Staff Pick

As you might expect from a writer fluent in cardinal since age six, Nezhukumatathil’s essays are brimming with intimate scenes of natural life, each presented with exuberant prose that mingles scientific exactitude (the stunning pink of the dragon fruit is due to “a rind chock full of lycopene”) with unabashed whimsy (a gray cockatiel is “about three apples tall” and a piece of quartz tastes “like campfire smoke”). As much vivid snapshots as impeccably crafted prose, these brief pieces draw on fable, travel, and memoir to introduce plants and animals ranging from dancing frogs and the impossibly cute smiling axolotl to the more familiar monarch butterfly and flamingo. Linking each creature to the stages of her life--from her childhood as the rare brown person in overwhelmingly white communities, through the loneliness of college, her marriage (to a man who understood the charms of the foul-smelling corpse-flower), motherhood, and career as a teacher and award-winning poet— Nezhukumatathil illuminates the essential bonds between people and the beautiful, singular, awesome—wonderful—flora and fauna we share this planet with. While recognizing the troubles of this divided time, Nezhukumatathil’s first foray into prose is a genuine and whole-heartedly upbeat book.

World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments Cover Image
ISBN: 9781571313652
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Milkweed Editions - September 8th, 2020

Staff Pick

Moore was five when her native Liberia erupted in civil war, prompting her family to flee to Sierra Leone and, later the U.S. This was also the year her mother was away, studying at Columbia on a Fulbright. In language as powerful as her story, the author of She Would Be King channels these fraught experiences through both her child and adult sensibilities, delivering a narrative of modern displacement and racism that’s richly inflected with the magical lyricism of a griot’s tale. Her talent with voices is especially effective in the book’s conclusion, when she ghostwrites her mother’s story; these chapters fill in the details of her family’s miraculous escape, show us Moore’s two extraordinary parents—and their blessed marriage—in close up, and celebrate the strength of Vai women such as Moore’s paternal grandmother, who, when she “hummed… her voice formed a shield around us.”

The Dragons, the Giant, the Women: A Memoir Cover Image
ISBN: 9781644450314
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Graywolf Press - June 2nd, 2020

Staff Pick

The arresting title of Elliott’s powerful essay collection is the English rendering of a Mohawk word for depression. Asking, “is there a language of depression” or is depression the “opposite of language,” Elliot draws on her experience as a biracial Haudenosaunee/white woman and the daughter of a mother with bipolar illness to explore the legacy of “centuries of systemic racism” that has marked the lives and the very genes of Indigenous peoples. As she traces the myriad economic, educational, and nutritional deficits that have beset Native Americans—due first to genocidal policies, then to the official and cultural denial of them—Elliott shows that Indigenous trauma can’t be healed by empathy, however well intended. Rather, it requires that people do the work necessary to meet on a ground of true understanding, respect, and love for each other. Elliott accepts this challenge, mediating her anger in order to view her heritage not as “a curse meant to tear me in two; …[but] a call to uphold the different responsibilities that came with each part of me.”

A Mind Spread Out on the Ground Cover Image
ISBN: 9781612198668
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Melville House - August 4th, 2020