Critical Notes

New Reviews and More from NBCC Members

By Jennie Hann

Stacks and stacks of mysteries

It’s been a relatively slow news week—although, as you’ll see below, our members have been just as busy as ever!—so let’s take advantage of this brief lull to get you updated on a couple of recent changes here at Critical Notes:

First, as many of you already know, we have a new editor compiling the list of weekly entries. I’m Jennie Hann, a newly-elected NBCC board member (and former Emerging Critic, 2018), and I look forward to corresponding with you all!! For more about me, click here.

Second, as you may have noticed, we’ve started a new initiative featuring “shelfies”—photos of bookshelves, bookstacks, workspaces, etc.—taken by our members at the top of each newsletter. To contribute, please send your image to with the subject “shelfie.”

As always, stay safe and thanks for reading!!

Member Reviews/Essays

Former NBCC board member and 2004 Balakian winner Scott McLemee reviewed Ron E. Hassner’s Anatomy of Torture for Inside Higher Education.

Former NBCC board member Michael Schaub reviewed Kelly Lytle Hernández’s Bad Mexicans: Race, Empire, and Revolution in the Borderlands for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Nell Zink’s Avalon for The Boston Globe.

Former NBCC board member Mary Ann Gwinn reviewed Who Killed Jane Stanford?: A Gilded Age Tale of Murder, Deceit, Spirits and the Birth of a University by Richard White for the Los Angeles Times.

Elaine Szewczyk profiled British mystery and thriller writer Ruth Ware for Publishers Weekly.

Christoph Irmscher reviewed The Shores of Bohemia by John Taylor Williams for The Wall Street Journal. He also wrote a piece entitled “An Artist Not in Uniform: How Walter Richter Defied Nazi Homophobia” for CounterPunch.

Daniel Fraser reviewed the fiftieth anniversary edition of Diane di Prima’s Revolutionary Letters for The Adroit Journal.

Edna Bonhomme wrote an essay entitled “On Reproductive Justice” for the London Review of Books blog.

Lauren LeBlanc reviewed Elif Bautman’s Either/Or for The Boston Globe.

Charles Green reviewed Ari’s Spoon by Doug Zipes for BlueInk Review.

Diane Josefowicz wrote an essay about her novel Ready, Set, Oh, published earlier this month by Flexible Press, for Women Writers, Women’s Books.

Heller McAlpin reviewed Emma Straub’s This Time Tomorrow for NPR and Elif Batuman’s Either/Or for The Wall Street Journal.

Joan Frank reviewed Neeli Cherkovski’s Ferlinghetti: A Life for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Andru Okun reviewed How to Sell a Poison: The Rise, Fall, and Toxic Return of DDT by Elena Conis for Undark.

Oline H. Cogdill reviewed With Prejudice by Robin Peguero; The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont; Don’t Know Tough by Eli Cranor; and Under Lock & Skeleton Key by Gigi Pandian, for the South Florida Sun Sentinel. She also reviewed Pay Dirt Road by Samantha Jayne Allen; Finding Grace by Janis Thomas; and Fierce Poison by Will Thomas for Shelf Awareness.

Valerie Duff-Strautmann reviewed the poetry collection Best Barbarian by Roger Reeves for On the Seawall.

Emily Walz reviewed Into the Inferno: A Photographer’s Journey through California’s Megafires and Fallout for the Washington Independent Review of Books.

Robert Allen Papinchak’s commentary on Frederic Tuten’s The Bar At Twilight, a collection of short stories, was published at On the Seawall.

Julia M. Klein reviewed The Nation That Never Was: Reconstructing America’s Story by Kermit Roosevelt III for the Pennsylvania Gazette.

David Nilsen reviewed Mosab Abu Toha’s new collection, Things You May Find Hidden In My Ear: Poems from Gaza, for On the Seawall.

Eric Liebetrau wrote a round-up of four essay collections that will “make you think on every page” for Kirkus Reviews.

Hamilton Cain reviewed Dan Chaon’s Sleepwalk for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

W. Scott Olsen reviewed Through the Lens: The Pandemic and Black Lives Matter by Lauren Walsh for Frames Magazine.

Member Interviews

Former NBCC board member Tom Beer spoke with Hernan Diaz about his new novel, Trust, for Kirkus Reviews.

Jay Gabler interviewed YA novelists Juliana Brandt (Monsters in the Mist) and Vanessa L. Torres (The Turning Pointe) for the Duluth News Tribune.

Amy Reardon interviewed DeMisty D. Bellinger about her novel New to Liberty for The Common.

Oline H. Cogdill interviewed Mystery Writers of America’s Special Awards honorees during MWA’s Edgar Awards symposium, including Grand Master author Laurie R. King; Raven Award recipient, blogger, and reviewer Lesa Holstine; and Ellery Queen Award recipient Juliet Grames, senior vice president and Associate Publisher at Soho Press, who curates the critically acclaimed Soho Crime imprint.

Julia M. Klein interviewed Dorothy Roberts about Torn Apart: How the Child Welfare System Destroys Black Families—and How Abolition Can Build a Safer World for The Pennsylvania Gazette. She also spoke to Sara Manning Peskin about A Molecule Away from Madness: Tales of the Hijacked Brain for the same outlet.

Mara Sandroff interviewed Omer Friedlander, author of The Man Who Sold Air in the Holy Land, for the One Story blog, ahead of their annual debutante event.

Kevin Blankinship interviewed Marcel Kurpershoek, a former Dutch ambassador and scholar now at NYU Abu Dhabi, for the New Lines Magazine podcast. They talked about Nabati poetry, the hit Emirati reality TV show Million’s Poet, Kurpershoek’s decades of fieldwork recording Bedouin oral poetry, and his translations of that poetry for the Library of Arabic Literature.

W. Scott Olsen interviewed celebrity photographer Greg Williams for the podcast series at Frames Magazine.

Member News

The spring issue of Pleiades: Literature in Context, a special folio featuring a selection of Latinx LGBTQIA+ poets edited by NBCC VP/Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Ruben Quesada is now available. Click here to purchase or subscribe. #NBCCtriumphs

Nowruz Journal, a periodical of Persian arts and letters founded and edited by NBCC board member Mandana Chaffa, has been named a Firecracker Best Magazine Debut Finalist by the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses. #NBCCtriumphs

LIBER: A Feminist Review, a bimonthly print and online book review under editor-in-chief Jennifer Baumgardner has just released its second issue. Members interested in obtaining a complimentary copy are invited to email with their mailing address. #NBCCperks

Partner News

Our partners and friends at Rain Taxi are hosting a free, in-person event to celebrate the release of the déjà vu: black dreams & black time by Gabrielle Civil on Wednesday, June 8, at 7:00 p.m. Central at Open Book in Minneapolis. Additional guests include Douglas Kearney, Miré Regulus, and Sayge Carroll. Please note that proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test within seventy-two hours will be required for entry; see the website for more details.

“The Stacks” photo by NBCC member Oline H. Cogdill. Used with permission.

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