Hell of a Book (the title of which is 100% truth in advertising) comprises two narratives: the madcap story of a hot new author on tour, spiraling his way down the sex- and alcohol-fueled drain of his life; and the somber tale of a dark-skinned boy and his search for safety in a world that has set him up for failure. As the two stories careen toward each other on an impossibly strange collision course, Mott asks some pretty big questions: What is the responsibility of a Black author in the era of Black Lives Matter? And/or what grace – what space – is owed to them? And what does all of that mean for the rest of us waiting to consume their stories? Mott's astonishing and adept novel will make you laugh your ass off ... right before slitting your throat.
We've been blurring the lines of fiction and nonfiction for a very long time, but how do you classify a book that moves from a first chapter that is 100% true except for one paragraph of fiction buried in it, to a final chapter that is all fiction? Does the rigid barrier that we pretend exists between fiction and nonfiction even matter if the themes stay the same? And the themes in Labatut's brilliant nonfiction novel are immense -- the dangers of math and science to both humanity, even to the very humans that create the equations. This slim volume brims with tales of genocide and madness and my mind buzzed and my heart ached all the way through as it examines what we call "progress."
Every book Camille Roy has ever written is a feat of imagination. The wayward young people whose lives her stories bear witness to apprehend atmospheres of cruelty and injustice in language you can feel before you understand. There’s a toughness to the writing, it beckons without innocence like a sly smile or conspiratorial wink. The seams of narrative are left exposed so that as a reader consuming someone else's past you can't avoid asking who am I using and what am I trying to gain.
This short novella by Natasha Brown is indeed a curious one, reminiscent of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. The narration is told by a young Black British financier who goes unnamed. She consciously walks the line of being a woman in the world dominated by rich old white men. She feels as though she is doing life right on the outer shell. She’s held herself to society’s standards; a college graduate, great apartment, burgeoning career and a relationship with a white man from “old money.” She is a success in her own right, but why doesn’t she feel it? Then – something unexpected: a cancer diagnosis. This throws her into an internal dialogue of denial. At a prestigious garden party hosted by her companion’s parents, she is introduced into group dynamics that leave her feeling the harsh realities of her existence. The book pulls from her past and launches the reader into the present with any given paragraph. Without speaking the words, affirmative action, racism, classism and gender roles dominate the narrative. A wonderful book that hits close to home, that takes on the issues we see time and time again in our society. It takes a new look at how we interpret the two versions of ourselves: the one we present and the other we hold onto on the inside.
Mermaids are in this year, so as a fan I have been happily devouring the deluge of content. This book is the romp at the top of my mermaid list. Kat's illustrations are lush, engaging eye feasts. Her trio of sea creatures and their human guide charm in their dynamic and individually. Shipwreck wine-soaked decisions lead to land based shenanigans and big lessons. Delightfully, wholesomely queer. P.S. if you make games I beg of you to make and play this with me.
When I read this book, this celebration of Blackness through the lens of performance, I thought ‘can’t we keep this one for ourselves.’ This book about us and what we do, the triumph of our performance, a love letter to us about our culture and the way we show up and show out was surely written for us. Right? But that’s not what this is. This book, dressed in black, is the big outing with a major publisher, and center stage for everyone to see and praise. Itself a triumph of Blackness through performance, Little Devil In America reads like poetry, the essays informative and impassioned, talking about the moonwalk, Whitney Houston, games of spades, Soul Train, and so much more. If you haven’t read Hanif yet, get this book. It’s beautiful work from a brilliant writer. And if you already know, you know.
It took me until almost the end of 2021 to find my book of the year. Not that I haven't read a large number of brilliant books this year, but for me none of them spoke to the feeling of living in this year - the chaos and the boredom that have gone hand in unloveable hand. Hauntology: Ghosts of Futures Past by the rather wonderfully named Merlin Coverley with its evocation of all of the futures that we have been denied and the pasts that we cannot be reconciled with has been that book for me.
One of 2021's better developments was the long-overdue return of Diane di Prima's Revolutionary Letters into print. Originally published in 1971, these poems remain every bit as revelatory as they were upon their first appearance fifty years ago. It's a timeless call to arms for the '70s militant or the present-day anarchist, a series of beautiful poetic streams that can be shouted through a megaphone or whispered to a friend. Equal parts shattering, instructional, and compassionate, di Prima's voice shines through in this masterful collection, and we should all thank the publishing gods that Revolutionary Letters is back in print for us to enjoy, learn from, and ultimately treasure.
With unbridled radiance, Ashley Ford weaves prose around heartstrings and evokes raw empathy with commanding honesty. Growing up impoverished under the rule of a complicated and abusive mother, even the hardest truths surrounding her traumas are recounted with unmitigated integrity. As she navigates a world too quick to show a Black woman its sharpest teeth, it is her linking of the past and present, bound flawlessly by the uninformed idolization of her incarcerated father, that make her revealing journey worth knowing and this impactful memoir worth celebrating.