Critical Notes

New reviews and more from NBCC members

By Michael Schaub

Photo of the Ramona Quimby statue in Portland, Ore., by Redfishingboat (Mick O) via Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0.

“Quite often somebody will say, What year do your books take place? And the only answer I can give is, in childhood.” — Beverly Cleary, 1916–2021

Thanks to everyone who tuned in to the NBCC Awards ceremony last week, and to everyone who helped make it happen, especially the event’s producers, Wildbound Live! If you missed it, you can watch it here, and you can find a list of winners on our website. And very special thanks to all of you for supporting the NBCC—we couldn’t do it without you. Thanks for your support, and as always, thanks for reading!

Member Reviews/Essays

Jenny Shank wrote about her neighborhood grocery store, the Table Mesa King Soopers in Boulder, Colo., for The Washington Post.

Joan Frank reviewed Sara Davis’s The Scapegoat for The Washington Post. (This notice appeared in last week’s Critical Notes, but we included the wrong link. Our apologies to Joan!)

Michelle Bailat-Jones reviewed Jessie van Eerden’s Call It Horses (winner of the 2019 Dzanc Prize for Fiction) for Necessary Fiction.

Rayyan Al-Shawaf wrote about Syed M. Masood’s novel The Bad Muslim Discount for The Markaz Review, a channel of the Los Angeles Review of Books.

NBCC Vice President/Online Michael Schaub reviewed Hanif Abdurraqib’s A Little Devil in America for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Former NBCC board member Mark Athitakis reviewed Andrea Lee’s novel Red Island House for USA Today.

Michelle Newby Lancaster reviewed S. Kirk Walsh’s The Elephant of Belfast for Lone Star Literary Life.

Jenny Slate reviewed John Gasaway’s Miracles on the Hardwood: The Hope-and-a-Prayer Story of a Winning Tradition in Catholic College Basketball for America.

Former NBCC board member Dan Cryer reviewed Gregory Brown’s The Lowering Days for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Paul Gleason reviewed Charles Camic’s new biography of Thorstein Veblen in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Jeffrey Ann Goudie reviewed Andrew Graff’s Raft of Stars for The Boston Globe.

Oline H. Cogdill reviewed Blood Grove by Walter Mosley and Finlay Donovan Is Killing It by Elle Cosimano for the Sun Sentinel and other venues, and The Stills by Jess Montgomery and On Harrow Hill by John Verdon for Shelf Awareness.

Anthony Domestico reviewed Hermione Lee’s Tom Stoppard: A Life for Commonweal.

Julia M. Klein reviewed Menachem Kaiser’s Plunder and Yaniv Iczkovits’ The Slaughterman’s Daughter for the Forward.

Meg Waite Clayton‘s March Bay City Books column for Local News Matters includes books by Carol Edgarian, Isabelle Allende, Kim Addonizio, Anne Lamott, and more.

Heller McAlpin reviewed Andrea Lee’s new novel, Red Island House, for The Christian Science Monitor, and wrote about Raynor Winn’s The Wild Silence for The Wall Street Journal.

Martha Anne Toll reviewed Ae-ran Kim’s My Brilliant Life, translated by Chi-Young Kim, for Words Without Borders.

Member Interviews

April Yee interviewed Chang-rae Lee for Ploughshares.

Former NBCC President Laurie Hertzel interviewed Naima Coster for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. And, inspired by a query from a reader (about food crumbs left in library books), she also piggybacked on Michael Schaub‘s funny Kirkus story about odd things found in books (and gave Kirkus credit, of course). 

Elaine Szewczyk profiled political leader and novelist Stacey Abrams for Publishers Weekly.  

Anne Charles interviewed publisher and editor Julie Enszer on the cable access show All Things LGBTQ. They discussed Enszer’s manuscript A Fine Bind: Lesbian-Feminist Publishing from 1969-1989.

Member News, Etc.

NBCC board member Gregg Barrios was honored by Voices de la Luna, a quarterly literature and arts magazine for his lifetime achievement in the literary arts. Gregg was was interviewed by poet and San Antonio Artist Foundation recipient Natalia Treviño, and received testimonials from Texas literary luminaries Sandra Cisneros, Naomi Shibab Nye and Carmen Tafolla. You can watch a video of the gala here. During these difficult times for arts communities nationwide, Gregg asks you to consider making a donation to Voices and/or subscribe to this prestigious quarterly.

Vivian Gornick, a finalist for this year’s NBCC Award for Criticism, was among the winners of this year’s Windham Campbell Prizes.

SEND US YOUR STUFF: 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 Be sure to include the link to your work.