RaveSan Francisco ChronicleOften taking the form of walkabouts or road trips to places both familiar and forgotten, Vadi’s writing impressively charts his own family’s story while also offering a larger examination of what we think we know about California, a state that’s been endlessly mythologized but rarely explored with such searing passion and genuine depth. Vadi vacillates between reverence and rage in writing of his grandfather in the collection’s titular essay, as he details the ongoing plight of migrant farm workers. Presented as a blend of travelogue and historical commentary, the result is an enlightening, if tragic, rumination on how we choose to memorialize the past ... Though his focus often feels bleak in nature, Vadi’s skills as a poet provide a lyrical sheen that serves to temper his anguish with the wide-eyed wonder of one still fully enamored with California’s (albeit disappearing) splendor ... many lines in Inter State...manage to astutely evoke visceral memories of a certain time and place without falling prey to the false comfort of nostalgia. A must-read for all who wish to truly understand what it now means to be a Californian, the lasting triumph of Vadi’s collection is just how clearly it maps the endless concentric circles that together define what it means to love a place and loathe it all at once.
Matthew Clark Davison
RaveThe San Francisco ChronicleIt’s a lot to fit into one narrative, but Davison wisely allows the heady stuff to marinate in the form of the impressively authentic, familiar conversations ... Sharply probing at the insular logic of progressive privilege ... Thanks to the care Davison pays to his characters — each one a fully realized, thinking human in Thomas’ orbit — what could be an overserving of tragedy is instead delivered with clarity and nuance. The result is a novel that manages to take on a number of the world’s traumas without ever being swallowed whole, instead using the personal travails of a gay man at the dusk of Obama’s America to probe at the nature of what it truly means to know oneself.
Anthony Bourdain and Laurie Woolever, illustrated by Wesley Allsbrook
RaveSan Francisco Chronicle[A] refreshingly unique travel guide that thoughtfully fleshes out Bourdain’s desired intentions with supplementary essays from his peers and loved ones ... The book makes it abundantly clear when we’re reading Bourdain’s voice, stylized in a bold blue font — a thoughtful distinction but perhaps a redundant one as well ... While we often credit Bourdain for his ability to translate the intangible allures of food to the page, this new, geographically oriented compendium also cherry-picks some of his favorite non-gastronomical sites and occasions ... a joyous yet painful reminder of what Bourdain gave the world: an infectious hunger to learn more and eat well.
RaveSan Francisco Chronicle[A] refreshingly candid memoir about the trauma of loss, the limits of language and the meals made along the way ... [A] profound, timely exploration of terminal illness, culture and shared experience ... Whether detailing the process behind jatjuk (a Korean pine nut porridge that plays an important role in the narrative) or her eventual efforts to master the art of kimchi, Zauner brings dish after dish to life on the page in a rich broth of delectable details, cultural context and the personal history often packed into every bite. But far from letting food substitute for substance, H Mart also offers some remarkably prescient observations about otherness from the perspective of the Korean American experience ... In writing a memoir that will ultimately thrill Japanese Breakfast fans and provide comfort to those in the throes of loss while brilliantly detailing the colorful panorama of Korean culture, traditions and — yes — food, Michelle Zauner has accomplished the unthinkable: a book that caters to all appetites and doesn’t skimp on the kimchi.
PositiveSan Francisco ChronicleScenes of empty bookstore signings and people mistaking Tomine for fellow cartoonist Daniel Clowes give root to his chronic impostor syndrome, while other anecdotes from the book border on being too excruciating to believe ... The poetry of arguments, themes of alienation, a viscerally rapid descent from humiliation to fury — all the things that have come to signify Tomine’s work are abundantly present in his memoir as well. Further binding the material is Tomine’s stark, gorgeously realistic illustrations. Taken together, these links reveal the ways in which he has both drawn on himself and, quite literally, drawn himself into his work.