Book Review: A Better Man: A (Mostly Serious) Letter to My Son

by Collin Mitchell In A Better Man: A (Mostly Serious) Letter to My Son, actor and comedian Michael Ian Black explores the concept of toxic masculinity and what it’s doing to American families and society. People are touchy (especially those who have never brushed with racist cops or a sexist boss), and even for the newly woke and well-meaning man, the question of, “what can I do to help?” is tangled up in history, falling somewhere between the great man theory and the white man’s burden. A man’s help is a wrought proposition. Because it is presumptuous for us to…

Book Review: And Now She’s Gone

By Laurie Rockenbeck Rachel Howzell Hall’s newest offering, And Now She’s Gone, introduces us to newbie private investigator Grayson Sykes. With her wrinkled clothes and easy distractibility, Gray comes across as a latter-day Colombo. She forgets to record interviews, can’t remember to take antibiotics on time, and finding a working pen is beyond her.  In spite of all her fumbling and absent-mindedness, Gray is able to follow individual clues and piece things together in her own, unique way­. To prove Isabel Lincoln is alive and well, her boyfriend, Ian, has hired the investigation firm Gray works for to find her.…

TCR Talks with Joe Meno

by Matt Ellis It’s a presidential election year, a time when we are bombarded by political hot button issues from every social and mainstream media outlet with superficial sound bites that often offer little substance but ask us to take sides nonetheless. Immigration ranks among the top. If you want to be better informed about the immigration issue, you need look no further than bestselling author Joe Meno’s debut nonfiction book, Between Everything and Nothing: The Journey of Seidu Mohammed and Razak Iyal and the Quest for Asylum. Meno is a fiction writer and journalist who lives in Chicago. He is the winner…

Book Review: The Music Book

by Jhenna Wieman Karen Osborn’s The Music Book is a love story between two people and a love letter to music. The novel is set in 1953 and is the story of Irene Siesel, a female cellist leading the movement into the world of classical music. It follows her early career, her brief but passionate love affair, and the end of her life, as the story is told in flashbacks from the memory unit of a nursing home. Any music lover will appreciate the way Osborn treats music in her novel. She cradles it softly with words and makes it…

Book Review: Convenient Amnesia

by  Sara Grimes The sweetness of Convenient Amnesia, Donald Vincent’s debut poetry collection, took me to new heights before unsettling me in the pit of my stomach. Vincent catches us off guard by capturing breathtaking beauty before leveling us with the realities of twisted wrongs against the Black community. The first poem, “Lucky Charm,” sets the tone: “You knew about it but forgot like last week’s newspaper / headline. / I want to whistle whimsical feelings to white women, / Emmett Till’s charm.” Convenient Amnesia summons all the appeal and literary acumen required of it as a fierce debut book of…

Book Review: The Duchess of Angus

by Leanne Phillips Margaret Brown Kilik wrote her coming-of-age novel, The Duchess of Angus, in the early 1950s, but the manuscript remained her secret until it was discovered by her granddaughter, Columbia University English and Comparative Literature Professor Jenny Davidson, after the author’s death in 2001. Things like this happen more often than one might imagine. My own grandmother Rubye left behind a handwritten memoir of her life growing up during the Dust Bowl era in Oklahoma. During all the years my grandmother encouraged me to write, she never once mentioned that she wrote, too, in secret. What compels a…

Book Review: Ornamental

by Kit Maude “History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake,” James Joyce’s protagonist famously says in Ulysses. Reading Ornamental by Juan Cárdenas, a rising star on the Colombian literary scene, one begins to suspect that he took Stephen Dedalus’s statement about history quite literally. Goodness knows that Colombian history has its fair share of nightmares (what country’s doesn’t?), and many find their way into this sparkling novella, explicitly or otherwise. The novel begins with the personal notes of a pharmaceutical scientist as he tests out a new drug on four female subjects. The opening scene is…

Book Review: Blacktop Wasteland

By Laurie Rockenbeck S.A. Cosby’s Blacktop Wasteland is a fast-paced story that throws us against the seat and makes us grab for the “oh-shit-bar” from start to finish. It would be easy to dismiss this as a summer read, a fun heist story with exciting chase scenes that compels the reader to keep turning those pages with one satisfying twist after another. That would be a mistake. While Blacktop Wasteland is all of that, it is also an indictment against classism and racism written with a subtlety that eschews preachiness. Instead, Cosby gives us poverty-stricken Virginia with its closed strip…

Book Review: Out of the Pantry

by Linda Romano In her memoir, Out of the Pantry[1], Ronni Robinson confronts how a childhood eating pleasure turned into a full out “compulsive eating disorder.”  As a latch-key child, Robinson found solace in biking home hurriedly from school to indulge in whatever variety of cookies her mother had tucked away in the kitchen drawer with a tall glass of cold milk. With an older brother at home, who mostly ignored her, she sat alone at the table, dipping cookie after cookie, “like a robot, losing all sense of what was going on around me … the shimmer of happiness seemed…