Unpregnant Offers a Radical Normalization of Abortion and Reproductive Health. Currently, we’re in a terrifying moment in history for reproductive health in America, which makes abortion no laughing matter—and that’s exactly why Unpregnant, the debut YA novel by Jenni Hendricks and Ted Caplan, is such a breath of fresh air. Unpregnant tells the tale of an overachieving 17-year-old named Veronica Clarke who discovers that she is pregnant a month before her high-school graduation. Seeing her college education (she’s been accepted to Brown University) and future slipping away, she enlists her former best friend—and current school outcast—Bailey Butler to drive her to an abortion clinic that doesn’t require a parental signature. The only catch? The clinic is more than 900 miles away... Read full review at BitchMedia here.
The works in the latest issue of Runestone Journal, which publishes writing by undergraduates, is splashed with color.
In nonfiction, Eli Rallo harnesses the power that a change in color brought to her as an eleven-year-old struggling with anxiety. A touching piece on family, “Color the Walls,” plays back moment from her past when her hardworking, serious father allowed his children to paint the walls red and green for Christmas, a gesture of pure silliness that gave her stillness during a difficult time.
In fiction, Whitley Carpenter captures colors in “Memories of Green,” with narrator Pell taking care of Ella, an older relative whose memories come in and out of focus as dementia starts to set in. From the blue veins beneath her skin to the green surrounding the farmhouse, Whitley’s details stand as a strong backbone to the characters’ struggles. In the same section, Renata Erickson creatively imagines a world where color is something that can be physically taken from its source in “The Color Crisis,” the narrator learning where they belong in this new type of environment and how they’ll contribute to it.
There is no shortage of color in the poetry section, however. Damaris Castillo’s “The Passing of Marigolds” brings us “a golden road to home.” Cole Chang’s “In the late Afternoon” brings a summer day in the wetlands to life in hues of brown and green, purple and gold. In “An Evening at Inch Strand Beach Just Outside Dingle, Ireland,” Emilee Kinney describes a sunset, the “Deep pink” and the “sunlit-stained shores.” Mariah Rose turns “flamingo-pink,” sunburnt in “NOLA,” then describes “Muddied water the color of chocolate milk” in “Sedona, AZ.”
Carve out some time to check out Volume 5 of Runestone Journal. It will be sure to give your day the pop of color it needs.
Review by Katy Haas
Do you ever find yourself feeling out of sorts, unable to tell if you’re still human? Jessy Randall has considered this feeling and helps readers handle it with an instructional manual of sorts in How to Tell If You Are Human: Diagram Poems, part of the Pleaides Press Visual Poetry Series.
Repurposing graphs and images to create visual poems, Randall’s works are minimal in style as they capture the complexity of human emotions. Although most of poems are just one sentence or phrase long, they manage to make connections with readers, leaving space to insert themselves as the speaker, to figure out whether or not they’re human.
Review by Katy Haas
Gabriela Garcia’s “Mrs. Sorry” can be found in the latest issue of ZYZZYVA. Focusing on class and gender, the short story is narrated by a young woman working at a cosmetics counter. At work, she helps rich women (and one in particular who comes to be known as the titular character) pick out skincare products. At home, she feels herself slipping away from herself and her boyfriend, who begins offering her the Roxicodone pills he’s been stealing from his work at a pharmacy.
As the story progresses, we see Mrs. Sorry’s husband, a man who gaslights her in front of and with debatably inadvertent help from the narrator. While Mrs. Sorry and the narrator are leading entirely different lives, they’re both women who are being manipulated by the men they trust most, the difference in their social and economic classes keeping her from speaking out on Mrs. Sorry’s behalf. “Nothing cracks in my presence,” the narrator thinks at one point as she considers her weaknesses and the futility with which she handles both her home and work life.
Eventually she finds the strength and the weight to make cracks, the ending a defiant fist in the air. Just long enough to create tension, Garcia masters her narrator’s voice in four short, satisfying pages.
Review by Katy Haas
Jeanann Verlee digs into the culture of violence against women in Prey. Published last August, the collection of poems is broken into five parts. The speaker details her own story of an abusive ex-husband and the horrors he put her through, as well as a broader focus: “The New Crucible” speaks on the ways men have used religion to justify their violence against women, and multiple pieces called “His Version” are made of quotes from men like Brock Turner and the men involved in the Steubenville rape trial. The latter set of poems are presented without comment, without words from Verlee, speaking volumes on their own. Verlee writes with unflinching honesty, recording a history of violence that leaves one breathless and bent defensively over the pages.
Review by Katy Haas
You are now part of The Chain.
Adrian McKinty, originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, now a New Yorker, is an award-winning crime novelist who has written a stunning work of twisted psychology, domination, and contest of wills. The plan in The Chain seems foolproof, insidious as it is. A child is kidnapped, the parent gets a phone call, and a ransom demand is made. The parent is told to select another child and kidnap the target in order to get his or her child returned. A two-step process. The horrifying aspect of the demand is that the parent gets 24 hours to pay the ransom and kidnap the next child. No such thing as planning, considering, discussing, contemplating, rationalizing, justifying. The Chain makes an action demand, and the demand for fast action and tangible results. Or the kidnapped child is no more. The Chain has no tolerance for mistakes, for police involvement, for extensions of time to pay the ransom, for attempts to outwit. The entire process will be completed in 24 hours, or else.Read more...
Carla Rachel Sameth’s One Day on the Gold Line offers a gut-wrenching account of Sameth’s life from young adulthood through middle-age, spinning around maternal desire and loss, and probing the critical distinctions between an imaginary motherhood and the lived reality of mothering her son through young-adulthood. Structured through a series of twenty-nine short chapters that refuse easy chronology, the book is both thematically and formally interested in questions of time and identity.
Beginning with the essay “The Burning Boat,” the book charts Sameth’s insatiable desire to build a family, whether partnered or solo, and the obstacles that stand in her way. Conception comes easily to Sameth; carrying to term does not. Only after undergoing experimental treatments for recurrent miscarriage does she give birth to her son, Raphael. Significantly, Sameth chooses not to offer a developed account of gestation—the ground that most mother memoirs traverse; rather, there’s a temporal gap between the chapters that explore maternal desire and those that present difficulties of mothering, both single and as lesbian co-parent to her stepdaughter. In this way, the book provocatively explores what it means to create and sustain family outside heterosexual marriage.
Rooted in the physical and social landscapes of California, the last third of the book takes up the difficulties that Sameth experiences as adolescent Raphael undergoes treatment for drug use. Critically, the book offers addiction as a figure through which to understand all human desire. Sameth writes: “In my case, I desperately sought self-value; I thought that I could fix the hole by creating a family to love and nurture.” Writing against fantasies of ideal motherhood, Sameth’s book presents a brutally honest and much-needed account of family-building and parenting in the twenty-first century.
Review by Robin Silbergleid
Robin Silbergleid is a poet and nonfiction writer. Her most recent publication is In the Cubiculum Nocturnum (Dancing Girl Press, 2019). She currently directs the Creative Writing Program and teaches at Michigan State University. You can also find her online at @rsilbergleid and robinsilbergleid.com.
Wrap up your summer and get ready to head back to school with Zac Thompson’s “The Water of Life” a stage/screenplay in Qu #10. The characters, Leah and Carrie, are young, romantic partners at the close of their two-month summer relationship, each preparing to go to college—Carrie away to university and Leah to the local junior college. Leah, a preacher’s daughter, has set up a baptistery so the two can bind their relationship with a ritual. The dialogue is subtly quick and revealing, Leah being the pragmatist and Carrie the comic; Leah the “intense” dramatist and Carrie the lighthearted, “afraid to express [her] feelings.” It’s an intimate scene, full of the love and subsequent gut-churning realism young people face when their paths are on the verge of separation. A memorably bittersweet read.
Review by Denise Hill
Robb T. White’s lead story “A Civilized Man” is provided as a sample of the July 2019 Thriller Magazine (2.1). White’s narrator opens the story with, “What is a civilized man?” and walks readers through his fiancé’s disappearance and ultimate discovery of her brutalized dead body. The predictable dead-end investigation is offset by the narrator’s unexpected choice of action as he lays down his own justice. “It’s odd that I feel no guilt or shame.” The narrator confesses, “Quite the opposite. I feel . . . pleased, if that’s the right word.” Likewise, in reading the objectively detailed sequence of events, I felt no guilt or shame in his actions either. Pleased ? Maybe that is the right word.
Review by Denise Hill
Two whirlwind prose poems by Leslie Marie Aguilar in the May 2019 issue of wildness online speak in abstractions melded with concrete symbols, creating a contemporary mythology of the self. “Bone Altar” begins, “Legends begin with valerian root, red clover, & a touch of tequila.” and instructs the reader to call upon ancestors. “Cartography,” just at the moment I think the poem’s speaker is deeply troubled, assures me, “If this sounds like a cry for help, like shouting into a canyon & hoping to hear a voice different than your own, it’s not.” Two dizzyingly brief works with lasting impact.
Review by Denise Hill