“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.
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.
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.
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.
Seemingly Simple Reflections of Life
Review: Driving Together
Robert Tyler Sheldon
Meadow-Lark Books, pp. 84
In his poetry collection, Driving Together, Tyler Robert Sheldon shares personal observations of seemingly simple moments in his life: observations on a hummingbird, a physical scar, yard work, and graduate school. Spanning all of these subjects, Sheldon’s poems use crisp imagery and storytelling. Through his prevalent themes of childhood experiences, the nature of Kansas, and the relationship to his wife, Sheldon reveals to his readers an unexpected depth to life’s simplicity by use of imagery.
As an avid reader, it has been a long time since I was so heavily engaged in a novel that my physical grip tightened by suspense and bent the pages. This was my experience reading True Ash, full of such vivid imagery that the reader is taken into a different world. Colen and Guess's writing not only plays mental mind games with readers, but questions the terms of genre as well. This novel is a combination of short stories, flash fiction, and prose poetry that all coincide with each other creating a luring uncanniness that hooks readers.
Transformation and Letting Go in the Las Vegas Valley
Review: Echo Bay
Tolsun Books, pp. 48
Cost: $10.00 (paperback)
Chasing Permanent, Chasing Change
Review: Permanent for Now
Jeffrey S. Markovitz
Unsolicited Press, pp. 129
Cost: $20.99 (paperback)
The first chapter of Jeffery S. Markovitz’s new novel contains just two words: He died.
This short statement is startling, but not altogether surprising for a story that centers around the events of World War II-era Germany, when death came for millions. In two short words, Markovitz not only sets the tone for the rest of the novel, but also lays the groundwork for a well-crafted twist at the end. The words reverberate as we are introduced to each new character, wondering, Is it him? Is he the one who died?
The Pain of Living
Headmistress Press, pp. 30
Sarah Caulfield's words dig beneath our flesh and go straight to the bone in her collection of poetry, SPINE (2017). Caulfield’s first book beautifully weaves together powerful images of blood and bone, plus themes of religion, chronic illness, and guilt, pulling on the reader's heartstrings and commanding empathy. The repeated themes make it clear that these topics are very important to Caulfield, and are ones often swept under the rug instead of spoken about in society.
The collection was titled after it was pointed out to Caulfield that “spine” is the most used word throughout the entire work. The spine is the center of the body, and when it hurts, it becomes hard to operate under the expectations of society. Similarly, the spine plays a focal role in the collection, as Caulfield reinforces within her poem “To the Girl I Was” when she writes, “My spine is made of beach glass. It will withstand.” Caulfield’s spine is strong, readers will agree, after reading through her collection and understanding the narrator’s struggles.
The Other Side of the American Dream
Review: Don't Call Us Dead
One aspect that makes poetry such a powerful form is how it is often used to tackle pertinent and even controversial topics. Race and sexuality are two timely issues, and Danez Smith tackles both of them in his book of poetry Don’t Call Us Dead. As a gay, black man in America, Smith has a unique perspective that shapes much of what he writes. In some ways, his poems speak to a very particular demographic and yet, they ring true for larger audiences.
book reviews by glassworks editorial staff