Tag Archives: Miriam Toews

Books Acquired Recently

Cuevas, T. Jackie. Post-Borderlandia: Chicana Literature and Gender Variant Critique. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2018.

I just heard about this book, which is at an intersection (queer+Latinx) I am beginning to explore in my work, so I decided to buy it. I acquired it, Maurensig’s, and Shapiro’s books from amazon.com.

Maurensig, Paolo. Theory of Shadows. 2015. Translated by Anne Milano Appel. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018.

I greatly enjoyed Maurensig’s 1993 chess-themed novel The Lüneburg Variation when I read it about a decade ago, thus when I heard he had published another novel on the game I put it on my list.

Shapiro, Laura. What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women & the Food That Tells Their Stories. 2017. New York: Penguin Books, 2018.

I assign a food essay in my first-year composition course, and am always looking for good food-related books to read alongside it. I received a promotional email about Shapiro’s book from the publisher and decided to buy an examination copy for $3.00 to see whether it might be worth teaching.

Shawl, Nisi. Everfair. 2016. New York: Tor, 2017.

Shawl is an author I have been wanting to read as part of my continuing exploration of speculative fiction by people of color. Everfair was recommended to me as a good place to start.

Toews, Miriam. Women Talking. Toronto: Knopf Canada, 2018.

I bought Toews’s newest novel as soon as it was published. It won’t be out in the U.S. until next year, so I had to order the Canadian edition from amazon.ca. I read it as soon as I received it and it is amazing, powerful, an absolute must-read.

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Books Acquired Recently

Abramović, Marina. Walk Through Walls: A Memoir. New York: Crown Archetype, 2016.

Abramović is my favorite artist, and I pre-ordered this book as soon as I heard about it via her Facebook page. I love how she inserts her body into her work, insisting that art is always in some way autobiographical. I am excited to see how she handles the genre of written autobiography. Judging from the dust jacket blurb, the book is more properly spoken of as autobiography rather than as memoir, as its subtitle claims, but memoir is so marketable these days that it is understandable (though not necessarily justifiable) why the publisher would choose to mislabel it.

This and Smith’s book were purchased from amazon.com.

Atwood, Margaret. Hag-Seed: “The Tempest” Retold. London: Hogarth, 2016.

I recently received this book, which is signed by the author, as a gift. Hogarth has a series of retellings of Shakespeare’s plays by contemporary authors. This is a genre Atwood has worked in before, and I enjoy the writing of hers that I’ve read, so I am optimistic that the book will be an enjoyable one.

Johnson, E. Patrick, ed. No Tea, No Shade: New Writings in Black Queer Studies. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016.

Johnson’s anthology Black Queer Studies is an essential book in both the queer and African American literary critical canons, and a book that has had a significant impact on me as a scholar. Therefore, when I first heard about No Tea, No Shade, a follow-up collection, I ordered an examination copy from the publisher immediately.

Smith, Zadie. Swing Time. New York: Penguin Press, 2016.

I have loved Smith’s fiction since I first read White Teeth in a graduate school course eleven years ago. She is one of a select group of authors whose books I buy immediately without question (Nicholson Baker, Di Brandt, Samuel R. Delany, Don DeLillo [though he might be off the list now because his last book was so poor], Jonathan Safran Foer, Jeff Gundy, Julia Spicher Kasdorf, and Miriam Toews), and thus I pre-ordered this book as soon as I heard about it.

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Books Acquired Recently: Mennonite Literature Edition

As I mentioned in a recent entry, I attended Mennonite/s Writing VII at Fresno Pacific University two weeks ago. Aside from the books that I bought at the conference, I also came away with a number of recommendations of books, and these texts have been arriving in the mail all week. I was able to order nearly all of them from amazon.com’s network of independent booksellers, but in two instances I ran into the issue of books published by Canadian companies not being readily available in the U.S. Thus I had to order Dueck’s book directly from Turnstone Press and Bergen’s book from a Canadian bookseller that I found on abebooks.com.

Bechtel, Greg. Boundary Problems. Calgary: Freehand, 2014.

Bechtel writes science fiction and is thus one of the very few Mennonite writers writing speculative fiction. This subfield is growing more and more, however, which is an exciting development.

Bergen, David. Leaving Tomorrow. Toronto: Harper, 2014.

Bergen is my favorite Mennonite novelist, and in recent years he’s been incredibly prolific, but sadly most of these books have not been published in the U.S.

Birdsell, Sandra. Night Travellers. 1982. Toronto: General, 1984.

I read this novel in stories straight through last night. What a powerful, early feminist Mennonite text!

Dueck, Dora. What You Get at Home. Winnipeg: Turnstone, 2012.

I read Dueck’s novel This Hidden Thing several years ago and thought it was only so-so, but I heard that this short story collection includes a story with a queer protagonist, and since LGBT Mennonite literature is a major interest of mine I decided to buy it.

Also, it is important to acknowledge the essential role Turnstone Press has played in support of Mennonite literature since they began publishing Mennonite writers in the 1980s. Aside from Dueck and Klassen, they have also published such heavyweights as Di Brandt, Patrick Friesen, and Miriam Toews.

Klassen, Sarah. The Wittenbergs. Winnipeg: Turnstone, 2013.

I met Klassen at the conference and she gave me a copy of one of her poetry collections for free (which I enjoyed), so I wanted to return the favor by making sure to buy one of her novels as well.

Redekop, Corey. Husk. Toronto: ECW, 2012.

This novel also apparently involves a queer protagonist.

—. Shelf Monkey. Toronto: ECW, 2007.

When I heard about Husk, I went to Redekop’s website to learn more about him and his work, and the description of Shelf Monkey (“Thomas Friesen has three goals in life. Get a job. Make friends. Find a good book to curl up with. After landing a job at READ, the newest hypermegabookstore, he feels he may have accomplished all three. … If you’ve ever thrown a book against a wall in disgust; if you’ve ever loved a novel that no one else can stand; if you obsess over the proper use of punctuation; this may be the novel for you”) was irresistible, so I bought it as well.

Snyder, Carrie. Girl Runner. New York: Harper, 2015.

I read this novel last weekend and it is excellent.

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Books Acquired Recently

Davis, James L. Legendary Locals of Greater Utica. Charleston: Arcadia, 2013.

I am still relatively new to Utica, and thus continue to seek out books about it to help orient me to the area. I’ve read some of Davis’s work on the city before and appreciated it, thus decided to buy this book. It will be a helpful resource for learning about the city’s personalities rather than its geography, which I am becoming more and more familiar with.

This and the Toews novel were acquired from amazon.com.

Rankine, Claudia. Citizen: An American Lyric. Minneapolis: Graywolf, 2014.

I read a review of this book in the New Yorker and it sounded fascinating, so I ordered it from abebooks.com. It’s a book-length poem about continuing instances of racism in America. I’ve already read it, and it was fantastic. I had never encountered Rankine’s work before, but I would now recommend it to anyone.

Toews, Miriam. All My Puny Sorrows. San Francisco: McSweeney’s, 2014.

Toews is one of my favorite authors, and I am very excited to read her new novel. I’ve heard very good things about it, and normally wouldn’t have waited several months to acquire it, but the U.S. edition just came out and I was too lazy to try and track down a copy of the Canadian edition online.

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Two Recent Publications

I’ve recently had two publications appear online. The first is a review of Michael Moon’s book Darger’s Resources, which appears in both the print and electronic versions of the Rocky Mountain Review, the journal of the Rocky Mountain Modern Language association. The electronic version is here.

The second is an essay on Miriam Toews’s Summer of My Amazing Luck in the Journal of the Center for Mennonite Writing, which is here.

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Theodora Keogh’s Meg

I just finished reading Theodora Keogh’s 1950 novel Meg, which is about the eponymous protagonist’s struggles with her entrance into womanhood in the year before she turns thirteen. I am generally not a fan of books that are primarily about children (two major exceptions are Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and Miriam Toews’s The Flying Troutmans), but Meg is a thought-provoking, well-written book. It is a cross between Judy Blume and Lolita, with the salacious bits just titillating enough to keep the reader’s attention without causing them too much worry about Meg’s fate, and the more innocent parts genuine enough as to not verge into sappiness.

What impresses me most about the novel is how prescient it is about the enforced conformity of the decade that followed its publication. Nothing much scandalous happens (There are constant hints that something will–Will Meg be seduced by her best friend’s father? Will she be kidnapped by a child molester? and so on–but the only time the book lives up to its luridly suggestive cover is when Meg loses her virginity to a slightly older boy, an experience that is neither pleasurable nor traumatic for her. Her description of the experience is beautifully profound: “‘What did it feel like?’ She thought a moment as she buttoned on her blouse. ‘Well, it was as if there was no place and you were making one, only you never quite got to make it.'” [95]), but the book feels subversive simply because it portrays characters who are unsatisfied by the roles society assigns them and want something more. Unfortunately, as is par for the course in most 1950s pulp fiction, most of the characters are punished for their differences. The prostitute Miss Tracy is murdered by her pimp, and Meg blackmails her history teacher when she finds out that she is a lesbian in order to get a passing grade. Aside from this one act, though, the reader roots for Meg, and she happily gets through the book relatively unscathed, albeit wiser, and the reader knows that she won’t grow up to be the kind of adult drone which the novel writes against.

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