Critical Notes

New reviews and more from NBCC members

By Michael Schaub

Members and friends, we hope you’re having a good summer so far! We’d like to welcome the new class of Emerging Critics to the NBCC—we’re excited to start working with them soon. This past week, our members have been keeping busy with reviews of books by authors like Diane Johnson, Kathy Wang, Hayden Herrera, Dana Spiotta, and more, and interviews with writers including Tom Lin, Louise Penny, Kristen Radtke, and Gabriel Krauze. Stay cool, stay safe, and as always, thanks for reading!

NBCC Events

We’d like to invite you all to a conversation, sponsored by the NBCC, about racial consciousness in literary criticism, on Thursday, July 15, at 8:00 pm Eastern. Just as astute fiction writers build their racial awareness to portray racial realities outside their own, discerning literary critics can develop such awareness to review books with unfamiliar racial experience. How can critics deepen understanding of an author’s racially-informed artistic tradition? Should critics seek editorial guidance to identify potential racial blind spots? This diverse panel brings together critics, editors and creative writers to explore these and other questions. The conversation will be moderated by Erik Gleibermann and the panelists are David Mura, Lisa Teasley, and Myriam Gurba, and you can register for this free event here.

Member Reviews/Essays

NBCC board member Adam Dalva wrote about Zoom dysmorphia and Lauren Oyler for Catapult.

Susan Keselenko Coll reviewed Diane Johnson’s Lorna Mott Comes Homefor The Washington Post.

Kathryn Ma reviewed Kathy Wang’s Imposter Syndrome and Amy Mason Doan’s Lady Sunshine for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Rachael Guynn Wilson reviewed Anna Gurton-Wachter’s Utopia Pipe Dream Memoryfor The Chicago Review. The review is in the latest print issue of the magazine, and will be published online soon.

Katherine Hill reviewed Mariana Leky’s What You Can See From Here, translated by Tess Lewis, for The New York Times Book Review.

Heller McAlpin reviewed Diane Johnson’s Lorna Mott Comes Homeand Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray’s The Personal Librarian for The Christian Science Monitor and biographer Hayden Herrera’s memoir, Upper Bohemia, for The Wall Street Journal.

Sebastian Stockman reviewed Dax-Devlon Ross’s Letters to My White Male Friends for The Boston Globe

Jan Alexander wrote an essay about Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer and The Committed for Neworld Review.

Jenny Shank reviewed Elizabeth Gonzales James’s Mona at Sea for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Dana Wilde reviewed Shirley N. Hager and Mawopiyane’s The Gatherings: Reimagining Indigenous-Settler Relations in his Off Radar column for the Central Maine newspapers.

Ellen Prentiss Campbell wrote about the powerful experience of reading poetry aloud to a centenarian for the Washington Independent Review of Books.

Rien Fertel reviewed Mike Rothschild’s history of QAnon, The Storm Is Upon Us, for the AV Club, and wrote about Tony Kushner’s Caroline, or Change, for 64 Parishes.

Meg Waite Clayton’s June Bay City Books column includes new releases from Alice Waters, David Talbot and Margaret Talbot, Helene Wecker, Dave Eggers, Alka Joshi, Misa Suguira, and more.

Linda Hitchcock reviewed Julie Murphy’s Pumpkinand Marianne Cronin’s The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margotfor

Theodore Kinni reviewed Tsedal Neeley’s Remote Work Revolutionfor strategy+business.

W. Scott Olsen reviewedLooking at Photography by Stephen Frailey, Uncommon Grit: A Photographic Journey Through Navy SEAL Training by D. McBurnett, and Northern Plains Native Americans: A Modern Wet Plate Perspective by Shane Balkowitsch for Frames magazine.

Sarah McCraw Crow reviewed Steven Rowley’s novel The Guncle for the June issue of BookPage.

NBCC Vice President/Online Michael Schaub reviewed Dana Spiotta’s Waywardfor the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Member Interviews

Robert Allen Papinchak interviewed Irish writer Stuart Neville about his latest novel, The House of Ashes, for Publishers Weekly

“I think your intuition of where home is becomes most potent when you’ve finally left it and there’s no possibility of returning.” Tom Lin talks about the Chinese diaspora, literary field work, and his debut novel with NBCC Vice President/Events and Fiction Chair Jane Ciabattari for her Literary Hub column. 

Elaine Szewczyk profiled bestselling Canadian novelist Louise Penny for Publishers Weekly

Former NBCC President Tom Beer spoke with author and illustrator Kristen Radtke about her new book, Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness for Kirkus Reviews.

Erik Gleibermann interviewed Ingrid Rojas Contreras about the border between fiction and non-fiction and her forthcoming memoir, The Man Who Could Move Clouds, in World Literature Today.

W. Scott Olsen’s podcast series at Frames magazine now includes interviews with photographers Jo Brunenberg and Jim Zuckerman.

On their Across the Pond podcast, NBCC board member Lori Feathers and Sam Jordison talk to Gabriel Krauze about his debut novel, Who They Was.

Member News, Etc.

Chris Barsanti, co-author of the 2017 book Monty Python FAQ, was interviewed for the recent four-part PBS documentary Monty Python: A Celebration.

Joan Naviyuk Kanehas been awarded a residency at Millay Colony this summer, where she will continue work on several projects. In collaboration with Sherwin Bitsui, a Diné poet, and Santee Frazier, a Cherokee poet, she’s working on three books on Indigeneity and craft that explores Indigenous aesthetics and values; connects the intersections of Indigenous, Black, and non-White experiences in literature; and examines poetry as a place where writers can have conversations adjacent to political, social, and ecological crises, while centering Indigenous perspectives. Her newest book, Dark Traffic, will be published in the Pitt Poetry Series on September 14. 

In January 2022, she will present as as guest of the Mediated Arctic Geographies conference in Anar, Sápmi (Inari, Finland). Earlier in the month she will also be featured on a presidential panel (“Multi-lingual Poetry Between Theory & Practice”) at MLA. She will be featured on Poetry Daily on June 30, with a poem selected by Joy Harjo for inclusion in the recentLiving Nations, Living Words anthology (W.W. Norton). 

Partner News

NBCC publication member Rain Taxi is hosting a book launch for J. Michael Straczynski’s Together We Will Go on Tuesday, July 6, at 5:30 pm Central. You can register for this free event here.

Rain Taxi also just announced the publication of For All Mutants, a new chapbook from NBCC board member and longtime contributor to Rain Taxi, Stephanie Burt. This new chapbook explores “love, romance, queer identities, fan cultures, powered-up princesses, red queens, pirates, retcons, and the spaces between the stars.” You can order it here.

Our partners at Aspen Words are hosting a free talk with Writer in Residence Ayana Mathis on Tuesday, July 20, at 5:30 pm Mountain Time, on the lawn of the Red Brick Center for the Arts in Aspen, Colo. You can get more information and register for the event here.

Photo by Hyun-cheol Kim 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.