Book Review: Like Love

When my children were young, we went around the dinner table and shared serendipities—something surprising and joyful that had happened to each of us during the day. My children are grown now, and I live alone, and we are in the midst of the worst phase of a global pandemic.

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: 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 Leni 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…

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…

Book Review: Two Menus

Rachel DeWoskin is a five-time novelist and memoirist. Two Menus is her debut poetry collection which, despite being billed as poetry, does not escape a certain delicious fictionness, like here: “The night Des tore her hair out, it was literal. / White sheets beneath her lit the hospital,”

Book Review: Please See Us

BY LAURIE ROCKENBECK

Caitlin Mullen’s debut novel Please See Us takes genre norms, chews them up, and spits them out into a gripping literary thriller. This ambitious work delves into a myriad of societal issues—trafficking, bullying, motherhood, drug abuse, mental health, inadequate foster systems, and misogyny.

In the prologue, we are introduced to two nameless women lying together as described by a distant omniscient narrator. If this were a movie, it would begin with a long shot of an airplane flying an advertising banner low over a decrepit Atlantic City. The camera would leave the plane as it swoops around to the back of a grungy pay-by-the-hour hotel and focus on the two women who are “laid out like tallies in the stretch of marsh just behind the Sunset Motel.”

Book Review: Strung Out: One Last Hit and Other Lies That Nearly Killed Me

BY COLLIN MITCHELL

Like so many of the recent stories about opiate addiction in the United States, Erin Khar’s journey toward heroin started with a pill. “I pulled The World According to Garp out from underneath my pillow and read,” she writes, remembering the first time she raided her mother’s medicine cabinet. She was eight. “After a little while, the heat in my body was replaced by the lightness of little bubbles . . . . It was the exit I desperately wanted.”

Khar’s experience as an advice columnist for Ravishly is well-suited to turn Strung Out: One Last Hit and Other Lies That Nearly Killed Me from what might otherwise be a distressing year-by-year account of addiction into a story that develops context and empathy toward mental illness and drug abuse. Khar is forthright in her opinion about our inability to understand addiction: “The stigma associated with opioids, with heroin, with “being a junkie,” prevents people from reaching out. And that stigma is killing us. Americans are stuck in a spiral of shame, and that shame drives the vicious cycle of relapse that many drug users get caught in.” In a culture that tends to conflate pity and prejudice toward adversity, this could be a helpful guide for the uninitiated in understanding the causes of drug and alcohol dependence.