A superb poetry collection that renders compelling imagery in a singular voice.

SELECTED POEMS OF EMANUEL XAVIER

Gay Nuyorican life is limned and exalted in these scintillating poems.

Xavier, a fixture at Nuyorican Poets Cafe slams in Manhattan and a star of HBO’s Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry, gathers 28 poems that infuse searing social and political commentary into achingly personal reflections. Many paint a panorama of New York that is bustling and vibrant: “Ricans and Dominicans drive around / with black-faced virgins and saints on their dashboards / blasting rap and freestyle / down the streets.” The poet’s collection conveys his struggle as a gay man in an often homophobic culture in tones that range from the bruised confessional in “Deliverance” (“Wiping / myself / staring at the blood / shit / scum / from the last trick / that once again / left me bruised / deep inside”) to the prophetic voice of “If Jesus Were Gay.” (“If the crown of thorns were placed on his head / to mock him as the / ‘Queen of the Jews’ / If he was whipped because fags are considered / sadomasochistic sodomites, / If he was crucified for the brotherhood of man / would you still repent?”) There’s a lot of pain from separation and repudiation in Xavier’s verse—from his biological father’s abandonment of the family, his mother’s rejection of his gay sexuality, and America’s disdain for Latino immigrants. The volume is thus full of poetic portraits of outsiders and castoffs that can take strange and hallucinatory forms, as in “Bushwick Bohemia,” in which a slacker is “lying shirtless on the couch blunted out of his mind / staring at the roach on the ceiling / one single roach in a vast desert / or maybe an alien exploring a new world”—a grungy, Kafkaesque yet somehow hopeful and even liberating tableau of arrival and persistence. And the poet’s life generates bleak, bracing wisdom in “Beside Myself”: “You are not going to be remembered. / The best thing you ever did was keep a cat / alive for over sixteen years. / All you have is that rent-stabilized apartment / with the cracked paint and broken windows.” Xavier’s many fans (and newbies as well) will be entranced by his evocative language, subtle rhythms, and fearless gaze.

A superb poetry collection that renders compelling imagery in a singular voice.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-60864-152-9

Page Count: 71

Publisher: REBEL SATORI PRESS

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

THE FOUR WINDS

The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY

An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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