RaveThe New YorkerSlim and sly ... The daughter narrates in calm prose that evokes the sound of a rake carefully tracing a pattern in sand. Along the way, she shares a few memories ... From the start, there are signs that mother and daughter are dancing around something. But it’s hard for the characters—much less the reader—to say what that something might be ... Buried secrets and repressed memories are common storytelling devices, the supposed treasures that many atmospheric novels of consciousness use to entice readers. In otherwise loosely plotted narratives, such treasures keep us digging ... At times, Au seems to be encouraging this very approach ... As a reader, it’s easy to feel...that your own brushstroke-detecting ability is being tested. Like most tests, it isn’t exactly relaxing ... That sense of failure—to see sharply enough, to read closely enough—creates its own peculiar form of engagement ... And yet the novel, at its best, also complicates this metric of success, throwing doubt on the inherent value of uncovering what’s hidden ... If we search relentlessly for pentimenti, we risk missing the actual picture ... Au’s novel is perhaps most masterly in the way it evokes our dissociation from desire—our own and other people’s ... In the end, the trip isn’t a bust, and neither is the book that it yields. The narrator may not have unearthed anything dramatic...from her mother’s past, but she has been alive to, and curious about, the present in that particular way ... We are often prone to see other people...as mysteries we can’t help trying to solve ... Cold Enough for Snow understands this impulse, but makes the quiet case for another approach, one that might be more common in life than our novels tend to allow, and that we might simply call, for lack of any more technical term, being together while we can.
Sjón, Tr. Victoria Cribb
MixedThe New York Times Book Review[A] brisk, slim book ... The chapters move like the prose equivalent of flip-book images, quick and evocative ... Sjón’s story, based on research into a real-life band of Icelandic neo-Nazis, dovetails nicely with current preoccupations about the resurgence of fascism. The main message — made explicit in an afterword — is that most Nazis were people just like you and me, \'normal to the point of banality,\' their actions informed by universal emotions like the desire for belonging ... Unfortunately, Red Milk is too fast-moving to leave much room for banality: Because the total number of incidents is so low, almost all of them are immediately pressed into meaning as another way station on Kampen’s road to Nazism. More than once I was reminded of cheesy biopics, which distort life by including scenes only for their ability to chart a journey the destination of which we already know ... The novel feels boldest when it moves toward embracing the quotidian, letting Nazism drift to the edges of the frame ... But because these moments come so rarely, in the end the novel has a slightness that feels out of step with its themes ... In Red Milk the overall feeling of inadequacy might have less to do with the small number of pages and more with the author’s abundance of caution, born — quite understandably — from his awareness of great danger lurking nearby.
Robin J Diangelo
PositivePacific StandardThe advice in White Fragility is fairly straightforward—which is not, of course, the same thing as easy to act on. DiAngelo wants white people to abandon ideas of racism as a matter of individuals being good or bad, moral or immoral. To accept that we surely have unconscious investments in whiteness—investments we might not yet fully understand. To seek out the perspectives of people of color, embrace the discomfort that might result, and avoid confusing that discomfort with literal danger. To start uncomfortable conversations with family and friends. To breathe slowly. And, perhaps most important, to remember that we should do all this not for people of color, but instead for ourselves, in the spirit of honesty and truth-telling ... It is easy to overstate the value of \'conversations about race\' and, in the process, de-emphasize the need for material change. But it is hard to deny that a great many new conversations are likely needed, particularly within white families and social circles. The number of conversations coaxed into existence by DiAngelo\'s work will be a central measure of its success. I hope it is a great one.
MixedPacific StandardChosen Country, Pogue\'s book-length treatment of the Malheur saga, is an intriguing document of our times ... It\'s a second draft of history, let\'s say, one that captures the author\'s attitude toward his material as it\'s still evolving ... Many an unsuspecting reader will likely be puzzled by how much space Pogue spends on Pogue ... But Pogue\'s presence on the page as a flesh-and-blood character (albeit a frequently annoying one) is not without advantages ... Chosen Country ends on a paradoxically eloquent expression of its own incompleteness.