“Feeling the Unthinkable: Essays on Social Justice” by Donald Gutierrez

If Donald Gutierrez were alive today, what would he think of the USA now? He’d be horrified. And disgusted. Gutierrez, who died in 2013, shortly after this collection was published, was a social conscience. He passionately confronted inequity and government abuses, particularly that of his own country, the United States of America. Here, 48 of…

“My Mother and I, We Talk Cat” by Elise Stuart

Elise Stuart’s terrific new memoir is unorthodox. As a former Poet Laureate of Silver City and Grant County, she includes poems at scattered intervals, which illustrate the events and emotions of her youth. Her tale, while sequential, glosses over some years and characters and lingers on others. For example, we barely get to know the…

“Damnificados” wins Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Debut Fiction

The 2017 Hurston/Wright Legacy Awards were presented on October 20, at the Washington Plaza Hotel, Washington D.C. Over 200 people attended. There were poets, novelists, academics, essayists, editors and publishing icons. It was a superb event. Three legendary figures were honored: the long-time civil rights activist-turned-bestselling-author Congressman John Lewis; poet and publisher Haki Madhubuti; and…

“Hatred and Pity”: James Baldwin in “I Am Not Your Negro”

Anyone interested in race and civil rights needs to see this film. It’s based on thirty pages of notes compiled by James Baldwin for a book about the most famous of the slain martyrs of the Civil Rights movement: Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Medgar Evers. The book was never written. “I Am Not Your…

Southwest Festival of the Written Word

The Southwest Festival of the Written Word took place September 29-October 1 in Silver City, New Mexico. The strangest thing about it is just how quickly it flies by. We spend two years inviting authors, writing grants, finding sponsors, locating venues, designing posters, organizing food and lodging, producing promotional material, handing out fliers, finding and…

“Unreal City” – by Michael Smith

This novel has no plot to speak of: man of indeterminate age wanders around London, visits his sister in Paris, and contemplates his louche, faux-bohemian, penniless lifestyle, past and present. It has no plot twists, no action, little dialogue, no character development, and in fact no memorable characters. And it’s a cracker of a novel….

“Fire.” by Elizabeth Hand

Read this slim book in one sitting and you’ll get a perfect overview of the career of Elizabeth Hand. There’s the witty, subversive fiction. There’s an autobiographical piece – “Beyond Belief: On Becoming a Writer.” There are two biographical portraits of fine writers who are in danger of slipping out of public consciousness. And there’s…

“Chinatown a today hora y otros poemas” by Andrea Cote

Andrea Cote-Botero is a much garlanded poet and prose writer, having won The National Poetry Prize from the Universidad Externado de Colombia (2003), the Puentes de Struga International Poetry Prize (2005) and the Cittá de Castrovillari Prize (2010). Her work has been translated into a dozen languages. Cote-Botero grew up in a Colombia that was…

RIP Irina Ratushinskaya 1954-2017

Irina Ratushinskaya, the Soviet dissident poet and novelist, was a legendarily defiant figure. Sentenced in 1983, on her 29th birthday, to seven years in a labor camp for “anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda,” she not only survived, but wrote poems on bars of soap with the burnt ends of matchsticks. She memorized and erased them before…

Teju Cole’s “Open City” – a new prophet stirs

I’m coming late to the work of Teju Cole. He’s one of the leaders of The Black Renaissance – a group of young-and-gifteds that includes Yaa Gyasi, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Terrance Hayes, Julie Iromuanya, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Chigozi Obioma, and Tracy K. Smith. Cole’s luminous novel Open City was published in 2012. In terms of traditional…