September 2021 Reading Round Up: Emotional Landscapes


In this round of microreviews, we’re focusing on feelings, from one author’s illustrated year with Seasonal Affective Disorder to the complex emotions contained with three generations of an Indian family. These books focus on the emotional landscapes of their subjects–and ultimately advocate for a world in which art, and the complex experiences and emotions it evokes, is inherently valuable.

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August 2021 Reading Round Up: Transformations

After way too many years following an academic calendar, I still think of August as a month on the cusp of new beginnings. That’s why today we’re sharing our stories of transformation–of starting over in a new place, a new era of your life, even a new body.

In our books this month, a family of refugees rebuild their lives in a country that is not as magical as they once believed. The world literally pauses, waiting for one child to flip a switch. A woman turns into a wolf. Anything is possible in these books of transformation, which speak to the ways we are constantly changing, starting over, making ourselves new.

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May 2021 Reading Round-Up: Taking Stock

In our third reading round-up, we are taking stock, both physically and metaphorically.

Our selections for this month include lists and inventories, which use objects as a jumping-off point to explore memory and meaning. But these books also take stock in other ways — by examining and retelling ancient stories, diving into the colonial, patriarchal, and racist systems that plague our daily interactions, and sending characters on journeys of self-reflection and discovery. These inventories aren’t just lists. They are a means of determining who we are now, how we got here, and where we are going.


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Review: Pink Mountain on Locust Island by Jamie Marina Lau

Pink Mountain on Locust Island by Jamie Marina Lau (Coffee House Press 2020)

Reviewed by Alicia Banaszewski

Asian-Australian author Jamie Marina Lau’s debut novel Pink Mountain on Locust Island published by Brow Books was shortlisted for Australia’s prestigious Stella Prize in 2019. It opens with a short chapter titled “Panther” that immediately throws the readers into Melbourne’s Chinatown and introduces the narrator’s father.

“On television a panther slicking its black limbs through paradise trees. Holy moly, look at this fur.

The third story of a Chinatown flat, and here the timber walls tighten around the fat Chinese man with a noodle moustache. A muddy bottle in his hand.”

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April 2021 Reading Round-Up: Sense of Place

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.

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Review: The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante

The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante (Europa Editions 2020)

Reviewed by Angela Gualtieri

Elena Ferrante’s works examine a person’s interior with a focus on the feminine experience. Her prose captivates readers as she contrasts vivid imagery with womanly milestones and life’s difficulties. Ferrante also brings a true sense of Italian-ness to her work that cannot be overlooked nor removed. Being Italian-American, all these qualities drew me to her newest release, The Lying Life of Adults.

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Review: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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).

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Review: A River of Stars by Vanessa Hua

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. 

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Review: Rosewater by Tade Thompson

Rosewater by Tade Thompson (Orbit 2018)

Reviewed by Stephanie Chariton

British author and psychiatrist Tade Thompson’s stories and shorts have been critically acclaimed worldwide. His debut novel, Rosewater, won both the Nommo Award and the Arthur C. Clarke Award, one of the most prestigious awards in the U.K. Originally published in 2016, the Wormwood trilogy’s first installment is a deep dive into a world of aliens, with a beautiful mix of psychic powers, detective work, and sci-fi at its best. 

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