Before working at Fountain, Akil had spent time working with books from nearly every angle but selling - he's taught literature, worked in a publishing house, and, of course, has been reading and buying books as long as he can remember! Akil's relatively new to Richmond, after having lived many places, including Raleigh (NC), Champaign (IL), Chennai (India), and Charleston (WV) - and absolutely loves it! As a graduate student of English literature, his academic interest is in Asian American literature (please ask him about it!), but as a reader, he also loves memoirs, graphic novels, magical realism, short stories and techno-dystopian fiction (and any combination of the above), among many other genres. When not reading and writing, Akil's usually playing games (board or video), finding new things to cook, or exploring his new home city.
Despite its timing, there aren't many essays in this collection that have to do with the pandemic, and I prefer it that way - it allows for the various reflections on loneliness and/vs solitude to be extremely varied. They run from optimistic and empowering to bitter and defeated, from lighthearted to devastatingly tragic. Despite the particular "life-of-a-writer" tropes that keep popping up in these people's lives (living in New York, prolific sexual histories), all of the thoughts on loneliness and solitude, the highs and lows, are really well written, relatable, and instructive for the ways we exist - particularly in the present and future of Covid. It bears mentioning that the vast majority of this collection is authored by women - both the introduction and several of the essays note the particular transgression that is womanly solitude, and those parts are some of the best reading in the book.
Fu got every possible reaction out of me through the course of this collection of short stories; they range from melancholy to furious to skin-crawlingly terrifying to erotic, all while exploring the limits of humanity and asking how we make monsters out of what we don't understand, or maybe out of worlds that refuse to understand us. Every story leaves you breathless and with something new to consider - It's just masterful work.
There's so much going on with this book, and it's all great. The title character, who sets off the events of the Ramayana by forcing her stepson into exile so her own son can take the throne, is one of Hindu mythology's most reviled women, and following one of the storytelling trends of the past few years, the author uses this book to give her agency and a chance to speak against a narrative that unfairly maligns her. It's really smartly done, raising questions not just about the reliability of history/mythology's narrators but also about the teaching of organized religions and mythologies based in necessarily patriarchal histories -- and that's just on the wider scale. As a reading experience, Kaikeyi doesn't disappoint, either. It's propulsive, its ace/aro narrator is extraordinarily likeable and the representation is always present but never dominates the story, and the magical touches are well written and add a real richness to an already rich setting. Whether or not you know anything about the mythological background, Kaikeyi is well-worth your time!
My only complaint about this book is that it's too short - I could spend forever with these characters and this artwork! This short graphic novel is a queer, horny one-shot D&D campaign in book form, and if that description intrigues you, this book is definitely for you - it's exactly everything I wanted it to be.
This collection considers the various kinds of movement and separation that have defined the Tamil diaspora in modern times: some universal, like death and divorce; others specific, like migration patterns, generational divides, and religion. Bhanoo is particularly interested in women's agency through these stories of dispersion - told so often from perspectives that render them little more than luggage - and the myriad ways they find to take modica of control over their new lives, and I found the women in these stories extremely compelling for what they represent about Tamil femininity outside the family unit.
The Every takes place in the near future, where an e-tailer formerly named after a South American rainforest (you can extrapolate) has merged with a social media company and formed a proprietary online ecosystem called The Every that has access to every piece of personal data imaginable -- and is using it both to exercise control over individuals and make the world less interesting and more normative by prioritizing the market over humanity. Delaney, the protagonist, starts the book by joining The Every with the intention of destroying it from the inside by feeding it ideas that surely, people will find overly invasive and worth rebelling against. But it doesn’t happen no matter how hard she tries- raising questions about how far gone the human animal is to the technosphere, and if there’s at all a world in which the book’s dystopia doesn’t become the reader’s reality in a few short years. It’s incisive, darkly funny, and absolutely necessary reading today, in my opinion. My book of the year! PS: Eggers has ensured that the hardcover of this book will forever be an indie exclusive, with many unique cover designs - Which is awesome!
This book deserves far more than my allotted text for this review - I could spend several pages, probably, talking about all the ways that this book is so gosh-dang good. Addie is a fat dancer, and proud of it - not letting her peers or anybody else allow her to feel shame or inferiority because of her body. She has a group of truly excellent friends, who throughout the book are self-affirming, endlessly supportive for each other, and outright hilarious - I wish I'd had anything close to these friends when I was in high school - scratch that, I wish I had these friends *now.* Together, they hatch a plan to financially support Addie's potential post-graduation job with a dance company in Milan that involves an underground burlesque show, and through it, Addie discovers the self-affirming and body-positive power of burlesque, which she and her friends had previously cast aside as creative stripping. But she also has, and does, stand up to misogyny, slut-shaming, and fatphobia from her peers and superiors, and Larsen is truly excellent at illustrating exactly how internalized bigotry can hurt you even when you think you love who you are, just because we live in a world where anything that isn't the default is constantly assumed to be aberrant. The best YA I've read all year!!
I haven't read anything quite like this book, and I would like to see more like it! Khong's got an eclectic sensibility to her writing, and that results in her peppering tangentially- or sometimes not-at-all-related bits of trivia throughout, which, as a lover of random trivia, I was a big fan of. The protagonist, Ruth, is coming home at her absolute nadir: she's 30, recently without a job, her fiance just ended their relationship, and now she's seeing her father for the first time after he's been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. What's supposed to be a 5-day visit for the holidays gradually elongates over an entire year as she realizes how little she has to go back to, but also about the meaning she can still find in her home community, from the care she reciprocates with her parents, and the world she left behind. For a book that deals with the deterioration of a parent, it's surprisingly, but not overly optimistic, and the details about how the family takes care of Ruth's dad are heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. I loved reading this - think Otessa Moshfegh with a bit more sunshine.
I loved this so much! Katrina Nguyen is a young trans girl who runs away from unaccepting parents with nothing but her violin, and Shizuka Satomi is a violinist who's made a deal with the devil that requires she sacrifice the souls of her students in exchange for her own immortality. When they meet, they challenge and support each other in novel and ever-changing ways, and it's just engrossing to experience. There are also lesbian aliens. Aoki's a gifted writer and bars no holds about Katrina's life as an Asian trans person whose family doesn't accept her and who only sometimes passes in public, which I think is poignant and necessary reading. Even still, she spins an ultimately joyful, exhilirating tale that I couldn't put down.
Jhumpa Lahiri is probably my favorite living author of fiction and somebody who had a formative effect on me as a maturing reader - reading Interpreter of Maladies as a freshman in college changed my life! Whereabouts is Lahiri's first work of fiction since she moved to Italy and began writing in Italian as her primary language (the book was first published as Dove Mi Trovo, or "Where I find Myself"), and isn't quite like anything she's written before - in a good way! In a series of connected vignettes - mostly about nothing in particular - that take place over the course of a year, Lahiri's unnamed protagonist wanders her home city contemplating her solitary life and those of the nearly-always-connected people around her, acquaintances and strangers alike. Lahiri's prose is arresting in its sparseness; not a single word feels superfluous or unnecessary as the protagonist progresses through emotional highs and lows, contemplates her past and alternate lives she could have lived, and finally arrives at a somewhat surprising, yet completely earned conclusion. Highly recommend this book for fans of Otessa Moshfegh and Lahiri's previous work!
Oh my goodness, I've been waiting for something like this and I didn't even know it. I'm not familiar with the podcast on which this graphic novel is based, but based on how much I loved it, maybe I should start listening! The authors playfully skewer some aspects of millennial culture (including one of my favorite things I've seen in print recently, the phrase "a little cultsch appropes,"), but their real bite is reserved for the gig-ification of modern industries and commercialized "grind," and every critique is on point - and that's even before we get to the delightful worldbuilding and the ever-present fun that is monster hunting. If you like your fantasy with a little whimsy and timely, laugh-out-loud humor, this is absolutely for you!
Ocean Vuong's poetic prose gives weight to every word in this absolutely heartbreaking novel, a young man's reflection on an abusive upbringing, a closeted childhood, and growing up in a racist United States as a poor Asian American. It's framed as a letter from the protagonist to his mother, who is illiterate in English, meaning that the letter is a communication that cannot be understood, which gives the entire thing a melancholy air. It's hard to talk about this book without spoiling it, so I'll just stop there and say it's a must-read, and I'm so happy Vuong is writing prose now - I eagerly await what he does next.
I found this collection of short stories extraordinarily attentive, cozy, and interesting. Lily King knows how to make a reader instantly empathize with her protagonists, and she maintains this ability throughout the collection, with portraits of relationships of all kinds - unrequited crushes, burgeoning romances, familial entanglements, and more. The title story is a real standout, taking place among booksellers but not falling prey to any of the usually cringe-worthy tropes of fiction in bookstores. Ultimately, this is a collection that just feels good, and you'll feel a little better regardless of your situation after reading it.