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Book Review :: That Librarian: The Fight Against Book Banning in America by Amanda Jones

Review by Eleanor J. Bader

When Amanda Jones, a middle school librarian and head of the Louisiana Association of School Librarians, spoke before the Livingston Parish Library Board in August 2022, she did so as a concerned community member. Her message was clear and direct: Diverse collections must include books that accurately address U.S. history and offer readers multiple ways to understand race, class, gender, sexuality, and sexual identity. The latter category, she said, is especially important for children, adolescents, and teens as they navigate coming of age.

Although Jones was not the only person to express this viewpoint, four days after she testified she found herself on the receiving end of a well-organized hate-and-harassment campaign coordinated by Citizens for a New Louisiana, a newly-formed conservative group that dubbed her a pornographer and menace to children.

That Librarian, part memoir, part impassioned political argument against censorship and book bans, is a deeply felt exposition of the physical and emotional toll these smears exacted and a strategic workbook about ways for communities to fight back. Moreover, it charts Jones’s personal transformation from a 2016 Trump supporter to become a forceful advocate for civil rights, civil liberties, and the right to read. It’s a powerful, angry, and inspiring book.


That Librarian: The Fight Against Book Banning in America by Amanda Jones. Bloomsbury Publishing, August 2024 (pre-order available).

Reviewer bio: Eleanor J. Bader is a Brooklyn, NY-based journalist who writes about books and domestic social issues for Truthout, Rain Taxi, The Progressive, Ms. Magazine, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and The Indypendent.

Book Review :: Choice by Neel Mukherjee

Review by Kevin Brown

Neel Mukherjee’s most recent novel, Choice, tells a triptych of tales, all tangentially related to one another and all, not surprisingly, centered around the idea of choice. The first story follows Ayush, an editor at a publishing house where the focus has shifted from books and authors to profits. He is also not merely concerned with climate change, but obsessed with it, to the point that it disrupts his relationships with his husband, Luke, and their two children. He consistently repeats, as narrator, that one must change their life, which leads him to an important decision.

The second part follows Emily, a professor at a school that might be the same one Luke works at (or this story could be a story from a collection that Ayush publishes), though that’s left unclear. Emily takes a ride share home one evening, and the driver might have hit something and/or someone, though Emily didn’t see clearly, given that she was both drunk and digging around the floor of the vehicle for her dropped phone. Rather than going to the police, though, she gets to know the driver, Salim, and learns his story and his family’s story, as they immigrated from Eritrea, leading Emily to make a radical life choice.

The final section tells the story of Sabita, a woman living on the border of West Bengal and Bangladesh, and is most likely a response one of Luke’s fellow economics professors gives to Ayush when he asks about her work on poverty. Sabita and her family receive a cow as part of an experiment to see if a change in assets can change one’s level of poverty. Unlike the other respondents in the experiment, the situation does not go well.

Ultimately, Mukherjee’s novel asks the question of how one should live in the twenty-first century, especially around how one can do good in such a complex world. Mukherjee leaves the reader with that question, as he knows there are no easy answers.


Choice by Neel Mukherjee. W.W. Norton, April 2024.

Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrites

Editor’s Choice :: White Poverty

White Poverty: How Exposing Myths About Race and Class Can Reconstruct American Democracy by Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
Liveright / W. W. Norton, June 2024

One of the most pernicious and persistent myths in the United States is the association of Black skin with poverty. Though there are forty million more poor white people than Black people, most Americans, both Republicans and Democrats, continue to think of poverty—along with issues like welfare, unemployment, and food stamps—as solely a Black problem. Why is this so? What are the historical causes? And what are the political consequences that result?

These are among the questions that the Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II, a leading advocate for the rights of the poor and the “closest person we have to Dr. King” (Cornel West), addresses in White Poverty, a groundbreaking work that exposes a legacy of historical myths that continue to define both white and Black people, creating in the process what might seem like an insuperable divide. Analyzing what has changed since the 1930s, when the face of American poverty was white, Barber, along with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, addresses white poverty as a hugely neglected subject that just might provide the key to mitigating racism and bringing together tens of millions of working class and impoverished Americans.


To discover more great books from small, independent, and university presses, visit the NewPages Guide to Publishers as well as our Books Received monthly roundup. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to stay up to date!

Book Review :: Brotherless Night by V.V. Ganeshananthan

Review by Kevin Brown

Brotherless Night, V.V. Ganeshananthan’s Women’s-Prize-winning novel, clearly portrays the horrors of the Sri Lankan civil war of the 1980s and following. Sashi is a teenager when the book opens, and the book follows her over the next decade or so as the civil war affects every aspect of her life. She has four brothers, all of whom have some relationship to the war; the title of the novel, in fact, refers to the first night she spent without at least one of her brothers present, and it represents the beginning of the war.

Sashi works in a field hospital for the Tamil rebels, mainly due to the request of K., a childhood friend she would have married, if not for the war. Ganeshananthan portrays the horrific actions of the Sri Lankan and Indian government armies, but she also clearly conveys what the Tamil rebels do, not only to those government soldiers, but also to the civilian population and other rebel groups.

No entity is innocent here, and Sashi reflects that complexity. Though she disagrees with the Tamil Tigers’ actions, she works in the field hospital to try to make sure nobody dies for lack of medical care. She also works to expose the immoral actions they have taken. Ganeshananthan draws heavily on research, even basing one of Sashi’s professors on a real professor and activist, but it is the humanizing portrayal of the wide range of characters that gives this novel its power. Her care for her characters reflects the suffering so many endured throughout the years of the war, showing the reader just how much so many have lost, while their care for each other reveals how much humanity remains.


Brotherless Night by V.V. Ganeshananthan. Random House, January 2024.

Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrites

Unsolicited Press Is Releasing Literary Fiction that Challenges and Inspires You

screenshot of Unsolicited Press' flyer showcasing new 2024 titles
click image to open flyer

Unsolicited Press is set to release enchanting literary fiction this year including THE HEDGEROW by Anne Leigh Parrish, LINES by Sung J. Woo, and DEVIL ON MY TRAIL by Danial DiFranco. See our flyer and learn more at our website.

Want early access to our eLitPak flyers? Subscribe to our weekly newsletter! You can also support NewPages with a paid subscription and get early access to the majority submission opportunities, upcoming events, and more before they are posted to our site.

Interested in advertising in the eLitPak? Learn more here.

The Colorado Authors League

Screenshot of the Colorado Authors League flyer introducing new titles available from their members
click image to view flyer

The Colorado Authors League (CAL) supports and promotes its community of published writers while connecting with and adding value to the reading world. Formed in 1931, authors become members to: keep up with changes in the craft of writing, publishing, and marketing, gain greater visibility for their writing, join a group of like-minded people who love writing. View our flyer to see new releases by members.

Want early access to our eLitPak flyers? Subscribe to our weekly newsletter! You can also support NewPages with a paid subscription and get early access to the majority submission opportunities, upcoming events, and more before they are posted to our site.

Interested in advertising in the eLitPak? Learn more here.

Book Review :: Headshot by Rita Bullwinkel

Review by Kevin Brown

There’s not much plot to Headshot, Rita Bullwinkel’s debut novel—eight girls engage in a boxing tournament in a run-down gym in Reno, Nevada—but that’s not the point. The novel is largely structured around each fight with chapters getting progressively shorter and each focusing more on the lives and psychology of the two girls involved in the fight than on what actually happens in the fight itself.

There is a line from The Matrix: Reloaded, where Seraph, the character whose job it is to guard the oracle, fights Neo. When he explains to Neo that he had to know that Neo wasn’t an enemy, Neo responds, “You could’ve just asked.” Seraph replies, “No. You do not truly know someone until you fight them.” These eight girls seem to understand each other better than anybody in their lives, and they come to an understanding of themselves, because they fight.

None of them go on to box in the remainder of their lives, some of them even forgetting about this time in their lives, but their understanding of themselves remains. Boxing serves as a metaphor for the lineage of women understanding one another in this world, as they move in concert with one another, responding to one another, partners in a dance that will carry them through their lives.


Headshot by Rita Bullwinkel. Viking, March 2024.

Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrite

Book Review :: Wonder About The by Matthew Cooperman

Review by Jami Macarty

In Wonder About The, Matthew Cooperman “presents / / a spilling presence” of Colorado’s Cache la Poudre River:

Like an open vein, like a sluiced giant, it rolls on through cottonwood
and willow body, through thistle and rabbit brush, grama and
blue stem, through drought and illusion, it rolls on
beyond us, the river flayed in moonlight (“Thesis”)

Cooperman’s eco- and documentary poetic “pulses in… / a rhythm” of “fluid” enactment, environmental activism, and river ecology, “palimpsesting” on water flow reports, geological surveys, “Colorado homesteading history,” environmental impact studies, and a Colorado oil and gas industry “Well Prediction Map.” Throughout the collection’s three sections, the poems roll like a river lyrically, fragmentarily, and narratively freely mixing reportage, collage, and erasure with homage and elegy. Regardless of their poetic mode or compositional method ultimately the poems aim to “Save the Poudre!”

The poems educate readers about the threats to the waterway’s fragile ecology: “a toil of oil,” the “rhetoric of monuments,” “people on the river,” “lifestyles,” and “progress.” And, the poems raft on inquiry: “what is a river / and what is a season / and what is the reason of oil.” As Cooperman’s poems prompted me to consider “what the river’s for,” I thought about the Diamond-Water Paradox which poses the question: If we need water to survive and we do not need diamonds, why are diamonds expensive and water cheap?

From advocacy and from love, Matthew Cooperman carves a “structure of all / perception” through a channel where the two tributaries of wonder are “alive and shimmering.”


Wonder About The by Matthew Cooperman. Middle Creek Publishing, June 2023.

Reviewer bio: Jami Macarty is the author of The Long Now Conditions Permit, winner of the 2023 Test Site Poetry Series Prize, forthcoming fall 2024, and The Minuses (Center for Literary Publishing, 2020), winner of the 2020 New Mexico/Arizona Book Award – Poetry Arizona. Jami’s four chapbooks include The Whole Catastrophe, forthcoming summer 2024 from the Vallum Chapbook Series, and Mind of Spring (Vallum, 2017), winner of the 2017 Vallum Chapbook Award. To learn more about Jami’s writing, editing, and teaching practices visit her author website.

Book Review :: Victim by Andrew Boryga

Review by Kevin Brown

Victim, Andrew Boryga’s debut novel, tells the story of Javi, a Puerto Rican living in the Bronx. He does well in school and, through a meeting with a college counselor who’s volunteering at his school, ends up at an elite college, unlike his best friend, Gio, whose life takes a different path. Through that meeting with the counselor, Javi’s life seems to follow a traditional path toward the American success story, but Javi’s means of achieving what he seeks is complicated.

As the title conveys, Javi presents himself as a victim, whether of oppression or violence or racism, embellishing the stories he writes, first for his college newspaper, then for a national magazine. On the one hand, Boryga is satirizing the cult of victimhood, the approach that argues that one should use their stories to evoke pity as a means of accomplishing some goal. However, the ideas that Javi learns in college about systemic racism and other forms of oppression are true, as readers can see in Javi and Gio’s lives.

Javi’s problem isn’t that he doesn’t struggle with real suffering; it’s that he seeks the approval of others, especially via social media, so much that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to obtain that approval. He doesn’t care about the problems he details in his writing; he only cares about himself. His audience is also partly responsible, as the more his stories follow the expected arc of racial and class progress and success, as long as they fit the narrative his audience already believes, the more successful he becomes. Boryga reminds his audience that stories are more complicated than they seem and where the problem lies isn’t as obvious as one might think.


Victim by Andrew Boryga. Doubleday, March 2024.

Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrites

Book Review :: The King of Terrors by Jim Johnstone

Review by Jami Macarty

Before The King of Terrors was the title of Jim Johnstone’s 2023 poetry book, it was the title of a 1910 Sunday sermon preached by Henry Scott Holland, a 1977 horror novel written by Robert Bloch, and a 2022 horror film directed by Ryan Callaway. Like those before him, Johnstone’s poetry book regards death and its associates, madness and fear.

The poet’s approach is a meditative lyric, “a dream, into a song.” “Fear” is an anaphora, “leading by example” and “running free” throughout the poems. The particular fears have to do with what is “unseen”: “the virus” and “the tumour,” COVID-19 and meningioma. In “parallel / time,” global and personal health crises haunt Johnstone’s poems. In response, the poet seems to be prompted to accept Chronos, assisted by Derrida (“becoming / the always-already absent present”), and to confess to the “ghosts of former lovers.”

In the poem “The Darkroom,” among my favorites for its candor and heart, the poet finds “noun and verb” between apology and prayer to admit:

But I’ve said terrible things about those
whose only mistake was that they weren’t me,
didn’t show up in the mirror where I stared
and stared trying to make sure I was more
and better, where my face would blur
then realign as if hope could change the way
my actions were perceived.

The intimate and “direct nature of [the poet’s] address” in this poem and throughout the book takes the reader into his confidence and illuminates the “interstitial space,” “hovering between two ways”—between “instinct” and “change,” “fragment” and “renunciation,” “a liar” and “a lyre.” In The King of Terrors, Jim Johnstone offers readers poems for the uncertain time we “inhabit” “between / age and agency.”


The King of Terrors by Jim Johnstone. Coach House Books, September 2023.

Reviewer bio: Jami Macarty is the author of The Long Now Conditions Permit, winner of the 2023 Test Site Poetry Series Prize, forthcoming fall 2024, and The Minuses (Center for Literary Publishing, 2020), winner of the 2020 New Mexico/Arizona Book Award – Poetry Arizona. Jami’s four chapbooks include The Whole Catastrophe, forthcoming summer 2024 from the Vallum Chapbook Series, and Mind of Spring (Vallum, 2017), winner of the 2017 Vallum Chapbook Award. To learn more about Jami’s writing, editing, and teaching practices visit her author website.

Book Review :: Permission to Relax by Sheila E. Murphy

Review by Jami Marcarty

In Permission to Relax, Sheila E. Murphy vibrates as “Speaker. Language. Mirror.” Murphy’s poems are equally at home at “bake sales” as they are at a “Chaplin festival.” These two locales suggest the compositionally quirky, philosophically comic, and politically potent characteristics of Murphy’s cultural critique that “upends the platitudes.” The poet points out life’s absurdities, relationship tensions, and communication difficulties: “North of probability and vortices, a warm mind / rescues love from common sense.” “Fracture” “repeat[s] … sadness” in the background and foregrounds temporal anxiety: “In a minute, / it will be / tomorrow.”

Murphy’s “span of attention” ranges formally from prose to verse and the poet is equally adept at invented as received forms. The collection includes a “Hay(na)ku Sequence,” “Eight Ghazals,” and “Winter Pantoum.” Some poems act like “a letter with a question mark [slid] under [a] door.” Other poems are a “secret way of holding thought.” Whether “replete with souvenirs” or “homemade” baked goods, the poems of Permission to Relax make an “everworld … tingling.”

Reader, Reader, Sheila E. Murphy is a poet “whose pockets are filled / with permission slips” and “sprezzatura”!


Permission to Relax by Sheila E. Murphy. BlazeVOX [books], August 2023

Reviewer bio: Jami Macarty is the author of The Long Now Conditions Permit, winner of the 2023 Test Site Poetry Series Prize, forthcoming fall 2024, and The Minuses (Center for Literary Publishing, 2020), winner of the 2020 New Mexico/Arizona Book Award – Poetry Arizona. Jami’s four chapbooks include The Whole Catastrophe, forthcoming summer 2024 from the Vallum Chapbook Series, and Mind of Spring (Vallum, 2017), winner of the 2017 Vallum Chapbook Award. To learn more about Jami’s writing, editing, and teaching practices visit her author website.

Sponsored :: New Book :: Pulp in to Paper

front cover of Pulp into Paper by Lenore Weiss

Pulp into Paper: A Novel, Fiction by Lenore Weiss

Atmosphere Press, April 2024

In the close-knit community of Hentsbury, racism and the local paper mill’s oppressive control over the town collide in a gripping tale set in the 1990s in southern Arkansas along the fictional Mud River.

Rae-Ann, owner of a convenience store and unofficial mayor of Hentsbury, finds her life intertwined with Vernon’s when a budding romance between them hits an unexpected roadblock. Their love story takes an abrupt turn when chemicals from the mill’s runoff claim the life of Rincon, a young black boy battling acute asthma. In a harrowing failed rescue attempt, Vernon, the plant’s Environmental Officer, relives the trauma of holding the dying boy in his arms.

As the community grapples with this tragedy, Vernon stumbles upon a back-door deal between state and local officials who ask him to suppress critical information about the mill’s dangerous hydrogen sulfide emissions. With the rising tensions, Rae-Ann begins to question whether Vernon will stand by his principles.

In the end, it’s Rincon’s determined grandmother, along with Rae-Ann and her older sister, who rallies the town to take action. Their efforts lead to the arrival of an EPA investigatory team, but not without consequences. When the dust settles, Vernon loses his job, but he and Rae-Ann embark on a new chapter in life together.

Book Review :: Only Insistence by James Lindsay

Review by Jami Macarty

In James Lindsay’s Only Insistence a new father to a son is in the throes of “involuntary / reflection” on his relationship with his parents: “What is authority / but anxiety.” The authority within Lindsay’s poems is a “witness” both “apprehensive” and “evasive.” He can tell readers his “mother died, but “can’t speak / as to why.” And, he confesses he doesn’t “know how to talk / about [his] biological father.” That’s personal, “the way life is personal” “and made up / of a terrifying sharpness.”

Sometimes it is easier “to describe the lake: … / the things that float on it / and the things that drown in it that make it what it is.” What is it? It is “the tiny histories that seed memory.”

Memory is both repetition and insistence, “wringing image to solid personal fact.” Here, “as he expresses himself // brutally but beautifully / in how honestly / he carries on,” Lindsay ensures “the Reader and writer / Have [the] kind of relationship” in which “language worked / / Because it was promised.”


Only Insistence by James Lindsay. Goose Lane Editions, September 2023.

Reviewer bio: Jami Macarty is the author of The Long Now Conditions Permit, winner of the 2023 Test Site Poetry Series Prize, forthcoming fall 2024, and The Minuses (Center for Literary Publishing, 2020), winner of the 2020 New Mexico/Arizona Book Award – Poetry Arizona. Jami’s four chapbooks include The Whole Catastrophe, forthcoming summer 2024 from the Vallum Chapbook Series, and Mind of Spring (Vallum, 2017), winner of the 2017 Vallum Chapbook Award. To learn more about Jami’s writing, editing, and teaching practices visit her author website.

Book Review :: My Favorite Thing is Monsters Book Two by Emil Ferris

Review by Kevin Brown

Readers don’t have to have read the first book of Emil Ferris’s My Favorite Thing is Monsters to understand what happens in book two, as she has enough exposition to bring the reader up to speed. However, reading the first installment (or re-reading it, if it’s been a while) will certainly enable the reader to avoid having to wonder about Karen’s relationship with her brother and her deceased neighbor, Anka, who appears through audiotapes she recorded.

Ferris presents the book as Karen’s sketches on notebook paper, and Karen portrays herself as a werewolf, mainly because she feels like a monster due to her romantic interest in other girls. She draws the world like a horror comic from the 1950s, as she sees the world as a treacherous place. Her brother Deeze seems to be an enforcer for a local mob boss, of sorts, and he may have even worse secrets in his past. Anka tried to rescue girls from the Holocaust, a real horror that Karen sketches based on the tapes.

Karen’s lack of knowledge forces the reader to draw conclusions from the limited information she has, embedding the reader in this world of terror. The artwork is amazing and immensely detailed and colored, which explains why it has taken seven years to get the second volume. While Karen lives in a monstrous world, it’s one that readers will want to live in, hoping that Karen can realize the humanity she exudes.


My Favorite Thing is Monsters Book Two by Emil Ferris. Fantagraphics, May 2024.

Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrites

Book Review of Memory Piece by Lisa Ko

Review by Kevin Brown

Lisa Ko’s second novel follows three Asian-American women—Giselle, Ellen, and Jackie—who meet as teenagers, then remain close for the rest of their lives, though they see each other infrequently. Giselle becomes a performance artist, Ellen transforms a house she and others squatted into a type of communal living space, and Jackie revolutionizes the tech industry, careers and passions that seem far removed from one another.

However, they are all creators of some sort, even artists, though the world seems bent on preventing them from becoming so. They encounter sexism and misogyny, racism, and capitalist expectations, working together and separately to overcome (or simply thwart) those barriers and demands, to find success in their own ways. Ko moves the novel from the 1980s of their teenage years all the way to a future beyond their deaths to explore the ways in which they impact their world and how they become the women they need to be to survive and thrive in that world.

Underneath their different pursuits, they are all trying to answer the same questions that all artists are trying to answer, the questions Giselle knows an interviewer is really asking her: “HOW DO YOU LIVE (HOW DARE YOU LIVE) WHAT DO YOU DO (WHAT SHOULD WE DO) HOW DO WE LIVE HOW DO WE DIE WHAT DO WE NEED TO HEAR.”

Ko’s novel provides three different answers to those questions, but, more importantly, it asks the readers to find the answers in their lives.


Memory Piece by Lisa Ko. Riverhead Books, March 2024.

Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrite

Book Review :: Black AF History by Michael Harriot

Review by Kevin Brown

Michael Harriot makes the point of Black AF History about as clear as he can in the title. The subtitle—The Un-Whitewashed Story of America—removes any remaining doubt. Some of the history will be familiar to most readers, though the angle Harriot takes won’t be. For example, when he refers to at least one elected official as a serial killer, what he means is that they were an active member in the KKK. He wants readers to see what they think they already know for the reality that it actually is: leaders in the KKK killed numerous Black people, so they’re serial killers. He also presents history that isn’t taught in any high school (or most college) classes, and he does an excellent job of focusing on Black women who aren’t named Rosa or Harriet.

Given that Harriot isn’t an historian by training, his presentation (though not his research) is far from scholarly. At times, his Uncle Rob will supposedly interrupt a chapter and provide a slightly more colorful presentation; there are footnotes that are more side-eyes than clarifications; and there are at least two interviews with Racist Baby, a character that first showed up on Reddit.

He does structure the book like a typical history textbook, though, complete with supplemental materials and end-of-chapter quizzes, though those structural devices are more of a wink-and-nudge than anything else. Overall, Harriot doesn’t want his readers just to be informed; he wants them to be angry AF.


Black AF History by Michael Harriot. Dey Street Books, September 2023.

Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrite

Book Review :: One by Haley Lasché

Review by Jami Macarty

In One, Haley Lasché’s debut poetry collection, the poet “claims a bite of language” and invites readers to consider the primacy and implications of “one,” the number and word. Welcome to “imperative’s den”!

Regardless of the part of speech—noun, pronoun, or adjective—the word “one” and its various definitions offer “syntax” and “possibility”; throughout the collection “one” references and “names itself / an unbroken.” But, we are not all in one piece. The meaning of words and their semantic relations lead to inquiry: What are the implications of being “at one with” or “for one”? And, where do harmony and example lead?

One response might be found in the chosen poetic form of the monostich. The one-line stanzas constitute a single moment, observation, or experience within a human body moving within the natural world where it is often nighttime, often cold; human senses awake just as those of the nocturnal possum and owl as the moon comes to light.

Lasché’s synesthetic poetry “is a story told from one eye to the next” from within the “earthen current” where many nights become one night and one within the night becomes one with the night. Where a “spark of voice” joins a “prism of sound,” Haley Lasché’s One is a “song ravenous for light”!


One by Haley Lasché. Beauty School Editions, October 2023.

Reviewer bio: Jami Macarty is the author of The Long Now Conditions Permit, winner of the 2023 Test Site Poetry Series Prize, forthcoming fall 2024, and The Minuses (Center for Literary Publishing, 2020), winner of the 2020 New Mexico/Arizona Book Award – Poetry Arizona. Jami’s four chapbooks include The Whole Catastrophe, forthcoming summer 2024 from the Vallum Chapbook Series, and Mind of Spring (Vallum, 2017), winner of the 2017 Vallum Chapbook Award. To learn more about Jami’s writing, editing, and teaching practices visit her author website.

New Books June 2024

Summer + Reading = Happy Place. To help you achieve that goal, check out the July 2024 New Books Received. Each month we post the new and forthcoming titles NewPages has received from small, independent, university, and alternative presses as well as author-published titles.

If you are a follower of our blog or a subscriber to our weekly newsletter, you can see several of the titles we received featured. For publishers or authors looking to be featured on our blog and social media, please visit our FAQ page.

[Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay]

Book Review :: Allow Me to Introduce Myself by Onyi Nwabineli

Review by Kevin Brown

Nwabineli’s second novel, Allow Me to Introduce Myself, follows Aṅụrị Chinasa, a twenty-five year-old woman born in Nigeria and raised in England. Her mother died in childbirth, so her stepmother, Ophelia, became the primary caregiver, as her father struggled with grief. Aṅụrị spends much of the novel involved in a lawsuit with Ophelia, as Ophelia was one of the earliest momfluencers, making millions through advertising and sponsorship, with all of the content focused on Aṅụrị. The effects of that childhood have prevented Aṅụrị from moving on, as she turned to alcohol as one of her main means of rebellion against Ophelia and her expectations.

Further complicating the situation is that Ophelia is now carrying out the same parenting approach with Noelle, Aṅụrị’s half-sister, with similar effects. Aṅụrị not only wants Ophelia to remove all of the content concerning her childhood; she wants Ophelia to stop posting about Noelle. In fact, Aṅụrị wants to take Noelle out of the house and raise her on her own.

Aṅụrị has several people helping her work to move past the scars of her childhood: her two best friends—Simi and Loki—her therapist Ammah, her lawyer Gloria, and a possible boyfriend, Christian. However, the years of damage make it difficult for Aṅụrị to trust anybody.

Nwabineli’s novel is an excellent exploration of the effects of the internet’s lack of privacy on children, calling into question parents (and children) who willingly give up their lives to total strangers for financial gain. This timely exploration should have every reader asking whether what they view online has effects they might not have considered.


Allow Me to Introduce Myself by Onyi Nwabineli. Graydon House, May 2024.

Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrite

Book Review :: Mechanical Bull by Rennie Ament

Review by Jami Macarty

The poems in Rennie Ament’s Mechanical Bull toggle between extremes, where it is “[l]earned anything has a punishing / angle. Tensions range between husbandry/slaughter, “wonder”/horror, humility/“hubris,” superluminal/“supraliminal,” human body/poetic form, “association”/“dissociation,” and a “new book”/old story of a girl on the roadside and a murderer under the trees. “Pick / your version,” reader, but understand you and the poet may be in “business together” but she has “all the capital.”

Ament’s “[p]oems are a bed of nails” and you prick “awake on their numerous tips.” The hypothesis: pleasure and pain are an “eerie glistening” on a continuum. Her poems, in turn, edulcorate and confront everyday “savagery / fallen short of its potential.” The potential for danger looms everywhere, “murder coming in” through fists or rape. “Who will do something. Like ring a bell. A good old-fashioned bell.”

Rennie Ament does something with Mechanical Bull; her poems ring bells.


Mechanical Bull by Rennie Ament. Cleveland State University Poetry Center, October 2023.

Reviewer bio: Jami Macarty is the author of The Long Now Conditions Permit, winner of the 2023 Test Site Poetry Series Prize, forthcoming fall 2024, and The Minuses (Center for Literary Publishing, 2020), winner of the 2020 New Mexico/Arizona Book Award – Poetry Arizona. Jami’s four chapbooks include The Whole Catastrophe, forthcoming summer 2024 from the Vallum Chapbook Series, and Mind of Spring (Vallum, 2017), winner of the 2017 Vallum Chapbook Award. To learn more about Jami’s writing, editing, and teaching practices visit her author website.

Book Review :: Feminism, Violence and Nonviolence: An Anthology

Review by Eleanor J. Bader

The forty-seven essays in Feminism, Violence and Nonviolence – all published between the 1970s and the 1990s – provide readers with a penetrating glimpse into the linkages between war, militarism, interpersonal violence, and women’s oppression. It’s a valuable collection, but because it is disconnected from the contemporary realities of 21st-century politics and social movements, its usefulness is likely limited to scholars, researchers, and academics.

Nonetheless, the essays remind readers of the extent of psychological and physical violence, noting that conflict exists far beyond the battlefield and can be seen in our home and work lives, as well as in interactions with a host of government agencies that belittle and condescend. What’s more, several of the essays offer an expansive view of violence and touch on pollution, racism, and economic inequity as potent forms of attack.

While many Second Wave feminists agitated for female parity in the armed forces and in law enforcement, the anti-violence segment of the movement is often sidelined. This book changes that. And while debates that raged during the 1970s and 80s – whether self-defense was a betrayal of nonviolent precepts or was a legitimate response to rape – seem dated, Feminism, Violence and Nonviolence reminds us that 20th-century pacifist-feminists were bold, creative, and radical.


Feminism, Violence and Nonviolence: An Anthology edited by Selina Gallo-Cruz. Edinburgh University Press, May 2024.

Reviewer bio: Eleanor J. Bader is a Brooklyn, NY-based journalist who writes about books and domestic social issues for Truthout, Rain Taxi, The Progressive, Ms. Magazine, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and The Indypendent.

Sponsored :: New Book :: Exits

cover of Exits by Stephen Pollock

Exits: Selected Poems, Poetry by Stephen C. Pollock

Windtree Press, June 2023

Stephen C. Pollock’s poetry collection Exits explores the beauty and frailty of life, the cycles of nature, and the potential for renewal. It also responds to contemporary anxieties surrounding death and the universal search for meaning. 

Musical and multilayered, Exits features a potpourri of styles, ranging from traditional forms to free verse to hybrid works. Many of the images are drawn from nature. In addition, each poem is paired with a piece of artwork intended to resonate with the writing and enhance the reader’s experience.

Exits has been honored with the Gold Medal for poetry in the 2023 Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards and the Silver Medal for poetry in the 2024 Feathered Quill Book Awards. Echoing these accolades, Midwest Book Review declares: “Exits is a book that has profoundly impacted the literary world.”

“Pollock’s poetry is brilliant”
—Kristiana Reed, editor-in-chief, Free Verse Revolution

“Exits exemplifies the musicality of language”
—Foreword-Clarion Reviews

“Full of wit, insight and provocative imagery, Exits is a masterful collection”
—IndieReader, 5.0 stars

Visit exitspoetry.net to learn more about the book.

Editor’s Choice :: Rendered Paradise

Rendered Paradise by Susanne Dyckman & Elizabeth Robinson
Apogee Press, April 2024

In Rendered Paradise, poets Susanne Dyckman and Elizabeth Robinson invite the reader into the worlds of three major women artists: Vivian Maier, Agnes Martin and Kiki Smith. Dyckman and Robinson bring a radical collaborative approach to this gathering: through their shared vision, contemplation, and creation, each artist’s works are encountered as unique presences coming alive in fresh and unexpected ways. “We have seen so many instance of men writing about men,” says Editor Edward Smallfield, “and have had many fewer opportunities to read women writing about women. The writing changes as the poets move from one artists to another, so that the focus of the language is the work of art, not the preferred vocabulary of the poets.” This remarkable book isn’t “about” the artworks it engages with, but is its own work of art, new and wondrous.

To discover more great books from small, independent, and university presses, visit the NewPages Guide to Publishers as well as our Books Received monthly roundup. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to stay up to date!

Sponsored :: New Book :: Cadenza

cover of Cadenza by Justin Courter

Cadenza: A Novel, Fiction by Justin Courter

Owl Canyon Press, July 2024

At the age of seven, Jennifer Coleman is severely burned in a house fire that kills her sister. Despite the barriers of her scarred face and her tragic childhood, she reaches the pinnacle of achievement as a classical concert pianist, but at a deep psychological cost.

During Jennifer’s meteoric rise as a virtuoso pianist, her disfigurement takes on mythic proportions. She is internationally loved and admired, but unable to love herself. At a pivotal point in her career, she meets an extraordinarily creative, suicidal musician named Felix, who challenges Jennifer’s beliefs and falls deeply in love with her. Will Jennifer be able to learn from Felix’s example before she self-destructs?

Cadenza is symphonic. It succeeds not only as an absorbing, psychologically nuanced novel, but also as a tragic fable of ambition and virtuosity. Its extraordinary heroine offers profound truths about purpose, memory, trauma, and the transcendent powers of art and love.

— Lauren Acampora, author of The Hundred Waters

“An engrossing epic of artistic triumphs and personal disasters, unflinching in its depiction of scars both physical and emotional, Cadenza reads like a piano concerto playing in a house on fire.”

— Brett Marie, author of The Upsetter Blog

Editor’s Choice :: Killer Insight by Karoline Anderson

Killer Insight by Karoline Anderson
Flare Books, September 2024

When a local woman’s body is found in a shallow grave on one of Seattle’s pristine hiking trails, Detective Kaitlyn Kruse and her partner Joe Riley are under pressure to find her killer as swiftly as possible. But more than one body is recovered at the site, and – alarmingly – they all look a bit like Kaitlyn.

Fortunately, Kaitlyn has a secret weapon. She dreams of her past lives, and their memories are always eager to help her solve the crime at hand. But Kaitlyn’s dreams are getting more desperate every night, like one of her past selves is trying to tell her something, and a shady black sedan is tracking her every move. It may be too late to stop the inevitable – but Kaitlyn is determined to get justice for the dead before she becomes one of them.

In this rousing crime debut with a touch of the supernatural, the first in her Detective Kaitlyn Kruse series, Karoline Anderson proves she’s got a knack for the thrill.

Killer Insight is Karoline Anderson’s debut novel as well as the inaugural publication from Flare Books, an imprint of Jessica Powers’ Catalyst Press founded in 2017.

New Book :: 8000 Mile Roll

8000 Mile Roll: A Motorcycle Memoir by M. Scott Douglass
Paycock Press, April 2024

In 2021, in the fading days of the pandemic, M. Scott Douglass took a motorcycle ride across America. The ride itself took 24 days and covered 8001 miles through 24 states with extended stops in the Grand Canyon area and his native state of Pennsylvania. This book is a journal of that adventure, the places where he went, and the people he met along the way. North Carolina Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti says, “It’s impossible to read and not conjure Steppenwolf’s ‘Born to Be Wild,’ the revving, reverberating anthem to the iconic film Easy Rider.” And check out Charlotte Readers Podcast Episode 385 which features Douglass in conversation with Landis Wade.

To discover more great books from small, independent, and university presses, visit the NewPages Guide to Publishers as well as our Books Received monthly roundup. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to stay up to date!

Editor’s Choice :: 2024 Rattle Young Poets Anthology

2024 Rattle Young Poets Anthology
Rattle, May 2024

The 2024 Rattle Young Poets Anthology curates another year of delightful and insightful poetry that happens to be written by young people. As always, this is not a book of poems for children, but the other way around—these are poems written by children for us all, revealing the startling insights that are possible when looking at the world through fresh eyes.

This 36-page chapbook is mailed to all Rattle subscribers along with the Summer 2024 issue of Rattle poetry magazine. Eighteen poets age 15 or younger contributed to the 2024 volume, offering their perspectives on life in an impressive variety of poetic forms, including an abecedarian, a ghazal, a contrapuntal poem, and a haiku series.

Cover art: “Rainbow Cake” by Amy DiGi (2022, Oil on panel)

To discover more great books from small, independent, and university presses, visit the NewPages Guide to Publishers as well as our Books Received monthly roundup. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to stay up to date!

Sponsored :: New Book :: The Genetic Universe

cover of The Genetic Universe by Garcia-Gonzalez

The Genetic Universe: Revised Edition, Nonfiction by Garcia-Gonzalez

Nelson E. Garcia, May 2024

Garcia-Gonzalez’s work forays into numerous aspects of our existence to probe into the constraints of the human experience. What is reality? What incites the disparity between one individual’s observation of reality and another’s? As the author dives deeper into his immense understanding of what is, he provides a series of intriguing, thought-provoking insights that cut right to the core of one’s belief system, yet he does so with grace and knowledge that impels readers to at least consider what is being proposed.

The US Review of Books, May 13, 2024

New Books May 2024

Check out these great titles received in the month of May 2024, just in time to transition us into summer reading. Each month we post the new and forthcoming titles NewPages has received from small, independent, university, and alternative presses as well as author-published titles. You can view the full list here.

If you are a follower of our blog or a subscriber to our weekly newsletter, you can see several of the titles we received featured. For publishers or authors looking to be featured on our blog and social media, please visit our FAQ page.

[Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash]

Book Review :: Boopable! By Mary Ann Redmond

Review by Eleanor J. Bader

Mary Ann Redmond’s Boopable! is a beautifully illustrated and fanciful book for toddlers and pre-schoolers that is meant to introduce kids to the joyous bonds that can develop between animals and humans. By zeroing in on the irrepressible urge to snuggle and boop the nose of a cherished furry family member or four-legged friend – or even a creature seen only in the zoo, in stories or poems, or on TV – Boopable! makes clear that even when love is wordless, it is deeply felt.

“Would you be shocked if you booped a fox?” it asks. “Would you laugh if you booped a giraffe?…Would you be smitten if you booped a kitten?… Would you swoon if you booped a raccoon?”

Forget logic or the practical implications of such encounters; neither is on display here. Instead, Boopable! utilizes humorous rhymes to evoke affection for nine distinct members of the animal kingdom. And while most of the critters are unlikely to be within booping range of the book’s audience, this does not matter. Thanks to Kathy Moore Wilson’s exceptionally soulful watercolors, the book is a sweet tribute to love, whimsy, and imagination. It is sure to win cheers from both kids and adults.


Boopable! by Mary Ann Redmond with illustrations by Kathy Moore Wilson. Author Published, January 2024.

Reviewer bio: Eleanor J. Bader is a Brooklyn, NY-based journalist who writes about books and domestic social issues for Truthout, Rain Taxi, The Progressive, Ms. Magazine, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and The Indypendent.

Editor’s Choice :: Cemetery Citizens

Cemetery Citizens: Reclaiming the Past and Working for Justice in American Burial Grounds by Adam Rosenblatt
Stanford University Press, April 2024

Across the United States, groups of grassroots volunteers gather in overgrown, systemically neglected cemeteries. As they rake, clean headstones, and research silenced histories, they offer care to individuals who were denied basic rights and forms of belonging in life and in death. Cemetery Citizens is the first book-length study of this emerging form of social justice work. It focuses on how racial disparities shape the fates of the dead, and asks what kinds of repair are still possible. Drawing on interviews, activist anthropology, poems, and drawings, Adam Rosenblatt takes readers to gravesite reclamation efforts in three prominent American cities.

Cemetery Citizens dives into the ethical quandaries and practical complexities of cemetery reclamation, showing how volunteers build community across social boundaries, craft new ideas about citizenship and ancestry, and expose injustices that would otherwise be suppressed. Ultimately, Rosenblatt argues that an ethic of reclamation must honor the presence of the dead—treating them as fellow cemetery citizens who share our histories, landscapes, and need for care.

Adam Rosenblatt is Associate Professor of the Practice in International Comparative Studies and Cultural Anthropology at Duke University. He is the author of Digging for the Disappeared: Forensic Science after Atrocity (2015).

Book Review :: Help Wanted by Adelle Waldman

Review by Kevin Brown

It’s clear from Adelle Waldman’s second novel, Help Wanted, that she has worked in retail before, specifically in the warehouse section. Her story follows a small group of workers who arrive before the big-box store, Town Square, opens, so they can unload the truck, break down the boxes, and stock the shelves. While the plot focuses on the question of who will become the new general manager and, thus, which of the main cast of characters would take over as the manager of Movement—the business-speak title for the warehouse team—the real heart of the novel are the characters and their struggles.

They struggled in school, whether because they were uninterested, had undiagnosed learning disabilities, or encountered financial or family hardships, leading their lives to end up in the warehouse. Some of them are divorced and juggle childcare obligations; some are single and trying to figure out how to create a life; all of them have dreams, even if that’s nothing more than to move up one rung in the Town Square corporate ladder.

The backdrop for the novel heightens their concerns even more, as Potterstown, where the store is located, has never recovered from the 2008 financial crash and companies’ decisions to move to other countries, where labor costs are cheaper. And, of course, there’s the competition with the online retailer, whom the characters never name.

The team does find moments of joy and companionship, especially when they are all working toward a common goal that they, not management, define, but the book is not ultimately hopeful. Instead, Waldman creates real characters with real struggles that will persist for most, if not all, of their lives. She bears witness to the realities of those who work in the warehouse of the world, where most of us never think to look.


Help Wanted by Adelle Waldman. W.W. Norton, March 2024.

Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrite

Book Review :: Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez

Review by Kevin Brown

Xochitl Gonzalez’s second novel, Anita de Monte Laughs Last, tells two parallel stories about women in the art world. The titular Anita de Monte is a Latina artist on the rise in the middle of the 1980s, but she’s married to Jack Martin, a well-established, minimalist artist known as much for his affairs as his art. Raquel Toro is a college student at Brown University in the late 1990s, just beginning work on her undergraduate thesis, which will focus on Jack Martin. Her experience as a Latina in a white-dominated university and department has led to her alienation, both from those around her and from her culture and background.

Anita disappears from art history after her death until Raquel, with guidance from Belinda—the director of the Rhode Island School of Design’s gallery, as well as another woman of color—rediscovers Anita’s work, as well as more details about her death. Raquel’s life had already begun to mirror Anita’s, as she begins dating Nick, a graduating senior with a promising art career before him, though it’s driven more by connections than talent. Though Nick is not a mirror for Jack, he is an echo, a reminder of the men who have tried to control female artists and the narrative of art history.

Raquel’s discovery of Anita de Monte not only resurrects Anita’s reputation, but also helps Raquel begin to discover who she is and who she can be. Through her two main characters, Gonzalez crafts realistic portrayals of the challenges women have and continue to face, along with the importance of role models as one means of pushing through those struggles.


Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez. Flatiron Books, March 2024.

Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrite


Editor’s Choice :: Black Fire This Time Volume 2

Black Fire This Time, Volume 2, Ed. Derrick Harriell and Kofi Antwi
Willow Books, March 2024

Willow Books has announced the release of Black Fire This Time, Volume 2 (2024) edited by Derrick Harriell with Assistant Editor Kofi Antwi with an introduction by Mona Lisa Saloy. The second in a series celebrating the history and legacy of the Black Arts movement, Volume 2 continues to showcase the works of multiple generations, from the founders of the movement to contemporary writers in the tradition. Hailed as the “New Golden Age of Black Writing,” the Black Fire This Time series is an unprecedented collection of the best in writing by black writers. Featured writers in the series include Sonia Sanchez, Ishmael Reed, Amiri Baraka, Gwendolyn Brooks, Lucille Clifton, 2023 American Book Award winner Everett Hoagland and 75 new poets, dramatists and fiction writers from across the country. Black Fire This Time Volume 2 will be distributed by the University of Mississippi Press.

To discover more great books from small, independent, and university presses, visit the NewPages Guide to Publishers as well as our Books Received monthly roundup. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to stay up to date!

Sponsored :: New Book :: Knowing

cover of Knowing by Mark Cox

Knowing: Poems, Poetry by Mark Cox

Press 53, April 2024

Mark Cox pulls no punches in these poems about family, relationships, loss, regret, growing older and our human condition, generally. Sometimes wry, sometimes tender, always thought provoking, Knowing is the seventh volume of poetry from a lauded veteran poet who has been publishing prominently for almost 40 years.

Previous Praise for Mark Cox:

On Readiness

Thrilling prose poems from a cherished writer . . . . Cox gives lie to the common notion that prose poetry is too formless to count as real verse . . . . [He] is as careful with diction, rhythm, and even rhyme as one might be if they were writing strict alexandrines-and yet, his poems are as fluid and readable as Jack Kerouac’s novels.

Kirkus Reviews

On Sorrow Bread

Tony Hoagland has said Mark Cox is “a veteran of the deep water; there’s no one like him,” and Thomas Lux identified him as “one of the finest poets of his generation.” No one speaks more effectively of the vital and enduring syntaxes of common, even communal, life.

Richard Simpson

Book Review :: The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store by James McBride

Review by Kevin Brown

The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store, James McBride’s latest novel, centers around a small community in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, in the early and middle twentieth century. The neighborhood of Chicken Hill is changing, first from a largely Jewish area to a primarily African American one, but then even that dichotomy breaks down with a significant influx of Eastern European Jews who don’t always see the world the same way the older immigrant community does.

Moshe bridges the original divide, as he owns a theatre that once hosted vaudeville acts, but then transitioned to Black bands as demand grew. His primary employee is Nate, a Black man, who helps Moshe work across the racial divide. However, the main impetus for Moshe’s doing so is his wife, Chona, who runs the titular grocery store. She encourages (forces, really) Moshe to leave the grocery store in the neighborhood even as its demographics change, and she becomes the face of welcome to anyone who walks in.

She even makes Moshe hide Dodo, Nate and Addie’s deaf nephew, when the state comes to take him away, a decision that will lead to much of the conflict in the novel. However, Chona stands for the heaven and earth of the store, as she attempts to live out the love of God, the will of God, on earth, as it is in heaven, a message of inclusivity needed now as much as ever.


The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store by James McBride. Riverhead Books, August 2023.

Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrite

Editor’s Choice :: A Nice Safe Place by Andrew Madigan

A Nice Safe Place: A Cutler Series Book 1 by Andrew Madigan
Next Chapter, August 2024
Pre-Publication Order Link

One day, Amy Snyder disappears. Her father Wayne starts looking for her because the sheriff can’t be bothered. Who took her? There are a few sketchy people around: Jason, Amy’s boyfriend; Lupo, the middle-aged drug dealer who dates teenage girls; the creepy minister, Pastor Stone. Wayne searches all over the county but doesn’t find answers. As Wayne slowly discovers, Belvue isn’t the nice, safe place he thought it was.

Amy suddenly returns, but that’s just the beginning of her story. She’s quiet, thin, traumatized. She says a man kept her locked in a basement along with several other girls. Wayne takes her to the sheriff to make a statement, and she sees her captor’s face in a book of mug shots. Ray Loris, a cutler. Loris is arrested, but a few days later he’s released. There’s no material evidence at his home, no girls, not even a basement. And one more thing: Amy’s pregnant. She swears Loris isn’t the father, and neither is Jason, but she won’t say who is.

A Nice Safe Place follows Wayne as he searches for his daughter while other sections of the novel shift from the point of view of Amy to Loris to Pastor Stone. It is a story about a girl, her family, and a town that’s struggling through hard times. It’s also a story of family secrets and the terrible things people can do to one another, and a story of what it takes to heal.


To discover more great books from small, independent, and university presses, visit the NewPages Guide to Publishers as well as our Books Received monthly roundup. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to stay up to date!

Book Review :: Goyhood by Reuven Fenton

Review by Kevin Brown

Goyhood, Reuven Fenton’s debut novel, mixes a road trip with a twist on a coming-of-age story to develop Mayer (née Marty) Belkin’s existential crisis. Mayer grew up with his twin brother David in Georgia until one day when they were both twelve, and a rabbi came to town. When they discover they’re Jewish, Mayer goes to New York to study, marrying the daughter of a famous rabbi, while David explores a more hedonistic life. They reunite when their mother dies, leaving them with information that will change their lives, especially Mayer’s. David takes Mayer on a road trip during the week he’s away from his wife, exposing him to ideas and experiences that broaden his view of the world and himself.

Fenton slips into some writerly tics that can sometimes crop up in first novels: his narrator often comments that characters see something at their one o’clock (or some different time/location marker); he feels compelled to tell every city or town where they stop, even when nothing happens there, as if proving he knows the area; Mayer’s wife seems more like a plot point than an actual person; and he sometimes overwrites—“masticated” for “chewed” for one example.

However, the relationship between David and Mayer in Goyhood rings true, as does what Mayer needs to learn on his spiritual and emotional journey, as well as the physical one. One could do worse than spend time in a car with them and the people they meet along the way.


Goyhood by Reuven Fenton. Central Avenue Publishing, May 2024.

Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrite

Book Review :: Personal Score by Ellen van Neerven

Review by Eleanor J. Bader

Personal Score: Sport, Culture, Identity, a stunning collection of 47 essays and poems by award-winning Brisbane, Australia, based Aboriginal-Dutch writer Ellen van Neerven, straddles the line between personal reflection and political polemic. The nonbinary author’s reach is broad and the diverse pieces in the anthology touch on the importance of athletics in the social and physical development of girls; the sexual harassment and abuse that often derail the participation of female players; the massive fires, brutal storms, and dislocation that have been caused by ever-worsening climate change; and the persistence of racism against indigenous and other people of color.

The anthology also includes a searing indictment of anti-trans bigotry and zeroes in on the sidelining of Native knowledge about plants, animals, and land management by so-called scientific “experts.” In addition, colonialism is effectively denounced. Lastly, the book offers a moving analysis of illness and addresses the ways disability impacts their ability to write, participate in social justice movements, and socialize with family, friends, and colleagues.

By turns angry, mournful, moving, and persuasive, Personal Score reminds us of a foundational First Nation belief: “Only two relationships matter in the world, relationship with land and relationship with people.” van Neerven beautifully honors both.


Personal Score: Sport, Culture, Identity by Ellen van Neerven. Two Dollar Radio, April 2024.

Reviewer bio: Eleanor J. Bader is a Brooklyn, NY-based journalist who writes about books and domestic social issues for Truthout, Rain Taxi, The Progressive, Ms. Magazine, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and The Indypendent.

Sponsored :: New Book :: Heart’s Code

cover of Heart's Code by Eugene Stevenson

Heart’s Code, Poetry by Eugene Stevenson

Kelsay Books, March 2024

“Eugene Stevenson’s Heart’s Code is a work of true wonder. Ever since my introduction to his poetry, I have awaited his first collection and it is nothing short of magnificent. With deft precision and a keen eye, Stevenson captures ‘the places of great joy [and] the places of great pain’ with a tender grace and moving beauty that will leave readers’ hearts aching for more.”—Michelle Champagne, Susurrus, A Literary Arts Magazine of the American South

“Filled with snapshots of compassion, the poems in Heart’s Code explore both the grand and pocket-sized experiences that drive us apart and bring us back together again, transformed into something greater than before.”—Maxwell Bauman, Door Is A Jar Literary Magazine Editor-In-Chief

“Expansive and stirring, Heart’s Code carries us through complex landscapes of generational love and loss. A study in impermanence, anchored to nature’s juxtaposed cycles of rebirth, Stevenson’s verse offers redemption through the very journey itself. A poetic atlas of life’s gutting transience, not to be missed.”—Kelly Easton, Editor, Compass Rose Literary Journal

“Eugene Stevenson’s debut collection of poetry ruminates on points of origin and journeys in sharply observed language. Simultaneously plain and artful, poem after poem draws us into dislocated people finding their way, following their own path, as a sensuous realism that conducts its own exploration, both familiar and unfamiliar, without constraining, as the ‘world / recede[s] in the distance.’ Heart’s Code is a meditation on a world balancing at the edge of its own disappearance.”   —Geoffrey Gatza, author of Disappointment Apples

Book Review :: The Other Side of Nothing by Anastasia Zadeik

Review by Eleanor J. Bader

The Other Side of Nothing, Anastasia Zadeik’s second novel, is an emotionally resonant exploration of what it means to love someone with a life-threatening mental illness. The story centers around Julia, a suicidal soon-to-be-18-year-old who believes that she hastened her father’s death from cancer. After signing herself into a psychiatric hospital, she begins to stabilize. That is, until she meets 23-year-old Sam in group therapy. Sam, an up-and-coming artist, is everything Julia admires and they immediately become a couple. But things unravel almost as quickly as they began.

As Sam’s release date approaches, he convinces Julia to bolt the facility and join him on a cross-country road trip to Yosemite National Park. Once there, he intends to replicate Ansel Adams’ photo of Half Dome. From the start troubles lurk: Sam discards his medication, takes Julia’s cell phone, and becomes increasingly manic and controlling. Julia is terrified.

The hospital, meanwhile, has no clue about Julia’s whereabouts, and although staff have suspicions, they also know that they have to do something–and fast. Despite hesitation, they notify Sam and Julia’s mothers about the disappearance, prompting the pair to take a harrowing road trip of their own.

The Other Side of Nothing addresses heavy themes–bipolar disorder, depression, suicide–with sensitivity and grace, making the book both illuminating and unforgettable.


The Other Side of Nothing by Anastasia Zadeik. She Writes Press, May 2024.

Reviewer bio: Eleanor J. Bader is a Brooklyn, NY-based journalist who writes about books and domestic social issues for Truthout, Rain Taxi, The Progressive, Ms. Magazine, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and The Indypendent.

Book Review :: Knife by Salman Rushdie

Review by Kevin Brown

Most people know Salman Rushdie only for the publication of The Satanic Verses and the fatwa issued against his life, much to his regret. He and others thought he had moved on from that time in his life. However, on August 12, 2022, a man attacked him when he was on stage to speak at the Chautauqua Institution, leading Rushdie to lose sight in one eye and much of the mobility in one hand in addition to wounds in his neck and stomach. Medical specialists and his family thought he would die.

This memoir is the account of the attack, as Rushdie recounts that day, but it is much more about the power of love and art. Through his long recovery, Rushdie repeatedly returns to those two aspects of his life to help him through the roughest periods. As he has done his entire career, he celebrates freedom of speech that he believes all writers and individuals possess, but he also speaks much more openly of the love of his wife, Eliza, and his family, as well as the writers and broader literary community that rallied to his support.

In a time where extremism continues to be on the rise, this memoir celebrates that which we need most to combat it: the love of those around us and the art we all can create and celebrate.


Knife: Meditations After an Attempted Murder by Salman Rushdie. Random House, 2024.

Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrite

Book Review :: Poèmes deep/Gravitas by Amy Berkowitz

Review by Jami Macarty

“Poetry was a place to play / with language” for Amy Berkowitz: “There were no rules.” That is until she went to “grad school” and “learned” “that she had nothing to say” from professors in a creative writing program who “refused” to protect women students from the “serial abuser who’s been molesting / and harassing them for decades.” She had “been accepted to the program on the merit of a writing sample,” yet in response to what she was writing while a student there she was told her “poems lack gravitas.”

In a particularly adroit maneuver, Berkowitz claims the word used to undermine her artistic confidence. She titles each poem in a series of thirteen “Gravitas” followed by a numeral and a colon, e.g. “Gravitas Ten: The Size of the Problem.” In each poem, she describes an aspect of the gendered power struggles, violence, and abuse, and how sexism impacts expression within academia. Though the oppressive experiences at the academic institution Berkowitz attended are foregrounded, “the shit” she shares with readers “happens fucking everywhere” where there is “a guy like that” and “the lives of women…aren’t taken seriously.”

“It’s incredible how an institution
can make it impossible for students to have certain thoughts.
So much violence in that, so much power and control,
so sinister, so invisible.”

Continue reading “Book Review :: Poèmes deep/Gravitas by Amy Berkowitz”

Book Review :: School Communities of Strength by Peter W. Cookson, Jr.

Review by Eleanor J. Bader

School Communities of Strength: Strategies for Education Children Living in Deep Poverty, long-time teacher-researcher Peter W. Cookson’s latest book, is a forthright call to political leaders to end the continued scourge of American poverty. He defines this as having an annual income of $15,000 or less for a household of four, a condition that typically catapults whole families into homelessness and hunger.

Predictably, poverty and want cause children’s schooling to suffer, making the promise of an equal education little more than a pipedream. But poverty is not inevitable, and Cookson offers strategies not only for eradicating it but for meeting the needs of “the whole child.” This, he writes, starts with the belief that every student can learn and then zeroes in on the material resources that support their abilities, from free school meals to computer access, from safe, secure, and habitable school buildings to onsite medical and psychological care for kids and the adults they live with.

In addition, Cookson argues that ending poverty requires an understanding that penury is a policy choice. “Giving people crumbs that fall off the table of influence is not the same as empowering people with real education, real jobs, and real dignity,” he concludes.

School Communities of Strength is a potent directive for policymakers, educators, and those who care about children and families.


School Communities of Strength: Strategies for Education Children Living in Deep Poverty, Peter W. Cookson, Jr. Foreword by David C. Berliner. Harvard Education Press, April 2024.

Reviewer bio: Eleanor J. Bader is a Brooklyn, NY-based journalist who writes about books and domestic social issues for Truthout, Rain Taxi, The Progressive, Ms. Magazine, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and The Indypendent.

New Books April 2024

So long, April! Hello May! Each month we post the new and forthcoming titles NewPages has received from small, independent, university, and alternative presses as well as author-published titles. You can view the full list here.

If you are a follower of our blog or a subscriber to our weekly newsletter, you can see several of the titles we received featured. For publishers or authors looking to be featured on our blog and social media, please visit our FAQ page.

[Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash]

Book Review :: The Race to be Myself by Caster Semenya

Guest Post by Kevin Brown

Anybody who pays attention to the news, especially sports news, probably thinks they know Semenya’s story, even if they don’t know her name. She’s a two-time Olympic medalist in the 800 meters from South Africa, but she was banned from running because her testosterone levels were too high, according to World Athletics, the governing board for track and field. They and some of her competitors argued that she had an unfair advantage.

This memoir is Semenya’s taking control of her own narrative, as she tells the story of how she fell in love with running, the acceptance she felt in her family and village, the success she had on the track, and her fight against World Athletics. Despite doctors’ classifying her as intersex, Semenya says she has never seen herself as anything other than female. She also argues that World Athletics never presented any scientific evidence that her testosterone levels gave her any advantage, and her racing times were well in line with other women she raced against.

For those who know Semenya’s story, The Race to be Myself by Caster Semenya will only deepen their knowledge, as she presents what she was thinking during her career. For those who think they know what happened during those years, her memoir presents a different view than the dominant narrative. For those who think they have no interest in a memoir about a runner, Semenya’s book reminds us that, when we talk about gender and access, we’re not talking about an issue; we’re talking about people.


The Race to be Myself by Caster Semenya. W.W. Norton, October 2023.

Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrite

Book Review :: If This Isn’t Love by Susana H. Case

Guest Post by Jami Macarty

“Love is on the line” in Susana H. Case’s If This Isn’t Love. With her characteristic assured and unapologetic voice, Case “organizes / … [the] pens and pages” of her ninth poetry collection around “[u]nrequited love, rapes, / tumors, mental hospitals, and secret / adoptions,” among other open narratives in “romance comics,” “telenovelas,” and her own real-life, “sad increments” having to do with “broken family,” “abusive men,” “my abortion,” and “female cancers.”

In her “spill / of words,” Case cautions: “Forget the fairy gold we’re sold / in the media.” Then asks: “How else will girls learn what it takes” to survive in a world “scheming / against” them? Case brings readers to the “wall between” the “bloodthirsty” and the “beautiful,” and by doing so, she asks us to confront life’s game of “chess” in which “there are only / squares and pieces to lose.”

Who does not “wish” she “were a better player”? But who can maintain “thinking about moves” when “distracted by… / all the ways” to “choose our sides” “between loss of control” and the humiliation that comes from “love’s inevitable losses.” In “reality” there may be “no true protection” from “[w]ar and eros,” but by taking on the ménage à trois between romance, reason, and imagination, Case holds media’s purveying of “human cruelty” and “life’s atrocities” to account.


If This Isn’t Love by Susana H. Case. Broadstone Books, August 2023.

Reviewer bio: Jami Macarty is the author of The Long Now Conditions Permit, winner of the 2023 Test Site Poetry Series Prize, forthcoming fall 2024, and The Minuses (Center for Literary Publishing, 2020), winner of the 2020 New Mexico/Arizona Book Award – Poetry Arizona. Jami’s four chapbooks include The Whole Catastrophe, forthcoming summer 2024 from the Vallum Chapbook Series, and Mind of Spring (Vallum, 2017), winner of the 2017 Vallum Chapbook Award. To learn more about Jami’s writing, editing, and teaching practices visit her author website.

Book Review :: Thine by Kate Partridge

Guest Post by Jami Macarty

In Thine, Kate Partridge’s meditative lyrics generously allow poetic perspectives physical and cognitive, situated in landscape and observation, located in “the city, the body” and “the peopled land the landed people.” Whether “the burn crouching through the valley” or “a gauntlet of yellow flowers” the poet “let[s] things gather around” her.

Simultaneously the poet reckons with her positionality; “one’s position is fault.” Whether “at the precipice,” “on a dock,” “above the playa,” or “standing on the bike path,” the poet wishes for the “presence / / and vision” of others—intimates, artists, and writers. The writers range from Jorie Graham to Marianne Moore to C. D. Wright; six poems “erase… one reserved letter from Willa Cather to her partner Edith.” Joining epistles, homages, and erasures, ekphrastic poems engage Dorothea “Lange’s photos of women in deserts,” Agnes Martin’s grid paintings, and Walter de Maria’s land art, among others.

The poet’s multiple poetic perspectives, conversations, and forms offer readers an artist’s “many ways to give, / thought to the other.” For the poet, engagement with artists, art, land, and self seems to offer her heart means to “expanding in all / sorts of ways” and to “gird” for the necessary wait for the “pockmarked future.”

Dear Reader, “if at any time / you have need of a beginning, look” to Kate Partridge’s “evident truths.” There among “the rising proof of grass” she will meet thee and these poems will be Thine.


Thine by Kate Partridge. Tupelo Press, September 2023.

Reviewer bio: Jami Macarty is the author of The Long Now Conditions Permit, winner of the 2023 Test Site Poetry Series Prize, forthcoming fall 2024, and The Minuses (Center for Literary Publishing, 2020), winner of the 2020 New Mexico/Arizona Book Award – Poetry Arizona. Jami’s four chapbooks include The Whole Catastrophe, forthcoming summer 2024 from the Vallum Chapbook Series, and Mind of Spring (Vallum, 2017), winner of the 2017 Vallum Chapbook Award. To learn more about Jami’s writing, editing, and teaching practices visit her author website.

Review :: Splinters by Leslie Jamison

Guest Post by Kevin Brown

In her latest memoir, Splinters: Another Kind of Love Story, Leslie Jamison tells the story of the dissolution of her marriage, a splintering that happened roughly a year after the birth of her daughter. That tension is the driving force in her work, as she tries to navigate being a single mother and a writer, while also dating.

Each of these aspects of who she is pulls on the other. She feels guilty when she undertakes part of a book tour without her daughter or even when she has left her daughter with a babysitter, so she can write. Her frustrations with her ex-husband often prevent her from seeing that he’s an important part of her (their, she reminds herself) daughter’s life. She dates men she knows aren’t a good fit, one of whom (she refers to him only as tumbleweed, an apt description) repeatedly tells her that he doesn’t want children, or even monogamy.

She never truly answers the questions she asks about how to manage her newly-fractured life, as she’s having to, as Rilke writes, live into those questions. However, she is asking the key question so many of us have, regardless of our parental or relationship status: how do I manage all that I love in my life?


Splinters: Another Kind of Love Story by Leslie Jamison. Little, Brown and Company, February 2024.

Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrite

Book Review :: There’s Always This Year by Hanif Abdurraqib

Guest Post by Kevin Brown

Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet as well as an essayist, and he brings a lyrical style to his latest book, There’s Always This Year: On Basketball and Ascension. While the subtitle might discourage non-basketball fans from cracking the cover, this work is more of a meditation on the narrative of uplift than anything else.

Abdurraqib does write about basketball—whether that’s players from his neighborhood whom the reader has never heard of or LeBron James—but he does so in service of the idea of ascension. He’s questioning the narrative that white people want to tell about African Americans—and other minorities, but primarily Black people—overcoming difficult odds to succeed, whatever they need that success to look like at that moment. Thus, he celebrates the people from his neighborhood, city, and even state, who were great, if only for a moment, some of whom never went any further.

In fact, he not only celebrates individuals, but the place he is from. Abdurraqib loves his neighborhood, and he loves Columbus (and Cleveland, as well, when it comes to basketball), and Ohio. That love shines through in every section of the book—he’s structured it like a basketball game, complete with the clock counting down—and it’s difficult for the reader not to share that love by the end.

The people and places Abdurraqib loves don’t have to be anything other than what they are; by implication, neither does the reader and the places they love.


There’s Always This Year: On Basketball and Ascension by Hanif Abdurraqib. Random House, March 2024.

Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrite