Morgan Parker : There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé

Morgan Parker uses political & pop-cultural references as a framework to explore 21st cent. black American womanhood & its complexities: performance, depression, isolation, exoticism, racism, femininity & politics. Parker explores this in the contemporary American political climate, folding in references from jazz standards, visual art, personal family history, & Hip Hop. The voice of this book is a multifarious one: writing & rewriting bodies, stories, & histories of the past, as well as uttering & bearing witness to the truth of the present; actively probing toward a new self, an actualized self. This is a book at the intersections of mythology & sorrow, of vulnerability & posturing, of desire & disgust, of tragedy & excellence.

Melissa Febos : Abandon Me

“Abandon Me is, in many ways, a story about how a woman’s body & the body of literature hold memory. In other ways, Abandon Me is a story about stories. Febos weaves familial stories, feminist stories, communal stories, literary stories & love stories,  revealing much of where she’s been & where we, her readers, might go if we dare. Do we dare? Are we all running away from abandonment? It makes sense that Abandon Me feels completely structurally innovative. Febos has created 21st century text that intimately explores addiction, pain, pleasure & the strangely joyful & terrifying nuances of abandonment. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt more thankful to read a book. Abandon Me found me when I most needed it.” – Kiese Laymon

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,

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