What do you do when your long-term boyfriend’s dad might be dying? Well, you get married quick so he can make it, of course. You were already headed in that direction—I mean, you’re practically living together as it is. What harm could it do? He’s a nice guy, he just has a few quirks, but nothing you can’t handle. I’m sure the Catholic thing won’t come up much.
Joanna Rose’s novel, A Small Crowd of Strangers, asks and answers the age-old question: “What happens if I marry the wrong person?” Rose paints a quaint life for Pattianne Anthony—a small town librarian with a casual sex life, a smoking habit, and a family that communicates with a series of unspoken words, if they communicate at all. All of that changes when she meets Michael Bryn, the choir boy who can do no wrong. Rose takes us on a spiritual journey with Pattianne as we begin to see that sometimes religion and identity can become one and the same.
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.
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.