Author Kazim Ali reminds us that, like layers of sediment in the earth, generations of lives are inscribed within the land around us. In his memoir Northern Light: Power, Land, and the Memory of Water, Ali weaves a detailed meshing of historical events, personal accounts, and his own experiences as he searches for answers to the series of questions that led him to Cross Lake and the Pimicikamak community.
Bringing to Light the Toxic Societal View of Women
Review: Naomi & The Reckoning
Christine Sloan Stoddard
Finishing Line Press, pp. 25
Cost: $14.99 (paperback)
Christine Sloan Stoddard, an American-Salvadoran author based in Brooklyn New York, tells stories in magical and hauntingly beautiful ways. Her topics, which often deal with women and their suppression within society, create real feeling characters and intense moments for her readers to resonate with. Her recent published book, Naomi and the Reckoning, is a firecracker of a novelette. With a mixed media vibe, Stoddard intertwines poems, artwork, and a short story that form a cohesive and memorable read.
Piñata Theory by Alan Chazaro is a collection of poetry, a collection of memory, a collection of what it was and is like to be a Mexican-American.
Chazaro has moments of sincere examination—“Lucha Libre, in Two and ½ Parts,” a poem which is split into two and a half parts, is an example in which he explores how he may have turned out had he been raised in Mexico instead of the United States. He writes:
For the non-Spanish speakers, what Chazaro is saying is: Mexican me might’ve been more ready than American me, might’ve loved more easily than American me.
In this we learn the epicenter, the foundation, for most of the poems is a search for identity. Chazaro thinks: What if I stayed? What if I were raised in Mexico? Who would I have been? These are valid questions for anyone raised outside of their home country.
After seeking help from numerous doctors and specialists, Esme Weijun Wang couldn’t shake the feeling that something was being missed.
Finally, there was a breakthrough during her college years when she was first diagnosed as bipolar the summer before she left for New Haven. And then when her medical records were sent to Stanford she explains, “In the referral authorization itself, I was listed as having two diagnoses: schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type and idiopathic peripheral neuropathy. There was no mention of fibromyalgia, complex PTSD, dysautonomia/POTS, chronic Lyme disease, or any of the other diagnoses I’d received over the years” (185).
Esme Weijun Wang’s 2019 essay collection The Collected Schizophrenias is an engaging journey that deals with a serious topic. The book does a thorough job of educating the reader in this area of health that is commonly misunderstood. The relationship between the author and the text is beautifully captured by including both clinical information and her own personal struggles and triumphs.
The word itself evokes fragility, as well as a certain sense of clarity. It’s easy to conjure the image of stained glass windows in a cathedral, or worn sea glass on the edge of a sprawling beach: both images clear, both images concrete. But what is really “clear” this day in age?
Dobby Gibson’s fourth collection of poetry, entitled Little Glass Planet, asks this very question.
“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.
book reviews by glassworks editorial staff