Gretchen's Adult Fiction and Non-Fiction Picks
A startling, polyphonic fever dream of emigrant/immigrant women in a family that moves from Taiwan to China to America. The heady prose blurs between grotesque and gorgeous, with sharp insights into life on the margins—queer, immigrant, poor, female—blending inseparably with starkly evocative language of embodiment. A beautiful and original book. - Gretchen, Room co-owner
A memoiric collection of essays full of deep insight into the meanings and uses of language, of memory, of rage and joy and decolonial love by a young gay Cree author. His reservoir of feminist academic scholarship, Indigenous liberation thinkers, and study of the craft of poetry and the wider uses and deconstructive possibilities of the colonizer's tongue inform Belcourt's own introspection in complex, and often searing personal essays against white supremacy and colonialism and in search of the sparking possibilities of queer liberations and radical reimagination. - Gretchen, Room co-owner
Emezi is one of the most kaleidoscopically interesting authors writing today--from bildungsroman (Freshwater) to socially just young adult detective story (Pet) to this, their take on a classic family literary novel, Emezi's command of their prose, sharply-drawn and heartbreakingly flawed characters, and the ever-present, matter-of-fact experience of the manifest spirit in everyday life make for a stunning reading experience. Vivek Oji's death, noted from the first page, draws the reader through a series of emotional, specific, and utterly complex moments in various family members' lives, both before and after the unsolved, sudden, tragic death of Vivek. Emezi's deep understanding of contemporary Nigerian family life and the complexities of gender, sex, sexuality, secrecy, and national identity make for a gripping and heartbreaking story of one person's life, before and after death.
It's been 7 years since Allie Brosh’s Internet-altering essays (all the things!) were published to an adoring audience in Hyperbole and a Half. Brosh’s life has been hard since then—divorce, illness, catastrophic grief over her sister’s death—which she describes with her characteristic hilarity and vulnerability in this wonderful new collection of cartoon essays. Insights into depression, young adulthood, and dog ownership will resonate just as meaningfully in this new volume as in the first book. - Gretchen, Room co-owner
one of the best books I have read in the last decade, if not the best. It's such an intense, unflinching, careful, loving, pitiless, above all beautifully written book, a spiraling letter from a son to his Vietnamese immigrant mother, meditating upon the abuse and joy they have each felt in their lives, the moments where their connections burned bright and flared out, the timid hopeful, secretive first love he found with a boy, the intergenerational trauma and PTSD of a family borne through the effects of war and colonization. Intimate, beautiful, absolutely gutting, rarely have I seen such a clear evocation of a life. All the warnings, including for child abuse, animal abuse, racial abuse, homophobia, sexual abuse, war trauma. An incredible feat of a novel if you think you can face the brutal truth of it. Also, one of the best (awkward, terrifying reality and incredible wonder of it at once) first time gay sex scenes I've ever read.
A timely, incredibly important account of the difficulties Farrow faced at NBC while working on the Weinstein expose, which he took to the New Yorker and subsequently won a Pulitzer for. The audiobook is grippingly read by Farrow (though the accents he attempts are... let's go with 'confusing'). It's upsetting, sure, but heartening to see the exhaustive research and the very clearly laid-out account of how Farrow had to work against the very powerful high-profile members of the media establishment--including his own bosses--not only because of Weinstein's well-oiled intimidation machine but also as part of those figures attempting to cover up their own histories of being harassers. Highly recommend this important piece of current events journalism, which reads like a thriller novel.
I enjoyed this so much! A snarky, funny, big-hearted delight from start to finish, deepened by the pang of it being set in a world where a woman Democrat won the Presidency in 2016. Alex is the mediagenic, politically ambitious 20-something First Son of the United States, finishing college and on the fast track to becoming the youngest member of Congress in US history. He has a longtime grudge against Henry, the junior Prince of England, and at Henry's older brother's royal wedding, Alex and Henry get to snarking at each other and cause an international incident. Their PR teams force them to make nice... and I bet you can guess what happens next. Alex and Henry are callow in their own ways, but also very constrained by their very public lives and their problems feel real and their missteps and self-deceptions make lots of sense from where they're coming from. Multiple queer characters allow everyone to be imperfect and feel real. Thoughtful characters, especially the secondary ones whose sibling love keeps the boys' egos on the ground, round out the cast. I laughed, I gasped in public, and all in all enjoyed the heck out of this not terribly challenging but entirely affecting book. Highly recommended for a diverting read.
Jesmyn Ward's new novel hearkens back to the incredible intimacy, impact, and import of Morrison's Beloved. Ward's prose is sinewy, unsentimental, and perfectly balanced, her characters whole and presented with unflinching brutal honesty, her themes of the costs of historical slavery, the layered cruelties of modern-day racism, and the deleterious effects of racism, drugs, poverty, and incarceration on a family held together by secrets, guilt, love, and ghosts. This is a book that, by rights, should make incredible waves this year--I've rarely read its like.