Review: After the Dam by Amy Hassinger

Screen Shot 2017-06-27 at 8.54.52 AMParenthood is defined by many as the genesis for the best years of their lives. Hashtags and aphorisms abound on Father’s and Mother’s Day that the day one became a parent is the “best day of their lives.”

To be fair, for many becoming a parent truly is the best day of their lives. A day for love, loyalty, sacrifice, and lifelong selflessness.

For others, it begins an era of self-realization in which the boundaries feel metallic, a permanent stifling. All the previous positive feelings still apply, but they’re wrapped in the metamorphosis of self to servant. A death of self.

Amy Hassinger’s After the Dam explores not only this commonly overlooked contrast, but also the personal paradigmatic elitism all have about their views on the world. All believe their views are right—-justified—-and others are usually wrong somehow. Other views are not bad, per se, but they’re misguided, politely mistaken. Every single one of us does this, and while it is perfectly normal (predictable, probably) it can often lead to severe misunderstanding and disappointment.

And so begins the deterioration of the dam.

For more on After the Dam, published by Red Hen Press in paperback, September 2016, please continue.

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Review: Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

Screen Shot 2017-05-27 at 9.14.52 PMmost importantly love
like it’s the only thing you know how
at the end of the day all this
means nothing
this page
where you’re sitting
your degree
your job
the money
nothing even matters
except love and human connection
who you loved
and how deeply you loved them
how you touched the people around you
and how much you gave them

For more on Kaur’s Milk and Honey poetry collection, published in 2015 by Andrews McMeel, continue. 

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Review: 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 8.57.00 AMIt’s a Saturday night. You decide to buy a bottle of wine to celebrate a successful week of getting through life. Happy hour? you think. Adulthood has taught you many things, acceptance and gratefulness among them, so you accept that you’d like a beverage but you’re grateful for your couch. Heading home, you pick up a spirit at the corner store, and as you pry the cork from a bottle of cabernet, something begins to happen. Smoke pours from the top of the bottle, spilling over the edges and forming the shape of a wispy man. You begin to wonder who slipped drugs into your dinner as the genie says, “I am here to grant you three wishes. The only caveat is that you must repeat high school.”

And then you smash that bottle on the floor, crunching the glass beneath your boot just for good measure. You didn’t even think, acting only on impulse.

Repeat high school? Over your dead body.

13 Reasons Why, Jay Asher’s 2007 novel, details exactly why repeating high school in today’s world would be The Worst. Certainly not for all, but the logistics, mechanics, and decisions of teenagedom today can be too much to bear for many…. many who cannot see a way out besides death. Hannah Baker could not see that way out and details the thirteen reasons she decided to commit suicide.

For more on 13 Reasons Why, recently made into an original series on Netflix, please continue. 

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Review: This Too Shall Pass by Milena Busquets

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 9.02.08 PMMore than anything, Busquets’ novella is a testament to loss. Taking place in Barcelona, Blanca has recently lost her mother. As she struggles to reconcile with the massive fissure of losing her one true love, as she puts it, readers see her engage in multiple amorous relationships and attempt to replace the love she is lacking. While I find the narrative somewhat without, there are paragraphs of startling insight that I would not give up if I had the chance to decide to read this book again.

Offering wonderful intuit of loss and the human condition, Busquets’ narrative explores what it means to love, lose, and grow up, regardless of culture.

For more on This Too Shall Pass, published in paperback on February 21st, 2017, by Hogarth Press, continue. 

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Review: Abandon Me by Melissa Febos

Screen Shot 2017-03-13 at 8.51.53 PMDo you ever just wonder if you’re enough?

Febos’s memoir Abandon Me strikes a chord, and not just for her language, stylistic approach, and content. Febos’s writing shows readers the unfiltered, completely honest story of herself. There are no sepia overlays or blurred green goggles needed; her story is raw, poetic, and life affirming. Abandonment is a deep-seated demon all must face, but in each of us, our own path, our own enoughness.

Through several essays and one lengthy memoir-novella, Febos delves into the abandonments of her life and the leavings that have made her.

Abandon Me is a must read memoir for 2017. I hold it up to Lindy West’s Shrill and Glennon Doyle Melton’s Carry On, Warrior and Love, Warrior, as personal, all-time favorites.

For more on Abandon Me, published by Bloomsbury Publishing (USA) in February 2017, continue. 

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Review: All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg

Screen Shot 2017-03-18 at 12.26.22 PM“I can’t wait for summer,” I say longingly to my cousin as we gaze out the window, the sun peaking out its rays for the first time this week. “I hate to do that—wish for time to pass on to something else—but honestly. Summer is the best, and the rest of the year is just kind of blegh. Is this what being an adult is?”

“Yep,” she answers, mock-enthusiastically.

“Well then shit! We’re all screwed.” Quickly, I shift the conversation to something about food—something that makes everyone happy—so that we can push past this awfully depressing representation of adulthood.

Jami Attenberg’s All Grown Up is Andrea Berg’s representation of what it means to be a grown up, and, for her, that has meant a couple decades of giving up her love, her art; attempting to find love, by dating varied and multiple men; and learning what it means to let go of love through tumultuous family relationships and hardships. While her life doesn’t necessarily lead her to my paradigm, it’s certainly another perspective than happily ever after.

For more on All Grown Up, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on March 7th, 2017, continue… 

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Review: History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 5.26.22 PMThis winter I’ve made a habit of attending book readings to keep myself entertained, so in January I headed up to Prairie Lights with some of my high schools students. Emily Fridlund read from her book History of Wolves with the cadence of a poet; her words drifted from her lips with a smooth, alto tone so lilting that I dreamt of sitting there for hours like a child.

And I’m not super fond of the “reading” portion of book readings, mind you.

Alas, she moved on to the book’s premise, and she discussed her novel’s attempt to address a young girl who’s manipulative instead of the victim, using her life and her connections to make the world turn in her favor.

Yet, after reading her novel, I’m not certain that’s what I read.

For more about History of Wolves, published by Atlantic Grove Press in January 2017, continue. 

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Review: Everything You Want Me To Be by Mindy Mejia

I took a hiatus from reading in February. It was simultaneously awful and glorious. I am a reader; there’s no doubt about that. But sometimes even I have to take a break from my most ardent passions in order to get back to what is best for me. So I did, both, and here I am. I only read one of the texts from my previous post, and I’m still going…

***

Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 4.58.37 PM“The best fiction will send us back into our lives with new eyes,” Mejia stated at a book reading in Iowa City in late February. “[It gives] a kind of psychosis [that] I think is very healthy.”

Readers of Everything You Want Me To Be will definitely be given a psychosis, but that psychosis, to my mind, is a more empathetic compassion toward those unlike themselves.

For more on Mejia’s Everything You Want Me To Be, published by Atria/Emily Bestler Books in January of 2017, continue…

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To Be Read // February 2017

For once, I think I might actually PLAN what I want to read for the next month. Heretofore, I’ve always subscribed to a serendipitous schedule: if I’m meant to read a book, it will find me! (Har, har. I know… That’s like waiting in one’s apartment for the love of her life to just knock on the door. Naive, naive.)

I’ve been racing through books so fast this year thanks to NetGalley and Blogging for Books that I’ve decided I might want to take stock of what I have and what I should read based on upcoming publication dates and events. Look at these beautiful specimens of literary magnificence below! I can hardly wait!

For more on my February TBR list and information about an author’s book reading that—gasp!—isn’t taking place in New York City or Chicago or some other urban metropolis which I cannot access… please read on. 

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Review: I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi

screen-shot-2017-01-28-at-4-43-06-pmStephen Covey’s famous 7 Habits of Highly Effective People champions the idea of meditating on the end of one’s life — what do you want to have done? … what kind of person do you want people to say you are? — to reevaluate his current stage and actions. It’s a great tool to consider if one is in the right career field or if she’s treating people the way she feels one should; if offers strategies to make the necessary changes if the answers aren’t up to par, too.

I’m reminded of this concept with Fabiaschi’s I Liked My Life since it begins with the suicide of Maddy Starling whom is narrating her puppeteer aspirations from the after life. She liked her life. She enjoyed her family and friends, and she found purpose in volunteering. So why did she not begin with the end in mind and only end all of it? As readers continue through the story, the fictive scenarios beg readers to consider their own lives and how they’re treating those around them as well.

Why did she end it? Who is to blame? These questions and many more permeate the entirety of the narrative for her husband Dave and her daughter Eve. They are left stranded in a quagmire of despair and self-loathing, thinking—as we all likely would—they’re to blame for her unexpected death.

But to what extent do family members really know one another? How responsible are those closest to us for our emotional state and stability? As the narrative plays out, Fabiaschi offers interesting answers to these questions, among others, as readers come to understand just why Maddy would end her life.

For more on I Liked My Life, set to be published by St. Martin’s Press on Jan. 31st, 2017, please continue. 

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