Hum by Natalia Hero (Metatron Press, 2018)
Reviewed by Summer A.H. Christiansen
As someone who has never really been a fan of magical realism, I will admit I was a bit skeptical when I started reading Hum by Natalia Hero. However, after a few pages, I knew I was reading something special, and my skepticism was misplaced.
Hum is a powerful story that comes in the wake of the #MeToo movement. The novella follows an unnamed young woman as she grapples with her life after being raped. Hero uses the metaphor of giving birth to a hummingbird to illustrate that the effects of trauma are constant and ever present in one’s life.
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)
The Emissary by Yoko Tawada, trans. by Margaret Mitsutani (New Directions 2018)
It had been my intention all along to review Yoko Tawada’s most recently translated novel The Emissary this week, and the announcement that Tawada was the recipient of the first award for translated literature since the National Book Award became the National Book Award in the early 1980s only solidified my thrill at getting the chance to write about this novel. Though all the books selected this year are exciting – I am particularly interested in finally reading Sigrid Nunez’s The Friend – I am particularly happy to see this nod to translated books in American literature. Compared to most countries America’s publication of translated works is nominal, and I respect and appreciate the National Book Award in their effort to encourage publishers to look internationally for new voices. Continue reading
The Descent of Monsters by JY Yang (Tor, 2018)
I have never read a book quite like JY Yang’s, The Descent of Monsters, the third novella in their silkpunk Tensorate series. I have read and loved their first two installments, I have read Victorian epistolary novels, I have imbibed mysteries, thrillers, and other assorted noir, but never something that so successfully wove all these disparate DNAs together. Continue reading
Autumn by Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton, 2016)
Ali Smith’s multi-faceted novel Autumn tries to do many things—things that, when listed out, seemingly couldn’t (and maybe shouldn’t) all fit into one novel. The novel, the first in a seasonally inspired series of four, takes on the perplexity of post-Brexit England, constructs a refreshing intellectual relationship between a young girl and her elderly neighbor, and poetically ponders the complexities of death, nature and memory. And those are just the major plot players. In Autumn, Smith embarks on a path that proves challenging—as paths dealing with today’s muddled political landscape unequivocally are—and her results are often staggering. But some choices she makes fall short, or maybe don’t go as far as they need to –they result in the reader wondering, for example, why we just spent fifteen or so pages on an infuriating trip to the Post Office for a passport. Smith gives us a lot to chew on, but while many aspects of the novel go down smoothly, others get stuck in your mental molars only to be found weeks later, just as bothersome as they were when you first tried to digest them. Continue reading