As a writer and teacher, Erin is devoted to poetry. She also loves novels that shake her out of place and let her experience the world through their characters. Short stories, essays, memoirs, and great children’s books round out her favorite reading experiences.
Rosie Monroe is just 18 and escaping a childhood of neglect and trauma when she meets and falls for a much older man. This novel is full of plot twists wrapped around serious issues, including classcism, misogyny, abuse, and extreme poverty. Rosie finds herself trapped in an uncompromising landscape. I couldn't put this novel down, and now that I've finished I can't stop thinking about it. The story is visceral; every step deeper into the woods brings beauty, rage, and madness, and Rosie is a character you won't forget.
Written in Italian and translated into English by Lahiri, her prose has all the delightful flavor of the Italian city her character calls home. This novel is a meditation on solitude, what it means to move through the world as a woman alone, growing older, reckoning with past wounds and facing a future without a family to buoy her. I was entranced by the novel's form and the poignancy of the narrator's situation. An incredibly graceful book.
Tough, funny, and heartrending, Espada's poems are about growing up, family, and what it means to be seen as "other." He uses a prose- poem structure that's accessible and subtly striking. "Asking Questions of the Moon" is just one of the many in this collection that stays with me. Espada's is a voice of love and of protest. Don't miss this book.
This memoir by the former U.S. Poet Laureate is a heartbreaking account of her young mother's murder at the hands of Trethewey's stepfather. It's an urgent and honest exploration of loss and survivor's guilt, and how trauma is carried in our bodies as well as in our hearts. This story is difficult and trauma survivors should be aware of possible triggers.
Biss masterfully examines the advantages of white America, and its prejudicial impact on our educational, judicial, and socioeconomic systems. Written more than a decade ago, Notes from No Man's Land is a must-read alongside current texts informing white society's political wakening.
This novel is a poetic, lush rendering of a parent/child relationship between an older widower and the young girl he's hired to return to biological parents years after she's been taken captive by and assimilated into a Kiowa tribe. Set in the western territories in the 1800s, the quiet force of this book, its humor and pathos, had me spellbound.
I was surprised by and taken with this novel. Set in the 1500s, it's the love story between a young playwright and his unconventional bride. When their son dies suddenly, their marriage faces the hardest test of all. Based loosely on Shakespeare's life and work, the novel isn't so much about him, but about how his absence affects his marriage.
Set in the small farming community of Holt, Colorado, this novel weaves together the lives of a pregnant teen, a high school teacher, two boys abandoned by their mother, and two elderly bachelors. This is storytelling without pretense-- Haruf even forgoes quotation marks-- allowing the courage and compassion of his characters to shine. If you're looking for a novel about ordinary people and the grace they show one another in difficult circumstances, this is it. Be sure to follow it with Eventide and Benediction, the other two novels in the trinity.
Chang brilliantly uses the obituary as a formal structure for her exploration of grief. The loss of her mother arrives again and again in ordinary, everyday guises. Heartbreaking and at times darkly funny, this collection will appeal not only to poets but to anyone who's lost a loved one.
If you want to see what American poets are "getting up to," as this year's guest editor Paisley Rekdal puts it, you'll find a good sampling here. Every year I look forward to the newest anthology in this series; Rekdal, the first Asian American poet to curate, has included a great, diverse array of voices here.
A wonderful education in cooking! Nosrat makes it fun to try new recipes in this instructional and approachable how-to. Gorgeously illustrated-- and the recipe for buttermilk roast chicken is the best I've ever made.
This novel, about a young scientist working to discover a solution to conquer addiction, grapples with loss, depression, rage, and faith. Raised evangelical, her relationship to God is tested after she loses the person she loves most. What can be solved by science, and what is unanswerable? "Transcendence, holiness, redemption"--I was moved by this story from one of our new, most gifted storytellers.
A new collection by former Washington State Poet Laureate Kathleen Flenniken! These poems navigate loss, fear, and growing older, and also examine white America's romantic view of the past. I loved this so much I blurbed it!
Parents behaving badly! This fun page-turner pokes at privilege and anxiety in the realm of K-12 education. It's a snarky delight to watch the wind-up and dizzying fall.
At the end of the Civil War, Simon, a 23 year-old soldier conscripted into the Confederate army, escapes from his regiment and, with his ragged musician friends, struggles to make a home and a living in the worst of circumstances. Simon dreams of a place of his own with the woman he loves by his side. Fans of Jiles' News of the World will enjoy the characters and rich texture of this story.
Davis's second full-length collection is full of tenderness and music. These poems are about family and fatherhood; they consider the lives lived and lost by Black men and boys in America; and the grace of love against fear, anger, and hurt. Night Angler is a moving experience.
Set in New York City’s Chinatown at the end of World War II, this reissue of Louis Chu’s Eat a Bowl of Tea is the story of Ben Loy and Mei Oi, a young couple entered into a marriage arranged by their “bachelor” fathers in America and their mothers in China. Their promising match immediately faces trouble: because of his impotency, she strays, and the consequences threaten to unravel not only their marriage but precarious relationships within their society. Part history lesson and part soap-opera, Chu’s characters are alive in their use of language (I learned a new way to swear!), their humor, bravado, and woundedness. Changing traditions propel this page-turner of a love story.
Actor Willis Wu feels like a background character in his own life. As an Asian American, he's been assigned the role of the overlooked. This innovative novel (it's written in screenplay form) is a darkly funny, sad, and poignant story that follows Wu as he gets ready for his breakout role. Thought-provoking and throughly enjoyable.
These selected poems by former U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey come together in a must-have collection. A master of form and story, Trethewey weaves together history and personal narrative in ways that never fail to move me. Her Pulitzer prize winning collection, NATIVE GUARD, is included in these pages. Highly recommended!
This psychological thriller is an absolutely hair-raising page-turner! A group of young filmmakers travels to a village left empty some 50 years ago, in search of answers to the mysterious disappearance of all of the villagers following a gruesome murder. Their quest leads them to the brink. Who or what is observing their every movement?
Bierds, a professor in the creative writing program at the University of Washington, regularly draws on historical figures for her poems. In this, her latest collection, she focuses on Alan Turing, the brilliant scientist and WWII codebreaker who was persecuted for being homosexual. Bierds uses innovative poetic forms to masterful effect, mirroring Turing's coding. Her work is precise and empathic.
Ruefle's poems unfailingly delight me. Surprising at every turn, these unfussy little meditations remind me to look and listen more closely to the world.