Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang, trans. by Ken Liu (Saga Press 2020)
Reviewed by Allison McCausland
Slow burn stories rarely find their place in modern storytelling. It is even rarer when a slow burn has so much thought and detail in its world-building that it warrants dissection of the most minute details. The novel Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang achieves this feat by taking its time revealing Jingfang’s extensive research of physics, economics, and social systems.
Sea, Land, Shadow by Kazuko Shiraishi, trans. by Yumiko Tsumara (New Directions Books, 2017)
Reviewed by Clara Guyton
Nicknamed “the Alan Ginsberg of Japan” by Kenneth Rexroth, Kazuko Shiraishi brings readers a sight-seeing drive through the mystical mountains of Japan in her collection Sea, Land, Shadow, complete with sharp turns and curves, moments of awe-inspiring depth and darkness, and instants of effervescent lightheartedness.
“on a mountain road in a traffic jam
I have poetry, so I’m fine…” (8)
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”
The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa, trans. by Stephen Snyder (Pantheon 2019)
Reviewed by Rebecca Valley
“’Long ago, before you were born, there were many more things here,’ my mother used to tell me when I was still a child. ‘Transparent things, fragrant things… fluttery ones, bright ones…” (3)
In her essay “Fairy
Tale is Form, Form is Fairy Tale,” author Kate Bernheimer defines
the fairy tale for a contemporary audience – what fairy tales are
made of, what doors they can open.
“With their flatness, abstraction, intuitive logic, and normalized magic, fairy tales hold a key to the door fiercely locked between so-called realism and nonrealism, convention and experimental-ism, psychology and abstraction. A key for those who see these as binaries, that is.”
How to Pull Apart the Earth by Karla Cordero (Not A Cult, 2018)
Reviewed by Leonora Simonovis
Featured in Oprah Magazine under the title “17 of the Best Poetry Books, as Recommended by Acclaimed Writers for National Poetry Month” How to Pull Apart the Earth is described by writer Laura Villareal as a journey into “the collective memory found in [the author’s] personal history, reminding us that we are rooted in the same familial tenderness.” The beautifully written 71 poems speak to the author’s identity as a Chicanx/Latinx woman raised in the border town of Calexico and themes of family, migration, and awareness, as well as identity and belonging, are seamlessly weaved throughout.
The Hole by José Revueltas (New Directions, 2018)
Reviewed by Andres Vaamonde
In 1969, writer and leftist revolutionary José Revueltas was in prison. It wasn’t his first time. More than thirty years earlier, when Revueltas was a teenager, he served multiple bids for his participation in the then-outlawed Communist Party of Mexico. He never attended university. Still, he became an important (if controversial) intellectual figure in Mexico, eventually finding himself in a cell in the infamous Lecumberri Prison in 1969 with nothing but time, fury, and, somehow, a typewriter.
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
Park Bench by Christophe Chaboute (Gallery 13, 2017)
Reviewed by Rebecca Valley
In April, I visited Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in Los Angeles with my mother. It was an impulse decision – it was hot, Madame Tussaud’s was air-conditioned, and deep down my mother and I are both too vain to resist a good photo shoot. We wandered past eerily life-like figures of Snoop Dogg and Betty White into a gallery of movie sets, where I found the thing I didn’t know I was looking for – a young Tom Hanks in a khaki suit, back straight and feet slightly pigeon-toed, seated on a half-empty park bench. Continue reading
Tell 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