Staff Pick

With one exception, these impeccable, well-honed stories take place in Michigan correctional facilities. Also with few exceptions, the narrators are unnamed, while other characters are known by nicknames or numbers. “The world of prison is upside down,” Dawkins says, and old identities no longer hold. Writing from inside, Dawkins tells you a lot you may not know about prison life. He explains how to mix “ink” for tattooing and how to use “a sharpened guitar string” as a needle. He explains the uses of lies and cigarettes, the rules of making phone calls out and how to get lonely strangers to accept collect calls. He shows how much baseball and TV can mean, even shows like The Beverly Hillbillies, and how to go about an act of civil disobedience while locked up. He shows what happens if you cross the warden.  Overall, however, there’s less violence here than you might expect, though the threat of it is always in the air. These aren’t what you’d call “gritty” scenes of desperate lives; these are surprisingly quiet stories, in which one prisoner envies another for “his ability to break down and let the pain loose.” The real enemies here are loneliness and frustration, and Dawkins shows that compassion, not anger, is the way to wear them down, though for most, it’s a lifelong task.

The Graybar Hotel: Stories Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9781501162299
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Scribner Book Company - July 4th, 2017

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Staff Pick

“Thinking is my fighting,” Virginia Woolf said, and this might be Sentilles’s  motto. Her profound and unsettling meditation on war and violence proposes many ways—writing, painting, making music, taking photos—to counter, if not undo, war’s devastation. Writing in the line of John Berger and Susan Sontag, Sentilles starts with the moral implications of looking at images of pain. She considers ethical problems of aestheticizing suffering and asks what good can be done for the victims by the viewer’s sympathy and unease. Yet without seeing exactly what war does, how will people learn to reject it as a solution? Writing in brief chunks, personal as journal entries, Sentilles tells multiple stories simultaneously. These concern a student in her art theory class who had served as a guard at Abu Ghraib; her grandfather, who was traumatized by his service in World War II; and Howard, a CO who was imprisoned for his refusal to serve. These profiles lead to discussions of Japanese American internment camps, lynchings, PTSD (and its foreshadow, the fear-driven anticipatory TSD), the inheritance of trauma by later generations, the use and sacrifice of animals in war, and artists’ appropriation of war images for art. While Sentilles, a former divinity student, closes with a prayer that the world be made anew, she knows the task will be long and difficult.

Draw Your Weapons Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780399590344
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Random House - July 4th, 2017

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Staff Pick

Can a novel that takes place during the final decades of Communist rule in Poland, with its political repression, blackouts, and shortages, be called enchanting? Yes. In twenty-three beautifully crafted short chapters that could double as stand-alone stories, Greg, also a poet, follows Wiolka from roughly age four to adolescence. Her daily life is shot through with flashes of the uncanny, from a cat that teaches her “a different kind of geometry of the world” to her mother’s belief that killing spiders brings thunderstorms to a child sleepwalking because “someone had to finish the abruptly interrupted dreams” of Nazi victims decades before. But with every summer morning that “smelled of watermelon pulp,” come instances of bullying or men with strange, unwanted attentions that Wiolka doesn’t understand. Her father disappears three times—coming back from detention and from the hospital “unrecognizable,” but not coming back at all from the fatal heart attack. Greg observes every detail with a precision that’s as lyrical as it is exacting.

Swallowing Mercury Cover Image
$15.95
ISBN: 9781945492044
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Transit Books - September 12th, 2017

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