"I picked up the smudge of the novel," writes Angel Dominguez. "I smeared my face. I asked my dreams, ‘Can we please get the words out of the blood?' trying to wake up with that language, a scar." The dream is vital. The dream is falling victim to semiotics, is being forgotten. BLACK LAVENDER MILK reads as a dream journal, an ancestral history, and instruction manual on manifesting the past, if not the future. It is a flight that never lands, and a familial pilgrimage that never returns. This book is an attempt that planned to fail. This book was written in case of evacuation. Read it.
Janice Worthen recommends
With its aluminum-like cover, Jennifer Hayashida's translation of Athena Farrokhzad's WHITE BLIGHT is striking and even blinding. To look upon its cover is to see a distorted reflection of oneself and to be devoured by that metallic white sheen. The interior is just as alarming/engaging with white words printed inside black bars upon a white page. Before reading a word, one can't help but be absorbed in the language of the book as object.
Farrokhzad investigates place/space-personal, familial, racial, cultural, regional-through a family of voices that sometimes speak together, sometimes speak against, sometimes speak alone as they come to terms (or don't) with a new land, new people, and new language. What does a person of color experience in a white-washed land? What gets lost as words, memory, and people are juxtaposed, mixed together, and broken apart? What is the cost of leaving, the cost of belonging, and who keeps the ledger? At one point, the grandmother says, "Belonging is like a mirror/ if it breaks you can repair it," to which the mother replies, "But in the reflection a shard is missing." To stay is to fracture, but to move is also to fracture, and violence in its many forms does not end; instead, it echoes out and out in memories and voices, traveling beyond generations.
As Farrokhzad explores what and who oppresses, what or who fractures, she captures the trauma of being displaced, replaced, and even misplaced. She shows how language reflects, fails, and is complicit. She asks if one can ever truly leave a place or if vital pieces of the self are buried in the soil of each new land. How does the scattered self survive? Where does it echo?
John Sakkis recommends
"There's something intrinsically hideous about community," says JH Phrydas in the introduction to the introduction of his book LEVITATIONS. I really couldn't agree more. But no matter how hideous community may be Phrydas returns again and again to the fact that community is magnetic, and that to participate in one (but preferably many) can be too pleasurable to resist. This book pays homage to communities, SF, Poetry, QUEER, the South, family, bar culture, theory-world etc. So many lines to choose from, but one of my definite favorites, "A rainbow of blood/ from my mouth to yours," echoes the cover design of the book itself, a faded watery rainbow in the sun. This is a great debut.
Aiden Arata recommends
In GARMENTS AGAINST WOMEN, Anne Boyer writes: "I will soon write a long, sad book called ‘A Woman Shopping.' It will be a book about what we are required to do and also a book about what we are hated for doing." If this makes you think GARMENTS AGAINST WOMEN is maybe a book about shopping, some shopping is involved, as is some cooking, some hair dye. If this makes you think GARMENTS AGAINST WOMEN is not a book for everyone-specifically, that this is a book exclusively for women- you're wrong. GARMENTS approaches the obligatory with a ferociousness that would make Hemingway faint. This work fights for moments of failure and boringness, asserting that they deserve a place in our creative landscape. Boyer manages to write clinically and devastatingly, her cross-genre prose both expansively Romantic and remote. This is a book for anarchists; parents; economists; poets; peasants and their warlords; anyone who's asked Who makes Art? On whose terms?
Janice Worthen recommends
Julie R. Enszer's LILITH'S DEMONS is tiny-the whole collection could disappear in a pocket-yet it is heavy with reforged myth and voices that bite. Demons slide through its pages and "alter women's lives" by unleashing their tortures: anxiety, depression, compulsions, insecurity, and discontent. With each murder of woman or newborn, they deliver a terrible revenge and freedom that is their own fate, fear, and ultimate relief. The reader is swept into this brief but severe tempest, where Enszer's Lilith, creator and destroyer, punisher and perpectually punished, feared and adored, is master of all. Shaping the world to her own design, she names and dispatches each demon. What "G-d" makes, Lilith unmakes. Unapologetic, lonely but completely her own, she rules the night. So why didn't Enszer title the volume LILITH? Because the volume is absorbed in Lilith's creations, the manifestation of her power and tools of her vision, just as the reader's attention is absorbed in Enszer's creation, light as demon ash. Both make their way in the world, altering what is found. Adam, Eve, and G-d may pass from the earth and angels fall, but "unlike Eden/ Lilith's garden endures."