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 Devil’s Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea

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.

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Review: Plastic: An Autobiography by Allison Cobb

cobbepcoverPlastic: An Autobiography by Allison Cobb (Essay Press, 2015)

Reviewed by Thomas Chisholm

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

STICKS: Sunshine State by Sarah Gerard

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Reviewed by Brenna McPeek

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

STICKS: Maximum Sunlight by Meagan Day

indexMaximum Sunlight by Meagan Day, with photographs by Hannah Klein (Wolfman Books, 2016)

“When Tonopah’s lights appear, I rejoice. I feel I’m alighting on Paris – the streetlamps and the Clown Motel’s flashing marquee bulbs seem astonishingly cosmopolitan. Tonopah is a shaggy little town, but coming in from the desert it looms large, an electric miracle in the annihilating dark.”

In college, I remember an afternoon when a professor of mine, an elegant retired ballerina with a degree in philosophy and a dancer’s walk, turned off all the lights and projected photos of cacti in Death Valley on all four walls of our conical lecture hall. The desert, she said, is a nowhere place. An in-between. It is defined not but what it contains but by what it does not. Continue reading

STICKS: The Body Toxic by Susanne Antonetta

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Body Toxic by Susanne Antonetta (Counterpoint Press, 2002)

Reviewed by Rebecca Valley

This review is part of our special issue on books from and of rural America. For more on this theme, check out the issue here.

“We are the Roof Dwellers, the People Who Speak in Darkness; we’re also the DDT People, the Drink-Cadmium People, the Breathing Isotope People.” (137)

How do we think about our bodies? As moving systems of bone and muscle? As vessels to hold our brains in, or a shell to decorate and present to the world? In an article about politics and our fears about the fragile positioning of our own bodies, philosopher and bioethicist Joel Michael Reynolds writes: “… here’s the catch. We aren’t trapped in our bodies. We are our bodies, as philosophers from Frantz Fanon to Simone Beauvoir have argued. These changing, leaky bodies afford us opportunity and choice. If static or permanent, they’d be less bodies and more stones or gods. To be sure, bodies marked by racism, sexism, cisgenderism, classism, and ableism get trapped.” Continue reading

Review: Tell Me How it Ends by Valeria Luiselli

tell me howTell Me How it Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions by Valeria Luiselli (Coffee House Press, 2017)

Reviewed by Rebecca Valley

In Tell Me How it Ends, novelist Valeria Luiselli sheds the cloak of fiction to write a different kind of narrative – one that, as the author’s daughter discovers, doesn’t have a neat ending. The book tackles Luiselli’s experience volunteering at an immigration court in New York City, where she translated the answers migrant children gave to the questions that stood between a return to their home country and the promise of a new life in the United States. Continue reading

Review: Spook by Mary Roach

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Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach (W.W. Norton and Co., 2006)

Reviewed by Rebecca Valley

Mary Roach’s name has been floating around in my brain for years. I own (but haven’t yet read) her book Stiff, and about two years ago I listened to an interview with Radiolab about her book Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, where she talks about sticking her hand through an incision in a cow’s side and feeling around in its intestines while it stood there, very much alive. I discovered Spook in a used bookstore in the basement floor of Pike Place market — it was my first long-term foray into Roach’s brand of investigative science journalism, and I devoured the book over the course of a few evenings. I loved this book so much I even brought it to the gym. Continue reading