Art is a rich vehicle for critique. We’ve all been forced out of our everyday lives in a way that allows us to both create and consume art from a quasi-outsider perspective—maybe more objective, maybe more thoughtful about who we used to be, what the world used to be, and how we’ve all changed in the past couple of years. What do we miss? What do we never want to go back to? How were we surprised at how much we adapted to a particular aspect of lockdown? Who did we talk to? Who did we want to reach out to?
I recently spoke with author Sequoia Nagamatsu about his debut novel, How High We Go in the Dark, the role of art in an emergency, science fiction faves, and more.You can read the full interview here on The Rumpus.
While there have certainly been moments over the past year that may have temporarily diminished my faith in the human species, I think what gives me a sense of possibility are my students—young, smart people who legitimately care about the planet, are already doing so much for their communities, and are thinking intentionally about how their chosen disciplines might help provide for a better future in even small or unexpected ways.
Find out more about Sequoia Nagamatsu on sequoianagamatsu.com. Sequoia’s book How High We Go in the Dark (January 2022) is available from William Morrow.
It’s always a bit staggering — to find oneself and the world arriving yet again at a December 31st. Here we are, on the precipice of hope, and yet, how easy it is to feel the loss of the year past — how we want to hold so much in ourselves at once.
It has become a tradition of mine to celebrate December 31st with a remembrance and appreciation for some books I encountered during the year, books that brought company, wisdom, linguistic splendor, and perspective — for in times of uncertainty, books are a stalwart, omnipresent friend. Throughout electric days, blue days, and the always-prowling fog, look — a book is here, waiting to sing to you as you hold each other close.
It would be impossible to include them all, but here is a sampling of a few books I would like to highlight: texts that were exquisitely staining and impactful to me in one way or another — and have inevitably shattered and rearranged my glass body, my glass path … books that after reading, I will never be quite the same.
2021 was a year in which I also became reacquainted with the audiobook — a wonderful format to slow down, marvel at the sound of language on a tongue, and invite voices and oral storytelling into our private ear rooms. The book via the voice vessel becomes a secret companion on so many walks. Another reminder that a life with books is a life of abundance. A star next to a book title means that I listened to and enjoyed the audiobook version, and you might enjoy it, too! (Hint: Did you know you can borrow audiobooks from your library system through the Libby app?)
So, on this pensive day of old and new, I give a fizzy thanks to those who write books, make books, bind books, share books, give books, read books, and love books! Happy New Year, and Happy Reading.
(in no particular order:)
I Will Die in a Foreign Land by Kalani Pickhart
Pew by Catherine Lacey
Another Country by James Baldwin *
Cleanness by Garth Greenwell *
Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency by Olivia Laing
Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon *
Poet Warrior by Joy Harjo
The Pastor by Hanne Ørstavik, translated by Martin Aitken
The Thirty Names of Night by Zeyn Joukhadar
Figuring by Maria Popova *
Sleep, Death’s Brother by Jesse Ball
Bestiary by K-Ming Chang
The Twilight Zone by Nona Fernández, translated by Natasha Wimmer
A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa
How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu
Two Big Differences by Ian Ross Singleton
Keen by Erin Stalcup
How I Became a Nun by César Aira, translated by Chris Andrews
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer *
Water I Won’t Touch by Kayleb Rae Candrilli
Woolgathering by Patti Smith
The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich *