Review of Jhumpa Lahiri’s In Other Words

On my fifth day in Italy, I accuse an Italian man of stealing my clothes. His basket, overflowing with clothing, is blocking the dryer into which I placed my clothes, and none of the garments are visible through the glass window. Scusi! I say, and that’s it—the extent of my Italian. I am all out...

A Review of Harrison Candelaria Fletcher’s Presentimiento: A Life in Dreams

Harrison Candelaria Fletcher’s second memoir follows Descanso For My Father: Fragments Of A Life, which won the Colorado Book Award for Creative Nonfiction and International Book Award for Best New Nonfiction. Turning now to his mother’s story, Fletcher opens Presentimiento: A Life in Dreams with a trip back to Albuquerque after nearly a decade away...

A Review of Maggie Messitt’s The Rainy Season: Three Lives in the New South Africa

Sometimes a writer can be loudest by being the most quiet, an effect brilliantly achieved by Maggie Messitt in her first book, The Rainy Season: Three Lives in the New South Africa. Unlike Messitt, I never could stay quiet or porch sit long enough to listen. Messitt was twenty-four and on an indefinite leave from...

A Review of Patrice Vecchione’s Step into Nature: Nurturing Imagination and Spirit in Everyday Life

Patrice Vecchione has experience prompting writers, whether university students, community members, or elementary school students. Over the years, though, she has noticed a shifting relationship among them to the imagination. Individuals who used to respond to going outside to look at the clouds with descriptions of “elephants parading, a dragon biting its own tail, a...

A Review of M.J. Fièvre’s A Sky the Color of Chaos

On April 9, 1968, Kansas City high schoolers, dressed in white shirts, ankle socks, and saddle oxfords, peacefully marched in front of City Hall out of dismay that their city wouldn’t close public schools for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s funeral. Next thing, police threw tear gas. Then the city exploded with firebombs, gun battles, and...

A Review of Amy Ferris’s Shades of Blue

Shades of Blue is a book about depression, the blues, and suicide, yet it manages not to be depressing because of its humor, hope, and courage. This anthology of thirty-four personal stories, edited by Amy Ferris, concerns what’s locked up inside us. Ferris is open about her own struggles, her young girl attempt to kill...

A Review of Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, An American Lyric

Sometimes a book comes along and I take it in like breath, filling my lungs, then letting it go, slowly, dispersing and touching every cell in my body. Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own was one of those books, as was Adrienne Rich’s Of Woman Born and James Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son....
Book Reviews

Book Reviews

Watch our book review section for regular updates on the best new nonfiction titles. We now publish reviews year-round, not only when new issues arrive.

A Review of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me

On July 3 of this year, “dream” held an array of rich connotations for me. From open imagination to the urgent longing toward social justice, the word was evocative, engaging, comfortably owned. On July 4, I read the excerpt in the Atlantic of Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and through his beautiful...

A Review of Joey Franklin’s My Wife Wants You to Know I’m Happily Married

As I type this review on the Sunday before Christmas, I realize it’s probably unlikely that it will be published on The Brevity Blog before Friday. That’s too bad—Joey Franklin’s My Wife Wants You to Know I’m Happily Married would make a perfect gift for just about any literate person on your Christmas list. In...

A Review of Joni Tevis’ The World is On Fire

Maybe it’s coincidence that apocalypse keeps surfacing in so much of the recent work I’ve read as a grad student, begging me to reconsider how the word might apply to much more than typical end-of-days visions. Several of the books stacked around my apartment tap into apocalypses far more real and immediate, something more like...

A Review of Debra Monroe’s My Unsentimental Education

Like Debra Monroe, I grew up in the ’70s with a scrapbook called My School Years. Each grade ended with a section called “When I Grow Up I Want to Be…” with occupations divided by gender. Boys had choices such as astronaut or basketball player; girls could choose between secretary or model. I remember feeling...

Review of Clifford Thompson’s Twin of Blackness

Clifford Thompson grew up in the post-civil rights era in a black neighborhood in Washington, D.C., raised by an extended, loving church-going family who made sure he made it to college. I grew up in the post-civil rights era too, but in a white Kansas City suburb. My parents were loving church-going people who also...

A Review of R. Claire Stephens’ Lady in Ink

Several years ago, Ira Sukrungruang emailed me to ask me to contribute an essay for an anthology he wanted to put together about essayists writing about their tattoos. I really, really dig Ira’s work, and I really admire the magazine and chapbook publisher Sweet, which he co-created, so I was honored to be asked and...

A Review of Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass

Summer mornings, I often walk along the two-track unpaved driveway that leads from my family’s secluded cottage on Lake Superior to the paved road. I pass under mature birches and weedy Manitoba maples, my flip-flops treading an old dirt-and-stone path. In the 1920s, my grandfather carved it through the forest with a handsaw and built...

A Review of Timothy Kenny’s Far Country: Stories from Abroad and Other Places

Early in Far Country: Stories from Abroad and Other Places, Timothy Kenny’s collection of essays about his time as a journalist in conflict zones, he recalls a conversation with an Afghan colleague in which a seemingly benign comment on Kenny’s part brings the conversation to an abrupt halt. “It is not the first time I...

A Review of After Montaigne: Contemporary Essayists Cover the Essays

I’ve long harbored the suspicion that what’s best in Montaigne is untranslatable. His essence seems to me embodied in a diction, orthography, and syntax as unsubstitutable as any individual. To borrow Emerson’s praise for Montaigne: “Cut these words, and they would bleed; they are vascular and alive.” My prejudice dates to a summer when my...

A Review of Lori Jakiela’s Belief Is Its Own Kind of Truth, Maybe

Bear with me. Grief is difficult to explain, difficult to experience. The first time I saw death was in the porcelain face of a 3-year-old boy, on the day I turned twelve. He lay in his small casket at the head of a stuffy room filled with moanings and whisperings—his own high-pitched laughter so clearly...