Recent Reviews

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Hey, Marfa: Poems Cover Image
Hey, Marfa by Jeffrey Yang

I thought I knew all I needed to know about Marfa from Amazon's short-lived, made-for-Internet-TV version of Chris Kraus's "I Love Dick." It's where poets go to play cowboy, right? Wrong. Jeffrey Yang's visionary "Hey, Marfa" works in the documentary poetic tradition of Lorine Neidecker and Robert Smithson, offering up lessons on language, landscape, and the intersecting lines of power in the American desert. With patience and skill, Yang teaches the reader to look as closely at the page as he has looked at the land. The result is a book at once sparse and bursting with life, sketched with the crosshatched lines of history and the Now. A must read for anyone interested in contemporary poetry! Review by Katie Foster.

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The Kinship of Secrets Cover Image
The Kinship of Secrets by Eugenia Kim

Just before the onset of the Korean War, a mother and father leave Korea for America, bringing one young daughter with them, but leaving the other behind with relatives in the hope to someday return for her.  In alternating chapters, the two very different lives of Miran and Inja unfold with love, war, and rock-and-roll. But when Inja finally arrives in America, will she be meeting her true family at last or leaving her family in Korea forever?  Inspired by the author’s family history, The Kinship of Secrets is a powerful story of the everlasting bond between two sisters. Review by Mary Wahlmeier

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Oculus: Poems Cover Image
Oculus by Sally Wen Mao

Sally Wen Mao’s Oculus is a masterfully pieced together book of poems. Language is at once precise, playful, sharp, and twisting like a knife. Mao turns her lens toward race, the past, the future, the super computer, the eye, and light. At times verging on the realm of science fiction, Mao’s poems hurtle the reader through time and space, particularly in one sequence involving Anna May Wong, the first Chinese-American movie star, and a time travel machine. These poems were a pleasure to read and I have found myself thinking of them often since finishing the book. Anyone who loved Tracy K Smith’s Life on Mars will enjoy these poems.  Review by Katie Foster.

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive Cover Image
Maid by Stephanie Land

At the beginning of this book, Stephanie is the unemployed single mother of an infant living in a homeless shelter.  By the end, she and her daughter, Mia, have found their true home at last. Separated from Mia’s father, Stephanie does all she can to keep her small family afloat.  She works as a maid for $9.00 an hour while going to school full-time, determined to rise out of poverty. Against all odds, Stephanie has done the impossible. Now she’s sharing her story with this incredible book, Maid - a beautiful testament to a mother’s will, and an inspiration for all. Review by Mary Wahlmeier.

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Birthday Cover Image
Birthday by César Aira

"I read Birthday on my birthday. What a lovely gift to enter into this writer's mind, following his thoughts as he realizes, at a ripe age, his own fundamental misunderstanding of how the moon has its phases. Touching on memory, the act of writing, life, and death, these little meditations were a pleasure."  Review by Katie Foster.

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The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays Cover Image
The Collected Schizophrenias

In "The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays," Esme Weijun Wang examines her life, her illness, and the world in which we live with a keen eye. Taking into account the wide range of experiences that fall under the umbrella of the schizophrenias, the writing is honest and informative, and always deeply incisive. This book is excellent. Review by Katie Foster

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Sabrina Cover Image
Sabrina

Nick Drnaso’s Sabrina is the first graphic novel ever longlisted for the Booker Prize, and it’s easy to see why. This book has just as much sweep and power as any prose novel. Teddy hasn’t seen Calvin since high school. Out of the blue, and in serious emotional distress, Teddy needs to move in to Calvin’s house. As Calvin cares for Teddy, tragedy unfolds and the book becomes a pitch-perfect meditation on grief in the right-now. Timely, devastating, and stylish, this book is a stunner. Recommended by Danny

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JELL-O Girls: A Family History Cover Image
JELL-O Girls

Great-granddaughter of the founders of the Jell-O franchise, Allie Rowbottom, has written a tour-de-force memoir, Jell-O Girls, which marries the themes of the rise of Jell-O and similar convenience foods with the diminishment of women's power and the silencing of their voices. Like a forensic detective, she traces her own illness and those of the women in her family back to the "curse" of the product and the larger societal ills it has brought about. Recommended by Kelly.
 

The Red Caddy: Into the Unknown with Edward Abbey Cover Image
The Red Caddy

Originally written in 1994, Charles Bowden’s, The Red Caddy, is the first biography of Edward Abbey to appear for some time. Like the stark beauty of the desert Abbey defended, Bowden’s lucid prose tells the truth about the man, whose racist, misogynistic image so many biographers and followers alike have tried to expunge. Instead of trying to make Abbey palatable, Bowden trusts that the power of his friend’s life, warts intact, merits an honest depiction. Caddy is freshly relevant given the recent #metoo movement. Bowden demands that readers address the question: Can we separate the art from the artist? Recommended by Kelly

Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore Cover Image
Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore

Though many books have been written about climate change, in Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore, Elizabeth Rush offers not a scientist’s view but that of an artist translating statistics into elegy for the estuaries, the salt marshes, the shoreline wetlands of the world, and more particularly, of her childhood home. By speaking the names of the beings, both human and otherwise, that are vanishing before our eyes as shorelines become inundated, she faces her own grief and helps her readers to do so as well. Recommended by Kelly