Voice to Books: Recent Graphic Novels

  While Voice to Books has covered graphic novels and memoirs in the past, we couldn’t help noticing how many intriguing books from underrepresented communities have been published in the last three years—stories of difficult journeys, both physical and spiritual; of searching for one’s place in a new culture and finding an identity within a subculture; of intergenerational trauma and the struggle to improve one’s mental health when, traditionally, these topics are taboo. Though many of the five books we’ve reviewed feature teenage protagonists, these visually arresting stories, even at their most fantastical, offer insight into authentic and universal human…

NONFICTION: A Map for Living by Elizabeth Amon

Bleached bones, picked clean by a lion, are left to bake under the East African sun, says the reedy-voiced British narrator on the nature film I watch from beneath a mound of covers. The abandoned bones stop the elephant matriarch in her tracks. She raises her trunk to trumpet a call of distress across the plain, lamenting the death of one once part of her herd. Elephants can remember more than 200 individual, extended family members and recognize them by smell or call, as well as sight. An elephant never forgets. From my sickbed, I watch the matriarch fondle the…

REVIEW: Lost Ark Dreaming by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

Reviewed by Dave Oei At under two hundred pages, Lost Ark Dreaming is a lean work of science fiction by Nigerian author Suyi Davies Okungbowa. Focusing on the lives of three residents inside a massive building called the Pinnacle several hundred years from now, Dreaming is a gritty, tense thriller. It’s also a succinct and merciless examination of society under great stress, one that questions whether humanity is doomed to repeat a history of environmental missteps, corruption, and greed. The key to understanding Dreaming lies in understanding the Pinnacle, a kilometer-high skyscraper built on reclaimed land miles offshore from Lagos…

REVIEW: The Forbidden Daughter by Zipora Klein Jakob

Reviewed by Jackelin Orellana The Forbidden Daughter by Zipora Klein Jakob is the biographical account of Elida Friedman, a woman who defied all odds to survive the Holocaust. Elida’s life itself began as a protest when her mother, Tzila, bravely defied a Nazi decree forbidding Jews from giving birth in Lithuania’s Kovno Ghetto. Tzila hoped to become a mother, despite living in a time of war, and made her choice knowing full well that she might not survive. How the choice affected Elida is a question Jakob explores as she walks us through the events of Elida’s life. From a…

REVIEW: A Kind of Madness by Uche Okonkwo

Reviewed by Kyle Murphy A Kind of Madness, Uche Okonkwo’s debut short story collection, poses a question on its back cover: “Why is it that the people and places we hold closest are so often the ones that drive us to madness?” In ten brilliantly crafted page-turners set in Nigeria, Okonkwo provides no direct answers to this question, instead illustrating what this particular madness is: a silent suffering that plagues the minds of the stories’ respective protagonists. Okonkwo’s intriguing exploration interrogates internalized emotion to show how this suffering manifests in madness; for it is the apprehension about voicing concern that…

POETRY: The cover-up by Saida Maher

  You are poetry with verses that make you gasp and an ending that makes you joy-cry like the day you cover a heavy-handed arabee tattoo that begs for forgiveness with an olive branch from the motherland and you pick the olives and pop them in your pretty pink mouth and, when you’re left with the pits, you recall the seeds of doubt you sowed in falasteen, so you swim over the sea to dig them up and you throw your back out in the below-sea-level swelter and discover that the doubts have sprouted and overgrown, but it’s nothing you…

REVIEW: To Gaze Upon Wicked Gods by Molly X. Chang

Reviewed by Dave Oei Molly X. Chang’s To Gaze Upon Wicked Gods is an Asian fantasy debut novel about Yang Ruying (Ruy), a young woman who lives in a land conquered and occupied near the time of her birth. Ruy’s once well-regarded family has fallen into despair and hunger through atrocity and war crime, and her mission now is to safeguard what little remains— the lives of her sister and grandmother. The story is inspired by Chang’s grandfather’s experience living in Manchuria, China during World War II, surviving the horror that was Unit 731, the Japanese military’s subjugation of and…

POETRY: Methuselah Star by Olga Maslova

Some say it’s older than the universe itself but we could see it through your binoculars, the ones you carried to the opera the time we split forever over the third act of Lehar’s Stargazer. We lie on the grass beneath Methuselah adjusting the lenses, Bausch & Lomb your dad’s, their leather holster nearby repaired a few times by an Amish cobbler in Canton, Ohio. Both men would disapprove of us two women=sin, E=mc2 The energy I pour in you today I will wrestle back tomorrow; all the while, Methuselah floods its light into the void for fourteen billion years.…

TCR Talks with David Martinez, author of Bones Worth Breaking

By Jackelin Orellana UC Riverside-Palm Desert MFA alumnus David Martinez wrote his debut memoir, Bones Worth Breaking, while grieving his brother’s death. With a background in writing fiction, David never intended to write a memoir. One day, he got hit by a car, and that experience made him take a deeper look at the scars that life had left on his body. Each scar turned into a story, and each story eventually evolved into a book-length work. Martinez writess with uncensored honesty about drugs, mental health, and his experience growing up Mormon. He challenges readers to look deeper into the invisible…

TCR Talks with Ashley Granillo, author of Cruzita and the Mariacheros

By Kevin T. Morales Ashley Granillo delved deep into her family and the community of Pacoima, California, for her debut middle-grade novel, Cruzita and the Mariacheros, the compassionate and humorous story of a seventh grader who struggles with grief while trying to reconcile the conflict between her dreams of pop stardom with her family’s need for her to participate in the day-to-day operations of their bakery. Cruz, the story’s heroine, feels like she doesn’t fit in at home because she wasn’t raised speaking Spanish, an increasingly common issue for today’s American Latinx people. The Coachella Review spoke to Ashley about…