A Year in Rumpus Book Reviews


In our 2018 staff picks feature, Poetry Editor Molly Spencer wrote:

Reviews make us better readers (and better writers) by putting words to something we, as reader, sensed about a book, but couldn’t articulate; or by expanding our ideas about a book; or by placing a book in a context we may have missed; or by revealing elements of craft we hadn’t considered; or by doing all of these things.

And Books Editor Abigail Bereola wrote that, “A good book review doesn’t need to be positive, but what a good book review about a good book does, first and foremost, is make you want to read the book.”

I quote Molly and Abigail here both because I find truth in what they write and because between them, they are responsible for all the book reviews you read at The Rumpus. (Molly handles poetry reviews, and Abigail handles all other book reviews and book features.) And in 2018, they worked tirelessly to provide the excellent, inclusive books coverage we want you to expect from us. Below, you can find a list of every book review we ran this year. They are all worth (re-)reading. – Marisa Siegel, EIC



Kings of Broken Things by Theodore Wheeler (reviewed by Jonathan Crowl)
“At times, Kings of Broken Things is a difficult book to read. It floods us with scenes of war-torn bodies and families, brutal lynchings, and political manipulation that does whatever it must to keep the party in power. It shows us how well-intentioned people can find themselves committing awful crimes and misdeeds before they realize what they’ve done. It asks us to look beyond the black-and-white of issues and see the gray in all of its complexity—and to remember our dark past, lest we forget its lessons.”

Holdfast by Christian Anton Gerard (reviewed by Emma Bolden)
“The poems are unabashedly joyful, almost giddy, and veer occasionally into sentiment: ‘Sometimes I cry,’ Gerard writes, ‘thinking of the way you listen.’ However sentimental, it’s a move that’s welcome after the deep waters through which the poems in the first part of the collection move.”

The Largesse of the Sea Maiden by Denis Johnson (reviewed by Kevin Zambrano)
“But, although it doesn’t bring a story arc to a close the way Jesus’ Son does, at the end of The Largesse of the Sea Maiden, Johnson does reach something close to a conclusion: ‘You love Elvis,’ Mark tells Kevin, ‘That’s a true thing I know.’ They haven’t quite made sense of the world, but like Fuckhead, they have learned to live in it.”

Planetary Noise: Selected Poetry of Erin Mouré by Erin Mouré (reviewed by Barbara Berman)
“Translation of every kind, then, is more necessary than ever, and Mouré and others who shed light on lives whose speakers use other languages become illuminators in this very dark time.”

Trust No Aunty by Maria Qamar (reviewed by Ikya Kandula)
“Reading Trust No Aunty gave me what I had searched for in fifth grade health class and middle school lunchroom conversations. I wanted so badly to turn my head and catch the glance of a brown girl scrambling to understand herself through words meant for others.”

Together and By Ourselves by Alex Dimitrov (reviewed by Julie Marie Wade)
“There are so many ellipses in this book, and they never get on my nerves. They never feel like omissions, you see, or placeholders for something the author hasn’t finished. No, they feel like tangible objects—pebbles or breadcrumbs—the speaker has scattered to help me follow.”

A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise by Sandra Allen (reviewed by Caro Macon)
“And what a journey it is. By the end, I am tired, but not in a bad way. Allen admits she never has good answers to the questions around why she decided to write this. She says, ‘Bob described long days out on Lake L’Homme Dieu in the summers fishing. Perhaps it is as simple as Bob was a talented fisherman and I’m the guppy he caught on his line.’ As a reader, I’m caught, too.”

Testify by Simone John (reviewed by Tom Griffen)
“Simone John leaves readers haunted. Preyed upon and troubled. She demands that white people and white society see and hear clearly the burden of daily dread.”

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (reviewed by Zakiya Harris)
“Reading An American Marriage feels a lot like easing into a terrycloth bathrobe with the words ‘I’m rooting for everybody black’ stitched on the back. Except this is hard to do, and not because there aren’t enough fleshed-out black characters to root for. They’re so thoroughly detailed, in fact, that their personalities—realistic and nuanced and therefore, pretty frustrating—make it sometimes difficult to root for everybody, or anybody.”



A Crown of Violets by Renée Vivien, translated by Samantha Pious (reviewed by Maryann Corbett)
“The aspects of Vivien’s work that give me pause—and that Pious treats faithfully—are the frank association of sex with violence, first, and the death fixation second.”

I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell (reviewed by Taylor Larsen)
“The book is quite intimate in all senses of the word—physically, psychologically, mentally, and emotionally. There is something truly generous about her style. Reading this memoir is like being taken further and further through the layers of a human life down to some mysterious core from which all meaning emanates. It shows us what it means to be vulnerably alive, to digest the seemingly indigestible fact of our mortality.”

Marvels of the Invisible by Jenny Molberg (reviewed by Matthew Minicucci)
“If, in fact, the promise of poetry is a kind of connective and encompassing empathy, this is a collection that reminds us: not only are we not alone, we’re inexorably connected to the observed.”

Red Clocks by Leni Zumas (reviewed by Chelsea Leu)
“These characters are rare indeed in fiction and that makes their presence in Red Clocks all the more noteworthy. This reader felt seen. The existence of Red Clocks and so many other works of resistance, sprung from dystopian muck, is a grim necessity that’s flourished into a source of life.”

this shouldn’t be beautiful but it was & it was all i had so i drew it by Keegan Lester (reviewed by Jaime Zuckerman)
“The poems in this shouldn’t be beautiful but it was & it was all i had so i drew it acknowledge that it’s okay to be sad, that the world is a little bit broken anyway, and that there’s still room in the world and our lives for wonder.”

the earthquake room by Davey Davis (reviewed by Laura Thorne)
the earthquake room can be read an exercise in entropy, a simulation of the inevitable disordering toward which our human systems tend.”

Best American Experimental Writing 2016 edited by Charles Bernstein and Tracie Morris (reviewed by Barbara Berman)
“Bernstein and Morris, together with series editors Seth Abramson and Jesse Damiani, have produced a collection that is meaty, daring, and beautiful.”

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi (reviewed by Abigail Bereola)
“Filled with beautiful, lush sentences, through Freshwater, Emezi offers us a lens into their world and creates a stunning landscape in the process. The novel explores the trauma of a life as worthy of being seen, and we should all be grateful for this contribution.”



Footnotes in the Order of Disappearance by Fady Joudah (reviewed by Lena Khalaf Tuffaha)
Footnotes in the Order of Disappearance is the work of a restless poetic mind whose inventive and capacious poems bring wonder and skepticism and incandescent language to bear on questions of human experience.”

Back Talk by Danielle Lazarin (reviewed by Courtney Allison)
“In this powerful debut, Lazarin has written her heart out chronicling the lives of recognizable girls and women as they come of age, find their footing and chart their path through life’s curves, on their own terms. “

The Half-Finished Heaven: Selected Poems by Tomas Tranströmer (reviewed by Aaron Belz)
“Tranströmer might be instructive to our young poets writing today. The poem, he seems to say, doesn’t have to carry every burden of its poet’s heart. It doesn’t need to speak out loud, either. It can, and maybe ought to, muse a bit more quietly to itself, and let its readers share in the creative process by their reading.”

Everyone Knows You Go Home by Natalia Sylvester (reviewed by María Isabel Álvarez)
“Despite its supernatural beginning, Everyone Knows You Go Home is grounded in the kind of gritty realism lived by every immigrant in this country.”

Rummage by Ife-Chudeni A. Oputa (reviewed by Scott Beal)
“It is in such blurred borders and exceeded singularities that Oputa’s speakers have learned to live.”

A Good Day For Seppuku by Kate Braverman (reviewed by Ian MacAllen)
“With A Good Day for Seppuku, Braverman has written a collection of intense images and exacting language. She’s sliced through privileged suburbia to show us a delicious cross-section of the troubles of the elites, and shows how even with money, many women end up struggling to find their own place in the world. The melancholy of these well-off characters is a reminder that often even the shiniest exteriors are tarnished.”

Hands That Break and Scar by Sarah A. Chavez (reviewed by Kristi Carter)
“Chavez knows how to reel us in and keep our attention as she unpacks the complexities of life and the textures of one’s identity. She is at once outsider and insider, hero and storyteller, a woman who does hard work, a Mexican-American.”

Laura & Emma by Kate Greathead (reviewed by Chelsea Leu)
“Because it felt, ultimately, like Laura & Emma was undermining its own existence by pressing the point: that the story of this privileged white woman was worth paying attention to. But the world doesn’t need to be convinced that the stories of privileged white women are worth paying attention to—no matter how quiet, offbeat, or imperfectly human they are.”

Life After Rugby by Eileen G’Sell (reviewed by Christine No)
Life After Rugby is a deceptively accessible collection full of hidden delights. I recommend multiple readings, as you’ll discover more to adore with each one. The collection is not overwrought or laden with woes. It is funny, sassy, and intelligent, and, G’Sell assumes the same of its reader. It is lush and dripping with linguistic moments and melody that I cannot help but read aloud over and over.”



Doing Harm by Maya Dusenbery (reviewed by Caro Macon)
Doing Harm dives into these disturbing truths, from women being sedated as a quick fix to being sent home mid-heart attack.”

Three Poetry Anthologies: Nasty Women Poets, Carrying the Branch, How Lovely the Ruins (reviewed by Barbara Berman)
“The compilers of these anthologies used a reliable strategy to move the merch. Jane Hirshfield, Mark Doty, Rita Dove, Ocean Vuong, and others with large fan bases help bump up the profiles of talented scribes who don’t fill performance spaces. Revered dead poets, including Maya Angelou, Robert Frost, Denise Levertov, and Claude McKay are also included.”

And Now We Have Everything by Meaghan O’Connell (reviewed by Carla Bruce-Eddings)
And Now We Have Everything stretches beyond the well-worn narrative grooves of the delivery room, although O’Connell’s keen observational acuity throughout those pivotal scenes is nothing short of a blessing. With a steady-handed, acerbic candor that does not self-deprecate so much as self-examine, she maneuvers through the slippery paths of romantic discord, professional stagnation, postpartum pain and depression.”

Unearthings by Wendy Chen (reviewed by James Davis May)
“Chen’s sense of history is reason enough to appreciate her poetry, but equally thrilling is her language. Her skill as an image-maker and her sense of space (it’s interesting that she’s also a visual artist) allow her to write the sort of lines that remind me of good guitar licks because they offer both their own independent pleasures and, at the same time, complement the greater work.”

Heads of Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires (reviewed by Allison Noelle Conner)
Heads of the Colored People casts suspicion on our contemporary myths of colorblindness and being ‘post-racial’ as mirages used to sanitize our prickly historical residues and existential dilemmas, leading towards a tendency to mistake the fog for reality.”

Objects from a Borrowed Confession by Julie Carr (reviewed by Julie Marie Wade)
“Thank you for everything, Julie. You have given me more than I can name, and you have named it, too, the numinous paradox at the heart of our enterprise: ‘Poets, though they trade in words (or because they do), recognize and defend the unnameable core that burns.’”

America Is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo (reviewed by Cristina Rey)
“Castillo refuses to participate in the homogenization of Filipinx heritage, as evidenced by her weaving together English, Tagalog, Pangasinan, and Ilocano throughout the novel. She draws on the rich linguistic diversity of the diaspora, rather than engaging in the colonialist convention of erasing all languages other than English.”

Fireworks in the Graveyard by Joy Ladin (reviewed by Siham Karami)
“Ladin gives us every reason to invite her art, this book, into our lives, not only for its considerable beauty, craft and range of emotion, but for her visionary voice which infuses these poems, enlarging our lives too with its indefatigable presence.”



The Pisces by Melissa Broder (reviewed by Amelia Possanza)
“Broder has Lucy confess to the things so many of us spend our lives trying to hide—fretting over the state of our pubes, yearning for love—that it is a relief to see them finally reflected back on the page.”

Barbie Chang by Victoria Chang (reviewed by Jeannine Hall Gailey)
Barbie Chang is an intelligent, lively portrayal of the pressures on contemporary women (especially mothers), and a breathlessly entertaining read. Chang’s faint echoes of language play throughout the collection, reflecting how ‘Barbie Chang’ fits into different parts of society—work, family, and romance—and juggles the multiple identities of a modern woman.”

The Ensemble by Aja Gabel (reviewed by Tajja Isen)
“Like the best narratives of ambition, The Ensemble offers its readers the chance to breathe the rarefied air of an elite pursuit.”

Echolocation by Sally Bliumis-Dunn (reviewed by Kasey Jueds)
“In the poet’s mind, where paper birds come alive, the dead return. This sense of consolation feels earned through the poet’s exacting observation of her outer and inner landscapes. The reader is returned, too, by these poems: to intimacy with the poet-speaker, the ‘more-than-human’ world, and the complicated, unimaginable heart.”

The Radicals by Ryan Mcilvain (reviewed by Kevin O’Kelly)
The Radicals is the coming-of-age novel at its darkest: all the lessons are learned too late, if at all. “

Bird Book by Sidney Wade (reviewed by Edward Derby)
“It’s a collection of poems that playfully encounter many species of North American birds like the whooping crane and the loon.”

Body Full of Stars by Molly Caro May (reviewed by Emily Burns Morgan)
“No doubt May and her family have benefited greatly from the deep internal work it took to live and then write this book. Such work is individual, and up to each of us to do on our own, but everyone who reads this book will also benefit from a generous, accurate, and hopeful story that ends not with a happily ever after but with honesty, dignity, and strength in the face of life’s ongoing challenges, whether we are mothering our children, or just ourselves.”

Good Bones by Maggie Smith (reviewed by Julie Marie Wade)
“How does one poem speak to so many people at once? I wonder. I’m tempted to call Maggie Smith a soothsayer, someone who heard the future’s sad, exasperated call a few months early”

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee (reviewed by LaTanya McQueen)
“To read this book is to be reminded that this is what the best of literature can do. It is such a gift, and I am grateful.”



Sallies, Romps, Portraits, and Send-Offs: Selected Prose 2000-2016 and Before Dawn on Bluff Road/Hollyhocks in the Fog: Selected New Jersey Poems/Selected San Francisco Poems by August Kleinzahler (reviewed by Barbara Berman)
“Kleinzahler is superb at the sorts of tasks he has taken on in these two volumes. These pages are great company, thanks to the quality of the writing, the erudition that never feels piled on, and the pleasures that are keenly engaging, making rituals and places long familiar seem, as Charlotte Brontë put it, ‘new dyed,’ and making the unfamiliar a place that’s really worth seeking.”

Calypso by David Sedaris (reviewed by Zoey Cole)
Calypso is funny precisely because so much of its subject matter is so dark. Watching our parents age and remain racist, trying to understand why a sibling killed herself, coming to terms with the state of America today and with one’s own mortality—these topics don’t often make for cheerful reading.”

Let’s All Die Happy by Erin Adair Hodges (reviewed by Lizzie Hutton)
“Adair-Hodges’s work throughout this book remains brave in its aspirations, and bracingly clean in its delivery, offering provocative questions and answers without flinching away or merely doodling.”

Sick by Porochista Khakpour (reviewed by Aleksandra Burshteyn)
“Reading this book plunges readers into the embodied, visceral truth of sickness. The ill body is not a home: it is pain, a trap. So often literature about the body—especially women’s bodies—is concerned with how a body looks. Appearance is treated as a window to interiority. Khakpour dispenses with that.”

Oceanic by Aimee Nezhukumatathil (reviewed by Jeannine Hall Gailey)
“From sea stars to elephant tigers, from her children and husband to the speaker’s own scars, Oceanic conveys a rare sense of awe and unsentimental passion for the earth, its creatures, and the universe.”

Coming of Age at the End of Nature edited by Susan Cohen and Julie Dunlap (reviewed by Miranda Perrone)
“Climate change can feel like a lonely thing. Most people don’t want to talk about it—it’s a dark story of loss and indictment that we’d rather ignore. One by one, the writings compiled in Coming of Age at the End of Nature assert this: if climate change does indeed scare you, you are not alone.”

Virgin by Analicia Sotelo (reviewed by Matthew Minicucci)
“Back inside Holy Ghost Catholic Church, in front of the eighth Station again, I can’t help but think of Virgin as I look the figure of Jesus, right hand stretched out, as if he’s holding these women back. It’s a blessing, yes, but it’s also a movement away. But perhaps, in the same way Analicia Sotelo considers the binary and the connected, there’s also a movement towards. Maybe it’s all just the opposite of what I remember from my middle school Masses: it’s not He who blesses them, but them, with their willingness to be there, in that moment, who blesses Him.”

There There by Tommy Orange (reviewed by Alex Cavanaugh)
“In one of the section breaks, Orange quotes James Baldwin’s essay ‘Stranger in the Village’: ‘People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.’ There There is a vibrant movement through the mechanism of that trap.”

Because by Joshua Mensch (reviewed by Barbara Berman)
“Joshua Mensch has produced a small but monumental classic with questions that will help become part of an answer.”



The Incendiaries by R. O. Kown (reviewed by Christine No)
The Incendiaries is also a fantastically timely read. Kwon begs the questions: How far will we go to rediscover what we’ve lost? What is the line between devotion and obsession, faith and fanaticism? What is the marker of the divine, grotesque, real, dream, memory, or happenstance? And what are we willing to do to maintain our grasp on even a sliver of hope, even if this hope may not be real or whole?”

Same-Sexy Marriage by Julie Marie Wade (reviewed by Risa Denenberg)
“Ultimately, this is a story in which redemption is not a possibility. Bear in mind: parents like the parents in Same-Sexy Marriage exist, and can cause great harm. And while this book is indeed clever, its cleverness does not shield us from reading the pathos between the lines.”

The Grip of It by Jac Jemc (reviewed by Ahsan Butt)
“In horror, narrative resolution often erases the adversity that preceded it. Too pat an explanation reduces the horror, collapses it. Here, the ending never comes, or it comes, but it cannot erase what came before—the experience of a couple’s world dissolving and reading becoming a haunted reality.”

Citizen Illegal by José Olivarez (reviewed by Frank Johnson)
“It seems clear that Olivarez wrote from every part of himself to build this incredible book. He uses the tools of his craft to create a sanctuary for others, and to present alternative realities that might finally serve, rather than pillage from, brown and black people. I’m deeply grateful for his work.”

The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs (reviewed by Lauren Morgan Whitticom)
“The landscape of Nina’s memoir is a strange, ever-shifting terrain, moving back and forth between the mundane and the momentous, which are never really separate things.”

Nepantla: An Anthology Dedicated to Queer People of Color edited by Christopher Soto (reviewed by torrin a. greathouse)
“Despite this, Nepantla is a brilliant anthology, and any criticism speaks to how exemplary the rest of this volume is. The depth and breadth of experience and feeling captured within is overwhelming, with page after page packed with diverse, brilliantly crafted work. Nepantla is a luminous archive, a complex and disruptive history which demands, in every whisper, chant, and scream, to be heard.”

My Fair Junkie by Amy Dresner (reviewed by Janna Klostermann)
“And while she points to one-night stands, set routines, and institutional structures as ways of being held, she also articulates the difficult and demanding work of holding herself up—finding her own forms, her own jokes, and her own spearmint-gum trajectory. She beautifully narrates how hard it is to build a life without abandoning oneself, and that’s a worthwhile project, if you ask me.”

House of Sugar, House of Stone by Emily Pérez (reviewed by Julie Marie Wade)
“Neither stones that stay fixed to the path, nor crumbs that disappear from it, Pérez scatters her poems like seeds for readers to approach, to circle, to contemplate like runes, perhaps to tend.”



Florida by Lauren Groff (reviewed by Aleksandra Burshteyn)
“Groff’s Florida is touched by sublimity. It is an “Eden of beautiful things,” glorious and decayed, attacked and altering. It is to be loved, feared, defended, cared for. “

Two Extraordinary Books: Bullets into Bells by editors Brian Clements, Dean Rader, and Alexandra Teague and Inquisition by Kazim Ali (reviewed by Barbara Berman)
“Still, unless student activists and others prevail, the next news of avoidable carnage will arrive at any moment. The velocity and volume of response in the creative community is also huge, and at a time when it takes extra work to be grateful, I am grateful for two extraordinary new books of poetry.”

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (reviewed by Alfredo Flores)
“The love between a parent and child, the greatness and terror of it, and how far each will go to defend each other is the central theme of the story. It’s also what will keep you following along with Leni until the book’s final word.”

The Undressing by Li-Young Lee (reviewed by Derek JG Williams)
“Li-Young Lee is a poet who addresses our highest and lowest impulses, finding love and connection in all of experience.”

The Devoted by Blair Hurley (reviewed by Maikie Paje)
The Devoted is a personal journey. Who you are informs your reading experience. Hurley leaves you thinking and sorting through feelings long after her final page.”

The Dream of Reason by Jenny George (reviewed by Dana Alsamsam)
“So we arrive at conclusions just to break them, the beginnings also endings, but we do know a few things—cruelty and violence are nuanced, innocence is multi-faceted, lost and gained throughout not just childhood but all of life. Across this collection, George is an expert tour guide of cruelty through a lens of tenderness and humanity, bringing us to the thresholds of what we can possibly endure, making the thresholds glimmer with morning sun, reaching towards ‘happiness with its horizon of pain.’”

Remind Me Again What Happened by Joanna Luloff (reviewed by Daphne Kalotay)
Remind Me Again What Happened raises meaningful questions, as much about memory and selfhood as about the ways we trap ourselves and others. As Charlie says, ‘When you’re used to people keeping secrets from you, you become a good spy.’”

The Final Voicemails by Max Ritvo (reviewed by Risa Denenberg)
“Max’s words have added meaning to my life and I am a woman for whom without meaning, might well consider suicide.”

The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley (reviewed by Gabino Iglesias)
“Ultimately, The Mere Wife goes beyond Beowulf to become a narrative that offers a bold look at American suburbia while exploring the power of women in society. Both tales share some elements: death, fear, a hero in distress, a youngster serving as the only help for someone in need, and a strange period of peace between two life-changing events. However, Headley’s new reimagining touches on things like PTSD, the negative side of overprotecting a child, and the need for friendship and love, all while never straying too far from the women at its epicenter. “

Hillary, Made up by Marianne Kunkel (reviewed by Julie Marie Wade)
“The smallest-door approach to art-making resists sweeping generalizations, resists wholesale interpretations of how everything is or was or will be or should be. Kunkel’s book opens thirty-nine such doors, props them ajar, and this reader is already hoping for a sequel.”



Three Strong Women: A Different Physics by Lisa Rosenberg, Invisible Gifts by Maw Shein Win, and Soft Volcano by Libby Burton (reviewed by Barbara Berman)
“Like Lisa Rosenberg and Maw Shein Win, Libby Burton is in charge of her strong, original voice. Welcome all three of these books with enthusiasm for what they do, and with shared possibilities for the ‘craved world.’”

Jell-O Girls by Allie Rowbottom (reviewed by Sara Rauch)
“Rowbottom presents her narrative with the clarity of an outsider, acting as a journalist would, allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions about all she uncovers. And while she writes about remarkably charged material, her emotions stay in check, steering this engaging book into clear, fresh territory. That Rowbottom could create a work of such beauty and meaning from her uneasy inheritance is truly an act of redemption.”

The Fat Sonnets by Samantha Zighelboim (reviewed by Molly Fisk)
“I appreciated the rage in these poems and the devastating specificity. I was glad to hear one of the last taboo subjects explode on the page, buoyed by Zighelboim’s humor and considerable craft. The book has a palpable integrity and is a fabulous debut.”

Dandelions by Yasunari Kawabata (reviewed by Mike Broida)
“Perhaps the novel, like Ineko, has become like the solitary weeping tree, gashed by the difficulties of the world and its inhospitable people around her, the thick scars that those closest have made on her as a way of saying, ‘I am here, I am alive, too.’ Perhaps Yasunari Kawabata had become a weeping tree of his own.”

Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl by Diane Seuss (reviewed by Anne Graue)
“The terrible beauty of this collection is that it shows how necessary art is in helping us get through this life.”

Flights by Olga Tokarczuk (reviewed by Aleksandra Burshteyn)
“The characters move through cities, memories, country-sides, skies, thoughts, oceans, times, and their own bodies. The alternative is stagnation. ‘Life… consists in bursting open, thrusting forward, in constantly going beyond what it is,’ muses one character, a biologist.”



The Souls of Yellow Folk by Wesley Yang (reviewed by Evan Coles)
“I read Yang’s essays with the hope that its thematic lapses would encourage other Asian-American writers to first ask themselves, ‘How can I become a problem?,’ so that they might get to the more necessary work of asking themselves ‘How does it feel to be a problem?’”

Anaphora by Kevin Goodan (reviewed by Barbara Berman)
“In Anaphora, Goodan once again earns his place where fine poetry is a living, breathing creation of hard-earned, essential grace.”

Five Plots by Erica Trabold (reviewed by Kristine Langley Mahler)
“What Trabold loves most about herself—her freckles, the physical manifestation of her homeland’s imprinting—is something others have wanted to wash away, to remove. But Nebraska’s multiplicities and coexisting truths are embedded deep within Trabold, and the essays in Five Plots parallel those shape-shifting contradictions.”

Ornitheology by Kevin McLellan (reviewed by Julie Marie Wade)
“The archetypal imagery McLellan chooses—night, trees, birds, mountains, water, parents—is familiar to all of us, already charged with certain collective meanings. But as the poet deftly shapes and sequences the poem—a sibilant river meandering through the lines (sleeplessness, missing siblings), an anaphoric wind filling out the space (are you-are you, under-under-under)—every reader slips beneath the poem’s spell differently: bathes in it, breathes it in, distinct.”

She Begat This by Joan Morgan (reviewed by Zakiya Harris)
“There are still unturned stones by the time one reaches the end of She Begat This. Readers may find themselves wishing Morgan had provided a deeper look into Hill’s life, maybe by further speaking on her relationships, or addressing the lawsuit filed by artists who claimed Hill did not properly credit them for their work on Miseducation, or the prison sentence she served for tax evasion in 2013. But broaching such territory risks detracting from the book’s elegance.”

When Rap Spoke Straight to God by Erica Dawson (reviewed by Jaimee Hills)
“This collection is a slim volume, but it is heavy. The arrangement of poems within one longer poem disrupts the reader’s desire for order in simple digestible packets—but that would not do justice to the subject matter. If you find yourself wrestling with the reality and surreality of the current political moment, Dawson’s book is worth a read, offering a valuable perspective, an attempt to sift through a harsh, surreal landscape.”

Interior States by Meghan O’Gieblyn (reviewed by Josef Kuhn)
“O’Gieblyn’s insightful and poignant debut makes clear that these interior states cannot be so easily forgotten, for the present depends more on them than we realize.”

The Black Bear Inside Me by Robin Becker (reviewed by Risa Denenberg)
“Becker’s unique gift is her generous attention to and comfort with the diversity of others—human and non-human, fauna and flora, music and dance, neighbor and family. “

She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore (reviewed by Whitney Beber)
“In She Would Be King, Moore uses the protagonists’ stories to explore the enslavement of Africans, the objectification and spectacle made of black bodies, the migration of former slaves to Liberia, liberty and autonomy as individuals and as a nation, and more. She does so through magical realism and a historical storytelling, reminiscent of Toni Morrison.”



Past Lives, Future Bodies by Kristin Chang (reviewed by torrin a. greathouse)
Past Lives, Future Bodies is a collection of poems that simmers and soars. Its tightly crafted stanzas propel each piece at a frantic pace that makes it almost impossible not to read in a single sitting, yet the thematic depth of Chang’s work demands that readers return to these poems again and again.”

Moonbrow by Shahriar Mandanipour (reviewed by Michael Natalie)
Moon Brow is a novel of twos: male and female, vice and virtue, humor and fear, Iran and Iraq, excess and austerity, myth and reality. The novel’s last scenes in particular had me wondering if we aren’t all, in some sense, like Amir—vacillating between contraries, a preponderance of one thing inevitably and violently leading to its opposite.”

Inheriting the War edited by Laren McClung (reviewed by Barbara Berman)
“There is no escape from the cradle of this shame. There is no doubt of the importance of Inheriting the War.”

All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung (reviewed by Chelsea Leu)
“Oversimplified stories based on meager information will never be better than the truth, no matter how painful. All You Can Ever Know’s main lesson is that the truth is far more interesting anyway.”

Good and Mad by Rebecca Traister (reviewed by Caro Macon)
“Reading the book, I am encouraged to make our feminist ancestors light up. I want to make them as proud, if not more, as I want to make our feminist grandchildren.”

True Love and Other Dreams of Miraculous Escape by Micah Perks (reviewed by Susan Jackson Rodgers)
“Reading this collection is a refugium as well—a healing exploration of intimacy and kinship, through the interwoven lives of memorable, flawed, funny, and often perspicacious characters, at a time when we need every miraculous escape we can get.”

Starfish by Sara Goodman (reviewed by Julie Marie Wade)
“I can interpret Angie’s expression without her ever saying a word. ‘You’re right. Save it for the review,’ I nod, and so I do. I write this down. I write this all down. This book is a map, Dear Reader. And you are here.”



Night-Blooming Jasmin(n)e by Jasminne Méndez (reviewed by Diamond Forde)
“Méndez places grief in the context of the body and asks: What happens when the source of grief comes from within?”

Dirty Plotte: The Complete Julie Doucet by Julie Doucet (reviewed by Brandon Hicks)
“The comic, while brief, is as funny, personal, and jam-packed with detail as any of the work found in Plotte, suggesting that when and if Doucet finally chooses to make a return to comics, it will be a triumphant one.”

Betwixt-and-Between: Essays on the Writing Life by Jenny Boully (reviewed by Raina K. Puels)
“I needed this reminder. I poet by watching herons flap their silky wings. I poet over caprese sandwiches in a hammock with my lover. I poet while counting the rotten teeth of the sweet bodega tabby. And when I render these experiences into words, I need not worry about how they should look but rather how I want them to appear. I can almost hear Boully whispering in my ear: Yes, you need readers to love you enough to turn the page, but make them love you by telling it your way. Tell it your way even if it’s ugly, even if it doesn’t look like anything that’s been written before. You must tell it your way. You must. You must.”

Killing Marías by Claudia Castra Luna (reviewed by Risa Denenberg)
“The poems in Killing Marías sustain a deep reverence for women and are a call to action for the world. That there are no periods anywhere in these forty-five poems leaves an open wound and open questions.”