look how happy i’m making you BY POLLY ROSENWAIKE (DOUBLEDAY, 2019)
Reviewed by Gregorio Tafoya
“1. Lack of Interest in Your Baby”
starts the quietly explosive “Ten Warning Signs of Postpartum Depression”, a thick middle piece to Polly
Rosenwaike’s short story collection, Look
How Happy I’m Making You—best said in a sleep-deprived, low, gravelly tone.
Much like the characters in Polly Rosenwaike’s debut, I feel wholly inadequate and ill prepared for the task at hand. They are entrusted with the nobler task, that of motherhood, and I, a male with no child rearing experience, am attempting to review their explorations. When I get sentimental about fatherhood aspirations, it is always the highlight reel of playing catch in the backyard and teaching the finer points of auto mechanics—a concept I hardly have any grasp on. The scenes in Rosenwaike’s book are far from the highlight reel of any parenthood.
The After Party by Jana Prikryl (Tim Duggan Books, 2016)
Reviewed by Hannah Wyatt
A couple of weekends ago, while wandering through the
statuesque dinosaurs and food trucks of my new city, I picked up a $1 copy of
Jana Prikryl’s The After Party (Tim Duggan Books, 2016) at a tent sale
hosted by Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Library. This being my first read of Prikryl’s
work, I was delighted to find that, within the first few lines of the collection,
I felt I was reading someone who cared about the world I care about.
The Bride Test by Helen Hoang (Penguin Random House 2019)
Reviewed by Patricia Steckler
I have never encountered a person who is not fully human in 35 years of private practice as a clinical psychologist. Diagnoses, country-of-origin, race, religion, and financial status do not define people. Not at all. Why do we say that a person has cancer or has arthritis and, conversely, say that a person is autistic or is an immigrant as if those labels completely define them?
Assigning labels condemns people
to a marginalized purgatory. Perceived to be less than human, unable to love or
feel pain, they’re relegated to the sidelines of life and deemed to be odd,
bizarre, even dangerous.
The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through
Madness by Elyn R. Saks (Hachette Books 2007)
Reviewed by Patricia Steckler
Horrifying delusions and auditory hallucinations
did not deter Elyn Saks from her Oxford University Master’s degree studies. Compassionate
psychiatric care in England squired her through. But, later, as a law student
at Yale University and in a psychotic state, Yale psychiatrists “bound both
legs and both arms to a metal bed with thick leather straps” and forced
medication down her throat. Multiple times. She plummeted into despair.
“A sound comes out of me that I’ve never heard before—half groan, half scream, marginally human, and all terror. Then the sound comes out of me again, forced from somewhere deep in my belly and scraping my throat raw. Moments later, I’m choking and gagging on some kind of bitter liquid that I try to lock my teeth against but cannot. They make me swallow it. They make me.” (4)
Take Me With You, Wherever You’re Going by Jessica Jacobs (Four Way Books, 2019)
Reviewed by Risa Denenberg
To read Jessica Jacobs’ newest poetry collection, Take Me with You, Wherever You’re Going (Four Way Books, 2019) is to start out where she began in her first collection, Pelvis with Distance (White Pine Press, 2015; winner of the New Mexico Book Award in Poetry) and left off in In Whatever Light Left to Us (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2016). Each book in this trilogy performs an aria of lesbian love and lesbian sexuality that earns its encore.
The Devil’s Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea (Little Brown 2004)
Reviewed by Chidinma Onuoha
As long as there have been people walking the Devil’s Highway, there have been deaths. It is Desolation. It is a wasteland where any green vegetation is grey and were temperatures rise up to the triple digits. Here, bones pepper the region and Levi jeans last longer than flesh. In this book, Luis Alberto Urrea paints a harrowing true story of twenty-six men who took the forty mile death march across the Arizona desert in hopes of prosperity in the United States. Only twelve made it out.
Ghostographs: An Album by Maria Romasco Moore (Rose Metal Press 2018)
Reviewed by Rebecca Valley
“We were proud that a town as small as ours had an abyss of its own.”
Recently, I took my partner up to the place where I was raised, a string of little towns in the corner of northern Vermont on the edge of Lake Champlain. It was ten degrees colder there, beautiful and mostly empty. It snowed. As we drove around he was uncertain, a little nervous. I showed him the half-built mansion across from a dairy farm where the recession and disputes over money lead a couple to divorce before the crew could complete construction. I showed him row after row of cornfields, train tracks. To me it was familiar, comfortable. It always will be. As the product of that rural corner of the world, I don’t mind the emptiness, the eccentricities. My partner said, on our way home: “In some ways it’s kind of beautiful up there. You don’t have to assimilate. You can just walk in the woods, have your delusions. You can be your complete self.”
They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib (Two Dollar Radio, 2017)
I have heard it said that the best writers are the best listeners, and I believe it because of Hanif Abdurraqib. They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us is a collection of essays ostensibly about music, but Abdurraqib hears what lies beneath the singing and instrumentation. He writes lyrically, elegiacally, about Prince, My Chemical Romance, Migos, and many more, revealing truths no run-of-the-mill magazine music-critic could conjure up in an album review. The essays unearth deep personal connections and experiences that are intertwined with the music they analyze. There’s a soundtrack to every essay in this collection that often takes center stage, trading places at times with recurring themes of growing up, racism, and grief. Continue reading