Critical Notes

Reviews and more to kick off June from the National Book Critics Circle

By Carolyn Kellogg

From the NBCC's Emerging Critics:

Just in time for June’s Pride celebrations, Letitia Montgomery-Rodgers reviewed Bruce Cinnamon’s The Melting Queen and Michael Carroll’s short story collection, Stella Maris and Other Key West Stories, both for Foreword Reviews’ LGBTQ+ Spotlight edition.

J. Howard Rosier reviewed Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family by Mitchell S. Jackson for Bookforum.

The Best Translated Book Awards were announced this week, with the fiction award going to Slave Old Man by Patrick Chamoiseau, translated from French and Creole by Linda Cloverdale and poetry going to Of Death. Minimal Odes by Hilda Hilst translated from Portuguese by Laura Cesarco Elgin. Here are some reviews from our members of new translated works:

Benjamin Woodard reviewed Duanwad Pimwana's Bright and Arid Dreams, originally pubslihed in Thai, for Words Without Borders. 

Brian Haman reviewed Marion Poschmann's The Pine Islands and Christine Wunnicke's The Fox and Dr Shimamura, both originally published in German, at the Asian Review of Books.

Rod Davis reviewed the new translation of German author Uwe Johnson’s classic Anniversaries in The Baffler's May-June issue.

Ron Slate reviewed Migrant Brothers: A Poet’s Declaration of Human Dignity by Patrick Chamoiseau at On the Seawall.

More reviews and features: 

Christoph Irmscher reviewed James Poskett's Materials of the Mind in the Wall Street Journal.

Jenny Shank reviewed Naamah by Sarah Blake for America, the Jesuit Review.

Hamilton Cain wrote about David Epstein and his book Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World at LitHub.

At Kirkus reviews, Richard Z. Santos profiled Cherríe Moraga and her new memoir Native Country of the Heart and Fernando Flores and his debut novel Tears of the Truffle Pig. And Jean Huets reviewed Tears of the Truffle Pig at Ploughshares.

Danielle Trussoni highlights great new horror reads in the New York Times; if you can, dive into this summer books preview on your phone.

Janet Sternburg reviewed Maria Popova's Figuring at the LA Review of Books.

Barbara J. King reviewed Lewis Dartnell's Origins: How Earth's History Shaped Human History, for the Washington Post.

Jane Ciabattari recommends 10 books to read in June at the BBC, including The Summer Demands by Deborah Shapiro, Lauren Acampora's Paper Wasp, Liza Wieland's Paris, 7 a.m. and My Parents/This Does Not Belong to You by Aleksandar Hemon.

Wayne Catan reviewed Ernesto: The Untold Story of Hemingway in Revolutionary Cuba by Andrew Feldman in the Idaho Statesman.

Katherine A. Powers highlighted 3 summer audiobooks — The Lost Man by Jane Harper, Good Riddance by Elinor Lipman and How to Hide an Empire by Daniel Immerwahr — for the Chicago Daily Herald.

Heller McAlpin reviewed The Rosie Result by Graeme Simsion for NPR Books.

Martha Anne Toll reviewed Gregory Spatz's What Could Be Saved for NPR Books.

Reviews and news from members of the NBCC board:

Mark Athitakis reviewed Dorian Lynskey's The Ministry of Truth: The Biography of George Orwell's '1984' for Newsday.

Carolyn Kellogg reviewed Roxana Robinson's novel Dawson's Fall for the Washington Post (Robinson is also a member of the National Book Critics Circle). 

Marion Winik reviewed Dawson's Fall and The Peacock Feast by Lisa Gornick on her podcast The Weekly Reader, as well as That Good Night by Sunita Puri and Women's Work by Megan Shack. She also was awarded the Towson Prize for Literature for her book The Baltimore Book of the Dead.

Keri Arsenault remembers biographer Edmund Morris at LitHub.

Other news from our members:

Grace Schulman has edited a poetry collection, Mourning Songs: Poems of Sorrow and Beauty, out this month from New Directions. In May she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Congratulations!

And congratulations to Tom Beer, who will become the new editor in chief of Kirkus Reviews. He makes the move after 11 years leading the books coverage at Newsday.

NBCC members: Send us your stuff! Your work may be highlighted in this roundup; please send links to new reviews, features and other literary pieces, or tell us about awards, honors or new and forthcoming books, by dropping a line to

Photo: Gay Pride by Dave Pitt via Flickr/Creative Commons non-commercial license.