Staff Picks (February 2019)
Omg, we love small press books! And these are some of our favorites. Now they can be some of your favorites too...if they aren't already. Be sure to check in every month for a new handful to add to your reading list...lists...so many lists.
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Reading through SCORE AND BONE, Maw Shein Win's debut collection with Nomadic press, the reader experiences the disconnect that accompanies physical trauma or injury. It is a collection that imparts a sort of disassociation or phantom limb with one's own physical being. It is a collection split into 2 sections: "Score" and "Bone." "Score" seems to be imparting an isolating viewpoint that likens the act of watching film and describing actions and scenes to the experience of feeling removed from one's own body. "Score" seems to be the section of the collection that simulates trauma for the reader, as much as can be communicated through language. When Win writes, "I recognize her voice because it's my voice, I don't know that name because it's his / name. You thought you heard my voice, but it was your voice. I think your voice / has a name, but it's my name," she is illustrating this separateness, this other-ing that comes from both an intimate connection with one's own body and its trauma, and its distancing from one's own experience of being knocked clear out of one's own skin. The second section of the collection, "Bone," seems to lock the consciousness of this other in one's self to illustrate the dilemma of being so isolated and so separate from the physical that all that remains is observation of the self and the associations that arrive in a stream of consciousness. Win writes, "The scar is a girl and the wheelchair is a woman. The crutch is butch. The / drugs are good. The light is dry. The bed isn't there," The experience is no longer happening in reality...it is solely a surreal association of thoughts, images and sensations that flatten the experience of existence into a sort of thought that could disappear with a slip into unconsciousness. Win's collection is nothing short of beautiful in its attempt to capture something that exists in neither the perceived or the one being perceivedin the experience or the absorption of the experience. It is a gem to be uncovered and explored in another Nomadic collection.
In the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (as LaTanya McQueen points out, "the only museum dedicated to documenting the life, history, and culture of African Americans"), a woman tells McQueen, "Look, we're here, aren't we? Just remember that if it gets too much again. We're here and we're going nowhere." This moment comes near the end of a collection of essays that explores McQueen's personal history, the women who came before, and the America that was and is. It walks roads made and traveled by the mostly unheard, traces patterns of oppression from slavery and its continuation in the prison-industrial complex down to the culture in academia that dictates who and how one may have a voice, a presence, and authority. In her quest, McQueen looks at the ways in which history can be denied, hidden, and rewritten by a white hand and laments the lives that disappear beneath it, but her book is also a testament of survival and the ways that history may be reclaimed, of the clues one brave woman might have left and the truth so many brave women live: "I know the past does not belong to us, that there is nothing we can do with what's already been done, but there is now." This is such a beautiful journey about the stories that form a person, the stories denied and reclaimed, and the stories that must be told.
At once paranoiac and funny Levitsky's NEIGHBOR charts (literally, using a superscript cipher of her own devise) the oftentimes fraught relationship we have with those living next door, above and below, "because he shames me / I cannot hate my neighbor." No one is named in NEIGHBOR (unless you count "Rational Response," "Noetic N. Delirium," and "Voice" names), they remain "Neighbor," that omnipresent (and weirdly intimate) threat of the abutting other, their strange noises, routines, smells always invading one's space, "and so there is Neighbor / and then there is my neighbor."