Short post this week as I’m noodling on a couple of more substantive pieces that are not yet ready for public sharing. Here are some snapshot reviews of a few things I’ve read recently.
Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot – This slim memoir lays bare a woman’s issues with love, motherhood, and mental health, all of these complicated by her experience as an indigenous woman. At times it feels the wee-est bit MFA project-y. That said, I’ve heard people describe this memoir as “raw” and “unfiltered” and that kind of language discounts the deliberate and potent artistry of the book. This is a common problem in reviews of work by women, even more so with women-of-color specifically. Don’t do this, critics and reviewers!
My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite – I know I was supposed to fall for this novel but in the end…it was fine. The intriguing premise–a woman forced into covering up her sister’s habit of slaughtering her boyfriends—unspools around familiar clichés about female rivalry. But at least it’s a fast read, and has glimmers of brilliance.
How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee – I really loved this book, a collection of essays that also builds until it feels like a constructed memoir. Chee makes a good argument in defense of MFA programs, actually, and writes about art, activism, sexual abuse, New York, homosexuality, loneliness, love, and work with deep insight and sensitivity.
“I know some people condescend to me when I mention that I was once a waiter, but I will never regret it. Waiting tables was not just a good living, but also a good education in people. I saw things I never would have imagined, an education in life out past the limits of my own social class. Your imagination needs to be broken in, I think, to become anywhere as weird as the world.” — Alexander Chee, “My Parade”