PositiveThe Washington PostThe accounts in The Man Who Could Move Clouds come directly from the mouths of those who saw Sojaila appear in two places at once or witnessed Nono moving clouds. This approach to the factual reveals a fidelity to Rojas Contreras’s upbringing in a house crowded with her mother’s fortune-telling clientele that celebrated the unexplainable and surreal ... The book also speaks to the near-constant violence in Colombia and the national amnesia that has accompanied it. Beyond a family history, The Man Who Could Move Clouds is about the ways in which this violence can take root in the body ... Rojas Contreras presents her own family history to probe greater questions of who gets to be remembered and how. Using philosophical and startlingly delicate prose, Rojas Contreras spins colonial history, personal narrative and the magical around the axis of her family story. The reader feels their soft rotation, like planets around a sun.
Caio Abreu tr. Bruna Dantas Lobato
RaveHyperallergicWith attention to the social and political weight of the everyday, Abreu’s disillusioned bohemians pepper Moldy Strawberries with existential questions about the meaning of friendship and the contradictory nature of love ... a polyvocal, cultural, and literary hybridity that speaks to its national and global context as it does to the author’s intimate feelings ... Abreu attends to those gestures of loving amid a sinister world, how they gleam among the detritus of, as Wojnarowicz put it, the pre-invented world ... Weighing down humor and the surreal with the concrete realities of living with illness, Moldy Strawberries forces the tradition of social satire to bulge at the seams. It’s a collection that is as hilarious as it is heartbreaking, vaulting existential questions across the page while poking fun at the urge to ask them in the first place, both yearning for and laughing at utopian visions of the past. The strawberry fields of the 1960s and ’70s have grown moldy, but, in Abreu’s writing, within the mulch lies the promise of the new, a chance to start again.
Jean Chen Ho
RaveThe Washington PostThe collection’s themes are broad yet intricately rendered ... Through Fiona and Jane, Ho honors the hours put into a relationship, while also acknowledging the ways in which our lives are irreversibly changed by short-term engagements. The collection explores the dichotomy between deep and lengthy bonds, like Jane and Fiona’s, and fleeting encounters with lovers, fair-weather friends, colleagues, even parents ... By concluding with Fiona and Jane as works in progress, Ho asserts that resolution is a pointless life goal. Instead, we are left with the beautiful tangle of two lives in the midst of being lived.
Anthony Veasna So
RaveThe Washington PostA deceptively simple narrative structure scaffolded by social commentary and humor. Equal parts absurd and empathetic, Afterparties probes the complex lives of California Cambodian Americans in a style So once described as \'post-khmer genocide queer stoner fiction\' ... So’s writing insists that ancestral haunting and millennial snark can exist simultaneously. Parts of Afterparties read like critical race theory ... Others, like a text chain between friends ... Wise to the familiar 21st century tropes of technological skepticism and potential, it is hard not to label So a voice of his generation. His humor feels straight out of millennial media darlings like Broad City,Insecure or Atlanta, but his themes are decidedly deep, such as the impact of inherited trauma, how it gets lodged into the corners of how we love and work. And his subjects are often overlooked ... Unlike authors of most contemporary cultural trauma narratives, So doesn’t linger in a diasporic longing, the need to excavate one’s family’s past, mining it for meaning in the present. Instead, he blends this second-generation need-to-know with insight and, as So’s former agent Rob McQuilkin put it, \'survivor’s wit\' ... It is this ability to make pain shape-shift into the hopeful and the hilarious that makes So’s work so compelling ... So’s stories allow the past to well up into the present without force or preciousness. Afterparties insists on a prismatic understanding of Cambodian American diaspora through stories that burst with as much compassion as comedy, making us laugh just when we’re on the verge of crying.
PositiveThe Washington PostDeath in Her Hands pokes fun at the boilerplate detective novel by using its template to tell a mostly static story ... Death in Her Hands is a book that casts loneliness and freedom in unexpected lights ... Moshfegh has become a master of marginalized women: isolated, adrift, just as disgusted with themselves as with the outside world ... Death in Her Hands is not so much about solving a death as it is about conjuring a life. In its apparent plotlessness, it posits philosophical questions about the meaning of mortality ... By the end of the book, we see that Magda is merely a portal for Vesta to consider her own life, and ultimately decide upon her own death.
PositiveThe Star TribuneDeath in Her Hands pokes fun at the boilerplate detective novel by using its template to tell a mostly static story ... Vesta’s mental spirals may seem familiar. Death in Her Hands eerily lays out an anthem to the world’s current condition of isolation ... a book that casts loneliness and freedom in unexpected lights ... Moshfegh has become a master of marginalized women: isolated, adrift, just as disgusted with themselves as with the outside world ... not so much about solving a death as it is about conjuring a life. In its apparent plotlessness, it posits philosophical questions about the meaning of mortality. Through the existential crisis that Magda’s supposed death elicits, Vesta begins to understand the difference between going through the motions of life and really living.
Carmen Maria Machado
PositiveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksPointing to the historic erasure of queer trauma, Machado slices a former romance into a series of vignettes that range from the idyllic to the erotic to the steadily chilling ... Beyond harrowing descriptions of emotional manipulation, written in the same visceral style that put Machado on the map as one of the most gripping literary voices of our time, Machado’s greatest grievance is with the social, legal, and political systems that authorize queer maltreatment through the erasure of Otherness ... Yet, despite the futility of correcting the archive, In the Dream House is a testament to hope ... As in her fiction, Machado deftly weaves horror into the everyday ... In the Dream House follows Machado making sense of and shedding her silence around her abuse, creating space for others to do the same. \'What is placed in or left out of the archive is a political act,” Machado writes. “I speak into the silence. I toss the stone of my story into a vast crevice; measure the emptiness by its small sound.\' Undoubtedly, Machado’s memoir will inspire more stones, compiling an archive of lost stories and giving voice to those whose histories have been dubbed impossible.
PositivePloughsharesLara’s narrative, told as a series of diary entries, drawings, and lists in the faux-British lilt of the 1940s era, veers quickly from sarcasm to sincerity and back again. Lara’s day-to-day observations move the plot at a clip. Their sensory details situate the reader alongside the characters, looking over the shoulder of a photographer placing cherries on each of his model’s eyelids or knee-to-knee with Lara journaling in her room. With both humor and criticality, Maum’s coming-of-age novel probes the hypocrisy of the art world, the challenges of being a child of artists, and the dangers of not being loved ... Costalegre delivers searing commentary on individualism in the art world. Lara’s struggle for emotional connection brings to light a central question around the artist lifestyle and personal relationships.
Ed. by Nikesh Shukla and Chimene Suleyman
PositiveLos Angeles Review of Books\"While highlighting the social progress that immigration breeds... The Good Immigrant editors do not forget the ghosts of colonialism ... The Good Immigrant flips the rampant host-parasite paradigm within mainstream US immigration discourse ... At its heart, the collection is a gesture of shoving back. A reaction against immigrant life in North America as borrowed space, as if to say this is our space, we are the space ... Kinship is created between writers and diasporic readers, even when direct address is not formally signaled as such ... The pieces in The Good Immigrant knot together a variety of experience that, though sometimes at odds with one another, complicate contemporary notions of immigrant life. It’s a collection that speaks the language of the future with a keen eye to the past, molding tradition to its own needs ... Through The Good Immigrant, we learn to love the in-betweens because, as Alcalá alludes to, that’s all that we have.\
PositiveLos Angeles Review of Books\"With prose that mimics Lucy’s athletic skills — at times muscular, at others poetic — author Dana Czapnik glides between biting wit and philosophical musings on the nature of love and being. The book delivers on poignant wisdoms about growing up reminiscent of J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye ... in many ways, The Falconer serves as a gentle amendment to [The Catcher in the Rye], probing the possibilities of womanhood and belonging ... Where the book blunders belonging is its forced kinship across race and class ... Despite these tone-deaf moments, the book builds up to an engaging differánce underneath the surface ... The beauty of the book is its performance of withholding — its replication of the waiting room that is teendom and the gilded cage of reminiscence.\