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NewPages Book Reviews

Reviews of newly published and forthcoming independent press and university press titles.

Posted June 05, 2018

  • Subtitle Essays on the Writing Life
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Jenny Boully
  • Date Published April 2018
  • ISBN-13 978-1-56689-510-1
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 152pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Valerie Wieland

My first introduction to Jenny Boully’s work was her essay The Body, which is written entirely in footnotes and has a whole lot of white space. What an inventive mind, I thought, and her latest book, Betwixt-and-Between: Essays on the Writing Life, reinforces that thought.

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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Paisley Rekdal
  • Date Published September 2017
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8203-5117-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 160pp
  • Price $24.95
  • Review by Scott Russell Morris

Paisley Rekdal’s The Broken Country, winner of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Award for Creative Nonfiction, grips you from the beginning, starting with a vivid description of a stabbing in a Salt Lake City parking lot, a crime perpetrated by a Vietnamese refugee. We later learn that Rekdal, who lives in Salt Lake City, just a few blocks away from the site of the crime, happened to be in Vietnam when it happened and daily visited the war memorial featured on the book cover—a sculpture created from the wreckage of wartime airplanes, tanks, and other vehicles. Gripped by the realization that the trauma of the Vietnam War still affects American culture—especially in the private communities of refugees and immigrants—Rekdal weaves together an investigation into trauma, war, and refugees that makes it impossible to forget the ongoing tragedy of wars, past and present.

  • Subtitle A Literary Mixtape
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  • Book Type Anthology Edited
  • by Javon Johnson and Kevin Coval
  • Date Published May 2018
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8101-3718-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 192pp
  • Price $20.00
  • Review by Cody Lee

Before reviewing The End of Chiraq: A Literary Mixtape, I feel obligated to mention the fact that I am from Chicago, specifically, the northwest side, where violence never really touched. Petty theft and the occasional flesh wound was about as “Chiraq” as Old Irving Park got. So, when people assume that all of Chicago is some Cormac McCarthy novel, they couldn’t be more wrong. This book is an attempt to prove that, and moreover, even where the unacceptable amount of death does occur, life is present too. The End of Chiraq is an anthology composed by the city’s youth, showcasing the beauty in the chaos, the “flower growing from the concrete” (Aneko Jackson, “Concrete Flowers”).

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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Thirii Myo Kyaw Myint
  • Date Published March 2018
  • ISBN-13 978-1-934819-74-6
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 122
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Valerie Wieland

A good example of what independent presses have to offer is Thirii Myo Kyaw Myint’s The End of Peril, the End of Enmity, the End of Strife, A Haven. No formulaic pap, no ‘been there, done that.’ Just fine, original storytelling. At first I tried to pin down a genre for Myint’s book. Then I relaxed and let her story take me to a horrific ecological event that ruins a city and upends the lives of its people, all who are unnamed. We have the narrator, her family, and “the baby.” There is also a friend called “the girl” and assorted others, including a king and his family and numerous enemies.

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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Myriam Gurba
  • Date Published November 2017
  • ISBN-13 978-1-56689-491-3
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 192pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by DM O'Connor
I really like the phrase “the chaos of memory.” My spirit latches onto it and wraps its arms around its queer, hairy legs. The phrase expresses what kind of happens to your brain during and after trauma. Chaos roots itself in memory. My chaos came when a Mexican man sexually assaulted me on a sidewalk in the afternoon sun.
    —from "Semester 1998”
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Andrea Lawlor
  • Date Published November 2017
  • ISBN-13 978-0986086991
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 354pp
  • Price $18.00
  • Review by Cody Lee

Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl is a delightful piece of “futureliterature” that spits in the face of gender, ignorance, and what it means to be “normal.” The protagonist, Paul (aka Polly), can change between male and female whenever he/she wants, and at first, I was a little confused by the pronouns when “he sat to pee with his exciting new vagina,” but then I realized that they never really mattered. Men, women, we’re all the same twisted people.

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