Review: How Much of These Hills Is Gold by C Pam Zhang

How Much of These Hills Is Gold by C Pam Zhang (Riverhead Books 2020)

Review by Lane Berger

C Pam Zhang’s debut novel, How Much of These Hills Is Gold, follows a Chinese-American family without a name. Ma, Ba (father), Lucy, and Sam are immigrant, migrant, and the children thereof.

Divided into four a-chronological sections, the novel spans America’s Gold Rush Era. In Part One, Ba is dead, “And long gone, Ma.” But for Ba’s body and a stolen horse, Lucy and Sam are destitute when they set out to bury their father properly. While Lucy wills every step to take her away from her past, toward a white lace dress and civilization, Sam carries a disparate inheritance and disparate dreams. Begun as a journey to stay a spirit, the siblings take up the mantle of their parents’ search for self and home.

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Review: This Close to Happy by Daphne Merkin

This Close To Happy: A Reckoning with Depression by Daphne Merkin (Farrar, straus, and giroux 2017)

Reviewed by Patricia Steckler

Not glamorous, not an artistically-hued state of suffering for the more sensitive souls on earth. Not a story that can be told with the dramatic climax and victorious transcendency that characterizes heroic tales. No. Depression is unabated suffering whose victims, often blamed for self-absorption, shunned as social pariahs, writhe in silence. Daphne Merkin, the writer and literary critic, tells her depression tale in the dark memoir, This Close To Happy: A Reckoning With Depression.

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Recommended Reading: Books for Quarantine

Obviously, it’s a weird time to be alive. I won’t say much more about COVID-19 here, other than the fact that I am grateful to find solace in books while home-bound.

In that vein, I asked our editors and frequent contributors to send over a book or two that has made their quarantine more manageable. Some of these are old favorites, some are new finds, but all are solid picks to stave off your quarantine-fueled boredom, and maybe even provide a little hope or inspiration in moments of chaos and confusion.

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“You Are No Damsel in Distress:” An Interview with Susan Vannatta by Bianca Glinskas

A Brief Disclaimer: Susan, author of Whiskey Letters (Arroyo Secco Press 2018) and I met in college while attending California State University of Long Beach. We had just about every class together, and so our friendship was sealed by fate. I have heard many stories from these pages firsthand and I have seen many of the pieces which appear in Whiskey Letters in their earliest drafts. I have also witnessed her personal growth and artistic development as a friend and fellow poet.

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Review: Evidence of V by Sheila O’Connor

Evidence of V: A Novel in Fragments, Facts, and Fictions by Sheila O’Connor (Rose Metal Press, 2019)

Reviewed by Rebecca Valley

We are not taught to think of women in prison. The cells which contain women, we are told, are physical, social – women are victims, and men their assailants. Like so much gendered terminology, we have prisons, and then we have women’s prisons. As if an afterthought, as if a near impossibility that a woman might have the ability, the audacity to act against the norm. Have we not, we ponder, created enough of a cage for women out of invisible walls – out of the nuances of our socially constructed expectations, exploitations? And what to do with a girl who is not considerate of the walls we have put up for her? What to do with a girl who wants something else?

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Review: The Choice by Dr. Edith Eva Eger

The Choice: Embrace the Possible by Dr. Edith Eva Eger (Scribner 2017)

Reviewed by Patricia Steckler

I’d sworn off Holocaust stories permanently. Or so I thought. Twenty-five years ago, Schindler’s List, Stephen Spielberg’s film, nearly did me in. Soon thereafter, I burst into tears in the lobby of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, before even picking up admission tickets. Thousands of pairs of shoes taken from murdered prisoners at the Majdanek concentration camp, displayed in the museum’s lobby, felt crushing.

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Review: The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory (berkley books, 2018)

Reviewed by Katie Centabar

Every once in awhile there is a book that makes you giggle, flush with embarrassment and curl your toes. I remember them from reading as a teen. Specifically, Sarah Dessen whose books always promised a teen new in town who 1) meets someone who is misunderstood, 2) experiences a traumatic loss and must start over, or 3) both – and drama and hilarity ensue. Jasmine Guillory writes those books for an adult audience.

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Review: Who Killed My Father by Edouard Louis

Who Killed My Father by Edouard Louis (New Directions, 2019)

Reviewed by Aaron Scobie

There is a woe filling in the white space of these pages. A woe spoken incredibly soft. Who Killed My Father is a short memoir by the French writer Édouard Louis. Simultaneously literal and metaphorical, the book approaches the unique and distant relationship between Louis and his father.

“You apologized. These apologies are a new thing with you, I have to get used to them”

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Review: The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa, trans. by Stephen Snyder (Pantheon 2019)

Reviewed by Rebecca Valley

“’Long ago, before you were born, there were many more things here,’ my mother used to tell me when I was still a child. ‘Transparent things, fragrant things… fluttery ones, bright ones…” (3)

In her essay “Fairy Tale is Form, Form is Fairy Tale,” author Kate Bernheimer defines the fairy tale for a contemporary audience – what fairy tales are made of, what doors they can open.

“With their flatness, abstraction, intuitive logic, and normalized magic, fairy tales hold a key to the door fiercely locked between so-called realism and nonrealism, convention and experimental-ism, psychology and abstraction. A key for those who see these as binaries, that is.”

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