MEMOIR – A Mind Spread Out on the Ground by Alicia Elliott
CW: domestic & child abuse, sexual assault, graphic mental illness, graphic racism & colonization
Through a collection of essays, Alicia Elliott, a Haudenosaunee writer, offers insight into the current treatment of Native peoples in North America by engaging with topics such as race, parenthood, love, mental illness, poverty, sexual assault, gentrification, and writing. Elliott draws connections between the big and small, past and present, and in doing so writes a profound work on trauma, oppression, and the ongoing legacies of colonialism at play today.
– Emma Hébert, Features Editor
NONFICTON – We Do This ’til We Free Us: Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justice by Mariame Kaba
CW: police brutality
Liberation comes through ordinary, mundane, everyday struggles to dismantle the carceral logic that governs modern society. Kaba’s collection of essays and interviews reflect on the work of police and prison abolitionists – theory taken to practice – and how their transformative actions bring hope for the end of the prison industrial complex while imagining what justice can look like beyond punishment.
– Nicole Huang, Managing Editor
POETRY – On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
CW: drug use & abuse, addiction, sex, domestic & child abuse.
Vietnamese-American poet Ocean Vuong writes beautifully and heartbreakingly in his debut novel, structured as an auto-fictitious letter to his illiterate mother that he knows she can never read. The novel chronicles the life of Little Dog, the son in a family of Vietnamese immigrants, and how the experiences of immigration – from isolation to intergenerational trauma, figuring out identity in a foreign place, and finding home – affect the love and connections shared within his family.
– Pandora Wotton, Coordinating Editor
MEMOIR – Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon
CW: sexual violence, eating disorder, suicidal thoughts, child abuse
In Heavy, Laymon writes to his mother from a place of both love and frustration, while in the process exploring sex, weight, anorexia, his relationship to writing and an addiction to gambling, rooted in his Black experience. Spanning his childhood in Mississippi to the beginnings of his career as a professor, Laymon dissects how growing up in the US has made him feel physically and emotionally heavy.
– Anna Zavelsky, Culture Editor
NONFICTION – Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Kimmerer, a Potawatomi woman and environmentalist, writes a collection of essays that combine Indigenous teachings, her botanical and biological knowledge as a professor, and personal stories – a compelling plea for the repair in the relationship between humans and the natural world. At a time when Earth’s future seems particularly dark, Kimmerer’s writing inspired a newfound ecological consciousness within me, and made clear the need to reciprocate the love, care, and knowledge that nature grants us.
– Saylor Catlin, News Editor
GRAPHIC NOVEL – In: A Graphic Novel by Will Mcphail
In this debut graphic novel by New Yorker cartoonist Will McPhail, we follow Nick, a young artist who is starved for genuine human connection. A book that could have easily been quaint and forgettable is instead elevated tenfold by McPhail’s lovely artwork as well as the story’s perfect marriage of searing satiric wit and poignant authenticity. At its heart, In takes a long, sobering look at the state of our post-postmodern environment, and how it feeds into our collective feelings of detachment and alienation in an otherwise ultra-connected world. This book will surely resonate with many, especially as we slowly come out of our year-and-a-half long quarantine.
– Olivia Shan, Culture Editor