“There are two things that happen when someone is trying to decide [...] where they are going to put your otherness,” Marra B. Gad writes in her new book The Color of Love. “For some, there is a blankness in the eyes that takes over, as if they are lost in thought,” but for others, “there is an immediate narrowing, a sharpness that engages. And it is because they don’t need to think.” For Marra, these two reactions encompassed much of her world. In the prologue, Marra describes her background as a mixed Jewish woman, half white and half black, who was adopted by a Jewish family in 1970. To Marra, the labels she identifies with don’t matter, shouldn’t matter, yet, “For many, identity is literally a black-and-white matter.” Something that is, or isn’t.
An Ode to Writing
Review: The Intangibles
Coffee House Press, pp. 96
The word “intangible” means “unable to be touched or grasped; not having physical presence.” Elaine Equi’s newest collection of poetry, The Intangibles, is an ode to writers and writing itself, that thing which cannot be grasped but is full of life and creativity and which all writers try to bend to their will, or else let themselves be consumed. Infusing her respect for past writers and the writerly craft, Equi’s simple, well-crafted prose brings the reader on a historical and literary journey, where the influence of and appreciation for past poets enhance the depth of her work.
by Erin Theresa Welsh
The Brutally Beautiful Complexity of Friendships
Review: The Light Source
Erin Theresa Welsh
7.13 Books pp.221
Cost: $12.80 (paperback)
Relationships, no matter what type, are complex. Society sees friendships as one of the strongest relationships that can be established, and romantic relationships are one of the more challenging and delicate things to be a part of. Either way, both seem to be crucially important to human culture, and both tend to have a strong impact on an individual’s life.
Kim Magowan’s novel, The Light Source, is an interestingly realistic and compelling perspective on creating, maintaining, and destroying relationships over a lifetime. Each chapter is a whirlwind of new perspectives and opinions from each character and helps the audience get to know them personally and understand them more. Magowan writes the entire book split into the perspectives of seven of the main characters while the chapters jump through time to give the audience a well-rounded view of the same event surrounding each friend. Though it has a lot of back and forth throughout time and perspectives, it sticks to the main topic of Heather and Julie’s friendship and, eventually, their romantic relationship and how every character’s life ends up panning out. It is like a butterfly effect of one person’s actions or reactions causing a difference in another’s life and eventual outcome.
Finding Sanctity in Suffering
Review: Sacred Groves: Or, How a Cemetery Saved My Soul
Bedazzled Ink Publishing, pp. 262
In her memoir Sacred Groves: Or, How a Cemetery Saved My Soul, Kathleen Davies examines the concept of identity through the lens of a novice female professor. Through her experiences as an outcast and stepping into new territories, Davies finds her purpose in life—ironically in a Victorian graveyard. The cemetery magically holds parallel to her internal battles in ways that are enlightening and serve as a heaven on earth in a world full of uncomfortable encounters. Not only does her muse scream at her, surrounded by mesmerizing architectural beauties in nature, but she has a self-awakening among her observations. Told with poems, witty snippets from her journey, and photographs of headstones and mausoleums taken with her own camera, Davies breathes life into the inanimate statues and lifeless tombs, making the local graveyard her “feminine space,” almost like a garden. By describing such a serene place using textures and voiced appreciations, Davies not only provokes imagination for herself, but also for the reader. She remarkably navigates through the unknown and speaks her truth with such vulnerability, revealing that through suffering, humans often find hidden truths.
Taking Control of One’s Life After Abuse
Review: Reinventing Jenna Rose
Joni Marie Iraci
Fat Dog Books, pp.268
Jenna Rose is a prisoner in her own home. Shut off from the world and abused by her parents, she sees an opportunity to escape across the country and takes it.
Reinventing Jenna Rose is a story of overcoming trauma and taking control of one’s life. We meet Jenna, a lost seventeen-year-old, who is abandoned in her California home once again by her mother, Meghan. For fear of her father and his heinous gaze, Jenna escapes to New York City to find a grandmother she didn't know existed. Through her grandmother, Katherine, Jenna learns of generations of female suffering.
In her debut poetry collection, i shimmer sometimes too, Porsha Olayiwola shares powerful odes to the world that has shaped her identity through the use of honest and suspenseful imagery, creative form, and relatable motifs in today’s society.
Each of us finds a way to cope with the hurdles and pain that life throws our way. Some turn towards their work, others to more destructive means. Then, there’s Josh Denslow. In his collection of stories Not Everyone is Special, Denslow covers a range of topics with his characters: from being a child of divorce, to being a survivor in the aftermath of a friends’ suicide, to being a little person in today’s world. His approach is to use humor not only to build up the narrative in each story, but show how people use it as a form of self-preservation and self-defense in ways that are true to real life, even when he is putting a character in a world where people have superpowers like being able to get the wrinkles out of shirts by patting them down with their hands or extending and retracting their facial hair in real time.
The Complexities of Human Desire
Review: The Wanting Life
Unnamed Press, pp. 315
Cost: $18.00 (paperback)
Imagine the sun setting in a not-so bustling Rome—a glass of Limóncello and fresh risotto in front of you. Your table is small with intricate iron wrought detail, and the world is quiet. There’s a slight summer breeze and a whispering guitar, maybe two, in the background. You can almost hear each wish as it meets the surface of the Trevi Fountain.
Mark Rader transports us, sans jetlag, to a past world of desire and love lost in his unconventional romance novel The Wanting Life. We travel from Cape Code to Italy to a generationally familiar town in Wisconsin, navigating the hearts and minds of Rader’s characters and the threads that pull so heavily on their spirits.
A Deep Dive Into Familial Relationships
Review: The Deeper the Water the Uglier the Fish
Two Dollar Radio, pp. 353
Cost: $16.99 (paperback)
In Katya Apekina’s novel The Deeper the Water the Uglier the Fish, relationships are used to emphasize characterization and create drama within the story. In particular, the novel examines father-daughter relationships, mother-daughter relationships, husband-wife relationships, and artist-muse relationships. Told through numerous first person accounts in the form of narratives, letters, phone conversations, and interviews, Apekina provides the reader with an in depth, up-close look at the intimate intricacies of these relationships and their meanings. The unique structure of this novel allows the reader to see each character’s internal and external struggles and conflicts. These accounts in various forms help create strong characterization and drama within the story.
Humanity has long searched for meaning and truth by looking toward the stars. Poets Steven and Benjamin Ostrowski believe we only need to look within ourselves. This father and son team present what they’ve learned and what they seek to know in their new book Penultimate Human Constellation: A Father and Son Converse in Poems (2018, Tolsun Books). Less an epistolary narrative and more like a private conversation over a long sleepless night, the Ostrowskis embark on their unique quest. We become privy to their efforts.
book reviews by glassworks editorial staff