From Category: Books
This poet's voice is eminently likeable, humble and wise. Whether he is finding spiritual wonder in nature's complexity, or working his way to reconciliation with aging parents, Estreich's gift for elegant and original phrases never seems like showing off. This book won the 2003 Rhea & Seymour Gorsline Poetry Competition from Cloudbank Books.
By David Ebershoff. This multi-layered novel intertwines the story of Brigham Young's ex-wife Ann Eliza, a real historical figure who successfully campaigned to outlaw plural marriage in the United States, with a modern-day murder mystery in a polygamist Mormon splinter group. The narrative unfolds through fictional documents—correspondence, research papers, autobiographies—suggesting that truth is subjective and many-sided.
Over 200 inventive exercises to help you break out of old patterns and discover new things about your characters. Kiteley uses word limits rather than time limits to provide discipline and focus. The prompts are grouped according to the technique they are designed to develop (timing, narrative voice, and so forth) and include brief discussions of why they work.
This Pulitzer-winning epic novel about the golden age of comic book superheroes is also a love song to New York City Jewish culture in the years surrounding World War II. Two boys, a visionary artist who escaped Nazi-occupied Prague and his fast-talking, closeted cousin from Brooklyn, lead the fantasy fight against Hitler by creating the Escapist, a superhero who is a cross between Harry Houdini and the Golem of Jewish legend. However, their real-world dilemmas prove resistant to magical solutions, and can only be resolved through humility, maturity, and love.
Written in 1988, the first novel by this now well-known author and activist is first of all a heartwarming and funny story about an unlikely "family of choice" formed by a single mother and her baby, a young woman fleeing her dead-end Southern town, and an abandoned Native American toddler. More ambitious than the typical "relationship novel", the story puts a human face on political issues like interracial adoption and the plight of South American refugees.
A particularly fine installment of this annual series, the 1999 anthology includes a wide spectrum of styles and ethnic backgrounds, with emotionally compelling tales that leave the reader with much to ponder. Standouts include Nathan Englander's 'The Tumblers', which casts the shadow of the Holocaust over Yiddish folklore's mythical village of Chelm; Sheila Kohler's 'Africans', a quietly chilling account of a family's disintegration under apartheid; and Heidi Julavits' 'Marry the One Who Gets There First', an unlikely love story told through wedding-album outtakes.
By Jamaal May. The award-winning poet's second collection from Alice James Books explores bereavement, masculinity, risk, tenderness, gun violence, and the unacknowledged vitality of his beloved Detroit, in verse that is both muscular and musical. Nominated for the 2017 NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Literary Work in Poetry.
The mother goddess of female confessional poets, Sexton brings back the truths that lie on the other side of madness. The sonnet sequence "Angels of the Love Affair" presents a visceral depiction of psychosis that is almost unbearably real.
Bittersweet romance set on the American frontier tells the story of a white woman and a half-Indian soldier who hope their love is strong enough to survive prejudice and the dangers of army life. The hero's seduction of a married woman is hard to square with his generally noble character, but his displays of leadership and grace under pressure are worth emulating.
By Jane Friedman. The expert publishing blogger teaches writers about the economics of their industry in this book from the University of Chicago Press. The book is intended to help writers craft a realistic plan for earning money from their work.
When the Big C meets the Big D, all you can do is laugh. At least, that's where poet Cindy Hochman's survival instinct takes her. Packed with more puns than a Snickers bar has peanuts, this chapbook from Thin Air Media Press brings energetic wit to bear on those modern monsters, breast cancer and divorce. To order a copy ($5.00), email Cindy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The genially bewildered characters in this unique first collection of poetry try and fail to fit themselves into the American dream of personal satisfaction, but only because they are genuinely groping for a more substantial mode of existence that always remains just beyond the margins of thought and language. Pecqueur's wild associative leaps mirror his inability to find the coherent, contented self that the Enlightenment promised. This book won the 2005 Kinereth Gensler Award from Alice James Books.
Create work that meets today's professional standards with guidance on grammar, usage, formats, design and sourcing (including electronic and online sources).
By Rene Denfeld. This beautifully written thriller goes deep into the minds of survivors of intergenerational trauma: some who become healers and heroes, pitted against others who pass on the evil that was done to them. In the snowbound mountain forests of the Pacific Northwest, a famed investigator with her own barely-remembered abuse history searches for a little girl who was kidnapped three years ago. Meanwhile, this resilient and imaginative child tries to maintain her sanity in captivity, by reliving her favorite fairy tale and forming a bittersweet survival bond with her captor.
This chilling and all-too-real story takes place inside a fundamentalist polygamist cult in the Utah desert. Thirteen-year-old Kyra loves her extended family and tries not to question the elders' tightening grip on their lives, but when they command her to marry her 60-year-old uncle, she plans a desperate escape that could put her life at risk. Billed as a young adult novel, this book may be too disturbing for some readers in that age group.
By Cynthia Lowen. Elegant and unforgiving as equations, these poems hold us accountable for living in the nuclear age. Persona poems in the voice of J. Robert Oppenheimer, "the father of the atomic bomb", reveal self-serving rationalizations and belated remorse, while other poems give voice to the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This collection is notable for exposing the emotional logic of scientific imperialism, rather than revisiting familiar scenes of the bomb's devastating effects. Winner of the National Poetry Series, selected by Nikky Finney.
The famed writer of Westerns was also a master of the hard-boiled crime story. These action-packed noir tales are populated with treacherous dames, mobsters, prizefighters, coal miners, scam artists, and decent guys trying to survive against the odds.
The Cow is like putting Western Literature through a sausage-making machine. The Cow is about being a girl and also a person. Is it possible? "Alimenting the world perpetuates it. Duh. Plus 'the world' is itself a food." The integrated self equals sanity and civilization (whose machinery creates the slaughterhouse), yet the body is constantly disintegrating, eating and being eaten, being penetrated and giving birth. With manic humor and desperate honesty, Reines finds hope by facing the extremes of embodiment without judgment or disgust. Winner of the 2006 Alberta Prize from FENCE Books.
Edited by Diane Lockward. This anthology, suitable for both individual and classroom use, features craft essays and exercises for poets of all skill levels. It includes model poems and prompts, writing tips, and interviews contributed by 56 well-known American poets, including 13 former and current state Poets Laureate. Volume II is also available. Lockward is the editor of Terrapin Books, an independent publisher of poetry collections and anthologies.
These carefully structured poems, tinged with classical allusions, honor the sick and dying with the poet's patient vigil and unflinching observation of the body's joys and failures. Winner of the 2001 Kingsley Tufts Award.
By Heather Christle. The haunted-looking one-eared rabbit on the cover is an apt mascot for these poems, whose randomness can be both sinister and humorous. The title carries echoes of "the funny farm", slang for an asylum, the place where persons deemed "difficult" are shut away, laughed at for the nonsense they speak. But is it nonsense? Christle's poems are held together by tone rather than logic. They have the cadence and momentum of building an argument, but are composed of non sequiturs. But the individual observations within that stream of consciousness often ring so true that you may find yourself nodding along. The speakers of these poems are eager for connection through talk, while recognizing that we mostly use language for social glue rather than sincere information exchange. So why not serve up a "radiant salad" of words?
The spirit of St. Francis of Assisi presides over these plain-spoken poems, written from the perspective of a mental hospital orderly. Blair's kind and understated voice is a refreshing contrast to the melodramatic tone of much poetry about mental illness.
Provocative, elegant memoir explores gay male desire, the mythic allure of doomed love, and the creative tensions of a life divided between incompatible worlds. Mendelsohn is a classics professor at Princeton, and some of his most interesting reflections involve the application of Greek myths to modern homosexual culture, and the contrast with his family-oriented Jewish heritage.
The often absurd and exaggerated premises of these witty tales heighten our compassion for the hapless protagonists who seek love and sex in urban America, but rarely hang on to either one for long. Almond chronicles life's freakshow in the same spirit as Flannery O'Connor's grotesque: to shock us into solidarity with one another and compassion for our abnormal secret selves.
A modern-day Jonah leads us from the belly of the whale into surreal cityscapes, sinister carnivals, and intersections with the world of Greek myths. Winner of the 2005 William Rockhill Nelson Award for best poetry book by a Missouri writer.
Winner of the Bywater Prize for lesbian fiction, this enjoyable and honest first novel follows three young working-class Catholic sisters as they navigate women's changing social roles in the 1970s. Cora Rose, the protagonist, comes to embrace the aspects of herself that she once struggled to hide: her chronic illness and her desire for other women. In prose that is electric with wit and longing, Bellerose shows how the ones who drive us crazy are the ones we can't live without.
This Australian poet truly does see the universe in a grain of sand—as well as in a tram ticket, a Caesarian scar, the names of Australian military operations, a shabby bear in the Soviet zoo, a wren visiting a dead friend's garden, and myriad other small details of modern life that she turns into windows on the human condition, in verses both whimsical and profound.
Engaging history of cultural and philosophical prescriptions for a happy life, which have differed widely from one era to the next. Hecht suggests that historical perspective itself brings happiness by giving us self-awareness and the ability to try new options outside our culture's standards of value. The wit and geniality she displayed in her prizewinning poetry collection The Next Ancient World lend credibility to her advice on the good life (or rather, lives).
Rich with local detail, these elegiac poems capture a working-class Polish-American boyhood in the 1960s, and pay tribute to neighborhood characters who are lovingly individuated yet acquire universal resonance from the way the poet brings their ordinary lives to light. The mood of aging and decline is leavened by a sense that love is as real as pain. This book won the 2006 Word Works Washington Prize.
In 1962, the civil rights movement has barely touched the ladies of Jackson, Mississippi, who continue to treat their African-American maids like dirt—that is, until one misfit heiress with journalistic ambitions convinces the longsuffering housekeepers and nannies to share their anonymous testimonies in a book that will scandalize the community. Though the novel's neat happy ending could be considered too "Hollywood", this tale of interracial friendship is inspiring and enjoyable.
In this beautiful and innovative novel, an abused boy becomes a recluse who lavishes all his human warmth on the clocks he rescues and repairs for his museum. But a disabling accident, and the arrival of an abused teenage girl who needs his help, compel him to reach out to his neighbors and learn to trust again. His storyline is interspersed with the stories of the clock-owners.
A powerful contribution to the literature of disability, this autobiography in verse exposes a childhood spent at the mercy of medical "experts", who performed invasive and ultimately futile surgeries to correct his uneven legs. With dark humor and an insistence on facts over rhetoric, Ferris restores dignity to the bodies of those whom the establishment treats as problems to be fixed. This book won the 2004 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award.
By Karen Hayes. With stately cadence and tender attention to detail, this poetry chapbook imagines personal histories for a row of old houses in a Welsh seaside village, where a dwindling community depends on tourism to replace the fishing economy. The style and setting have the flavor of T.S. Eliot's "The Dry Salvages", without the philosophical pomposity.
The brilliant idea behind this Tupelo Press anthology: ask 22 leading poets to invent an alter ego, "translate" one of his or her poems, and write a short bio and critical essay about the "author". From David Kirby inventing a lost Scandinavian language for his fisherman-poet "Kevnor", to Victoria Redel discussing the feminist implications of the poems "Tzadie Rackel" sewed into her dishrags, these deadpan critical essays play with the conventions of academic poetry and criticism, in the same way that Cindy Sherman's imaginary film stills trick us into "recognizing" characters and poses that are so archetypical that we think we've really seen the movie. If you've ever found the museum placards more interesting than the modern art they describe, this book will make you laugh and think.
The craftsmanship of these poems sneaks up on you, colloquial free verse initially disguising the deep intelligence of their observations about human nature. "You can know your building if you're interested/ in sadness," he writes of New York apartment life. How grateful we should be that he takes an interest.
Repeated images of old houses, vines, and being underwater give this poetry chapbook the blurry, yearning atmosphere of a recurring dream, where one searches for the lost or never-known phrase that would make sense of a cloud of memories. Even as Waite offers compelling glimpses of discovering a masculine self within a body born female, womanhood exerts its tidal pull through domestic scenes with a female lover who seems perpetually on the verge of vanishing. This collection won the Snowbound Series Chapbook Award from Tupelo Press.
This hard-hitting memoir by a young veteran of the 2003 Iraq war portrays a failed system of military leadership that exposed infantrymen to pointless risks as their mission became increasingly unclear. Crawford joined the Florida National Guard before 9/11 for the tuition benefits, then found himself unexpectedly shipped to Kuwait. Scarcity of men and materials meant that his unit's tour of duty was continually being extended, yet they were not given the tools to do the job. Crawford's writing captures the brusque camaraderie and profanity-laced talk of soldiers, while his literary prose brings these harsh scenes to life.
By Scott A. Winkler. Old-fashioned and wholesome, this Vietnam War era coming-of-age novel reminds us that there was more to America in the late 1960s than the coastal counterculture. The eldest son of small-town Wisconsin dairy farmers, high school graduate Walt Neumann is torn between his dreams of becoming a college-educated writer and his rugged, taciturn father's demand that his sons carry on his legacy of military service. Not your typical rebel, Walt deeply honors his family's traditions of hard manual labor and service to the place they call home, but grows to understand that the traumatic stories locked inside the stolid "Greatest Generation" veterans may be preventing an entire nation from learning from its errors. Beautiful writing and sensitive character portraits make this meditative novel a good opener for blue- and red-state Americans to start understanding each other.
Vietnam veteran's searing, lyrical, dark-humored poems relate the surreal horrors and feverish pleasures of that war to a wider tradition of Western moral and literary struggles with our capacity for destruction. Anderson weaves a tapestry of connections between the Trojan War, Vietnam, and the drug-fueled violence of our streets. Winner of the 1994 Kate Tufts Discovery Award. Don't miss his most recent collection, Blues for Unemployed Secret Police.
Like Socrates, the narrator of these engaging prose-poems asks innocent-seeming questions about our habitual ways of thinking, but the reader who takes up the challenge will find the territory shift suddenly from featherbrained whimsy to a profoundly unsettling realization of the emptiness of language and the ego, ending with a return to childlike humility that facilitates a spiritual awakening.
Winner of the Tupelo Press Judge's Prize in Poetry. Historian of science applies her rational and witty perspective to our dilemmas at the turn of the millennium.
By Patrick Ryan Frank. Blank verse and loosely structured sonnets eloquently explore the yearnings we express through TV and movie archetypes. Sincerity and contrivance are not opposites here. The comedian, the stunt man, the late-night movie monster, and the bad-news blonde take their turns revealing the existential paradox of film: how it underscores the passage of time by freezing it on the screen, a fixed point against which we measure our real lives racing past like "a car with its brake lines cut". Frank's blend of wry conversational tone and formal meter harks back to W.H. Auden, but his aesthetic lineage is more Disney than Brueghel: "About violence they were never wrong,/the old cartoons."
Lyrical imagery full of personal wisdom characterizes this winner of the May Swenson Poetry Award. Shearin can be bluntly honest about our flaws and disappointments without sounding cynical. "My mother once explained:/ we can't all be beautiful; even a gaunt field/ feels the cold kiss of morning."
By Jee Leong Koh. The design of this illustrated Japanese-English edition has a studied casualness that suits these subtle, charming poems. Koh writes of male-male eroticism without the gritty explicitness or florid imagery that often prevail in this genre. Everything is enjoyed in moderation yet savored to the fullest. Literary sketches of his native Singapore combine the sensory immediacy of childhood memories with an expatriate's wry detachment.
Juxtaposed concepts are startling yet so right. ("I feel like a cloud she says/ and i know this is true/ for i know the terrible things that go on inside of clouds.") Even if you have too many books, buy his.
In this novel, a dangerously naive American missionary family is swept up into the turmoil of the Congo's independence from Belgium in 1960. Each of the multiple narrators speaks with a poetry all her own, and voices a different way to make sense of this clash of cultures. Despite the violence and injustice that the family witnesses, and in which they become complicit, the world they inhabit is anything but meaningless, though it may be a meaning that does not have the white race, or even the human race, at the center. Kingsolver combines a prophet's rage with a mystic's delight in small miracles such as the jungle's fertile ecosystem and the generosity of starving villagers.
Witty novel chronicles the romantic travails of the authors of a 1970s sex manual and their four children, who are first mortified by their parents' unabashed passion, then wounded and disillusioned by their divorce. Wolitzer treats her characters' failings tenderly, managing both nostalgia for the Free Love generation's idealism and clear-sighted compassion for the Generation X'ers living in the wreckage of sexual utopia. The style is so light and clever that one realizes only later how many deep truths have been communicated.
By Jen Wang. In this perfectly heartwarming graphic novel, set in "Paris at the dawn of the modern age", a special friendship blossoms between a cross-dressing teenage prince and the working-class seamstress who guards his secret. By day, Prince Sebastian dodges his parents' efforts to set him up with eligible young ladies, while by night, he dazzles as fashion icon Lady Crystallia. Meanwhile, Frances wonders how she can achieve her dreams of success as a fashion designer without exposing her royal client's secret. All ends happily in a tale that is suitable for both YA and adult readers.
By Rachel Cline. This slim, incisive, timely novel of the #MeToo Movement explores the long aftermath of a popular teacher's serial predation on tween girls in a 1970s Brooklyn private school. Two middle-aged women, once childhood best friends, find themselves on opposite sides of another sexual misconduct case because of the different psychological strategies they employed to cope with their victimization. The Question Authority fearlessly examines the gray areas of consent, understanding that young women routinely overestimate how much choice and objectivity they could really bring to a relationship with an older male mentor.