What is Not Yours is Not Yours was published in March of 2016 by Riverhead Books and came out in paperback March of 2017. Helen Oyeyemi is the author of five novels, and I’m angry at myself for never having picked up her work before this collection of stories, if this is any indication of her talent—which I’m sure that it is—because this style of writing and the world that is created in each of these stories is something that I’ve been looking for for a long time. These stories take place in different times, places, but the main character in one story will be mentioned in passing in a later as a family member, or ex-lover. This leads the reader to meditate what worlds we’ve created around us and how we don’t always realize the intersections with other worlds and stories. These stories are each built around the idea of keys; keys to a home, to a heart, to a garden, a library, books, anything that could possibly need a key to open is in this collection.
Radtke’s graphic memoir Imagine Wanting Only This follows her as she becomes fascinated with ruins in college the book follows her through undergrad in Chicago, ruins in Italy and feeling alone, undergrad in Iowa City, difficult relationships, losing family members, and trying to feel at home in new places.
This is a collection of essays, by Amy Leach, about the beauty of the natural world and how it intersects with our everyday lives. It allows the reader to look at the world around them with wonder once again. The essays look at everything from the sea cucumber, to fainting goats, to the shapes we see in the space between stars. These essays take the reader to places deep in the ocean, on the highest mountain top, deep into space, asking the reader to take nature’s perspective from events into account. To think about how the things that we do affect nature; from assigning names to the shapes we see in the sky, to yelling at a sea cucumber, and always reminding the reader that no matter what nature needs us as much, if not more than, we need it.
“Whether people need nature or not, it was clear that nature needed people. But perhaps nature needs us like a hostage needs her captors: nature needs us not to annihilate her, not to run her over, not to cover her with cement, not to chop her down. We can hardly admire ourselves, then, when we stop to accommodate nature’s needs: we are dubious heroes who create peril and then save it’s victims, we who rescue the animals and the trees from ourselves.”
“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not”
This is a story about magic, romance, and the power of stories, all set up in a vague competition requiring the two participants to hold everything in balance. Celia Bowen and Marco Alisdair have been bound together as part of a game set on them by their enchanter mentors. They each are to maintain parts of the vast Night Circus while creating new exhibitions of magic and wonder, and they cannot know the rules of this game, or how the winner is decided. As the circus grows so do the pressures, Maro and Celia begin to seek each other out and fall in love, but time begins to work against them as they fight harder to finish the game and hold the circus in balance.
This is a collection of short stories and essays by Marina Keegan, an award-winning author, journalist, playwright, poet, actress, and activist who died in 2012 in a car
accident. She was a graduate of Yale, and her essay “The Opposite of Loneliness” became a global sensation. This book is a compilation of the work that she completed while at Yale and in high school and it shows true promise and it would be fair to say that the world lost a great writer in 2012.
A memoir about trees, flowers, seeds, soil, friendship, and most importantly a fascinating life of geo-biologist Hope Jahren, Lab Girl takes readers through the trials of building labs and gaining recognition as a woman and a scientist in a largely male dominated field. Through her control of prose Jahren not only shares her life spent in labs but teaches the reader about plants, and dirt, and flowers, and the world around us.
In his debut novel, Max Porter writes prose like it is poetry (with allusions to poets whose work focused on grief: Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, and Emily Dickinson) with a plot, and follows a man and his two sons as they deal with the loss of their wife and mother. After the funeral, they are visited by a great black crow – “antagonist, trickster, god, protector, therapist, and babysitter” who attempts to force this small family
further into their grief, while also throwing them a rope to move on. By tackling grief in this way Porter gives it a language and allows the reader to enter into their own grief.
This book is part raising a hawk, part memorial for a father, and part biography of T.H. White. In the weaving together of her familial loss with raising one of the world’s most terrifying birds of prey, Helen Macdonald takes readers on a journey I’m sure not many have experienced. Raising a Goshawk allows Helen to muse on her growth over the years, and how connected we as people are to those we choose to surround ourselves with– human and animal– and how those personalities can affect and change our own.
Jane Steele follows its namesake as she makes her way through England in the 1800s as an orphan. Reminiscent of Jane Eyre, Steele is orphaned, sent to boarding school, becomes a governess, and falls in love with the man in charge of her ward. That is where the similarities between these two novels end. In this story, Lyndsay Faye takes Victorian England and a female protagonist and every Brontë sister, Austen-esque cliché of the era and turns them into a compelling, contemporary story of loss, love, and the drive to survive.
I am tempted to write a book review that falls back on my English major training and compares and contrasts with Jane Eyre, but that wouldn’t do this book justice. In an attempt not to write a literary analysis, here we go: Jane Steele as a character is very aware of herself and of her audience; the book is told as an autobiography. And starts with her first murder. Don’t worry I’m not spoiling anything yet, the story opens with: “Of all my many murders, committed for love and for better reasons, the first was the most important.” (1)
Spoilers under the cut.
The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison is a collection of essays that explore how much people understand one another, how we should care for each other, and how best to share in the pain. The essays range from Jamison’s time as a medical actor for medical students to the Barkley Marathons in northern Tennessee to Nicaragua, to Robin Hood Hills, and to a Morgellons disease conference in Austin, Texas. They all ask how can we as humans better empathize with other humans; if should we have empathy for each other; and why do we need to prove that our pain is real.