Posts Categorized: Microreviews

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Microreview: Allegra Hyde’s Of This New World

Of This New World by Allegra Hyde (University of Iowa Press, 2016)

At the end of “Free Love,” the third story in Allegra Hyde’s award-winning collection, the narrator, Almond, reflects on her lingering sense of alienation in her grandmother’s household: “But I still feel strung out, loose, like a fish on land, or a girl on the moon, or a flower no one recognizes taking root in an unexpected place” (39). This line encapsulates the ambivalent condition of the collection’s protagonists: They are unrecognizable flowers, girls on the moon, struggling to feel anchored as their quests for utopia falter.

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Microreview: Chinelo Okparanta’s Under the Udala Trees

Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015)

Chinelo Okparanta’s novel Under the Udala Trees opens with a vivid depiction of Nigeria’s civil war through the eyes of coming-of-age protagonist Ijeoma. A child at the war’s beginning in 1967, Ijeoma is sent by her mother to live with a grammar-school teacher and his wife under the assumption she will be safer with them. The circumstances of this foster care arrangement are fairly grim, and yet Ijeoma’s relative good fortune is thrown into sharp relief through the images of warfare around her: decapitated bodies flanking streets, starving children with swollen bellies, a still-live boy rising in shock from a pile of corpses.

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Microreview: Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib’s The Crown Ain’t Worth Much

The Crown Ain’t Worth Much by Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib (Button Poetry, 2016)

I don’t want to imagine how many strangled nights Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib spent thrashing inside the belly of death to give us The Crown Ain’t Worth Much, but I am immensely grateful he survived them with a soul as expansive and rich as found in this debut collection of poetry. This collection carries a fierce duende, a juggernaut unafraid to tie your body “to a truck in east texas” and drag it “through that jagged metal holy land so you can meet god clean”. The Crown Ain’t Worth Much is not so much a book you read, but one you survive—with Willis-Abdurraqib’s compassionate, elegiac lyric gently pushing you forward through heartbreak and violence.

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Microreview: Cori A. Winrock’s This Coalition of Bones

This Coalition of Bones by Cori A. Winrock (Kore Press, 2014)

When I read this collection, I was fascinated by the spine and its injuries. How perpetual pressure can force the spinal discs to wear away, how a rupture can seep into its surroundings—pinching nerves and birthing a relentless pain. Spinal discs are made to burden the daily compression and decompression caused by movement, but one instance of physical trauma or consistent strain can arrive at the same endpoint. This Coalition of Bones by Cori A. Winrock spoke to these themes, presented poems both compressing and decompressing in a motion filled with insistent musicality and unrelenting gentleness.

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Microreview: Sara Majka’s Cities I’ve Never Lived In

Cities I’ve Never Lived In by Sara Majka (A Public Space/Graywolf Press, 2016)

 

Early in Sara Majka’s short story collection, Cities I’ve Never Lived In, the protagonist, Anne, gets the sudden urge to tell a former lover about a high school friend of hers: “I wanted to tell him how I had cared for his person, Eli, who had shown me a painting but had disappeared. About how lonely I had been in Jonesport. Saying it simply so he would understand.” “Saying it simply so we understand” is the best phrase I can find to describe the consciousness of these fourteen linked stories, where “simply” doesn’t mean “easily,” or “lacking in complexity,” but, rather, a letting go of posturing and pretense. There’s no caginess, no strain toward profundity. No sarcasm or show-offy wit. Read more…