Tag Archives: Akashic Books

8 Books to Read During Pride Month And 3 More to Look Out For Later This Year

Happy Pride Month! Being a part of the LGBTQ community means supporting each other through the good times and the bad, embracing our differences and complexities, and making those unheard voices heard. From a trans teen romance to a queer space opera, we’ve pulled a list of 10 great #OwnVoices LGBTQ reads to last you through Pride Month and the rest of the year.

And Then I Danced: Traveling the Road to LGBT Equality by Mark Segal (Akashic Books/Open Lens, October 6, 2015)

Speaking of LGBT history, from the Stonewall riots in the 1970s to the very first Gay Pride reception hosted by President Obama in 2008, Mark Segal has seen it all. He made his first appearance on the national stage of the LGBT rights movement on December 11, 1973, when he crashed a live broadcast on CBS and yelled “Gays protest CBS prejudice!” Needless to say, his memoir, And Then I Danced: Traveling the Road to LGBT Equality, is one of the most fascinating things you’ll read all year. His experiences and achievements are unbelievably impressive, but Segal relates them all without a hint of braggadocio, speaking candidly and simply as he does. (Segal’s memoir also won the 2016 Excellence in Book Writing Award from the Association of LGBTQ Journalists, if you need further proof of the power of his work.)

Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh (Arsenal Pulp Press, September 3, 2013)

Watching the movie Blue is the Warmest Color is an LGBT rite of passage, but have you read the graphic novel that started it all? Like the movie, the book tells the story of Clementine, a shy, in-the-closet teenager who becomes captivated by the confident, blue-haired Emma. This marks the start of a passionate and tragic romance charged with all of the energy, naivety, and hopefulness of youth. Julie Maroh works in stunning watercolor and ink illustrations that bring a soft, dreamy quality to this iconic love story. Her art is even more cinematic and emotive than the movie. Warning: you will cry.

God in Pink by Hasan Namir (Arsenal Pulp Press, November 17, 2015)

 

Clocking in at just 150 pages, God in Pink proves that novels don’t have to be massive epics to pack a powerful punch. Our protagonist, Ramy, is a university student in war-torn Iraq who finds himself caught in between his desire to explore his sexuality and his desire to please his brother, a conservative (and homophobic) Muslim. After the death of his parents, the pressure mounts for Ramy to find a wife. Desperate for a way out, Ramy seeks advice from a sheikh at the local mosque, and is forced to untangle contradictions between his life, his religion, and his culture. Namir uses simple and beautiful language to dive into the world of dreams and reality, using touches of magic and Islamic canon to give the reader a deeper understanding of Ramy’s struggle. This book is poignant, timely, and will resonate with anyone who has tried to reconcile who they are with who the world wants them to be.

Nochita by Dia Felix (City Lights Publishers, April 8, 2014)

Nochita is a queer coming-of-age novel like you’ve never read before. While lots of LGBT fiction centers around a coming out story, Nochita examines self-discovery of another kind. The novel focuses less on the titular protagonist’s sexual identity, which is never given a bright-line definition, and more on Nochita’s attempts to carve her own place in the gritty underbelly of California’s counter-culture, after the realization that the adults in her life are incapable of raising her themselves. LGBT people old and young will hear notes of themselves in Nochita’s story, which is full of yearning, ferocity, dark humor, and all of the mistakes (and victories) of youth. Straddling the line between poetry and prose, Felix’s writing is medicine for the soul. It’s lyrical without becoming overly sentimental; poignant without becoming didactic. Nochita is a book you’ll want to pass on to every other queer person you meet.

Tango: My Childhood, Backwards and in High-Heels by Justin Vivian Bond (The Feminist Press at CUNY, August 16, 2011)

An Obie-award winner and Tony nominee, Justin Vivian Bond has been shattering ideas of gender in the performance world for over thirty years. Bond’s memoir, Tango: My Childhood, Backwards and in High-Heels, zooms in on Bond’s childhood, tuning a keen focus into what it means to grow up queer and trans in a small town. Despite dealing with complex issues like discovering sexuality, power dynamics, and childhood bullying, Bond’s writing maintains a certain kind of levity, a finely executed whistling in the dark. Bond is characteristically candid throughout, and reading Tango feels as though Bond has gathered us the readers around a fireplace to share a story and a laugh. Oh, and in case you needed more convincing, this book was blurbed by Yoko Ono. Yeah. That Yoko Ono.

Shadoweyes by Sophie Campbell (Iron Circus Comics, April 18, 2017)

A teenage superhero story written by a trans woman featuring a crew of misfits battling evil in a futuristic dystopia? Paying attention now? In Scout’s city, there’s only one way to get justice: you have to do it yourself. But Scout’s first foray into vigilante-ism doesn’t end quite the way she imagines, and she gets knocked unconscious. When she wakes, she discovers that she can transform into a powerful superhuman creature: Shadoweyes. Campbell’s art and writing are addictive; it’s impossible to just read one page. Though it’s a dystopia, the world Campbell creates is full of eye-popping colors and characters with personalities as vibrant as their designs. Shadoweyes also has quite the spectrum of individuals: it’s got characters of color, disabled characters, queer characters, and even an intersex character. In short: read this book. You won’t regret it.

100 Crushes by Elisha Lim (Koyama Press, June 10, 2014)

Elisha Lim is an artist who believes that comics shouldn’t be reserved for straight, white, or cisgender experiences. 100 Crushes is a compilation of five years’ worth of queer comics, a mix of memoir, interviews, tributes, and more. Lim alternates between profiles of “gender rebels” they admire and shorter, more intimate personal anecdotes. Along the way, Lim experiments visually with everything from patterns and textures to fonts and story structures. 100 Crushes reads almost like a diary, as if Lim is inviting us to come along on their journey to discover what it means to be butch, femme, binary, non-binary, and, above all, a queer person of color in a world that centers and normalizes whiteness.

Dusty: An Intimate Portrait of a Musical Legend by Karen Bartlett (Lesser Gods, May 16, 2017)

Singer Dusty Springfield was a cultural icon of the 1960s, and not only for her soulful pop sound and flamboyant performances. Springfield was the first female entertainer to publicly come out as bisexual (an admission that was nearly unheard of at the time) and was an anti-racism activist (having been deported from South Africa for refusing to play segregated audiences during apartheid). In Dusty: An Intimate Portrait of a Musical Legend, Karen Bartlett cracks open the shiny persona that Springfield cultivated on stage to take a closer look at Springfield’s inner life, and the struggles she encountered while coming to terms with her sexuality. Dusty: An Intimate Portrait of a Musical Legend combines Bartlett’s meticulous research with new interviews with Dusty’s friends, lovers, employees, and confidants. If you’re looking to brush up on your LGBT history this Pride (or just love a good story), this is the perfect place to start.

Books to Look Forward To Later in 2017:

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon (Akashic Books, October 3, 2017)

Aster has known no life other than the HSS Matilda, a ship that has spent generations carrying the last of humanity to a mythical “Promised Land.” Her dark skin marks her as a sharecropper, the lowest of the low. Add in obsessiveness and a reclusive tendency, and Aster is considered a freak at best, inhuman at worst. Is there a way out of this impossible life? The answer, Aster finds, may lie in the past of her mother, who died from suicide over twenty years before. For a science-fiction novel full of starships and faraway planets, An Unkindness of Ghosts is unflinchingly real. Solomon says that the inspiration for An Unkindness of Ghosts was the question, “How do I go on?”, a peek into the ways in which oppressed people survive and thrive against all odds. World-building has been called Solomon’s main strength in An Unkindness of Ghosts, but it’s hard to pick out any one facet of the book as the best. Solomon’s writing is lush and heavy with layered meaning, but the prose never weighs down the plot or keeps it from racing onward. Like Solomon themself, the protagonist, Aster, is a queer, intersex, neurodivergent person of color, giving this book crucial #OwnVoices representation. In addition, the cover for this book should be nominated for “Most Gorgeous Cover of All Time.” All other covers can go home.

Jaya and Rasa: A Love Story by Sonia Patel (Cinco Puntos Press, September 12, 2017)

Sonia Patel made a splash last year with her debut young adult novel, Rani Patel in Full Effect, which hit eight different “Best Books of 2016” lists and was a finalist for an ALA Morris Award. Now, she’s back with Jaya and Rasa: A Love Story, the transgender, Gujarati Indian Romeo and Juliet of your dreams. Jaya, a seventeen-year-old trans boy, comes from a wealthy family who is rich in money, privilege, and secrets. On the opposite side of the tracks, Rasa comes from a poor family, raised by a single mother who cares less about her children than the endless parade of men she uses and loses. When their two worlds collide, Jaya and Rasa find that they just might be the family they were always looking for. No one writes teenagers quite like Sonia Patel. By day, Patel is a practicing child psychologist, and her background shows: in her writing, she deftly navigates both trauma and healing to create a startlingly real portrait of mental health. Preorder this book now, so you have it right away when it publishes in September.

The Collected Neil the Horse by Katherine Collins (Conundrum Press, October 10, 2017)

The Neil the Horse comic ran for nearly thirteen years in Canadian newspapers, making author and illustrator Katherine Collins a bit of a legend. Every issue and comic strip are compiled for the first time in The Collected Neil the Horse. This is comics like you’ve never seen them before; not just memorable characters going on wacky adventures, but a completely innovative mélange of forms reminiscent of the multiplicity of vaudeville, from crossword puzzles to joke pages and more. The characters spontaneously burst into song and dance, and each comic in the collection comes with sheet music, because Collins isn’t just an artist, she’s a composer and a low-key genius. While the comics don’t technically feature any queer characters, they’re campy, fun, and full of musical theater, all written by Collins, a trans woman, which is just another reminder how creative the LGBT community is.

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Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

September 15 through October 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month, a time for celebrating the culture, lives, and achievements of Hispanic people all across the Americas. The month begins on September 15 in honor of the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua; Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence shortly after, on September 16 and 18. Though Hispanic people make up nearly twenty percent of the United States population, Hispanic authors continue to be ridiculously and frustratingly underrepresented in literature (this study in the Baltimore Sun says that less than one percent of all children’s books are written by Hispanic authors). It’s a statistic that becomes even more infuriating when you realize that Hispanic authors have produced some of the biggest books in the last ten years (Junot Diaz, anyone?). To counteract this inequality, we’ve compiled a list of titles by Hispanic authors from the United States to Central and South America: authors who represent the strength, resistance, and incredible contributions of Hispanic people everywhere, in genres from poetry, to literary fiction, to sci-fi, and more.

Beyond the Wall: New Selected beyond-the-wallPoems by Régis Bonvicino (Green Integer, November 2016) This is poetry at its most crucial and political, poetry that won’t let you off the hook even after you’re done reading. Beyond the Wall is the first English translation of Bonvicino’s work from 2002 to the present. Bonvicino has worn basically every hat you can wear in the literary world, from poet to translator, editor, and literary critic. His experience shows: in his poetry, he nimbly jumps between the stunning imagery of nature and the harsh realities of industrialization in urban environments. There’s a pulse to these words, a driving force that pushes you to constantly think about what you’re reading and why. Bonvicino challenges you to examine the massive role that colonialism played in developing what we think of as poetry.

Blood of the Dawn by Claudia Salazar Jiménez (Deep Vellum Publishing, Novemblood-of-the-dawnber 2016) Three Peruvian women brave the brutal and bloody military insurgence of the Shining Path guerillas in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The insurgence was the beginning of twenty years known in Peruvian history as the “state of fear.” In Blood of the Dawn, Jiménez rewrites the conflict through these women’s voices, marking how the personal can become political and vice versa. Jiménez’s prose is clear-cut and doesn’t sugarcoat the realities of the insurgence and the effects it had on the people of Peru. When this debut novel was first published in Spanish, Jiménez received the 2014 Americas Narrative Prize. Read it, and you’ll see why.

chronicle-of-a-murdered-houseChronicle of a Murdered House by Lúcio Cardoso (Open Letter Books, August 2016) is juicy familial drama at its best, rich with gossiped stories of adultery, incest, madness, and decadence. The first  English translation of Cardoso’s iconic Brazilian novel (originally published in Portuguese in the 1930s), follows the legacy of a once-proud family that blames its downfall on the marriage of its youngest son to a vibrant, rebellious, passionate woman named Nina. Cardoso’s writing is far from a fluff piece, however, meandering between plot-based narrative and deep philosophical questions in the driven-yet-pensive way that only literary fiction can. As Cardoso follows the family over the years, he hops between narrative devices from letters to diaries to confessions that will keep you reeled in until the very end.

I’ll Sell You a Dog by Juan Pablo Villalobos (And Other Stories, August 2016) followill-sell-you-a-dos an elderly man named Teo as he attempts to fend off boredom and cockroaches in a retirement home —all with a beer in hand. In his heyday, Teo was known all throughout Mexico City for his dog meat tacos, which he called “Gringo Dogs,” but that was before he lost his girlfriend to Diego Rivera and had his dreams crushed by his hypochondriac mother. Now, Teo is stuck trying to fill his days by antagonizing the literary salon that meets downstairs, flirting with the revolutionary greengrocer next door, and reading critical theory to telemarketers. When I’ll Sell You a Dog isn’t making you laugh out loud at Teo’s ridiculous antics, it’s “full of affection for art and artists” according to NPR. The novel is full of people who are die-hard believers, and it’s impossible not to root for characters who are so unapologetically passionate about their work.

the-revolutionaries-try-againThe Revolutionaries Try Again by Mauro Javier Cardenas (Coffee House Press, September 2016) tells the story of three childhood friends who reunite to transform Ecuador, and then discover that revolution isn’t as easy as it might seem. It’s political, yes (full of election turmoil, history of the Ecuadorian pro-austerity movement, and subversive radio plays), but to say it’s only a political novel would be to undercut the complexity of Cardenas’s writing. In The Revolutionaries Try Again, Cardenas explores the many facets of friendships, the things we leave unsaid, and all of the ways nostalgia acts as a fun house mirror on our memories. Cardenas’s writing crackles with wit and pop culture references (from ABBA to The Exorcist) – there’s a reason Harper’s magazine called The Revolutionaries Try Again a “high-octane, high-modernist debut.”

San Juan Noir, edited and introduced by Mayra Santos-Febres (Akashic Boosan-juan-noirks, October 2016) is an anthology of noir fiction by some of Puerto Rico’s best and brightest authors. Noir is nothing without atmosphere, and the setting here becomes a character of its own. The authors of San Juan Noir dig deep into the city, cracking open the (largely white, American) mythos of, as editor Santos-Febres says in the introduction, “sandy beaches, casinos, luxury hotels, relaxation, and never-ending pleasure—a place that satisfies all senses and appetites.” The stories within San Juan Noir stare right into the face of colonialism as they examine the gaps between the city’s rich and its poor, its residents and its constant flow of tourists, its colorful exterior and its gritty underbelly. This is noir with a bite, noir that enthralls with its dark tales even as it challenges the reader—do better, do better, do better.

transmigration-of-bodiesThe Transmigration of Bodies by Yuri Herrera (And Other Stories, August 2016) is a response to the violence in contemporary Mexico. A plague has come to an unnamed city, spreading death and destruction everywhere. Two rival crime families take advantage of the emptied streets to reopen a decades-old feud, but when the situation escalates beyond control, they call in the only person who can rebroker the peace: the Redeemer. Both families have kidnapped the children of the other, and the Redeemer must venture out into the disease-ridden streets to negotiate the return of the bodies they hold hostage. This definitely isn’t one of the lighter books you’ll read, but Herrera’s short, poetic prose “goes straight for the soul,” according to NPR, and is impossible to ignore. The Transmigration of Bodies pays homage to literary greats from Roberto Bolaño to Raymond Chandler and Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as it honors all of the bodies that violent crime has touched.

Wicked Weeds by Pedro Cabiya (Mandel Vilar Press, October 2016) is not your avewicked-weedsrage zombie novel. From The Walking Dead to iZombie, you may be groaning at the thought of even more zombie narratives. But Wicked Weeds is different. Instead of a traditional, chronological narrative, the book comes together in scrapbook form, compiled by fictional doctor Isadore Bellamy as she tries to make sense of a brutal accident caused by her (zombie) boss. The book is made up of confessions from our zombie protagonist, transcripts of police interrogations, and segments of prose. Wicked Weeds incorporates all the best parts of sci-fi, experimental fiction, traditional horror, and Caribbean literature to create what Kirkus Reviews called “a culturally resonant tale of zombie woe.”

zero-sum-gameA Zero-Sum Game by Eduardo Rabasa (Deep Vellum Publishing, November 2016) is a biting political and consumerist satire—definitely a timely and relevant pick for this fall. A Zero-Sum Game follows the high-stakes election for the presidency of a residents’ committee, where a powerful stranger threatens to use his influence to shake up the process. Rabasa uses the charged atmosphere to crack dry, wry jokes that manage to lend sympathy to both sides: those in power, who find themselves caught between empowerment and selling out, and those outside of it, who find themselves wanting to be part of a revolution. It’s complex, intense, and would be heavy were the book not so charmingly funny. VERDICT: Add to your pre-election reading list.

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10 Books to Read for Pride Month

June is Pride Month, a time known for its colorful parades and endless amounts of glitter (which stick around for months after the celebrations are over). Though June was only officially established as Pride Month in 2000, members of the LGBTQ+ community have been celebrating their identities for hundreds of years. As members of the LGBTQ+ community know, pride is not always loud. Pride can be quiet, bittersweet, or even lonely. Pride does not always mean “out.” But pride can also be jubilant, victorious, and cathartic. This round-up is dedicated to celebrating LGBTQ+ pride in all of its many stages and forms.

fair playFair Play: How LGBT Athletes are Claiming Their Rightful Place in Sports (Akashic Books) by Cyd Zeigler examines the ways in which sports have been transformed for LGBT athletes. From locker rooms to lawsuits, sports haven’t always been the friendliest places for anyone who doesn’t identify as straight or cis gender. In Fair Play, Zeigler shares the stories of those athletes who are working to bust through the prejudices and stereotypes, including NFL Hall of Famer Michael Irvin, transgender MMA fighter Fallon Fox, and NFL hopeful Michael Sam. This book is one part history and one part anthem, and will resonate with anyone who has played on a team but not felt a part of one. Jon Wertheim, the executive editor of Sports Illustrated, called Fair Playthe definitive book on LGBT issues in sports.”

Chainmail Bikini: The Anthology of Women Gamers (Alternative Comics) by Hazchainmail bikiniel Newlevant and Sophie Yanow is a collection of comics about the ups, downs, and inside-outs of being a “gamer girl.” While not explicitly an LGBT-anthology, many LGBT authors are featured, and there’s an emphasis on how gaming can build safe and accepting spaces for identity expression and reclamation. This book is the definitive guide to navigating geek culture as an LBT+ femme. As Anna Anthropy, a trans woman, gamer, and artist, shares in Chainmail Bikini, “We don’t have much input in the stories we’re given: they’re written for us, and we aren’t usually consulted. But we learn to tell our own stories. . . The names we pick for ourselves are our true names. The way we see ourselves is the True Sight.”

gildaThe Gilda Stories (City Lights Books) by Jewelle Gomez is the original cult classic lesbian vampire story. If you’re a fan of Buffy, Twilight, or TrueBlood, but have ever found yourself thinking, “hmmm… this seems like the same story over again,” please, pick up The Gilda Stories. This novel follows the journey of Gilda, a young black woman in 1850s Louisiana who learns about freedom while working in a brothel, where she is soon initiated into eternal life (and, you know, falls in love with women and stuff). But don’t stop there: The Gilda Stories isn’t all romance and fluff. It dives unflinchingly into explorations of blackness, radical ecology, re-definitions of family, and the politics of eroticism. 2016 is the 25th anniversary of the original publication of The Gilda Stories, proving that powerful literature is the best brand of immortality.

yoltYou Only Live Twice: Sex, Death, and Transition (Coach House Books) by Mike Hoolboom and Chase Joynt is a genre-transcending book that explores two artists’ lives before and after transitions: from female to male, and from near-dead to alive. It takes an unapologetic look at the struggles and joys of being LGBT+ that are often swept under the rug during mainstream discussions of gay rights. Part memoir, part cultural theory, this book maintains a stubborn optimism, asking intimate questions about what it might mean to find love and hope through conversation across generations. Maggie Nelson, critically acclaimed author of The Argonauts, says that, “Chase Joynt and Mike Hoolboom here give each other the gift so many people only dream of: ample, unhurried space to unspool crucial stories of one’s life, and an attentive, impassioned, invested, intelligent receiver on the other side.”

beijingBeijing Comrades (Feminist Press) by Bei Tong, translated by Scott E. Myers is the first English language translation of the cult novel originally published anonymously on an underground gay website within mainland China. If you’ve ever wished for a healthy dose of socioeconomic critique with your paperback romance, this is the book for you. It’s the story of a tumultuous love affair between Handong, a ruthless and wealthy businessman, and Lan Yu, a naïve, working-class architectural student. Beijing Comrades is unafraid to ask difficult questions about love, power, and what we’re willing to do for both.

The Cosmopolitans (Feminist Press) by Sarah Schulman is a modern retelling of Balzcosmopolitansac’s classic Cousin Bette. It’s a raw and compelling tale of two unlikely friends, cast out of their own families, who search for understanding in 1950s Bohemian New York City. The vivacity of Schulman’s characters, from Earl, a black, gay actor working in a meatpacking plant, to Bette, a white secretary, to the city itself, stay true to the grit and gloss of midcentury Manhattan. The truths The Cosmopolitans draws from the human need for love and recognition will linger with you long after the book is closed.

priestessPriestess of Morphine: The Lost Writings of Marie-Madeleine in the Time of Nazis (Process Books) by Marie Madeleine and Ronald K. Siegel is a collection of writings from the lesbian poet and novelist, born Gertrud Günther. Marie-Madeleine is the definition of a boss. She wrote erotic gay poetry and graphic accounts of drug use in the middle of Nazi Germany, publishing almost 50 works over the course of her lifetime, and never letting fear for her wellbeing or reputation stop her. Her stylings range from the meditative and thoughtful to the raw and sexy. If you think poetry is boring, you haven’t read Marie-Madeleine. This collection is the first time her writing has been translated into English.

Choir Boy (Theatre Communications Group) by Tarell Alvin McCraney is a stirring new drama abochoir boyut navigating life as a black gay youth. The protagonist, Pharus, wants nothing more than to take his perceived rightful place as the leader of the Charles R. Drew Prep School For Boys’ legendary gospel choir, but can he find his way inside the hallowed halls of this institution if he sings in his own key? This play is one of the most crucial pieces of literature, asking what it means to occupy multiple conflicting identities, particularly in a time when the poster boys for LGBT+ rights are typically white gay men. It’s heartwarming, lyrical, and difficult all at once. The Village Voice praised New York Times’ Outstanding Playwright Award Winner McCraney’s writing in Choir Boy as “holding its own, locating poetry even in the casual vernacular and again demonstrating his gift for simile and metaphor.”

The pride continues all year long, starting with these titles, available in July!

perfect pairingPerfect Pairing (Bywater Books) by Rachel Spangler is the ultimate foodie lesbian rom-com. It tells the story of Hal Orion, a free-spirited chef, and Quinn Banning, a driven investment banker, whose paths collide when Quinn makes Hal an offer she can’t refuse: a restaurant under her own name, complete creative control, and secure financial backing. But Hal utters the one word Quinn can’t stand to hear, “No.” Will their physical attraction grow cold as they argue over their ideals, or will they find that the most distinctive ingredients often make for the perfect pairing? Written with equal parts humor and candor (and, of course, grilled cheese!), Perfect Pairing is a heartwarming romance novel for anyone who’s ever wished the Food Network also aired dating shows. This novel will be published on July 12.

Gentlemen Prefer Asians: Tales of Gay Indonesians and Green Card Marriages gentlemen(Stone Bridge Press) by Yuska L. Tuanakotta is a funny, incisive, and touching collection of personal essays. When Tuanakotta and two of his friends immigrate to the United States from Indonesia, they are inundated with shirtless joggers, same-sex displays of affection, and a constant drive to psychoanalyze. Tuanakotta uses humor to look at the nuances and hierarchies in American gay culture that are often taken for granted. Gentlemen Prefer Asians will be published on July 12.

Find out where to purchase Fair PlayChainmail BikiniThe Gilda StoriesYou Only Live Twice, Beijing ComradesThe CosmopolitansPriestess of MorphineChoir BoyPerfect Pairing, and Gentlemen Prefer Asians here on the Consortium website!

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The BreakBeat Poets: Building a Legacy

One year ago today, just in time for National Poetry Month, Haymarket Books published a groundbreaking poetry collection called The BreakBeat Poets. Featuring the work of seventy-eight different writers, The BreakBeat Poets celebrates the new “BreakBeat Generation.” The BreakBeat Generation, as defined by editor Kevin Coval, is a new era whose style is fueled by the hip-hop and spoken-word movements of the Black Arts, Nuyorican, and Beat poets.

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“Hip-hop,” Coval says in the introduction, “made poetry relevant. It was no longer this dreadful, dead-white-male-centered, highly dull piece to sleep through in English class. It was very much alive and in our Walkmen and notebooks.”

Hip-hop created a connection to an audience that most classic poetry lacked. It was an invitation to participate extended to a generation who wasn’t used to being invited. Hip-hop, by definition, is a civic discourse. Political in nature, if not in content, many poems take on social justice as their refrain. In its own kind of revolution, hip-hop gives a voice to an unheard generation,

The BreakBeat Poets is both a masterful stand-alone collection and a magnetic introduction to some crucial poets you might not have heard before. And many of these poets aren’t done. With a sample of three groundbreaking works from the past, and three exciting new titles for 2016, here’s a primer on the BreakBeat Poets’ legacy.

this is modern artThis Is Modern Art (Haymarket Books) by Kevin Coval and Idris Goodwin is a play which provides a glimpse into the lives of anonymous graffiti artists that asks us to question the true purpose of art. When one graffiti crew finishes the biggest graffiti bomb of their careers, the consequences get serious and spark a public debate asking, “Where does art belong?” The language of the play reflects Coval and Goodwin’s poetic backgrounds, using subtle imagery and turn-of-phrase to pack a heavy punch. The play was first staged at Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago in early 2015. This Is Modern Art will be published on August 30, 2016.

Buck Studies (Fence Books) by Douglas Kearney is a poetic examinabuck studiestion of blackness and maleness in jaw-dropping, hard-cut language. Kearney complicates and exhausts common notions of form and style to create lyrics and ballads you never knew were possible. At the hub of Buck Studies is a long mash-up of the stories of Herakles, the Greek bad-man, and that of Stagger Lee, the black bad-man. Buck Studies will be published on July 12, 2016.

Dated Emcees (City Lights Publishersdated emcees) by Chinaka Hodge is a collection of 25 poems, meant to mirror the length of a classic double-album. Hodge’s writing is fiercely intelligent and emotionally packed. Each word is so specific and powerful that it feels as if Hodge has invented them just for each poem, just for each reader. Her work explores her own love life through the lens of hip-hop’s best known orators, characters, archetypes, and songs. Hodge has been featured in two seasons of HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, as well as on PBS, NPR, and CNN – in other words, she’s kind of a big deal. Dated Emcees will be published on June 7, 2016.

vultureStarve the Vulture: A Memoir (Akashic Books / Kaylie Jones Books) by Jason Carney is a powerful account of the author’s criminality, drug addiction, and recovery. Starve the Vulture is an unflinchingly honest confession. The memoir uses the lyrical, mesmerizing tone that Jason Carney is known for in his poetry to describe his path to redemption and unlikely fame on the national performance poetry circuit, where Carney is a four-time finalist. Woven into Carney’s path to recovery is a powerful family story, depicting the roots of prejudice and dysfunction through several generations. Starve the Vulture was published January 6, 2015

The New Testamethe new testamentnt (Copper Canyon Press) by Jericho Brown is a reclamation of mythologies, from Frankenstein to Cain and Abel. The New Testament seeks not to revise these histories but to find the source of redemption. Brown uses lyric to tenderly examine race, masculinity, and sexuality. Don’t pick up this book unless you have at least two hours to spare – one to read it, and one to sit stunned at the beautiful ache of truth you have just witnessed. Poet Claudia Rankine said, “To read Jericho Brown’s poems is to encounter devastating genius,” and that’s not an exaggeration. NPR.org praised The New Testament, saying that Brown’s poems “are always beautiful, full of a music that is a cross between the sinuous sentences of Carl Phillips, the forceful descriptions of Mark Doty, and hip rhythms of Terrance Hayes.”

burymyclothesBury My Clothes (Haymarket Books) by Roger Bonair-Agard is a collection about art, and what it means when creation itself is an act of survival. Bonair-Agard uses a driving sense of rhythm and narration to bring the reader along on meditations of violence, race, and the place in art at which they intersect. National Book Award Finalist Patricia Smith praises Bury My Clothes as a collection of “unapologetically relentless stanzas [which] will slam their fists into places you have not yet discovered.” Bury My Clothes was a finalist for the 2013 National Book Award for Poetry.

Find out where to buy This Is Modern Art: A PlayBuck StudiesDated EmceesStarve the Vulture: A MemoirThe New Testament, and Bury My Clothes here on the Consortium website.

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Celebrate National Poetry Month with 10 New Must-Read Collections

Only a decade ago, if someone asked you what you thought of poetry, you may have thought of dust-covered textbooks, of droning professors, and of lines that you read over and over and still were unable to fathom. Sure, there were the outliers—Plath, Neruda, Angelou. But for the most part, poetry got trapped in the Ivory Tower of Academia; where you needed at least one literature degree to be trusted (or even want) to really engage with the art.

But with the onset of the digital and information age, poetry is not only surviving, it’s thriving. Now poetry is diving headfirst into this new flood of possibilities provided by the digital revolution and the information age, and it’s flourishing. In the past few decades, poetry has evolved and diversified to the point that an art form once dominated by “old dead white guys” is now being reclaimed by poets of all identities, from all backgrounds and experiences.

In honor of National Poetry Month, and in honor of a new age of poetry by and for the people, we present to you a round-up of contemporary poets from leading independent publishers to both soothe and trouble the soul. Because, after all, as the late and great C.D. Wright once said, “Poetry is not like, it is the very lining of the inner life.”

night sky with exit1. Night Sky With Exit Wounds (Copper Canyon Press) is is Ocean Vuong’s first full-length collection. Vuong’s poems use his characteristic gentle (yet incredibly dynamic) cadence to explore the things that make us human—subjects of romance, family, memory, grief, and war. Night Sky with Exit Wounds is the kind of book that soon becomes worn with love. You will want to crease every page to come back to it, to underline every other line because each word resonates with power. Ocean Vuong is hot right now, picking up steam with a Whiting Award win, a roundup in Teen Vogue, and a recent excerpt in the T: the New York Times Style Magazine. Night Sky with Exit Wounds publishes April 5.

2. Olio (Wave Books), by Tolioyehimba Jess, is an exploration of black musicians and performers from the pre-Civil War Era to World War I. If you’ve been wanting to get into poetry but haven’t been willing to give up the power, characters, and length of a novel, Olio is the book for you. Clocking in at a whopping 256 pages, Olio sings with the same musicality it describes, from jazz and blues to work songs and church hymns, as it dissects the legacy of minstrelsy and blackface through the personas of almost a dozen artists. Olio will be published on April 5.

3. Scattering The Dark: An Anthology Oscattering the darkf Polish Women Poets (White Pine Press), edited by Karen Kovacik, is a collection of over thirty women poets writing before and after the fall of Communism in Poland. If you’re the poetry aficionado that’s read it all, Scattering the Dark is for you. The poets muse on universal topics—dreams, art, what “home” means—while revealing what it means to be both a woman and a writer in a time when both identities were practically forbidden. It’s a lyrical window into a previously unseen world. Scattering the Dark will be published on April 12.

4. The Spoons In The Grass Are There To Dig A Mspoonsoat (Sarabande Books) by Amelia Martens is a book of prose poetry that packs a mighty punch for such a slim volume (64 pages, folks). Her writing is unassuming and unpretentious as, again and again, she reaches into the mundane and pulls out the extraordinary. The Spoons in the Grass are There to Dig a Moat will be published on April 12.

the black maria5. The Black Maria (BOA Editions Ltd.) by Aracelis Girmay is a lyric of history, of heritage and violence, and of building new futures. Girmay writes unflinchingly of America’s long traditions of racism against African Americans, her poetry infused with both a slow-burning anger and the ache of longing. The crowning achievement of this book is a jaw-dropping long-form poem which weaves together stories from the youth of astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Girmay’s dreams of her own future child. In its first-ever poetry issue, O Magazine included The Black Maria in a sampling of “recently published gems of the genre.” The Black Maria will be published on April 12.

6playdead. Play Dead (Alice James Books) by francine j. harris is not for people who like to enter poetry and come out unchanged. harris’s writing is raw, gritty, and unflinching. Her words will reach into your very core as she spins together difficult and necessary lyrics with shreds of hope. Play Dead has been praised by everyone from Ross Gay, who “read these poems not knowing they were possible” to Publishers Weekly, who gave it a starred review. Play Dead will be published on April 12.

7. The Big Book Of Exit Strategies (Alice James Books) is a nbig bookew collection of poems by Jamaal May. If you know what it’s like to miss a step going down the stairs and suddenly find yourself breathless, you know what it’s like to read a book by May. You can feel May’s yearning tugging at you from the page. His poems are often narrative, but that doesn’t mean they’re lacking in subtlety and intricacy. May is a master of images, drawing new meanings with each turn of phrase. They’re the kind of poems you whisper to yourself over and over again. The Big Book of Exit Strategies will be published on April 12.

8. Out Of Print (City Liout of printghts Publishers) is the third book of poet and publisher Julien PoirierIf you’ve ever had trouble getting into poetry because it’s too stuffy and scholarly, Out of Print is the perfect solution. It’s raucous, it’s uncensored, and it puts on no airs as it tap-dances over the notion of “high-brow literature.” Out of Print draws equally from absurdism and pop-culture. Poirier’s poems will make you laugh until your stomach aches, only to suddenly pause and think, huh. Out of Print will be published on April 19.

9. New-Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Box Set (Tatu) (Akashic Books) containew generationns eight volumes of poetry from eight different poets from across the African continent, plus an introduction by editors Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani. The chapbooks work together like instruments in an orchestra, their unique tones and timbres coming together to present a work that is magnificent, both as a whole and in each part.  It is a love song, a lament, a history, a future, and a tribute to what Abani describes as Africa’s “unending lineage of light.” New-Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Box Set (Tatu) will be published on April 19.

shallcross10. ShallCross (Copper Canyon Press) is Wright’s seventeenth volume of poetry and the first published after her passing on January 12, 2016. It’s safe to say that ShallCross is one of the most anticipated books of this year. Wright draws from journalistic techniques and filmic narratives to range across seven poetic sequences, including a collaborative suite responding to photographic documentation of murder sites in New Orleans. ShallCross will be published on April 26.

 

Technically, this title was published on March 15, but we love it so much that we couldn’t resist throwing it into the mix…

11. They And We Will Get Into Trouble For This (Coffee House Press) by Anna Moschovtheyandweakis, is a series of three long-form poems tied together by a fourth poem, which runs along the bottom of each page in the form of bracketed words and phrases strung together like a row of lanterns guiding you. Moschovakis writes with an honesty and simplicity that is at once concise and lyrical. She muses on heredity, mental health, and philosophy in a stream-of-consciousness that is impossible to look up from until you realize you’ve reached the back cover. Anna Moschovakis and her beautifully designed, beautifully written collection also made Bustle’s list of poetry collections to read for National Poetry Month, and you can get a taste of it from this poem, excerpted in BOMB.

Find out where to buy Night Sky with Exit Wounds, Olio, Scattering the Dark: An Anthology of Polish Woman Poets, The Spoons in the Grass are There to Dig a Moat, The Black Maria, Play Dead, The Big Book of Exit Strategies, Out of Print, New-Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Boxed Set (Tatu), Shallcross, They and We Will Get into Trouble for This, and many more books here at the Consortium website.

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In Celebration and Solidarity: A Black History Month Round-Up

Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, W. E. B. DuBois, James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, Angela Davis, and hundreds upon hundreds more. Throughout history, African American men and women have been pillars of both classic and contemporary literature, making us breathless and boundless with their revolutionary poetry and prose.

In a survey conducted by Publishers Weekly in 2014, it was revealed that 79% of those who work in the publishing industry were white. In 2012, Roxane Gay published an article disparaging the fact that 88% of books reviewed by the New York Times are written by white authors. In a world still reeling from police murders in Ferguson, New York City, and Minneapolis (among countless others), it becomes clear that we are very much still in the middle of a civil rights movement. It is crucial to amplify black voices and support black lives in the middle of this struggle.

In celebration and in solidarity, for Black History Month we offer a roundup of radical poetry, stunning prose, and crucial critical social theory by African American authors.

Layout 1The Breakbeat Poets (Haymarket Books), edited by Kevin Coval, Quraysh A. Lansana, and Nate Marshall,  is a first-of-its-kind anthology of hip-hop poetica written for and by the people. The book challenges the notion of what poetry is and who is allowed to access it, breaking down the Ivory Tower to discuss how hip-hop, an art form created by African Americans, revolutionized a genre.

From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation (Haymarket Books), by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, fromblacklivesmatteranalyzes the roots of the Black Lives Matter movement and its potential to reignite a broader struggle for Black liberation. Beginning with the mass protests of the police murders of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York City, activist and scholar Taylor discusses how the Black Lives Matter movement has awakened a new generation of activists. This book is available starting tomorrow!

africanamericanwomenAfrican American Women (GILES), a collection of photographs from the National Museum of African American History and Culture, with a foreword by Lonnie G Bunch, is the third book in the NMAAHC’s “Double Exposure” series. This volume contains stunning photographs which demonstrate the dignity, joy, heartbreak, commitment, and sacrifice of women of all ages and backgrounds, from midwives at work in the rural south to students jailed for civil rights protests.

But Some of Us Are Brave (The Feminist Press at CUNY), edited by Akasbutsomeofusha (Gloria T.) Hull, Patricia Bell-Scott, and Barbara Smith, is the first comprehensive collection of black feminist scholarship, the call for an academic revolution. Audre Lorde praised this book as “Exciting! Affirmations and the beginning of a new era, where the ‘women’ in women’s studies will no longer mean ‘white.'”

Tales (Akashic Books) is a collection of staleshort stories by Amiri Baraka. In  the Philadelphia Tribune on February 5, noted American historian, literary critic, and filmmaker Henry Louis Gates Jr. said, “We owe profound thanks to Akashic Books for reissuing this important collection of Amiri Baraka’s short stories. . . . Baraka was, without question, the central figure of the Black Arts Movement. . . Tales is a critical volume in Amiri Baraka’s oeuvre, and an important testament to his remarkable literary legacy.”

book of harlanThe Book of Harlan (Akashic Books), by Bernice L. McFadden, is a novel detailing the stories of two African American musicians captured by the Nazis in Paris during WWII and imprisoned at the Buchenwald concentration camp. From an author praised by NPR and an editor’s choice at the New York Times Book Review, The Book of Harlan is a powerful meditation on the past, present, and future of civil rights. Stay tuned for this book, which releases this May!

Freedom is a Constant Struggle (Haymarket Books)freedom is is a collection of essays, interviews, and speeches by world-renowned activist and scholar Angela Y. Davis. Reflecting on the legacies of previous liberation struggles, from the Black Freedom Movement to the South African anti-Apartheid movements, Davis champions the importance of black feminism, intersectionality, and prison abolitionism for today’s struggles against state terror, from Ferguson to Palestine. Davis challenges all of us to imagine and build a new movement for human liberation.

Find out where to buy The Breakbeat Poets, From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation, African American Women, But Some of Us Are Brave, Tales, The Book of Harlan, Freedom is a Constant Struggle, and many more books here at the Consortium website.

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Akashic Books: A New Hope (for breakout literature)

carriefisherIf you, like many, are a fan of Carrie Fisher (otherwise known as Princess Leia of the Star Wars universe) and her vibrant Twitter feed, you may have spotted her tweet mentioning Go the Fuck to Sleep, the 2011 smash hit from Akashic Books.

It’s safe to say the Force has been with Akashic these past few months. Days before Fisher’s Tweet, Go the Fuck to Sleep went platinum, making it Akashic’s first title to sell over one million copies. This past September, Senior Editor Ibrahim Ahmad was featured as one of Publishers Weekly’s 2015 Star Watch Finalists.

In the publishing world’s version of the American Dream, Ahmad started at Akashic as an internAkashicLogoNew03 at age 17. He quickly moved up the ranks to become one of Akashic’s four core staffers. Beginning with very little publishing experience, Ahmad proved that he had a natural eye for editorial work. As an intern, he fought to acquire Boy Genius by Yongsoo Park, exclaiming “F— YEAH!” in black sharpie on his reader’s report. Akashic went on to acquire and publish the book, which was a finalist for the Asian American Literary Awards.

As Senior Editor, Ahmad took on the biggest challenge of all when he spearheaded the marketing and publicity campaign for Go the Fuck to Sleep. The title hit every major #1 bestseller list before it was even published. It was an unprecedented level of media attention for the small press.

“[It] was a crash course in publishing that simply cannot be taught,” Ahmad says.

Though Ahmad jokes about the large number of gray hairs that the reception to Go the Fuck to Sleep gave him, the book’s success provided Akashic with not only confidence but also a much-welcomed financial stability. The beginning of 2016 ushers in two new titles from Akashic: Chasing Water, a memoir by Olympic gold-medalist Anthony Ervin, and The Book of Harlan, a novel about two African American musicians imprisoned in Nazi Germany.

The [literary] Force is strong with this one. Congrats, Akashic, on all of your star-studded success!

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