Sánchez is an acclaimed Spanish poet and writer who focuses on rural life. She came to her vocation and her subject by way of her country upbringing, and, following the footsteps of her father and grandfather, is also a trained field veterinarian. But—wait: what about her mother and grandmother? What sort of work did they do? What stories did they tell? Showing they were more than merely “sisters of an only child”—that child being the family’s honored son—Sánchez’s powerful manifesto and example of the excavation of lives and traditions unjustly left to oblivion is written with careful attention to speech rhythms and without romanticizing a difficult existence, indulging in the nostalgia of paternalistic urban centers for small-town life, or “celebrating” strong and capable women for persevering despite deprivations. Her text is a testament both powerful and beautiful to the land and the living creatures—including human culture—it has nurtured and which, if we take the time to understand where our food comes from, will continue to sustain us through many generations to come.
Zuker’s urgent dispatches chronicle the myriad threats to the Amazon rainforest—extraction industries, the monocultures of soy and rice, political instability, climate change—and, through his deeply reported and compassionate portraits of Indigenous peoples, suggest how the destruction of this complex natural ecosystem negatively impacts all of humanity. These themes are treated especially powerfully in the moving title essay, which follows the plight of a whale stranded some 1000 miles from the Atlantic and the efforts of the riverside communities—which also face displacement—to save it. Zuker’s writing in this vital testimony to the ravages of capitalism and the escalation of threats to the Indigenous under Bolsonaro is often heartbreakingly beautiful, throwing into relief how an attack on nature is also an attack on the native peoples, who from time immemorial have known that “plants make worlds. They are creators of realities,” and have fostered “a true sphere of kinship with the vegetation around them.”
Pickhart’s kaleidoscopic novel is centered in Ukraine’s 2013-14 unrest but reaches back through the Soviet era and, most important, to the region’s ancient Kobzari: the itinerant bards who sang to the accompaniment of the single-stringed bandura. Though these “powerful, dangerous” musician/storytellers were all but wiped out under Stalin, Pickhart’s passionate writing shows that their spirit remains indomitable—a living presence for her own tensile, lyrical prose and multi-layered plot lines and for the Maidan protestors, four of whom she brings to vivid life. As she follows a young feminist activist, an American doctor of Ukrainian descent, a former miner who lost half his family to the Chernobyl explosion, and the cryptic pianist who plays for the demonstrators, she pays tribute to a strong, proud people who never lose faith in their homeland, however many times “Kyiv has fallen asleep in peace and woken up in war.”