A standout poetry collection that fearlessly examines one immigrant’s experience.

IN OUR BEAUTIFUL BONES

POEMS

A collection of poems about an immigrant poet’s journey from India to the U.S.

The author retraces her steps from her hometown of Kolkata to her new home with her husband in Chicago. In “Drinking Vodka at 35,000 ft.,” she recalls flying from one country to the other and the awe of seeing the “forget-me-not blue” of Lake Michigan for the first time. She confronts the subtle (but no less offensive) racism of 40-something professionals in a book club who ignorantly ask about her English skills, arranged marriage, and the caste system. She notes her identity as an Indian Jew and contemplates the disparate generational approaches to food between a mother and a daughter in “What’s Wrong With Wilted Lettuce.” She questions the hypocrisy of Americans who complain about the smells of Indian cooking yet co-opt ingredients, like turmeric and garam masala, asking, “This food is hip to some, but not / when we live, cook next door?” In “25 Responses (or Pick-a-Combo or Take It as You Like It),” the author enumerates insensitive and racist comments that range from “Ah, they’re jealous to see immigrants doing well” to “At least they didn’t have guns.” Joseph’s language is as powerful as it is poetic, such as when she describes how “the sailor’s hearts / shrunk from fear,” watches a “windshield bulge / like a goatskin,” or compares an engine to an “animal thrashing” on a Bombay steamship. Joseph’s fresh eyes offer new takes on what may be mundane for many readers. Documenting her first experiences with snow, she reflects, “The ‘s’ in ‘snow’ / wraps around me like an icy tongue, / the ‘o’ like blue lips / with the power / to swallow everything.” She does not shy away from the brutality of colonization, stating, “ah the British stayed for only 200 years you know / took us to the cleaners / took us to church / where they / ate our bodies drank our blood.” The book is nearly flawless save for the occasional poem that spans several pages and could have been edited down.

A standout poetry collection that fearlessly examines one immigrant’s experience.

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-952781-07-0

Page Count: 104

Publisher: Mayapple Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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A welcome literary resurrection that deserves a place alongside Wright’s best-known work.

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THE MAN WHO LIVED UNDERGROUND

A falsely accused Black man goes into hiding in this masterful novella by Wright (1908-1960), finally published in full.

Written in 1941 and '42, between Wright’s classics Native Son and Black Boy, this short novel concerns Fred Daniels, a modest laborer who’s arrested by police officers and bullied into signing a false confession that he killed the residents of a house near where he was working. In a brief unsupervised moment, he escapes through a manhole and goes into hiding in a sewer. A series of allegorical, surrealistic set pieces ensues as Fred explores the nether reaches of a church, a real estate firm, and a jewelry store. Each stop is an opportunity for Wright to explore themes of hope, greed, and exploitation; the real estate firm, Wright notes, “collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent from poor colored folks.” But Fred’s deepening existential crisis and growing distance from society keep the scenes from feeling like potted commentaries. As he wallpapers his underground warren with cash, mocking and invalidating the currency, he registers a surrealistic but engrossing protest against divisive social norms. The novel, rejected by Wright’s publisher, has only appeared as a substantially truncated short story until now, without the opening setup and with a different ending. Wright's take on racial injustice seems to have unsettled his publisher: A note reveals that an editor found reading about Fred’s treatment by the police “unbearable.” That may explain why Wright, in an essay included here, says its focus on race is “rather muted,” emphasizing broader existential themes. Regardless, as an afterword by Wright’s grandson Malcolm attests, the story now serves as an allegory both of Wright (he moved to France, an “exile beyond the reach of Jim Crow and American bigotry”) and American life. Today, it resonates deeply as a story about race and the struggle to envision a different, better world.

A welcome literary resurrection that deserves a place alongside Wright’s best-known work.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-59853-676-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Library of America

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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

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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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