Frida Kahlo and My Left Leg by Emily Rapp Black (Notting Hill Editions 2021)
Reviewed by Melissa Greenwood
Frida Kahlo and My Left Leg is an essay collection by Emily Rapp Black that follows two female artists for whom “create or die” and “laugh or die” are important mottos. These artists, Frida Kahlo and Rapp Black herself, live through their share of heartache. They know that art is survival, especially after several “crucible experience[s].” For Kahlo: polio, a “philandering husband,” miscarriages, and a street car crash that is followed by thirty-two operations, including one that leaves her an amputee. For Rapp Black: five surgeries during her childhood (a birth defect requires that, at the age of four, her left leg be amputated), two divorces, and the loss of her first child—her nearly three-year-old son, Ronan—to a terminal illness, Tay Sachs disease.
The Collected Schizophrenias by Esme Weijun Wang (Graywolf Press 2019)
Reviewed by Claudine Mininni
Esmé Weijun Wang’s illuminating essay collection, The Collected Schizophrenias, details her tumultuous relationship with schizoaffective disorder. In her opening essay, “Diagnosis,” Wang writes:
Schizophrenia terrifies. It is the archetypal disorder of lunacy. Craziness scares us because we are creatures who long for structure and sense; we divide the interminable days into years, months and weeks.
Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir by Lauren Slater (Penguin Books 2000)
Reviewed by Patricia Steckler
Lying, a title for a memoir, why? Don’t we read personal chronicles for true, reveal-all accounts of the authors who pen them? Are we to believe what Lauren Slater writes here? Or discount it? What’s the significance of Slater’s subtitle, A Metaphorical Memoir? Before I turned to the first page, my head swirled. Off-balance, dizzy with uncertainty, I wondered what kind of reading adventure awaited.
Get A Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert (Avon Books 2019)
Reviewed by Katie Centabar
Time for another feature by your friend who always has great romance recommendations that are somehow never smutty and always nuanced! In these tough times, we all need love (*insert a cliche here about how necessary love and romance is – especially now*). But really, it is and we do.
Grist by Kate Peterson (Floating Bridge Press, 2016)
Reviewed by Rebecca Valley
During my freshman year at Bennington College, a dance professor making a desperate attempt to teach us about our own bodies described the skeletal system as the scaffolding on which the body is built. She told us that often, in the study of anatomy, students discover a favorite system, one that they relate to most closely. In this anatomical personality test, I wasn’t invested in the names of folded muscle, the bundled, sensitive nerves, the rivers and tributaries of the circulatory system. Like Kate Peterson, I was a woman interested in bones. Continue reading
I’ve Heard the Vultures Singing: Field Notes on Poetry, Illness, and Nature by Lucia Perillo (Trinity University Press, 2007)
Reviewed by Rebecca Valley
In memory of a favorite local poet, a woman I regret having never met.
I finished reading Lucia Perillo’s memoir, I’ve Heard the Vultures Singing, only a few weeks ago. Despite the fact that she’d spent decades living in the city I call home, this was the first time I’d finished a book of hers in its entirety – before her memoir, I’d read snippets of poems, fragments from each of her books.
Despite the fact that Perillo writes almost exclusively about chronic illness and her daily struggle to keep her body in motion, I was shocked to find that she’d passed away nearly a week ago, without the usual cacophony of the literary community. Continue reading