Critical Notes

New reviews and more from NBCC members

By Michael Schaub

“For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. Racism and homophobia are real conditions of all our lives in this place and time. I urge each one of us here to reach down into that deep place of knowledge inside herself and touch that terror and loathing of any difference that lives here. See whose face it wears.” — Audre Lorde

Member Reviews

Board member Hope Wabuke reviewed Meredith Talusan’s Fairest and Porochista Khakpour’s Brown Album: Essays on Exile and Identity for NPR.

Grace Talusan reviewed Wayétu Moore’s The Dragons, the Giant, the Women for The New York Times Book Review.

William Logan reviewed Rowan Ricardo Phillips’ Living Weapon for The New York Times Book Review, and A Bountiful Harvest: The Correspondence of Anthony Hecht and William L. MacDonald, edited by Philip Hoy and several books of poetry for The New Criterion. He also wrote about Robert Lowell’s The Dolphin for The New Criterion.

Carlos Lozada, a winner of the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, reviewed Masha Gessen’s Surviving Autocracy and Stacey Abrams’ Our Time Is Now for The Washington Post.

Board member David Varno reviewed And Their Children After Them by Nicolas Mathieu, a Prix Goncourt-winning novel exploring racism and the roots of the yellow vests movement in post-industrial France, for Orion magazine.

Rayyan Al-Shawaf reviewed Maaza Mengiste’s The Shadow King for The National Book Review.

Dan Cryer reviewed Nicholas Basbanes’ Cross of Snow: A Life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow for The Boston Globe.

Clea Simon reviewed Megha Majumdar’s A Burning for The Boston Globe.

Cassandra Luca recently reviewed Karla Cornejo Villavicencio’s The Undocumented Americans and Carter Sickels’ The Prettiest Star for The Harvard Crimson.

Joseph Peschel reviewed Lily Tuck’s Heathcliff Redux: A Novella and Stories for The Brooklyn Rail.

William O’Rourke’s review of Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century by George Packer appeared in the most recent print edition of the National Catholic Reporter.

Hamilton Cain reviewed Jessica Pearce Rotondi’s What We Inherit for Chapter 16.

Dana Wilde reviewed Richard Grossinger’s Bottoming Out the Universe in his “Off Radar” column for the Central Maine Newspapers.

Katrina Gulliver reviewed Andrew Whitby’s The Sum of the People for Reason magazine.

Ellen Prentiss Campbell reviewed Juditha Dowd’s Audubon’s Sparrow for the New York Journal of Books.

Helen Mitsios wrote about five out-of-print books you should read this summer for Wonderlust.

Jeffrey Mannix reviewed World Editions’ Sleepless Summer by Bram Dehouck and The Summer of Kim Novak by Håkan Nesser for his Murder Ink column in The Durango Telegraph.

Member Interviews

Elizabeth Lund interviewed Naomi Shihab Nye, the winner of the 2019 NBCC Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, for The Christian Science Monitor.

Tom Beer interviewed Brit Bennett about her novel The Vanishing Half for Kirkus Reviews.

“In dreams and imagination, ideas are born that then become reality. I grew up with oral tradition storytelling that taught me the importance of dreaming and imagination.” Ishmael Beah, author of Little Family, talked with NBCC Vice President/Events Jane Ciabattari about Chinua Achebe’s Chike & the River, Orwell’s Animal Farm, and other books about people and animals surviving the fates they are dealt

William O’Rourke was interviewed by Malachy McCourt about his new book, Politics and the American Language: Reviews, Rants, and Commentary, 2011 – 2018, on McCourt’s WBAI radio program.

Meg Waite Clayton was interviewed by Sheri Baer for Punch magazine about the writing life and her latest novel, The Last Train to London, which is out in paperback this month from Harper Paperbacks.

NBCC Vice President/Online Michael Schaub wrote a profile of Elliot Ackerman for InsideHook.

Member News, Etc.

Board member Hope Wabuke published “Do Black Lives Matter to Westworld? On TV Fantasies of Racial Violence” at the Los Angeles Review of Books.

For the Bay Area Book Festival, board member Ismail Muhammad moderated a conversation about “The Beautiful Witness We Bear” with NBCC Award poetry finalist Jericho Brown and Nikky Finney. 

John Domini published a long piece in Literary Hub on John Barth, in particular his neglected later work, arguing for a reconsideration.

Rien Fertel wrote about Louisiana’s first poet laureate, the vehemently anti-war Emma Wilson Emery, for 64 Parishes.

Ellen Prentiss Campbell’s new book, Known by Heart, was reviewed by Late Last Night Books and the Washington Independent Review of Books.

Clifford Garstang’s latest book, House of the Ancients and Other Stories, was reviewed by J.D. Ho in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Rafael Castillo wrote about books to read during the pandemic summer for the San Antonio Express-News.

Photo of Audre Lorde by K. Kendall via Flickr / CC BY 2.0.