White Magic by Elissa Washuta (Tin House 2021)
Reviewed by Stacy Pratt
“When you don’t understand the meaning of something you read, whose fault is it? Yours or the writer’s? It has to be someone’s fault. Everything does. Anyway, I just ask because this is my book. Do you think I understand everything in this book? If I don’t, can you?” (Epigraph Footnote #4)
This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jerkins (Harper Perennial 2018)
Reviewed by Janyce Wardlaw
Morgan Jerkins has put her crafty finger on everything it is to be a black woman in her collection of essays, This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America. Each essay is a raw anecdote revealing to the untrained heart what the world has infused into a black girl to make her want to be white, question all she knows to be true, or doubt her worth. All the hot buttons are pushed for us in these pages, as Jerkins pulls back the curtain on sexuality, men, hair, Black Girl Magic, and much more.
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.
Plastic: An Autobiography by Allison Cobb (Essay Press, 2015)
Allison Cobb isn’t interested in delivering epiphanies to readers. She’s interested in literature that opens a mystery and a sense of wonder, and offers a container for others to experience that opening. Plastic: An Autobiography, embodies that mysterious and wonderful opening. It was published as a free digital download by Essay Press in September 2015. The book is a part of their “EP Series,” (as in extended play) where authors are given extended space and time to develop book-length projects. At the time of publication, Plastic: An Autobiography comprised of half the material Allison Cobb had written at that point. Continue reading
Sunshine State by Sarah Gerard (HarperCollins, 2017)
Sarah Gerard’s collection of essays Sunshine State reads as an ode to the living, breathing juxtaposition that is the state of Florida. In her essays (some personal, some journalistic, some a hybrid of the two) she has her authorial finger on the pulse of the people who live there. She manages to trace the dreams the state breeds, but also pokes holes in these dreams effortlessly and gorgeously, revealing in the process imperfect portraits of humanity trying its best to grapple with The American Dream. Continue reading
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