Book Review: Leslie Jamison’s “The Recovering”

By: Heather Scott Partington

Leslie Jamison wasn’t a stereotypical drunk. She wasn’t a stereotypical student, either. Even at the peak of her alcoholism, Jamison held down a job, published a novel, and attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Yale, and Harvard without hitting a conventional bottom. If you read Jamison’s 2014 essay collection, The Empathy Exams, you know her unique voice, her elegant syntax, her capacity for listening to another’s pain and rendering it on the page as something unnervingly fresh. The Recovering is the story of Jamison’s journey to get sober, told through the filter of her research about the lives of other artists and writers.

How a Woman Who Lived in a Windmill Taught Me That I Mattered

By: Tina G. Rubin

I had just landed my first international writing assignment and it was turning out to be a dud. I’d come 5,000 miles to cover one of Holland’s historic windmills, and it wasn’t even working.

“You have to run them weekly, or they deteriorate,” Jaantje Bloembergen told me. But she hadn’t turned hers on in a year.

The April day I parked my car at the windmill Jaantje and her husband had converted into living space, she was in high spirits. Her tangle of gray hair framed a smiling, ruddy face. I took to her immediately.

Swimming Around the Edges

By: Trevy Thomas

After living in Virginia for a year, I was feeling the loss of friends I’d left behind. Meeting people in my new life was difficult, as I  worked from home alongside my husband in his art business. My human contact was almost exclusively through the Internet, and I felt increasingly lonely.

Not knowing where else to look, I turned to the very computer that was keeping me isolated to search for community. I found a group of women about my age that hosted events somewhat near my home. After participating in the online forums a while, I felt comfortable enough to attend my first gathering: a small lunch at one of the women’s houses.

Bill of Fare

By: Susan Olding


Pimento-stuffed olives
Celery with cream cheese
Julienned carrots
Angels on horseback
Pigs in blankets

Your career begins early, before your head even clears the kitchen counter. The crystal dish that your mother places in your hands feels much heavier than you expect. Pressing it to your chest, you look down at your red patent party shoes, nervous you might skid on the kitchen’s vinyl tile or trip on the lip of the living room carpet. Music greets you, music and smoke; clinking ice cubes and the smells of mingled perfumes. The women’s faces glow. Their dresses rustle like the plumage of exotic birds. Like birds, they coo and sing at your offerings, pecking and cooing while watching you with bright eyes. Someday you would like to join their dazzling flock. But for now, you observe them observing you.

Book Review: Jessica Keener’s “Strangers in Budapest”

by John Flynn-York

Image result for strangers in budapest

In Jessica Keener’s new novel, Strangers in Budapest, the lives of two ex-pat Americans become intertwined in the titular city in the 1990s. Annie is unhappy and shiftless, at loose ends after a move to Budapest with her husband and their young son. Meanwhile, Edward, an elderly man, is in Budapest for one reason only: to find the man he thinks murdered his daughter. When they cross paths, they find common ground in this quest. Edward is a cause Annie can invest her energy into—something she’s been lacking since moving to Budapest. But when she is drawn deeper into Edward’s scheming, she begins to question whether she’s merely helping an old man or abetting his delusions.

The Red Shoebox Guitar

By: Roy Dufrain

On hot Saturdays the neighborhood men took refuge in their garages. They opened their garage doors and ran portable fans, and they turned up the Giants game on the transistor radios that sat on their workbenches. The men fixed things and made things and drank bottled beer out of old round-shouldered refrigerators. Wives and children were generally not invited.

That summer of 1966, Bobby Highfill and I were both eight years old. Our mothers were forever shooing us out from under their feet and into the great outdoors, which in our corner of suburbia consisted of a few square blocks of housing tract and one dead-end street of undeveloped lots known to local kids as the Trashlands, where Bobby and I both served honorably in the Great Dirt Clod Wars of Concord, California.

TCR Talks with Gayle Brandeis

By: Angela M. giles

I am not sure when I first became aware of Gayle Brandeis and her work. It was a few years ago, and truthfully, it was the story of her mother’s suicide that drew me to her. There is a strange bond between survivors of suicide, a shared understanding of that particular kind of loss and the way in which our kind of grief is often messy. I read a few of her essays online and was hooked. I poured through whatever I could get my hands on by her, and her poetry is amazing, by the way. I knew she was writing a book about her mother’s suicide, and whereas saying I was looking forward to it sounds a bit morose, I was. So, when the opportunity to speak with her about writing the book was presented, I was thrilled. It turns out, Gayle is as brilliant and kind in person as you hope she is, and she has an amazing ability to distill grace from even the most painful moments.

Bright Orange Candy

By: Anne McGouran

Kate is a Burmese-Indian octogenarian with scornful dark eyes in a heavily lined face. The top of her head just about reaches the height of my armpit.

“My husband dropped dead in his surgery at age thirty-two. To support my five little ones, I taught at a private girls’ school in Dharamsala. I adored the teaching but not the housework. Housework is just a bourgeois fetish.”

“Dharamsala…was that in the sixties?” I ask.

“Yes, during the first wave of Tibetan emigrations. Did you know I tutored the Dalai Lama’s niece? Not the brightest bulb, that one”—Kate stares off into the distance…  into the Outer Himalayas—“I was always the first person up in the morning. I’d pour warm milk and curd into a chati, cover it overnight with a blanket, then churn it for our breakfast. The nuns all adored my lassi. I still get letters from Sister Veronica. That slyboots used to slip Santra Goli candies into my mailbox when I was having a hard time with the spoiled rich students. Sister V. and I are the last ones standing. Soon enough we’ll leave our bodies so nature can work her magic. Our energies are continually recycled, you know. We pass from death to life over and over again. It’s nothing personal, really.”

Book Review: Yuval Noah Harai’s “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow”

By: A.E. Santana

Who would like to know the future? To know and understand the coming changes to our environment, society, and the individual? Whereas Yuval Noah Harai doesn’t claim to be omniscient or a fortune teller, his book Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow paints a picture of what may be in store for humanity in the next fifty or a hundred years. Harai does this not by making psychic predictions but, instead, by carefully examining history, biology, psychology, and technology. With a copious amount of research to back up his claims, Harai gives a detailed hypothesis on the next steps of human evolution—taking people from Homo sapiens to Homo deus. Whereas Harai gives intelligent, thorough explanations, it is through his clear, clever, and often humorous writing that he connects with readers.

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow is broken up into an introduction and three parts: “Homo Sapiens Conquers the World,” “Homo Sapiens Gives Meaning to the World,” and “Homo Sapiens Loses Control.” Each part delves into the rise and fall of societies, provides an intimate look at biology and psychology, and discusses the growth of technology as it pertains to Harai’s claims. It is by understanding these topics, Harai suggests, that people will be able to understand how society may progress into the next stage of human evolution.

Bienvenidos a Pilsen

By: todd Gastelum


I was used to rebooting my life: CTL+ALT+DEL and voilà, tabula rasa.

About to turn thirty, it was time for me to move. Once again, I was leaving a boyfriend I’d taken up with in a previous life. Once again, it was me who fucked things up. Now I needed my own place. I was hoping for the top floor of a brick three-flat, preferably with hardwood floors, a bay window, and crown molding. Somewhere near the 18th Street stop on the Blue Line with a view of buckled chimneys, waltzing antennas and the Baroque twin towers of St. Adalbert’s.

That’s not the apartment I found.

My new place was the rear unit on the top floor of an architecturally featureless building, whose ground floor taquería would eventually add another ten pounds to my frame. The apartment had been recently remodeled with a coat of white matte and cheap beige linoleum that still reeked of glue. There were just three rooms: a bedroom, a bathroom, and a kitchen/dining/living room too cramped to qualify as open concept. All the doors were standard-issue Home Depot as were the kitchen cabinets and bathroom fixtures. The tiny window over the kitchen sink gazed into a narrow air shaft, and the double-paned windows behind my futon framed an alley with a backbone of splintered utility poles and drooping cables. If I lived a dozen floors higher, I’d have been able to see the lake, but I didn’t and I couldn’t. I had no link to the natural world—only the constant rumbling of big rigs speeding toward the Stevenson Expressway.