Ursula K. Le Guin : Words Are My Matter

“Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society & its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, & even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom — poets, visionaries — realists of a larger reality. . .”  Words Are My Matter collects talks, essays, intros to beloved books, & book reviews by Ursula K. Le Guin, one of our foremost public literary intellectuals. It is essential reading, & through the lens of deep considerations of contemporary writing, a way of exploring the world we are all living in.

Susan DeFreitas : Hot Season

An outlaw activist on the run. A pipeline set to destroy a river. And 3 young women who must decide who to love, who to trust, & what to sacrifice for the greater good. Based in part on real events in the Northwest & Southwest in the early 90s & mid-Aughts, Hot Season explores what Oregon Book Award Winner Cari Luna calls “the charged terrain where the youthful search for identity meets the romantic, illicit lure of direct action.”  “Is it worse to destroy a dam or to destroy a river? Which is to say, how do we live our conscience on a crowded, corrupted planet? DeFreitas has captured what it means to be coming of age in a tangle of love, politics & environmental degradation.”–Monica Drake.

Solmaz Sharif : Look

In this virtuosic array of poems, lists, shards, & sequences, Sharif assembles fragmented narratives in the aftermath of war. Those repercussions echo in the present day, the grief for those killed in America’s invasions of Afghanistan & Iraq, the discriminations endured at the checkpoints of daily encounter. At the same time, these poems point to ways violence is conducted against language, employing words lifted from the Department of Defense Dictionary of Military & Associated Terms. Sharif exposes euphemisms deployed to sterilize language, control its effects, & sway our collective resolve, but refuses to accept this terminology as given, instead turning it back on its perpetrators. “Let it matter what we call a thing,” she writes. “Let me look at you.”

Sofia Samatar : The Winged Histories

screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-9-34-05-am“If you love stories but distrust them, if you love language & can also see how it is used as a tool or a weapon in the maintenance of status quo, then read The Winged Histories.”— Marion Deeds, Fantasy Literature;  “Told by four different women, it is a story of war; not epic battles of good & evil, but the attempt to make things right & the realities of violence wielded by one human against another, by one group against another. It’s about the aftermath of war, in which some things are better but others are worse. Above all, it’s a story about love—the terrible love that tears lives apart. Doomed love; impossible love; love that requires a rewriting of the rules, be it for a country, a person, or a story.”— Jenn Northington, Tor.com

Tyehimba Jess : Olio

screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-11-13-00-am“This 21st century hymnal of black evolutionary poetry, this almanac, this theatrical melange of miraculous meta-memory. Tyehimba Jess is inventive, prophetic, wondrous. He writes unflinchingly into the historical clefs of blackface, black sound, human sensibility. After the last poem is read we have no idea how long we’ve been on our knees.”–poet Nikky Finney;  “Olio is one of the most inventive, intensive poetic undertakings of the past decade…The result is a work both historical and musical, scholarly and sculptural.”–Boston Globe


Eliot Weinberger : The Ghosts of Birds

screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-10-27-11-pmA new collection from “one of the world’s great essayists” (The New York Times), The Ghosts of Birds offers 35 new essays by Eliot Weinberger.  He chronicles a 19th century journey down the Colorado River, records the dreams of people named Chang, & shares other factually verifiable discoveries that seem too fabulous to possibly be true. These essays include his notorious review of George W. Bush’s memoir, Decision Points, writings about the I Ching,  & the history of American Indophilia (“There is a line, however jagged, from pseudo-Hinduism to Malcolm X”). This collection proves once again that Weinberger is “one of the bravest and sharpest minds in the U.S.” (Javier Marías).

Pauls Toutonghi : Dog Gone

screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-4-58-35-am“You can’t write about dogs without writing about people. They chose long ago to be our good company in the adventure of being alive, and ever since they’ve served as our mirrors, our teachers, and the most stubbornly loyal of friends. Pauls Toutonghi understands the richness of these bonds. In Dog Gone, this engaging storyteller lights up the ways the love between human and dog brings both species to hilarity, gratitude, deep sorrow and a tenderness so real you can’t help but touch it.” —Mark Doty