the page.\
RaveNPRAll may be allegory, but Extinctions gets its hands dirty with a real plot and realistic characters ... takes a hard look at the politics of adoption, cultural appropriation, loss, deracination, and professional frustration, without Wilson letting up her fictional grip ... [Wilson] writes with great intention, calling upon us as individuals and as a society to change.
Craig Morgan Teicher
PositiveNPR\"We Begin in Gladness is well worth reading for its celebration of the art, and for placing poetry as a necessity in today\'s frenzied society—where dystopian fiction sells well, and too few people take time to read. Teicher\'s examination of poets\' artistic maturation is an engaging topic. If his conclusions are informed by his own taste, we can appreciate him as a generous guide through his chosen profession ... There may be readers who would prefer to have had more background threaded through Teicher\'s thoughtful examination of the poetic life. The presumption that poetry is a language of common parlance would be welcome if true. But alas, it is not.\
MixedWashington Independent Review of BooksThe hero (or anti-hero) of Aaron Jacobs’ The Abundant Life is Alex Wolf, a Jewish boy who goes rogue as a teenage gunrunner, does hard time, and returns home to — not much. Meet his struggling family: Mom’s a bleeding heart working in a homeless shelter; Dad’s a gambler and a business failure; and little sister Rachel’s greatest aspiration is to leave home for college. Where to find money? The credit-card debt is too deep to see the bottom, and the house, of course, is a health hazard ... Author Jacobs needs to prune his clichés and deploy fewer ordinary turns of phrase. His writing can be choppy and convoluted. What he does deliver, however, is humor. Alex’s cynicism is unrelenting, but fortunately, he can laugh at himself ... Character development? Not really. Big ideas? Nah. Call this book madcap, call it screwball, and you would be right. Read The Abundant Life for entertainment and for a plot that defies reality; that is, if we weren’t living in 2018.
RaveNPR\"I have dog-eared too many pages to close my copy of Kiese Laymon\'s Heavy: An American Memoir. I found something noteworthy on almost every page ... This is a memoir to read and reread, as Laymon recommends readers do with all books of significance ... Dear white people, please read this memoir. Dear America, please read this book. Kiese Laymon is a star in the American literary firmament, with a voice that is courageous, honest, loving, and singularly beautiful. Heavy is at once a paean to the Deep South, a condemnation of our fat-averse culture, and a brilliantly rendered memoir of growing up black, and bookish, and entangled in a family that is as challenging as it is grounding.\
Eric Vuillard, Trans. by, Mark Polizzotti
PositiveThe Millions\"Poetically translated by Mark Polizzotti, the book shines a light on the industrial titans and politicians behind Hitler’s might. With chilling precision and moral authority, Vuillard draws a straight line between the marching orders Hitler gave to Germany’s moguls, and the Anschluss ... Vuillard’s language is beautifully and economically crafted; his judgments raise crucial questions.\
Luce D'Eramo, Trans. by Anne Milano Appel,
RaveNPRFinally, 39 years after its debut, comes its first-ever English edition, vividly translated by Anne Milano Appel ... This devastating chain of experience cannot be told in linear fashion. The story must \'deviate,\' as the memory and weight and brutality of D\'Eramo\'s past unfolds in bursts ... If we appreciate Karl Ove Knausgaard for his introspective tenacity, then we must genuflect before Luce D\'Eramo ... It is not simply D\'Eramo\'s personal story, but also her ruthless quest for self-knowledge, that render Deviation a literary tour de force.
Ed. by Arjun Singh Sethi
RaveNPRAmid the ugly realities of contemporary America, American Hate affirms our courage and inspiration, opening a roadmap to reconciliation by means of the victims\' own words ... Read American Hate for the faces Sethi puts on our national hate epidemic, and for his sobering account of the fallout—humiliation, terror, injury, and death. But read American Hate, as well, for what the last chapter terms \'Hope in a Time of Despair.\' Hate may be rampant in America, but so are its antidotes: We must understand and own our history. We must speak out, for in community is power and love.
David A. Kaplan
PositiveNPRIf you aren\'t a regular on the Washington cocktail circuit or a subscriber to SCOTUSblog, this material is presented at a level of granularity with which you may not be familiar. It makes for engaging, if not reassuring, reading ... Kaplan\'s discussion of Bush v. Gore is particularly elucidating in explaining the competing postures of state and federal courts that resulted in George W. Bush\'s first inauguration. Chapters such as \'Runaway Court,\' \'Revenge of the Right,\' and \'For the Love of Money,\' leave no doubt about Kaplan\'s views on the wisdom of judicial restraint; he\'s for it. He does us a favor by pointing out the hypocrisy of originalism ... In the final chapter of The Most Dangerous Branch Kaplan asserts that \'if the Court is to become a less dangerous branch,\' Justice Roberts \'has the opportunity, the temperament and maybe the skill to make it so.\'
RaveThe MillionsWashington Black is a terrific new narrative about enslavement, but that description fails to do it justice ... In its rich details and finely tuned ear for language, the book creates a virtual world, immersing the reader in antebellum America and Canada as well as in Victorian England ... the trek is fraught with danger and thoroughly engaging. Edugyan captures the Arctic so artfully, you want to reach for your parka to stay warm ... More important than travelogue, however, is Washington Black’s interrogation of human attachment ... refreshing in its oddities and unconventionalities.
RaveNPR\"Chee\'s writing has a mesmerizing quality; his sentences are rife with profound truths without lapsing into the didactic ... In his new book, he circles back from his last book, the epic Queen of the Night, to further mine his inner core with a refreshing candor that poses answerless questions and owns misjudgment and uncertainty ... Chee is a very special artist; his writing is lyrical and accessible, whimsical and sad, often all at the same time. No doubt he is an inspiring writing teacher as well.\
PositiveNPRRausing's core message is this: Addiction is a family affair. Her book embraces those surrounding the addict by courageously exposing her own self-doubt and heartache ... Rausing's narrative is delivered in disjointed, non-sequential fragments. Single sentence paragraphs complete sections for emphasis; hers is a jagged presentation that seems intended to mirror addiction's mayhem ... Rausing places her experience within a broader context. She considers Amy Winehouse, she cites Patty Hearst. She highlights America's opioid blight to remind us that addiction is not solely a family affair, it's a societal pathology.
PositiveNPRA crisply written page turner ... Deploying the same precision with which he documents Grimes' prison life, Rachlin recounts the arduous and complex work to move the wheels of justice. 19 years after Grimes' arrest, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a bill to establish an Innocence Inquiry Commission; Chris Mumma's fingerprints were all over it. Read Rachlin's Ghost of the Innocent Man to follow the twisted path that led Chris Mumma to pick up Grimes' file, ultimately exposing the use of outdated photos to mis-identify the perpetrator, the failure to fingerprint relevant parts of the crime scene, exculpatory evidence destroyed, contorted "science" involving a single hair, and more. But don't read for the gripping story alone. Willie Grimes spent 24 years behind bars for a crime he didn't commit, while the real perpetrator continued to offend. Shouldn't we be better than this?
RaveThe MillionsWith compelling themes of displacement and reinvention, these stories push boundaries — probing race, class, sexual identity, and family; the role of women in Arab and American culture; and much more. In this collection, mythology meets reality, and Jarrar’s palette spans the world ... The thirteen stories in this collection blend humor with rage, wit with pathos. Jarrar presents an astonishing variety, each story as inventive as it is insightful. It’s a book for this oppressive electoral season, where presidential politics are ugly and destructive, and demagoguery is endeavoring to trample a core American truth: Our country’s strength derives from open borders. Jarrar is here with a correction.
RaveThe MillionsEleven Hours is crafted with the taut economy of The Understory, and with the same laser focus on human alienation. In fewer than 180 virtuoso pages, Erens knits together two women, two lives, two stories. Each woman has borne serious trials; each is detached from her family of origin, albeit for different reasons. Each has reason to worry about bringing new life into this world. They are together, but brutally alone. And yet for the duration of Lore’s hospital stay, their communion feels both necessary and illuminating. What passes between Franckline and Lore lifts them above despair, thrusting them toward life itself.