Critical Mass

What I’m Looking Forward to Reading: Rigoberto Gonzalez


There will be no beach, not even a lawn chair or a cozy recliner to ease this critic into the mood for literature, it’s enough that the books themselves, by writers familiar and new, promise to delight and stimulate without having to take the longed-for vacation.

Sitting on my desk since National Poetry Month, a few titles that I can finally sink my teeth into:

1. Rounding the Human Corners by Linda Hogan (Coffee House Press)

Her first book of poems in 15 years, since the much-lauded Book of Medicines, a volume of sparse language and exact beauty.

2. The Evolution of a Sigh by R. Zamora Linmark (Hanging Loose Press)

I’ve come to expect sharp-edged humor and a biting social critique from this writer, who also authored the now-classic Bildungsroman, Rolling the R’s.

3. The Importance of Peeling Potatoes in Ukraine by Mark Yakich (Penguin Books)

Yakich’s first book, Unrelated Individuals Forming a Group Waiting to Cross was zany and eyebrow-raising and deliciously innovative. I won’t be surprise to have the same experience here.

From the fiction shelf:

4. The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich (Harper)

Really, anything by Erdrich is worth a read, but especially this, her thirteenth novel, with a rich historical backdrop and a hefty cast of characters.

5. The Boat by Nam Le (Knopf)

Though I’m usually not a bandwagon-climber, I couldn’t help but take notice of the buzz generated around this debut collection of stories. The piece in Zoetrope, “Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice,” was more than enough to pique my interest.

6. The King’s Gold by Yxta Maya Murray (Harper)

I’m a sucker for Murray’s imaginative, page-turning adventure stories. I thoroughly enjoyed diving into The Conquest and The Queen Jade, so I’ll have no trouble making time for this one.

And a not to overlook nonfiction:

7. The Last Supper of Chicano Heroes: Selected Works of Jose Antonio Burciaga edited by Daniel Chacon and Mimi R. Gladstein (University of Arizona Press)

This long-overdue volume commemorates, twelve years after his death, some of the Chicano writer’s best knows works, like the classic of social criticism Drink Cultura, along with a selection of his uncollected essays, poems and illustrations.

8. The Jive Talker by Samson Kambalu (Free Press)

The thirty-three-year-old artist from Malawi, known for his invention of Holyballism—religious texts superimposed on playground balls in order to exercise and exorcise simultaneously—has written a coming-of-age memoir.
9. The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8 Lee (Twelve)

This intriguing piece of “food journalism” is a close and informational examination of the role of Chinese cuisine in American culture by the young writer at The New York Times.