PositiveForeword ReviewsThe essays embody the complexities of identity: each one weaves multiple strands of narrative and arguments to touch on art, ethnic identity, sexuality, and class. Juxtapositions and abrupt shifts in focus bring variety into each piece, while also calling for attention to the interconnectedness of the self, land, and community ... Together, the essays paint a portrait of a twenty-first-century American Southwest that is a vibrant, beautiful, and fruitful place for queer Latinx artists, but also one that is fraught, dangerous, and changing at a rapid rate ... The essays are both probing and celebratory in tone. They focus more on exploring problems of identity, community, and citizenship than on offering answers, and frequent rhetorical questions open possibilities for further thought. They are also warm, moving paeans to friendship. The names of Gutiérrez’s friends and artistic collaborators appear on repeat throughout, illustrating the power of communal bonds ... A tribute to the power of art to provoke and challenge its viewers, the essays of Brown Neon are timely and affecting as they consider the nuances of queer Latinx life in the American Southwest.
Masatsugu Ono tr. Juliet Winters Carpenter
PositiveForeword Reviews... Eerie and unsettling ... The novel emphasizes atmosphere and incidents over plot, implying that the pleasures of narrative resolution are out of reach. Occasional flashbacks fill in the family’s history, but offer no explanation of their predicament ... Written in startling, imaginative vignettes, At the Edge of the Woods is an evocative, terrifying story about a family’s efforts to survive a crisis.
Yoko Tawada, tr. Margaret Mitsutani
PositiveForeword ReviewsThe time period and geopolitical structures of Tawada’s science fiction world remain vague, which places greater emphasis on the book’s ideas about friendship, borders, and language ... The novel celebrates crosslinguistic communication as generative, fostering imagination and friendship and offering hope in a chaotic world ... The novel’s form underscores this hopefulness: it moves through a series of narrators so that each character has a chance to speak ... Yoko Tawada’s Scattered All Over the Earth is a cheerful dystopian novel that celebrates inventiveness, possibilities, and human connections.
Sara Mesa, trans. by Megan McDowell
RaveForeword Reviews\"In Sara Mesa’s warm, nuanced novel Among the Hedges, a friendship blossoms, defying cultural expectations ... a daring, sympathetic novel about a friendship between two people whom society would prefer to keep apart.
Kjell Askildsen tr. Sean Kinsella
PositiveForeword ReviewsMundane objects that carry emotional weight—raincoats, hair ribbons, cups of coffee—bring the stories alive. Askildsen uses first and third person, sometimes switching between the two within the same story, to capture his characters’ emotional states from interior and exterior vantage points ... Askildsen frequently uses dialogue to capture the characters’ feelings, communicating frustration, irritation, and mistrust through short but evocative exchanges ... At two to three pages long each, the shortest pieces are best understood as vignettes that capture static moments in time, without the depth of the book’s longer stories, which better speak to the collection’s interest in emotional drama within the spaces they make for meaningful description and details ... In the short stories of Everything Like Before, loneliness, despair, and longing are described with devastating nuance.
RaveForeward ReviewsIn Elvira Navarro’s story collection Rabbit Island , dreams and reality blur. The stories are surreal and disorienting, exploring dark and strange corners of the mind ... Of the collection’s eleven stories, the first fits in a realistic mode, but the rest bend the rules of everyday experiences ... The stories are nightmarish, full of people struggling fruitlessly in bad jobs, strained relationships, and inexplicable circumstances ... Navarro’s characters experience fear, regret, and anxiety about a world that’s slipping out of control. Those who attempt to change, or even understand, their environments come to bad ends. Short, declarative sentences that come one after another make the unbelievable seem real. As befits the book’s mood, Navarro resists easy endings, often leaving her characters still struggling, or even in more precarious positions than where they began ... Full of colorful, precise descriptions and sharp insights into the mind and body, Rabbit Island is inventive and atmospheric, arising where the everyday world ends and dreams begin.
Daniel Saldaña Paris, Trans. by Christina MacSweeney
PositiveForeword ReviewsMoving back and forth between the past and present, the narrator charts his emotional state both as an adult and as a child, turning Ramifications into an investigation of memory and feeling. Sensitive and cerebral, the narrator as a ten-year-old turns to origami to calm himself and to exert control over a world that has fallen apart ... Within the small cast, each person is rendered with precision ... a rich, smart, and satisfying rendering of abandonment and loss, whose effects reverberate through time.
PositiveForeword Reviews... an important examination of race in the US ... Powerful as they move from personal experiences into larger questions of art, race, and politics ... Suggestive and thought-provoking, the essays are written in a clear, graceful style that keeps the focus on Bolina’s stories and ideas. Of Color is an essential text set at the intersections between art, race, power, and culture.
RaveForeword ReviewsThis heartwarming novel tells the story of Juan Gutiérrez as he goes through a time of change ... These are serious issues, and the novel gives them their due, but it’s also light in tone ... Big Familia looks seriously at race, sexuality, class, and more, while never losing its warmth and charm.
Fiona Alison Duncan
RaveThe Foreword Review... a funny, thought-provoking novel that levels pointed critiques at gender and class inequality and captures what it’s like to be a young person today ... The novel’s ideas and voice are a pleasure ... the narrative’s meandering is held together by Fiona’s acute observations about herself and her world. She is insightful about self-fashioning on social media, and describes the money and career problems of her friends (and generation) with direct, wry wit. She is an amusing and frank narrator ... The novel’s language is freshest and most inventive in its critical, satirical moments ... an incisive story about the struggles of sensitive, artistic young people as they figure out how best to live.
RaveNecessary FictionWhat is at stake in these stories is not only a matter of racial and ethnic identity, however; How to Escape is also concerned with boundaries and divisions more generally ... One of the chief pleasures of reading this collection is experiencing the range of characters and voices that Yanique offers. She is capable of evoking a sense of a full life in just a few pages, and she successfully negotiates extremely varied times, places, and cultures in the space of a single story ... She is particularly good at capturing voices, both in the narration and in dialogue ... Most of the stories display Yanique’s talent at its strongest: conjuring up complex worlds that challenge us to think about the vexed question of who we are.
Nabarun Bhattacharya, Trans. by Sunandini Banerjee
RaveForeword Reviews... a wild ride...in vibrant, humorous prose ... the work’s main appeal comes because Bhattacharya’s writing is so energetic. Descriptions are fresh, and conversations are lively and often bawdy. Fragments result in a fast pace, and the narrative is full of sudden shifts that plunge into new times and places without explanation, gradually offering orienting details ... A rich range of tones veers from tragic to humorous, sincere to satirical, these shifts accomplished with ease. The text is gritty with the realism of dirty city streets, drunken revelries, and political violence, but also contains elements of fantasy, as when a fairy appears to keep a benevolent eye on Harbart.
Emiliano Monge, Trans. by Frank Wynne
RaveForeword ReviewsThe novel’s tone is unsparing and grim, but Monge’s prose also includes many moments of beauty. The characters travel through a landscape that is harsh and unwelcoming but majestically rendered. Even as Estela and Epitafio, accompanied by assorted other traffickers and corrupt officials, wreak havoc and destroy lives, their inner worlds are sharply, convincingly drawn. Their personal dramas are entertaining, and their rage-filled bumbling provides occasional much-needed dark humor, at the same time as their enterprise evokes horror and disgust ... Among the Lost is a timely novel of immigration that is as beautiful as it is horrific. It is a multilayered, emotionally complex artistic triumph.
Tressie McMillan Cottom
RaveForeword ReviewsEssential reading for our times. These essays examine race, feminism, and culture with fierce intelligence ... The collection illustrates the power of a writer willing to reveal her passions, both personal and intellectual ... With its mix of personal writing, research, and cultural critique, Tressie McMillan Cottom’s Thick: And Other Essays shows the continued vitality of the essay genre while also making an essential argument about black women’s place in American culture.
Marie Ndiaye, trans. by Jordan Stump
PositiveNecessary FictionThis book has been described as both memoir and fiction; among its many ambiguities is that of genre. NDiaye clearly embraces these ambiguities, even on the sentence level ... The book becomes a representation of the artist’s mind, questions, anxieties, pleasures, and all.
RaveThe RumpusBoggs explicitly sets out to provide comfort for those struggling with infertility, but her book is also valuable as a corrective, sometimes contrarian, look at how we think about bodies and science ... Boggs writes incisively not only about the sacrifices and costs involved, but also about how access to treatment is not available to everyone equally ... this book shows that it’s possible to find new dreams and, even in the midst of long periods of waiting, to imagine new paths forward.
Marie NDiaye, Trans. by Jordan Stump
RaveFull Stop...Marie NDiaye’s Ladivine is about identity, family, and secrets, about parents and children as they pass down their struggles and flaws from one generation to the next ...a prickly novel, difficult, strange, and brooding. It repeats itself — sometimes frustratingly so — but it does so in the service of a tone that can feel hypnotic and incantatory ...opens with a character the narrator calls Malinka, but we learn that she has taken the name Clarisse to hide from her mother Ladivine, a woman who is black and poor, and whom Malinka/Clarisse regularly calls 'the servant' ...generational misunderstandings and suspicions continue; no one in this novel is capable of full honesty with anyone else ... There is no escape, and the reader experiences their entrapment along with them, led by a narrator who rarely leaves the world of the characters’ minds.
Ed. Meredith Maran
MixedThe RumpusAs a memoir reader I found the collection disappointing. Perhaps the fact that the book squeezes essays from 20 writers into just over 250 pages should have been a clue. Not only does this not leave many pages for each writer, but some of those pages are taken up with introductions to each author ... So who might appreciate the collection more? It’s a good source of recommendations for readers who are just beginning to explore the genre.
PositiveBookslutCapturing two continents across two centuries in less than 350 pages is no easy task and occasionally the effort shows...A great strength of the book is its ability to tell an absorbing story about what so many people have experienced: uncertainty about one's identity, one's place in the world, and one's true home.
PositiveBookslutThere are times, especially in the later sections of the book, when the writing becomes opaque and feels withholding and coy rather than suggestive and rich. But generally Jefferson succeeds at something remarkable: she tells her story while at the same time not only evocatively capturing her era but situating her experiences into a centuries-long cultural tradition.