In our second round of micro-reviews, we are thinking about place – not just in terms of physical setting, but also the emotional and imagined places that books allow us to inhabit.
This collection includes poetry set on a rumbling train, a novella about a woman for whom time is as much as a place as the otherworldly rural setting in which she finds herself, and a mystery in which the real horror comes from inhabiting the mind of the troubled narrator. With books set from Cairo to the Oregon coast and everywhere in between, you are sure to find a book in this round-up that speaks to your desire to escape.
In the Field Between Us by Molly McCully Brown and Susannah Nevison (Persea books 2020)
Reviewed by Joanna Currey
Once, in college, I had a long conversation in the middle of a sidewalk with a friend about whether stories could be considered the basic building blocks of human experience, like an abstract counterpart to molecules. Story is how people make sense of the past and dream about the future. It structures how we have conversations, how we understand relationships, how we share memories, and how we build identities. By organizing pieces of information into story, that information gains meaning, and the protagonists of those stories gain purpose and trajectory— things I and the people I know need to avoid living in a perpetual state of existential breakdown.
This is our first reading round-up! Hurray! And after the outpouring of support (and content!) from our community these last few months, we can’t think of a more fitting theme for our first collection of micro-reviews than LOVE.
In this month’s round-up, we’re sharing love stories — stories of queer love, brown and black love, parental love, self-love, love of home. These books teach us that love is sticky and uncertain. Sometimes, it is colored by bias and political violence. Sometimes, we don’t have the language for it. Sometimes, it is wrapped in a heavy blanket of grief. But no matter what shape love takes, the Drizzle team believes that love is valuable. Love stories are valuable. After all, as contributor Katie Centabar wrote in her review of Get a Life Chloe Brown: “In these tough times, we all need love.”
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.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Del Ray Books 2020)
Reviewed by Summer A.H. Christiansen
Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s latest novel, Mexican Gothic is one feminist horror story you will not want to miss. The reader invests immediately in the heroine of the novel, Noemí. She is a 22-year-old socialite who enjoys her lavish life in Mexico City. Beautiful, well-dressed, and quick-witted, Noemi dreams of becoming an anthropologist. Her parents don’t agree with her lifestyle and wish instead she would focus on settling down and finding a husband, or as se sees it: “…she should never have any fun for the sake of having fun, but only as a way to obtain a husband” (6).
A River of Stars by Vanessa Hua (Ballantine Books 2019)
Reviewed by Amaya Hunsberger
Vanessa Hua’s debut novel, A River of Stars, follows the path of Scarlett, a pregnant Chinese woman while the child’s father, Boss Yeung, wishes to do business in America. She is sent to Perfume Bay in San Francisco where she and other pregnant Chinese women will deliver their children in secret in order to ensure American citizenship for their babies. The whole operation is run by Mama Fang, a lucrative entrepreneur. After finding out that her unborn child is a girl, she escapes the facility with a teenager named Daisy, and together they make their way to San Francisco’s Chinatown. There, they rely on the generosity of a new community and their own ingenuity in order to survive.
The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones (Gallery/Saga Press 2020)
Reviewed by Robert Drinkwater
I was instantly drawn to the premise of Stephen Graham Jones’s book The Only Good Indians. It centered around four Blackfeet men who are haunted by a malevolent entity from an event ten years in the past. It is a story that is full of Blackfeet folklore, tradition, and plenty of blood and gore.
The Black Cathedral by Marcial Gala (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux 2020)
Reviewed by Megan Foster
A good man is hard to find, as they say. This is certainly the case in Cuban author Marcial Gala’s The Black Cathedral, a darkly comic novel that buzzes around the Stewart family’s fated arrival to Cienfuegos. Arturo Stewart moves with his wife Carmen and their three children – David King, Samuel Prince, and Johannes – with the express purpose of constructing a titular cathedral to outshine any temple in Cuba and make Cienfuegos the new Jerusalem. It doesn’t take long for the neighborhood to suspect that the Stewarts are not what they seem. Readers must determine whom to trust as the novel rapidly flits through everyone’s point of view but the Stewarts: town gossips, classmates, a school principal, an architect, a drag queen, ghosts, a serial killer. In a town spurred by greed and violence, no one is holier than thou.
The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi (Mira Books 2020)
Reviewed by Angela Gualtieri
Historical fiction opens the gateway to a different time and place. The settings themselves make readers long for somewhere they’ve never been. This is the case in Alka Joshi’s debut novel, The Henna Artist.
Set in the 1950s, The Henna Artist transports us back to India a few years after gaining independence from the British. Joshi’s vivid imagery makes India’s past crawl off the page, bringing it to life: “We entered a colonnade flanked by lush gardens. Topiary elephants frolicked on the lawns. Live peacocks pranced around circular fountains. Stone urns sprouted honeysuckle, jasmine and sweet pea” (142). Amidst the color and beauty of historical India, Joshi also gives us a taste of the social, economic, and political climates of the time, shedding light on the difficulties for people of lower castes and women.