New Pages: Winter 2022
Dig into a fresh stack of books by English and Creative Writing faculty and alums.
The Return of Faraz Ali [fiction]
From the New York Times: "The vacuum where consequences should be is the setting of Aamina Ahmad’s quietly stunning debut novel, The Return of Faraz Ali— stunning not only on account of the writer’s talent, of which there is clearly plenty, but also in its humanity, in how a book this unflinching in its depiction of class and institutional injustice can still feel so tender.... Over the sweep of the novel’s middle, and especially in its quiet yet crushing conclusion, the fullness of the characters and their intersecting lives makes this far more than a murder mystery."
The Experiment Will Not Be Bound [poetry]
Unbound Edition, 2022
From Kirkus Reviews: "Although William H. Gass’ novel The Tunnel (1995) was published as a traditionally bound book, it was first conceived as an unbound volume, presented as if it were a series of papers shuffled together at random. This concept served as the inspiration for this collection of writing, which pushes the boundaries of what types of writing a single anthology may contain.... Featuring such items as fake book reviews, micro-essays, flash fiction, and stories written completely in dialogue. At nearly 350 pages, there are certainly plenty of compelling combinations here, and their inherent randomness is part of the fun. A bold, build-your-own anthology with some impressive names and inspired pieces."
Random House, January 3, 2023
From Publishers Weekly: "Ganeshananthan (Love Marriage) offers a searing and intimate depiction of the Sri Lankan civil war from the point of view of an aspiring doctor. In 1981, 15-year-old Sashi Kulenthiren is studying for her A Levels. Her father, a civil servant, works far from their home in Jaffna, leaving her, her mother, and four brothers on their own.... Later, Sashi wins admittance to medical school, and two of her brothers join the Tigers. As both the Tigers and the Indian peacekeepers commit atrocities, and Sashi’s non-Tiger younger brother is detained by the government, her family urges her to immigrate to England. Ganeshananthan credibly captures the horrors and pain of the conflict felt by those caught between loyalties. It all makes for a convincing and illuminating war novel."
The Women Could Fly [fiction]
From the Washington Post: “The Women Could Fly is an absolute triumph. It takes place in a world like ours, but where laws against witchcraft are still routinely used to police women. Any unmarried woman over age 30 is suspected of witchcraft and placed under surveillance and may no longer be able to hold down a job. Nobody seems entirely sure whether witchcraft is real, and the laws are applied inconsistently, which feels all too believable. Giddings conjures up a world that feels familiar, despite the increasingly creepy hints of dystopia. And along the way, she shows what the anti-witch crusaders really fear most: our ability to create a better world if we work together."
Optic Subwoof [essays]
Wave Books, 2022
From Ploughshares: "Optic Subwoof gathers the lectures Douglas Kearney gave during 2020 and 2021, mainly over Zoom, for the Bagley Wright Lecture Series. Unusually for books on poetry and poetics, Optic Subwoof devotes considerable space and intellectual power to the topic of poetry readings. Besides the book’s other virtues, its final chapter is the most interesting take I have ever read—I may as well say the only interesting take I have ever read—on the modern poetry reading.... As [the Dadaists] attacked the institution of 'art' for its complicity in the butchery of the First World War, Kearney’s prose and poetry are mindful interventions in a society that seems capable of any kind of violence in support of a racism whose existence it denies."
The University of North Carolina Press, 2022
From the publisher: "In this book, Josephine Lee looks at the intertwined racial representations of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American theater. In minstrelsy, melodrama, vaudeville, and musicals, both white and African American performers enacted blackface characterizations alongside oriental stereotypes of opulence and deception, comic servitude, and exotic sexuality.... These interlocking cross-racial impersonations offer fascinating insights into habits of racial representation both inside and outside the theater."
Milestones in Asian American Theatre
From the publisher: "This introduction to Asian American theatre charts ten of the most pivotal moments in the history of the Asian diaspora in the USA and how those moments have been reflected in theatre. Designed for weekly use on Asian American theatre courses, ten chosen milestones move chronologically from the earliest contact between Japan and the West through the impact of the Vietnam War and the resurgent 'yellow peril' hysteria of COVID-19. Each chapter emphasizes common questions of how racial identities and relationships are understood in everyday life as well as represented on the theatrical stage and in popular culture."
If I Survive You [fiction]
MCD/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2022
From NPR: "[I]t's a special year when a debut breaks out of this distinguished pack and takes an early lead for its originality, heart, wit, and sweeping social vision. The debut I'm cheering on is called If I Survive You, by Jonathan Escoffery, and the 'you' his characters are trying to survive is America itself. If I Survive You is composed of eight interconnected short stories about a Jamaican family living in Florida.... If I Survive You is an extraordinary debut collection, an intensively granular, yet panoramic depiction of what it's like to try to make it—or not—in this kaleidoscopic madhouse of a country."
The Ski Jumpers [fiction]
University of Minnesota Press, 2022
From the Star Tribune: "After receiving a diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer's, English professor Jon Bargaard has good reason to stop working on the book he's trying to write. If ever there was a good excuse for writer's block, this is it. He's also having trouble resolving family issues; his transcendent memories of childhood ski jumping are only notes in a drawer; and what's more, he doesn't want to hurt anyone, particularly his wife, with what he dredges up from his past. But like a ski jumper blending takeoff with stall to reach a perfect telemark landing—Jon must merge his past with his present to ready himself for an uncertain future.... If Geye is Minnesota's Thoreau, then his Pond is a frozen lake. He writes so fetchingly of Minnesota in the wintertime that the state's tourism department should distribute his books."
Tarpaulin Sky Press, 2022
From Heavy Feather Review: "Göransson conceived of Summer in Sweden, at the home of biologist Fredrik Sjöberg, while observing a portrait by Anton Dich. The painting is eerie, as Dich’s two subjects punctuate the flora with cruel facial angularity. What resulted from his viewing is a bladed, sparkling, caustic book of poetry that shoots its hooks through your nose to pull you in by the brain.... Animated, rabid, the icon 'summer' twists in and out of concentration, airborne and rich. Horrifying beams pour from a hole in the sky and drench these poems in ambiguity. This ambiguity is the illness we share. Tons of garbage seethe—volcanic warts on the ocean’s hands. Summer isn’t here to assuage us or pitch seamless resolutions for the agony of waking life."
Deathless Gods [fiction]
Baen Books, 2022
From Sword & Sorcery Newsletter: "Deathless Gods, volume 10 in P. C. Hodgell’s long-running God Stalker Chronicles, follows Jame and her brother Torisen and their not-quite-human people the Kencyrath, fled to the world of Rathillien.... We’ll be meeting any number of returning and brand-new characters, while somewhere in the background looms the shadow of Perimal Darkling and the losing war the Kencyrath have fought for the past 30,000 years, which might finally be getting ready to come to a head. [T]his is absolutely not a stand-alone book.... But these books, all the way back to the beginning in the archaic past of 1982, have been an absolute delight to read over the years."
This Was The Decade I Kept Getting Stabbed [fiction chapbook]
The Cupboard, 2022
From the publisher: "There is no loss worse—or more laughable—than your own. Both absurd and upfront, John Jodzio’s This Was the Decade I Kept Getting Stabbed measures out the means by which you will be swindled and suckered. In these thirteen tales, deer attempt to destroy city council candidates, youth groups bet on a gospel promise of cornhole retribution, and beloved bears swipe bicycles out from under their riders. Your comeuppance is coming, whether you want it or not. Is there any escape? Perhaps. Look right into life’s creepy eyes, remember your favorite pet’s positive life lessons, and think: I like you, I like you."
The Girl in Duluth [fiction]
Independently published, 2022
From the Portland Book Review: "With an atmospheric setting in a remote and densely forested patch of Minnesota adjacent to the Canadian border, The Girl in Duluth tells the evocative and often troubling tale of a rural community populated by families with rumbling resentments and several secrets to hide. Following her mother’s disappearance and the local police force’s apparent inability to crack the case, eighteen-year-old June Bergeron decides to undertake her own investigation. She soon becomes suspicious that her mother’s case might be linked to a series of unsolved murders...and she finds herself drawn into the hidden underbelly of the city, a grimy place characterized by poverty, exploitation, and abuse."
Real Work [poetry]
Nodin Press, 2022
From the publisher: "The poems in Janna Knittel's new collection describe family life on the farm, celebrate natural environments that inspire deeply, process childhood emotions with the help of decades of living, and quietly assuage the wounds suffered due to personal crisis and loss.... Locales in Oregon and Minnesota surface: Grand Portage, Isle Royale. Grief arrives with the unexpected death of an older and much admired sister. The details are sketchy but the pain is palpable. A lyric gravity infuses these stark yet often lovely pieces. The 'real work' required on the farm has been transformed repeatedly into acts of literary precision and emotional honesty."
Airmail: A Story of War in Poems [poetry]
Independently published, 2022
From Vietnam Veterans of America Books in Review: "A great example of how letters and conversations can be turned into stunning poetry. Patrick shares the words and thoughts of seven uncles who served in the military, five of them in Southeast Asia during the American war in Vietnam. This is 'a book about going off to war, a book about coming back home,' she says, 'and a book about those who are left behind.' The forty poems are divided into three sections: Leaving, Airmail, and Surviving. It’s always cool to see letters sent home from war turned into poems. They become letters from America sent back to America. Kathleen Patrick shows us what it can look like when it’s done poetically and done right."
Conversations with Birds: The Metaphysics of Bird and Human Communication
Bear & Company, 2022
From the publisher: "For decades Alan Powers has studied bird vocalizations, developing the remarkable ability to imitate birds’ songs and get them to respond.... Exploring the intertwined metaphysics of bird and human languages, Powers looks at the long-standing tradition of 'avitherapy' throughout history, literature, and the arts. He shares insights into birds from Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson, reveals how birds appear in love songs throughout the world, and examines how famous writers such as Keats, Catullus, St. Francis of Assisi, and the French historian Jules Michelet found that talking to birds improves their state of mind."
From the publisher: "Exploring Verne’s modern legacy, this study shows how subsequent generations of artists and writers took on Around the World in Eighty Days as an adaptable guidebook to the modern world. It investigates how Verne’s work leads its reader beyond the book itself. It considers Verne’s place in world literature, traces some of the many real reenactments of Verne’s itinerary, and recalls the theatrical adaptations of Verne’s story. Published to coincide with the 500th anniversary of the first circumnavigation and the 150th anniversary of Verne’s novel, this book offers new insights into the largely overlooked influence of Verne on twentieth-century literature and culture and on the field of global modernism."
Dirty Doc Ames and the Scandal that Shook Minneapolis
Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2018
From the Star Tribune: "Doc Ames earned the city widespread infamy when journalist Lincoln Steffens detailed Ames’ gangster rule for a national audience. Published in McClure’s Magazine in 1903, Steffens’ 'The Shame of Minneapolis' is a tough slog. Not so this book, which is a vivid and rollicking account that gives the Ames saga its rightful place in Minnesota political history. Upon taking office, Ames appointed his brother to run the police department. The police force overseen by the Ames brothers became a protection racket.... Rivenes describes how a concerned citizenry, energetic press, and crusading grand jury brought down the Ames machine, and by 1902 the mayor was a fugitive."
Masato's Garden [picture book]
Clavis Publishing, 2022
From the publisher: "A soothing book about loved ones and the quiet power of meditation in nature. Masato’s garden is unlike any other garden Johnny has ever seen. There are no pretty flowers and no vegetables either. It’s a garden of big rocks, tiny pebbles, and a spout of trickling water. Masato invites Johnny to sit there with him and take a moment to think about his sick grandfather."
Noah and His Wagon [picture book]
Clavis Publishing, 2022
From Booklist: "Paloma is lonely and glum after her best friend moves away. While on a walk around the block, the child offers a friendly smile and says hola to a boy pulling a little red wagon. Noah invites Paloma’s dog, Bucket, to join his cat, Mitzvah, for a ride.... Realistic conversations flow naturally between the children as they become acquainted, swap stories, and answer each other’s questions. Paloma notices Noah’s genuine gestures of thoughtfulness and the meaningful connections he makes with people of all ages in their neighborhood.... A warmhearted picture book about building community one act of kindness at a time."
Owen’s Day with Daddy [picture book]
Clavis Publishing, 2022
From Kirkus Reviews: "With a little extra love from his dad, Owen adjusts to becoming a new big brother. Owen’s dad and baby brother sweetly play together until Owen, overcome with jealousy, cries out, 'I want to do something with you, Daddy!' Dad responds to the child’s hurt with validation and calm. They decide to do three fun things: feed ducks at the park, go down the big slide at the playground, and order cheeseburgers at the drive-thru. Within these simple activities, Owen is reminded of his deep connection to his father while practicing skills he can apply to older brotherhood (like nurturing ducklings and braving his fears of an unfamiliar challenge)."
Groundglass [lyric essay]
Coffee House Press, 2022
From Publishers Weekly: "Poet Savage combines memoir with environmental and social commentary in her haunting debut, an account of the damage wrought by industrial waste. 'The volume of polluted places' in America 'overwhelms,' she writes, citing the 1,322 sites on the EPA’s Superfund National Priority List in addition to another 450,000 active brownfields, or 'old polluted industrial sites.' Savage grew up and still lives near waste sites in Minnesota and uses her father’s terminal stomach cancer, possibly caused by pollution, as a through line as she explores fears of what might be happening in her own body, and the racist history behind where waste sites were placed.... It makes for a work of both elegiac beauty and horror, with no end in sight. This one’s tough to forget."