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Yvonne C. Garrett

YVONNE C. GARRETT holds an MLIS (Palmer), an MFA (The New School), two MAs (NYU), and is currently working on a PhD in History & Culture at Drew University where her dissertation focuses on women & gender identity in 1980s American punk rock. She is Senior Fiction Editor at Black Lawrence Press.

Building Ships Out of Matchsticks

Anakana Schofield’s bold second novel Martin John centers on a deeply disturbed man who has been exiled to London by his mother after an “incident” in Ireland involving a young girl.

Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here

Brian Evenson—nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award, finalist for the Edgar Award and the World Fantasy Award, winner of the International Horror Guild Award, the American Library Association’s award for Best Horror Novel, and recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and three O. Henry Awards—is considered a master of American horror.

Deb Olin Unferth's Wait Till You See Me Dance: Stories

It's been said that most people live small lives of quiet desperation. While this is true of many of the people in her stories, Deb Olin Unferth writes their desperation large. Reviews of Unferth’s new collection, Wait Till You See Me Dance...

Sherman Alexie's You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir

Sherman Alexie recently posted a frank letter on his Facebook page explaining why he was canceling the rest of his book tour.

Nancy Lord's pH: A Novel

Although Nancy Lord has been writing powerfully about our role in the destruction of our natural environment for a long while, this is the first full-length fiction by the famed Alaska naturalist and former Alaska Writer Laureate (2008-10).

Darcy Steinke's Suicide Blonde

I first read Darcey Steinke’s Suicide Blonde at some point in the 1990s. I was around the same age as Steinke’s protagonist, Jesse, and although my life had taken a different trajectory, I remember recognizing too much of myself in Jesse.

Chris Kraus’s After Kathy Acker

Kathy Acker’s influence over an entire generation of disaffected young women has yet to be fully explored, but with Chris Kraus’s new biography, Acker’s importance as a writer is finally being acknowledged.

Laura Jane Grace and Dan Ozzi’s Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout

The first thing you need to know about this memoir is that it gets better. Not only does life get better for Laura Jane Grace (née Tom Gabel), but the book itself gets better.

Thisbe Nissen's Our Lady of the Prairie

In Our Lady of the Prairie, Thisbe Nissen’s rambunctious and roving new novel (her third), Nissen weaves several disparate narratives into what she calls a “crazy quilt” of a novel—emphasis on “crazy.

Denis Johnson’s The Largesse of the Sea Maiden: Stories

Denis Johnson (1949-2017) was, as many critics would agree, one of the most important American writers of the last several decades. While many cite Jesus’ Son (1992) as his best work (it is likely his best-known), he wrote nine novels, a few plays, several essays, and many volumes of poetry.

Tommy Orange's There There

When Margaret Atwood, Marlon James, and Louise Erdrich rave about a book before its release, it had better live up to the hype and Tommy Orange’s debut, There There very much does.

Shelley Jackson’s Riddance

Every once in a while a book comes along that merits special attention. Shelley Jackson’s Riddance; or, The Sybil Joines Vocational School for Ghost Speakers and Hearing-Mouth Children is one of those books.

Lydia Kiesling’s The Golden State

Daphne’s isolation in Altavista is deepened by a lack of WiFi, which makes it difficult for her to Skype with her husband. While at a café with WiFi, Daphne meets the ninety-plus Alice, who speaks some Turkish. Hearing her husband’s language encourages Daphne to reach out, and the women develop an awkward friendship; some of the only moments of adult intimacy in the novel. Alice’s grudging kindness and abrupt way of speaking make a great counterpoint to Daphne’s frenetic energy.

Ivelisse Rodriguez’s Love War Stories

The women in Ivelisse Rodriguez’s debut collection differ in age, opportunity, and background but all share one commonality: they want to believe in love. But in a culture where they are taught that to be in love, to be desired by a man, is paramount and that little else matters, it is difficult for any woman to survive. Rodriguez’s women (and one boy) are complex, well-wrought, but cannot teach us anything except perhaps how to believe in or to survive love. These nine stories present a complex, multifaceted, and somewhat connected narrative of Puerto Rican life.

Roy Scranton’s We’re Doomed. Now What? Essays on War and Climate Change

I first met Roy Scranton when he was at The New School. He was finishing up one degree on his way to more and I was an editor at the MFA program’s journal, LIT. He gave me a story to read that I loved so much I championed it and we ran it. This wasn’t some great victory—Scranton’s a great writer. His mastery of language is apparent from the first time you open of any of his books. So when I pitched this review to my editor I thought it would be a wholly enjoyable experience: reading a writer who understands language writing about the most pressing issue(s) of our time.

May-Lee Chai's Useful Phrases for Immigrants

The eight stories in this collection feature varied characters in different states of diaspora each with their own powerful voice. Set in both China and the United States, not all of Chai's characters are immigrants, but each suffers from different kinds of displacement. With a vision that is both sharp and compassionate, Chai allows us to see just what it is to be “different” in a world that embraces conformity.

Kim Sagwa's Mina

Kim Sagwa's English-language debut is both a difficult and complex read. Loosely comparable to the Mean Girls and Pretty Little Liars genre with tones of Bright Lights, Big City, the novel focuses on two young women failing to cope with their lives and with each other. Set in South Korea’s “P City,” Mina and her sometimes-best-friend Crystal suffer pressures common to most teens and while also specific to South Korea. These are girls of privilege whose parents are mostly absent but expect perfect grades, perfect performance. Driven and lost with virtually no adult supervision, the end can only be tragic.

Armonía Somers's The Naked Woman

Originally published in 1950, this slim novel packs a major wallop. Somers (1914 – 1994, pen name for Armonía Liropeya Etchepare Locino) was a Uruguayan writer, pedagogue, and a major force in Latin American feminism. And although she was a prolific writer, this publication of The Naked Woman is Somers only novel translated into English.

Sophie Mackintosh's The Water Cure

Every once in a while a book comes along that is so powerful, so replete with well-sculpted prose and telling such an urgent narrative that I find it impossible to put down. Sophie Mackintosh’s debut novel is just such a book. I want everyone to read it, especially every woman, every writer.

Marlon James's Black Leopard, Red Wolf

There is a depth of storytelling and world-creating in Black Leopard, Red Wolf that rivals Beowulf, Lord of the Rings, EarthSea, or even Dune. This is fantasy at is most complicated, entertaining, and mythically weighty.

Abi Andrews's The Word for Woman is Wilderness

Some years back a friend told me I had to see Sean Penn’s film Into the Wild (2007) based on Jon Krakauer’s biography of Christopher McCandless, a privileged young white man who gave up his worldly goods to journey into the Alaskan wilderness.

Elvia Wilk’s Oval

Elvia Wilk’s debut novel Oval is a speculative meditation on the evil humans do—to the planet and to each other. It’s also a distinctly millennial love story and a sometimes sharp and sometimes meandering critique of modern society.

Edwidge Danticat’s Everything Inside: Stories

Danticat’s writing is language stripped bare which lets her stories and characters breathe. There is a rising intensity in these stories from the first sentence of the first page that draws the reader in and demands we pay attention.

Cutting Edge: New Stories of Mystery and Crime by Women Writers

Cutting Edge: New Stories of Mystery and Crime By Women Writers is a patriarchy-challenging collection of noir by women. Not all of these tales are told from a woman’s perspective, nor are they all presenting a feminist perspective, but most are wonderfully wrought, chilling tales of revenge, redemption, the evil that men do, and just what these women do about it.

Emily St. John Mandel’s The Glass Hotel

There is a complex grace to The Glass Hotel that’s often lacking from contemporary fiction, particularly contemporary thriller fiction. It’s not simply Mandel’s deft prose, her ability to write Dickensian networks of coincidence, but her keen observation of human behavior: our fears, our dreams, what drives us, and what might ultimately destroy or save each of us.

Mary South’s You Will Never Be Forgotten

These 10 stories focus on a variety of unrelated characters grappling with loss, violence, sexual jealousy, and the terrible ways technology can be wielded in a data-dependent world.

Tracy O’Neill’s Quotients

In a recent interview, O’Neill focuses on the paradigm of what she calls “watchedness”—the state of watching and being watched; a state many of us find ourselves in right now. The novel’s critique of internet privacy is of course vital and current, but so is the notion that all of us, everywhere are watching and being watched—all the time. Living in a city on lockdown, where we are encouraged to report our neighbors who may not be practicing “safe social distancing” and where we are encouraged to self-isolate, to only connect through technology, makes O’Neill’s critique seem almost soft.

Kathy Valentine’s All I Ever Wanted

Whenever I read a celebrity memoir, I ask myself, “Why does this story matter? What can readers learn from this?” There has to be more to a celebrity memoir than just tales of sex, drugs, name dropping, fame, and survival. What Valentine provides is not only a thorough accounting of her harrowing childhood, her hard-fought rise to stardom, subsequent collapse and redemption; she provides a window into an important part of rock history.

Camille A. Collins: The Exene Chronicles

While offering a slice of punk rock nostalgia around influential punk band X and frontwoman Exene Cervenka, the book also explores racism, sexuality, and the ways society often positions young women as transactional commodities with their worth based on their whiteness, their appearance, and their ability to please men.

Ursula K. Le Guin’s No Time to Spare

When Ursula K. Le Guin died earlier this year, some obituaries referred to her as a “leading fantasy” writer, but some were smart enough to simply call her what she was: one of our greatest writers.

In Conversation

TO THROW AWAY UNOPENED: VIV ALBERTINE with Yvonne C. Garrett

Viv Albertine is an erudite and elegant woman, an accomplished writer whose first book, the 2014 Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys.: A Memoir achieved both critical and popular acclaim. Apart from her writing career, Albertine is best–known as a member of the British all–women punk band, The Slits.

Living on the Borderlines: Stories, by Melissa Michal and Sabrina & Corina: Stories, by Kali Fajardo-Anstine

There’s a lot of talk these days about the need to listen to marginalized voices and yet so many of us continue to limit our reading–by chance, circumstance, or desire–to narratives written by and for a largely white literary audience.

Emily Hashimoto's A World Between

In 2004, Eleanor Suzuki sees Leena Shah in an elevator in their college dorm. For Eleanor, it’s love at first sight (or at least young lust); Leena isn’t so sure. From that moment, we see the development of their friendship, intense love affair, its collapse, and later coincidental meetings that complicate both their lives.

Meg Wolitzer’s The Female Persuasion

Much has already been written about Meg Wolitzer’s lengthy new novel The Female Persuasion, calling it everything from the “Great American Novel” in the New Yorker to retro elitist white middle-class feminism. I would argue that this novel is neither of those but exhibits both elements of genius and significant limitations for a twenty-first century feminist novel.

Deb Olin Unferth's Barn 8

Deb Olin Unferth's Barn 8 starts out seemingly as the narrative of two women— but eventually it becomes clear that this book isn’t so much about the human characters but instead about the animals, specifically the hens: long-suffering, much smarter than we give them credit for, abused beyond comprehension, and ultimately transcendent.

The Starless Sea

Erin Morgenstern’s new novel The Starless Sea is a beautifully wrought and many-layered tale; a riveting, rollicking, and complex quest for the very heart of story. For those who loved the magical depths and wondrous spaces of Morgenstern’s debut The Night Circus (2011), there is much here in her second novel to entertain and enthrall.

Cristina Rivera Garza’s Grieving: Dispatches from a Wounded Country

Across some 200 pages, Garza applies a lingual scalpel to the narrative of systemic violence: a narrative enacted on both sides of the border by governments, law enforcement, drug cartels, and the media who sensationalize, erase, or ignore the violence. She

Nell Zink: Doxology and Suzette Haden Elgin: Native Tongue

Addressing perceived injustice and giving us metaphors to understand suffering and redemption is some of the work modern fiction can do. Two recent novels that work to do this are Suzette Haden Elgin’s Native Tongue and Nell Zink's Doxology.

The Bass Rock

Like any good gothic novel, there is a dark old house full of noises and things that go bump in the night, there are ghosts and there are witches. But these are not malevolent ghosts and the witches are there to resist, to protect, and to balance male violence.

Sayaka Murata’s Earthlings: A Novel

Sayaka Murata’s (Convenience Store Woman, 2019) new novel is a deeply disturbing exploration of one woman’s attempt to try to survive outside cultural norms in Japanese society.

Naomi Alderman’s The Power

The nightly news has become a flood of narratives of sexual harassment and the rape of women and young girls by men in positions of power which lends a decided appeal to Naomi Alderman's tale of young girls suddenly getting "the power"—an ability to zap others with their own self-generated electrical charges.

Michelle Reale’s The Indispensable Academic Librarian

This slim volume confronts what the author identifies as a fundamental issue in academic librarianship—the perception that librarians are not teachers.

Cristina Rivera Garza’s The Iliac Crest

Cristina Rivera Garza’s The Iliac Crest is both a novel of ideas and one of visceral emotion written with language so precise and rich that at times it can feel overwhelming.

The Women in the Band

I’ve always been opposed to the whole “women in rock” categorization as a ploy for lazy critics to write about musicians who also happen to be women. But the current wave of memoirs by women musicians leads me to acknowledge that something is going on and I should pay attention.

Bibliotherapy

Chris Offutt is a masterful writer. His ability to immerse a reader in his narrative, his clean and clear sentences and his powerful descriptive passages all have served over time as examples of American writing at its best.

Claire Messud’s The Burning Girl

The young female narrator has become incredibly popular particularly in American Young Adult fiction. YA is big business with a plethora of formulaic narratives and often mediocre writing.

MICHELLE TEA in conversation with Yvonne C Garrett

Michelle Tea, queer countercultural icon, has a new book out. Against Memoir (Feminist Press, 2018) is a collection of essays and articles written for various places (some new for this book) and various audiences. All share Tea’s ability to get at the heart of difficult topics: struggles for non-binary people to survive in a largely unwelcoming binary world, women making space for themselves in punk rock, and fights over definitions of “feminism” and “woman.”

Getting Portland

I’ve spent decades listening to what other people from other places think the Pacific Northwest is all about. Reading Monica Drake’s first collection of short stories, The Folly of Loving Life, I feel I’ve finally found a way to ward off all those mis-imagined fairy tales of the cities of the Northwest that so many people have created.

Welcome to Lagos

Welcome to Lagos has been described as comic by some reviewers but aside from a few slapstick-esque moments and some sharply funny critique of English race relations, it reads as modern African tragedy.

Patrick McGrath's
The Wardrobe Mistress

The Wardrobe Mistress is Patrick McGrath’s ninth novel, and he is top form as he paints a grim portrait of grief, fascism, and madness in post-war London.

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The Brooklyn Rail

OCT 2020

All Issues