Critical Notes

New reviews and more from NBCC members

By Michael Schaub

Members and friends, we hope you’re doing well! If you’re looking for ideas for summer reading, our members have your back with reviews of books by authors like Dana McAnulty, Nana Nkweti, Trung Le Nguyen, Laura Lippman, Joshua Henkin, and more, and interviews with writers including Louise Erdrich and Michael Connelly. Stay safe and stay cool, and as always, thanks for reading!

Member Reviews/Essays

Former NBCC President Laurie Hertzel reviewed Dana McAnulty’s Diary of a Young Naturalist and Chaney Kwak’s The Passenger for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, where she is senior editor of books.

Dana Wilde reviewed Wait: Poems from the Pandemic, edited by Jeri Theriault, in his Off Radar column for the Central Maine newspapers.

Kathleen Rooney wrote an essay about Argentine poet Susana Thénon for the Poetry Foundation.

NBCC board member Stephanie Burt reviewed The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen for the Spring 2021 online edition of Rain Taxi.

Rachael Nevins wrote about refusals in How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell and Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson for the Ploughshares blog.

Former NBCC board member Mary Ann Gwinn reviewed Scott Borchert’s Republic of Detours: How the New Deal Paid Broke Writers to Rediscover America for the Los Angeles Times.

Sarah D’Stair reviewed Cemetery Ink by Mihaela Moscaliuc for Heavy Feather Review and The Carrying by Ada Limón for The Rupture Magazine.

Daneet Steffens reviewed Laura Lippman’s Dream Girl for The Boston Globe, and contributed the best mysteries list to the Globe summer reading guide.

Barbara Basbanes Richter wrote about University of Chicago professor Tahera Qutbuddin winning the Sheikh Zayed Book Award for Literary Features Syndicate

Diane Scharper reviewed Sumita Oyama’s The Life and Zen Haiku Poetry of Santoka Taneda for the National Review.

Priscilla Gilman reviewed Morningside Heights by Joshua Henkin for The Boston Globe.

Former NBCC President Tom Beer wrote about Sarah Schulman’s Let the Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP New York, 1987-1993 for Kirkus Reviews.

Anne Charles reviewed Troy R. Saxby’s Pauli Murray: A Personal and Political Life for The Gay & Lesbian Review.

For Harper’s, former NBCC board member Tess Taylor wrote about her time in Belfast the year after Trump’s election, the dazzling poet Ciaran Carson, and the role of the arts in cultural repair—how arts and artists and arts in community can be a key to more equity, more civic life, and more joy.  

The second installment of Victoria Chang and Dean Rader‘s collaborative poetry review column for the Los Angeles Review of Books considers Donika Kelly’s The Renunciations.

In the June issue of America, Jason Berry reviewed Economy Hall by Fatima Shaik and Afro-Creole Poetry in French from Louisiana’s Radical Civil War-Era Newspapers by Clint Bruce.

Jenny Shank reviewed Jamie Lowe’s Breathing Fire: Female Inmate Firefighters on the Frontlines of California’s Wildfires for High Country News.

Julia M. Klein reviewed Joshua Henkin’s Morningside Heights for the Forward.

Cory Oldweiler reviewed Lana Bastašić’s Catch the Rabbit for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

NBCC Vice President/Online Michael Schaub reviewed Jackie Calmes’ Dissent for NPR and Nana Nkweti’s Walking on Cowrie Shells for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He also contributed to the fiction section of The Boston Globe’s summer reading feature.

Member Interviews

NBCC Vice President/Secretary Colette Bancroft interviewed Michael Connelly for the Tampa Bay Times.

Former NBCC President Laurie Hertzel interviewed writer Louise Erdrich upon hearing the news that she had won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her novel The Night Watchman. (Erdrich is also a two-time winner of the NBCC fiction prize.)

Anne Charles interviewed writer/activist Elana Dykewomon and writer Judith Katz on the Vermont cable access show All Things LGBTQ. 

“I don’t want the only time folks recognize our humanity to be when someone is pointing a gun at us.” Camerican author Nana Nkweti talked to NBCC VP/Events and Fiction Chair Jane Ciabattari about her new book, Walking on Cowrie Shells, and how she wrote/revised the stories at the Iowa Writers Workshop, for Literary Hub.

Member News, Etc.

Elias Rodriques’ debut novel, All the Water I’ve Seen Is Running, will be published on June 22 by W.W. Norton.

Former NBCC board member Tess Taylor discussed the power of the arts to heal our society on NPR’s All Things Considered.

Partner News

Our partners at The Community of Literary Magazines and Presses will announce their annual Firecracker Awards on Wednesday, June 23, at 7 p.m. Eastern. The Firecracker Awards for Independently Published Literature are awarded in the categories of Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, Poetry, Magazines/General Excellence, and Magazines/Best Debut. They’ll also be announcing the 2021 recipient of the Lord Nose Award, given in recognition of a lifetime of work in literary publishing. The event, hosted by our partners at The Center for Fiction, is free, and you can register here.

Our partners at the PEN/Faulkner Foundation have selected Charles Baxter as the winner of the 2021 PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story. About the art of the short story, Bernard Malamud said, “I like packing a self or two into a few pages, predicting lifetimes. The drama is terse, happens faster, and is often outlandish. A short story is a way of indicating the complexity of life in a few pages, producing the surprise and effect of a profound knowledge in a short time.”

Photo by texasgurl via Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0.

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.