RaveThe Washington PostShe finds the funny in the terrible — and thankfully for us readers, takes pleasure in making us laugh, too ... Irby has a keen ability to root out the absurd in the mundanities of her existence and life in general, then mine that absurdity for laughs ... Irby’s slightly askew perspective allows for some interesting views ... She takes readers in winding, surprising, emotionally vulnerable and strange directions, but you can ultimately see what she’s driving at. It all rings true — and it’s riotously funny, too.
PositiveThe Washington Post... Miranda is...biting and wonderfully wry, as are many of the narrator’s observations. Miranda Fitch is an acquired taste. She’s wickedly bitter, but she becomes easier to take once you get used to her voice ... I did not anticipate such a nightmarish, hair-raising, diabolically smart treatise on pain—particularly as experienced by women. The type of pain that is real, but invisible (and overlooked, ignored). That much of Miranda’s story is based on Awad’s experience with chronic pain makes this all the more harrowing to read ... Awad...is a master at using language not only to describe, but also to mimic an experience ... For all its cleverness, All’s Well has its frailties. It could be a touch shorter. (Occasionally, explanations of Miranda’s misery—and later, her sudden wellness—belabor the point.) The plot could be a tad tighter. The magical elements occasionally feel a bit muddled. And yet. Once I started to read the book, I just kept going and going. Taking it in this way left me reeling, but when I was finished, I knew one thing for certain: Awad’s writing isn’t merely intoxicating. It’s incandescent.
RaveThe Washington Post[A] book chock full of jokes, funny anecdotes and crackling dialogue ... A TV writer for series like Divorce, Maniac and, not surprisingly, Difficult People, Henderson has an aptitude for realistically rendering complicated characters ... Between the quips, behind the comedy, there is breathtaking sorrow. The book scissored my heart to shreds. All manner of violence — psychic, sexual, physical — is enacted on children ... The Ugly Cry is a vivid, voice-y, richly textured read; it is also profoundly sad, and must have been spectacularly difficult to write.
MixedThe Washington PostSmall talk is for the birds. The conversations that help us become more enlightened, or evolved or liberated, are — rightfully — big. (Breezy chitchat about weather patterns rarely changes lives.) In Let’s Talk About Hard Things Anna Sale makes the case for just that: that there’s value in tackling the tough stuff we tend to shy away from, such as mortality, intimacy and finances ... The text is a compelling exhortation to have difficult discussions ... While the recorded episodes are fluid and seductive, like overheard, heady conversations, the book is staccato, full of exposition, transitions and summaries that can detract from the potency of the narratives. It’s a shame, as many of the stories are quite fascinating ... Format may be partially to blame ... This book may be the most useful for the supremely reticent and emotionally risk-averse among us, those who need much persuasion to utter uncomfortable truths. If you’re already at ease with vulnerability and only need an occasional nudge or recalibration, you can still benefit, but many of the assertions may strike you as obvious.
RaveThe Washington Post... the text is not simply a catalogue of terror; it is a conversational call to action, an urging to rewrite our definition of White manhood and diminish the power it holds. Oluo is asking us to evaluate the myths America tells itself about itself, see the violence within, be honest about the perpetrators and the victims, and then tell different stories. Truer ones. But she is also inviting us, on occasion, to chuckle. There is levity and voice in Mediocre, which Oluo dedicates to \'Black womxn.\' The work presents nuanced historical accounts and analyses of America’s westward expansion, education system, mistreatment of women in workplaces, politics and sports, while interjecting the author’s personality and personal history.
PositiveThe Washington PostBelieve me when I tell you, Little Scratch is difficult. It will tax you. You will have to learn the syntax of a distracted and distressed mind. But rigor, in this case, is not without reward ... While the story line is simple, Watson’s style is experimental, and revelations about what horrors the unnamed main character has endured trickle, like droplets from a leaky faucet, until the pool of her trauma is made apparent. The writing is stream of consciousness and has the trappings of a narrative poem ... I may be making this novel sound cheerless. That couldn’t be further from the truth. One benefit of spending 200-odd pages in one character’s head is that we get to savor her idiosyncrasies, stray thoughts and offhand insights ... Much like the quiet triumph you might feel once you’ve convinced a closed-off person to unfurl, to get comfortable, to reveal intimacies, there’s a certain satisfaction to learning that she’s an aspiring writer, thinks about sex on the train and is wrestling with a consuming secret ... Granted, the style can occasionally grate on the nerves ... I suggest you soldier on. Despite the occasional overuse of repetition, the writing is economical. It’s a quick read. It takes a regular day and renders it irregularly, interestingly. It presents grief, violence, self-harm and self-doubt in an unusual fashion, driving home just how disorienting and destabilizing these forces can be. It is of the #MeToo era, tackling both catcallers and unrepentant predators, but exists on a plane all its own.
Dorothy Butler Gilliam
MixedThe Washington PostBeyond her journalistic slights and successes, Gilliam charts watershed civil rights moments ... as a chronicle of black history and advancement, Trailblazer is potent. As a memoir, less so. Gilliam seems reluctant to unshroud her intimate memories and emotions. Perhaps this is a function of her trade. Journalists are trained to report a story, rather than inhabit it, and to focus on facts, not feelings ... In the chapter on her 20-year marriage to artist Sam Gilliam, we only scratch the surface of their troubled relationship.