Eric A. Ponce

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In Ana Menéndez’s fifth work of fiction, The Apartment, Miami is not just a luxurious playground for spring breakers but also a colorful tableau with an intricately wrought history. 

The Helena is an apartment complex in South Miami Beach that has stood for over 70 years, bearing witness to changes in landscape, climate and population. On the second floor of the Helena, apartment 2B anchors our story as characters and circumstances flow by like currents. Sometimes these currents are calm and deep, but Menéndez focuses on the rougher ones, showing us Miami during World War II and immediately after 9/11. By the time readers meet the mysterious Lana in 2012, we already have a rich historical memory of 2B and the Helena, creating a unique intimacy that challenges the limitations of time and space. 

The novel begins in 1942, when a woman named Sophie moves with her husband, Jack, to Miami for his military service. She soon finds that between the war and Jack’s increasingly abusive behavior, Miami is not the tropical paradise of her dreams. The next resident of 2B, Eugenio, a concert pianist and Cuban refugee in 1963, is trying to start his life over again. As he reflects on his career while playing piano at a nursing home, he comes to acknowledge the importance of generational memory. 

A primary concern of the book is the capacity and limitations of marriage; in addition to Sophie’s story, we meet Marilyn, a disaffected wife in 1994 who grows bored and disgusted with her husband’s miserly ways. But the highlight of this thematic exploration, and of the book as a whole, are the relationships between Beatrice, Ignacio and Maribel in 2002. Beatrice is Ignacio’s girlfriend, but Maribel is his wife, a setup that is born out of the desperation of immigration. Maribel’s Cuban heritage grants her easier access to citizenship, which, through a fraudulent marriage, she tries to give to Ignacio, who is from Colombia. Beatrice, meanwhile, who is from Haiti, is caught between her love for Ignacio and his struggle for citizenship, raising questions about the restrictive self-labeling of nationality and marriage.

All of this occurs before we meet the final resident of 2B, Lana, who bears the weight of all of this history. Her residence is preceded by a man named Lenin (who also reveals himself as the book’s narrator), and as the mystery of Lenin begins to unfold, Lana’s own enigmatic past comes into sharp focus. Through this kaleidoscope of characters and relationships, apartment 2B, with its white mice and diminishing ocean views, proves the transcendent quality of both individual lives and Menéndez’s writing.

The Helena is an apartment complex in South Miami Beach that has stood for over 70 years, bearing witness to changes in landscape, climate and population. On the second floor of the Helena, apartment 2B anchors our story as characters and circumstances flow by like currents.
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Nazlı Koca’s debut novel, The Applicant, is a gut-wrenching story that will make you laugh but also question why and whether you should be laughing at all. 

Immigrant and refugee experiences can be surreal and nightmarish, but for those lucky enough to reach their destinations, life can be filled with a sudden Kafkaesque dark humor. Such is the case for Koca’s protagonist, Leyla, a Turkish immigrant in Berlin. After failing out of university, Leyla tries to sue her way back into a student visa, while in the meantime working at an Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland-themed hotel. 

As Leyla navigates Berlin’s nightlife, trying to find some sort of solace, she meets a right-wing Swedish tourist, and suddenly she has an in: She can stay in Germany if she accepts a traditional, conservative life, although it would mean giving up her career in art. Initially this bargain seems better than returning to Turkey to live with her mother and sister, but eventually Leyla begins to question what she is really searching for. 

Written in diary form, The Applicant is bound to draw many comparisons to other works (I found it to be like an inversion of the German film Ali: Fear Eats the Soul), but the most obvious is to Sylvia Plath’s poem by the same name. Both pieces play with the idea of conformity, and while Plath focuses on the commercialization of femininity, Koca takes a more racialized approach. Leyla experiences subtle racism from almost every character, and through these interactions, we witness the convergence of different ideologies of racial supremacy due to immigration, and how, with the presence of her Swedish lover, white supremacy holds punitive power over all of them. Through the diary format, we get an inside look at Leyla’s forced conformity in what is perhaps a response to the surreal, dehumanizing laundry list Plath wrote decades ago. 

Despite these similarities, The Applicant is a truly unique book, particularly in its profound global scope. Leyla meets characters from all over the world who have come to Europe seeking a better life. Her romantic ideals of Berlin shatter early on, and she is left jaded and addicted to drugs, falling into the exact stereotype she idealized artistically. This underscores Koca’s greatest strength: her ability to find the tragedy, irony and humor in the immigrant experience, showing us how global power has warped our ability to find happiness and to even know what happiness is. 

This is a powerful book that pinpoints exactly where our contradictions lie. It is so powerful, in fact, that it can do all this while still making you laugh.

Immigrant and refugee experiences can be surreal and nightmarish, but for those lucky enough to reach their destination, life can be filled with a sudden Kafkaesque dark humor. Such is the case for Nazlı Koca’s protagonist, Leyla.
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There is no word in the English language for someone who has lost their child. We have orphan for children who have lost their parents and widow or widower for a person who has lost a spouse, but we dare not give a name to the tragedy of losing a child. However, in his debut novel, Monstrilio, Gerardo Sámano Cordova attempts to describe this nameless grief, not by giving it a name but by showing how resisting it can destroy us.

The novel begins with Magos, a grieving mother who cuts out a piece of lung from the body of her deceased 11-year-old son, Santiago. When Magos returns to her childhood home in Mexico City, she discovers that the piece of lung can be fed, and she slowly nurtures it into something new. When this creature becomes the titular Monstrilio and begins to resemble her dead son, Magos and her husband, Joseph, try their best to care for it. However, Monstrilio’s innate, destructive impulses jeopardize their son’s second chance at life, and the characters are forced further down the path of grief toward something like acceptance.

Sámano Cordova’s writing is piercing and intimate. Whether describing Monstrilio’s first, vicious moments of life or the subtle, strained romance between Magos and her childhood friend Lena, Sámano Cordova keeps readers breathless. By splitting the book into four parts, narrated by Magos, Lena, Joseph, and Monstrilio himself, Cordova allows us to see the different sides of this tragic story; combined, they are more than the sum of their parts. 

Some of the novel’s best moments are the flashbacks, when Magos, Joseph and Santiago share loving moments together, seek a method of healing for the boy and reckon with the fragility of life. When we see the monster that Santiago’s lung becomes, complex and grotesque and pitiful as it is, it troubles these tender moments, showing how grief often fixates on pain, trapping us in an interminable cycle. Sámano Cordova doesn’t attempt to break the cycle; rather, his novel seeks to embody it, making this nameless, eternal pain something we can speak to and hold.

In his debut novel, Gerardo Sámano Córdova attempts to describe the nameless grief of losing a child by showing how resisting it can destroy us.
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When we think about how life will look in 10, 50 or 100 years, we might not consider the poetry that those societies will produce. But if we think about how those societies will look back at us, here in 2023, I would argue that these poetry collections are the perfect snapshots of our world. Ranging from joyous odes to lamentations, the poems in these five collections speak to us and challenge us. They provide answers to our most pressing questions when the future seems uncertain. They remind us that poetry is the only refuge from life that, upon closer examination, is actually just life itself.

★ Promises of Gold

What is love? José Olivarez has the answer in Promises of Gold. In both English and Spanish, these poems explore the facets of love that pop songs rarely do—the gritty, painful parts that everyone sweeps under the rug. In these verses, Olivarez primarily explores the presence and absence of love in Chicano and Mexican communities, creating sparkling, nostalgic portraits of family and friends. Many of the poems also have a political angle, tackling religion or masculinity and ensuring that the forces that continue to shape Mexican culture are thoroughly critiqued. This is not to say the collection is overly analytical, as it is often in Olivarez’s most earnest moments that he is able to pierce the culture, arriving straight at its heart. 

Read our review of the Promises of Gold audiobook, some of which is performed in front of a live audience.


Poetry has always existed in a state of tension: What does poetry have to look like? What should it look like? Should it rhyme? Can it be prose? In Couplets, Maggie Millner replies with a sweeping “Why does it matter?” By employing two forms, the couplet and the prose poem, Millner suggests that these questions don’t need answers and that, within uncertainty, there is room for personal complexity. A love story through and through, this collection uses poetry to document the personal struggles inherent in falling in and out of love. Sometimes love can be uplifting, giving you butterflies; other times it can be obsessive and neurotic, leading you down rabbit holes of insecurity. Millner’s words occupy both forms and feelings, giving the collection a back-and-forth, will-they-won’t-they quality. It’s in this liminal space that Millner settles, showing how writing is transformational, both for the self and the world around us. 

★ Above Ground

In Above Ground, Clint Smith proves that, in the words of William Wordsworth, “The Child is father of the Man,” as his poems explore the beauty, fear and sacredness of being a child and then raising his own. Written to and for his kids, Smith’s verses build a nonlinear narrative of his journey into fatherhood, including health difficulties and his attempts to teach his children how to exist in a troubled world. Wonder and joy are prevalent throughout the book, with Smith writing many odes to his children’s quirks and the idiosyncrasies of child rearing, including first smiles and hiccups. In a time when the future is increasingly uncertain, such a touching and profound statement on parenthood is desperately needed. Smith provides the shot in the arm, reinvigorating our ability to love and nurture.

Trace Evidence

For a second it seemed like American culture was approaching a racial reckoning. Though that moment has passed with few tangible results, Charif Shanahan takes advantage of the still-burning embers in Trace Evidence, speaking to the country in sharp, unifying language. Despite perpetual division, or perhaps because of it, Shanahan is able to produce answers to racialized questions of belonging through these poems, emphasizing how humanity goes beyond such constructions. His words are moving and muscular, with each line pulsating with wisely crafted feeling and thought. Poems like “Talking With My Boss About Diversity and Inclusion” allow Shanahan to really shine, showing not just how a person is impacted by race but also how race is shaped by all of us, individually, in every moment. 

a “Working Life”

It is important to stay happy, to maintain daily reminders of goodness and wonder, and in a “Working Life”, Eileen Myles helps us do just that. With their streamlined style and singular devotion to mundane wonder, they show how life can still be surprising despite the inevitability we may feel each day. Contradictions and coincidences, joy and despair, the intricacies of life and death are all captured in these brief, fleeting poems, told in tight verse and with some lines only a word long. They reflect how quickly time goes by and how each second provides something deep and new, creating an infinite loop of meaning—a message that is helpful and frustrating, uplifting and perplexing. Really, it’s life.

New poetry collections show the truths of our world—right here, right now.


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It’s time for the literary world to take fanfiction seriously. Well into the internet age, contemporary literature is profoundly shaped by online aesthetics and sensibilities, but for some reason fanfiction remains outcast. Esther Yi’s debut novel gives fanfiction, and stan culture more broadly, the piercing, unhinged analytic treatment it deserves. Beginning with an unnamed Korean narrator living in Berlin who is lured into an intense K-pop fandom, Y/N takes readers on a surreal, self-reflexive adventure that blurs and ultimately dissolves the borders between reality and fiction, self and other, and admiration and fetishization.

Though the unnamed narrator is the catalyst for the novel, both she and Yi make it clear from the start that this book is not really about her; it is about the limits of fandom. The novel opens with her first exposure to Moon, the youngest member of a Korean boy band that captivates international audiences in sold-out arenas. From her nosebleed seat, the narrator falls instantly for Moon, except it is not love she falls into but rather something like delusion. Soon after, our narrator starts writing fanfiction in which the protagonist is called Y/N (fanfic lingo for “your name,” which allows readers to insert themselves into the story). But soon Y/N takes over the narrative, traveling to Korea to meet Moon and destroying any semblance of selfhood that the narrator had. 

Yi speaks to some of the most pressing ideas in today’s culture with wit and grace. Y/N illustrates how serious fandoms can be, how their influence reaches beyond bedroom wall posters to shape politics and identity. When Moon livestreams and calls his fans “liver,” insinuating both “lover” and the idea that his fans are somehow a part of his body, we see how a fandom forms a collective, though with a strict hierarchy. Parasocial relationship is an apt term, but in this case, it’s not necessarily the other that is the object of one-sided connection, but rather a fictionalized version of the self. With this in mind, Yi explores how gender discrimination and racism (particularly fetishization) can be the outcome of such constructed realities, as characters repeat Korean stereotypes and parrot a culture they have no real link to. 

Considering all of this, it is clear that Y/N is one of the most daring novels of the year. Yi has set a new standard for internet-influenced literature by showing that online and literary narratives exist hand in hand, creating the world with every word.

Esther Yi has set a new standard for internet-influenced literature with Y/N, one of the most daring novels of the year.
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What is Latino? Or, for that matter, what is Latina, or Latine, or Latinx? In Our Migrant Souls: A Meditation on Race and the Meanings and Myths of “Latino,” journalist and author Héctor Tobar (The Last Great Road Bum) tries to explain. Though maybe explain isn’t the right word. Through this book, readers won’t get an explanation of this broad, ancient, vital culture—this “alliance among peoples,” as Tobar calls it—but rather an experience of it. Using both his own personal narrative and testimonies from a rainbow of people of color (not just Latinx folks), Tobar manages to capture the breadth of Latinidad (i.e., the diaspora of Latinx peoples) in the United States and beyond. With moving passages about triumph in the face of adversity, tragic stories of those lost to brutality and a scathing critique of U.S. immigration policy, this book is a call to action, the first step in a redefinition of that elusive word, Latino, and an important piece in a more complete picture of humanity.

Read our interview with Héctor Tobar, author of ‘Our Migrant Souls.’

Readers, no matter their identities, will see themselves in this panorama of life experiences. The book is split into two parts. First is “Our Country,” in which Tobar takes a long, hard look at the state of the Latinx community today. This includes a careful, illuminating examination of empire and its history, analysis of the continual pillaging of Latin America by the United States, and a parsing of the idea of identity itself. What is an identity? Why does identity feel so important in today’s divided social media-centric society? Tobar uses poignant examples, such as Latina icon Frida Kahlo, to show how we construct our identities with the materials of our lives. Tobar also creates a narrative from his own place in history: From his parents’ migration from Guatemala to Los Angeles, to his childhood living next-door to the white supremacist who killed Martin Luther King Jr., Tobar’s experiences have fortified his understanding of the vital role race has played in his life. In the book’s second part, “Our Journeys Home,” Tobar takes a road trip across the United States, retelling the stories of the people he meets and showing how, no matter where we come from or what we have been through, we are all united in our humanity.

Ultimately, Our Migrant Souls is one of the most important pieces of Latino nonfiction in several decades. Tobar’s blend of philosophy, narrative and history puts him on the same level as literary giants such as Eduardo Galeano and James Baldwin. Turning the last page of this book, you will feel the weight of history on your shoulders—yet it is an uplifting experience.

Our Migrant Souls is one of the most important pieces of Latino nonfiction in several decades. Turning the last page, you will feel the weight of history on your shoulders.
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Love may be universal, but no one writes about love quite like Edmund White. The veteran author returns with The Humble Lover, an outrageous, tender novel that complicates contemporary ideas of what traditional, “appropriate” desires and relationships look like. 

Aldwych West is an aging elite who spends his money trying to woo the latest object of his affection, a ballerino (that’s the male form of ballerina) named August Dupond. Very quickly, the two men become entangled—emotionally, financially and physically. But Aldwych isn’t the only one with ambitions; his inheritance-hungry niece-in-law, Ernestine, also wants to win August over, even as the young man moves in with Aldwych. In this complicated web of desire and wealth, everyone chases ecstasy, no matter the cost. 

White has been pushing the boundaries of what love can be since the beginning of his career. With The Joy of Gay Sex in 1977, White (with co-author Charles Silverstein) helped to codify the sexual, psychological and spiritual pleasures of gay life. This holistic concept of pleasure is present as White plumbs the depths of Aldwych’s desires, detailing the man’s insecurity and loneliness—though of course, there are still thrilling moments that brim with sexuality, both inhibited and explicit. When Aldwych first invites August to stay with him, he restrains himself, and even though they are half-naked in the same bed, all they do is lie next to each other and sleep. When sex does appear on the page, it is ecstatic—tinged with, or perhaps enhanced by, the pain and hunger of uneven power dynamics.

The Humble Lover could be categorized as a political satire, but that would imply a target. Rather than going on a tirade, White forces readers to become intimate with what they might otherwise denounce. At first blush, Aldwych’s desperation is repulsive, particularly considering his vast wealth and the age gap between him and August, but the closer we get to Aldwych, the more relatable his misery is. He is searching for something, maybe youth, maybe affection, maybe acceptance, and White keeps his journey engaging, hilarious and moving throughout. 

As Ernestine clashes with Aldwych, and August defies Aldwych’s wishes, we become more and more invested, wondering which of these characters will finally get what they want. Filled with sublime descriptions of ballet and Aldwych’s out-of-touch, affluent sensibility, this novel is as mischievous as it is thought-provoking. It is Edmund White at his very best.

Mischievous as it is thought-provoking, The Humble Lover is Edmund White at his very best.
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Héctor Tobar has been busy. On a Zoom call to his home in California, he tells me that his new book, Our Migrant Souls: A Meditation on Race and the Meanings and Myths of “Latino,” is an “attempt to summarize 30 years of learning, reading about race in the United States and the Latino experience, and trying to understand Latino as a category in the lens of U.S. race history.” This is a pretty serious undertaking—but no one is better suited to lead the charge than Tobar, whose book surveys the Latinx community’s diverse relationships to migration, empire, identity and kinship.

Tobar is a veteran Latino author, writing on par with other modern masters such as Ada Limon and Valeria Luiselli. One of his most significant contributions to not just Latino literature but literature as a whole is Deep Down Dark (2014), which tells the true story of 33 Chilean miners who were trapped underground for 69 days. Writing that book taught Tobar a vital lesson: “If I really wanted to create a work that would capture the fullness of their experience, I had to think about their full experience,” he says, “about working people and the ambitions in their lives, their hopes and dreams for their children, their affairs, the complications in their lives, the dysfunction, the glories. It makes for a much more satisfying read.” This lesson has influenced his writing philosophy ever since, especially in Our Migrant Souls, which makes significant strides toward documenting the fullness of Latinx experiences.

Read our starred review of ‘Our Migrant Souls’ by Héctor Tobar.

When I ask Tobar about the necessary steps to redefine Latino, he lays out his mission. To start, he says, we can “open up critical spaces to Latino writers [who are] trying to create work that will push Latino letters.” But in order to do that, we have to get past the stereotypes. Nowadays, readers and literary professionals see Latino as a marketing concept more than anything, Tobar says—largely because “our literary and cultural production is mediated through New York and American publishing.” But he thinks Latinx people can reclaim the meaning of Latino by unwrapping its history and asserting a new definition: “Latino is an alliance among peoples.”

When he says this, it’s a revelation: a whole continent-and-a-half of people, united under one word. How has such a large collection of people’s existences gone this long without serious examination? Tobar reminds me that there has been a long history of struggle leading up to this moment. “We fought for the idea that the experience of our people was worthy of intellectual inquiry,” he says. “The system that has produced these [prejudiced] ideas is ill. It is sick and inflicting harm upon us, and we need to change it; we need new ideas.”

“We fought for the idea that the experience of our people was worthy of intellectual inquiry.”

Book jacket image for Our Migrant Souls by Hector Tobar

This is why Tobar’s novels always feature working-class intellectuals, such as the housekeeper in The Barbarian Nurseries. Rather than rooting his narratives in harmful ideas and stereotypes, he roots them in the experiences of real people, the kind he says you can find anywhere and everywhere in this country. He knows this is true from his years working as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, when he would walk the streets and talk to people, learning about them and hearing their stories. The latter part of Our Migrant Souls is based on a similar approach: using a road trip across the United States to highlight the mestizo (mixed) nature of this nation, showing through testimonies and anecdotes how ingrained Latinx people are in the culture. 

We can trace this mixture back to the beginning of humanity’s story, to migration. “Migration is a constant in human history,” Tobar says. In the book, he reflects on his own family’s migrations, not just to the United States but throughout Guatemala. There have been “unending permutations of migrants in my life,” he says. This is true of all Americans, no matter our ethnic backgrounds. But Latinx people are disproportionately vilified for migrating, which is why Tobar maintains that “U.S. immigration policy is a collective humiliation of the Latino people.” Whether through detention centers, fear mongering or simply forcing people to walk through the dangerous, vast desert, a whole population of people is being erased. “[U.S. Customs and Border Protection] will use any tool at its disposal,” Tobar says. “It’s a really cowardly situation.”

“Almost any facet of human experience is going to frustrate an attempt to put a label on it.”

This is why Tobar’s mission is so important: If Latinx people cannot redefine Latino in order to use it to our advantage, it will continue to be used to categorize and hurt us. When I ask him how we can defy labels, he tells me, “Think about Guatemalan. What does that mean? Every ethnicity is a pan ethnicity! If you look at any label, you will find a whole sort of quantum mechanics of people crashing into each other. . . . All of us are the constant mixing of entanglements.”

Tobar believes “this fad, this mania of applying labels on ourselves, is really counterproductive, cruel, anti-human and unintelligent. Almost any facet of human experience is going to frustrate an attempt to put a label on it.” It might seem paradoxical, then, to write about Latinx people and Latinidad (i.e., the diaspora of Latinx peoples), but Tobar doesn’t think so. “There’s many different ways of approaching the truth, and there’s many different truths,” he tells me.

“That’s true,” I say, and we laugh.

Author headshot of Héctor Tobar by Patrice Normand/Agence Opale

With Our Migrant Souls, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author documents the fullness of Latinx experiences.
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Aisha Abdel Gawad mixes family drama with a coming-of-age narrative in her debut novel, resulting in a gripping, intimate portrait of a Muslim family in the post-9/11 United States.

Amira and Lina are twin sisters living in Brooklyn who will soon graduate from high school, but their celebration is cut short by life-changing news: Their brother, Sami, is being released from prison. At the same time, during the holy month of Ramadan, their Muslim neighborhood is experiencing hateful attacks. As their brother readjusts to society and the twins teeter on the precipice of adulthood, they all find that, although family and faith tie us together, such bonds can also be used to restrict and smother.

Between Two Moons is narrated primarily by Amira, the more bookish twin. She is ready for a fresh start, and college promises a profound reinvention. Unfortunately, freeing herself from the chains of family, specifically her two siblings, is far easier said than done. Although Lina looks up to Amira, Amira has always felt overshadowed by her freewheeling twin, who aspires to be a model.

Meanwhile, Sami remains cloaked in mystery; the twins have never known the reason he went to prison, and their adolescent memories of him are defined by his rage and destruction. However, when Sami returns, he doesn’t go back to making drug deals on the corner or getting into screaming matches with their parents, a shift that initially makes the twins uneasy. But soon, the family learns to be together again: Sami works with their dad at his butcher shop, and the five of them take a trip to Coney Island in a heartwarming scene of unity. 

Such rosy moments are fleeting, as Islamophobia casts a long shadow over the story. Characters frequently make jokes or references to the Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib prisons, but this comes from their collective pain, the torture they have experienced under the threat of hate. Some characters find ways to resist this malice, such as Faraj, Amira’s love interest and a community organizer who tries to teach Amira about bringing people together. Meanwhile, Sami devotes himself to his faith, developing a “third eye” mark on his forehead from praying. 

By the end of Between Two Moons, it is unclear whether these efforts make any tangible change, but that isn’t really the point. Coming together, feeling for one another no matter what each of us have been through—this is what Abdel Gawad’s novel advocates for. There is no more powerful message.

In Aisha Abdel Gawad’s powerful novel, although family and faith tie its characters together, such bonds can also be used to restrict and smother.
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We like our politics to be binary. It is comforting to hear that we are on the good side and other people are on the bad. But life, obviously, is not binary, and neither are our politics. In V.V. Ganeshananthan’s second novel, readers are carried to a reckoning with this fact. 

Set in 1980s Sri Lanka, in the early years of that nation’s decadeslong civil war, Brotherless Night follows Sashi, a 16-year-old girl who dreams of becoming a doctor. As she grows up, she watches the Tamil minority fight against the oppressive Sinhalese, with her own brothers and friends buying into violent ideologies, and she begins to reconsider what healing and care really mean.

The novel begins by immediately challenging our assumptions and vocabularies. The brief prologue is written from Sashi’s perspective in 2009 as she tries to contact “a terrorist I used to know.” She continues by pressing the importance of that word, terrorist. In American culture, to which Ganeshananthan and Sashi are knowingly communicating, terrorist is akin to a slur; there are, by this definition, no good terrorists. 

Foregrounding this challenge prepares the reader for what is to come: a story about “terrorists” that destroys the very sense of that word. The first chapter begins, “I met the first terrorist I knew when he was deciding to become one.” As the reader and Sashi follow the community’s young men in their indoctrination, Ganeshananthan forces the reader to discard a binary description of the world in favor of a more complex, human one.

But language is not the only thing that Ganeshananthan grapples with here. Violence, too, is front and center in the novel. As the civil war erupts, Sashi begins to consider conflict and war on a large scale, and it becomes impossible for her to ignore that healing is more than a physical practice. Abandoning her medical aspirations, Sashi’s new mission becomes documenting human rights violations, and she describes the disasters of war in a vital, sharp way. Although this work allows Sashi and others to better understand the impact violence has on their society, it also proves to be a life-threatening business.

Through this moving story, Ganeshananthan traces the human aspects of war—the physical losses and tragedies as well as the conflicts of values that are often the true battlefields. Rather than justifying or lamenting the horrors of a civil war that ended a little over a decade ago, she shows that by focusing on all of the people involved, both “good” and “bad,” we can learn how and why humans fight—and why it’s so important to stop the cycle.

In this moving novel, V.V. Ganeshananthan traces the human aspects of war—the physical losses and tragedies as well as the conflicts of values that are often the true battlefields.
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Latinx writers and other artists of color have proven and continue to prove that race is not just a means of adding verisimilitude to a work but rather a vital part of any story told within our racialized society. Since his debut collection, Zigzagger, was published in 2003, Manuel Muñoz’s work has been recognized as prime proof of this fact, captivating and moving readers with tales of Latinx tribulation and triumph. In The Consequences, Muñoz adds even more depth and dimension to his writing, delivering a collection of stories that probe deep into the heart of Latinx experiences.

Muñoz sets his stories in 1980s California, seeking contemporary truths through the past and reflecting on where the Latinx community has been and where it’s going. His main concern is love—how we are able to connect with, tolerate and help one another in a world that seeks to alienate us from our communities and ourselves.

In the opening story, “Anyone Can Do It,” Delfina, a headstrong mother whose husband has gone missing with other immigrant workers, ponders the risks of trusting her new neighbors. When she is betrayed, however, she doesn’t shut herself off from her community but rather learns how to create a new identity for herself and her son out of the struggle they must endure. Muñoz never lets his characters off easy, and in the process, he problematizes and expands upon centuries-old archetypes.

Throughout the collection, Muñoz’s use of quotation marks has deep significance. In the second story, “The Happiest Girl in the Whole USA,” the only quotation marks appear around a sentence spoken in English, as if all of the Spanish (translated by the author into English) is not said aloud but rather communicated nonverbally. Food, on the other hand, appears frequently throughout the book, not just as a cultural signifier but also to show the impossibility of affection. In the same story, a woman offers the protagonist her cold tacos, trying to gain her trust while on their perilous journey to retrieve their partners from deportation. In these ways, Muñoz shows that the two things Latinx culture is most known for (language and cuisine) are far more complicated than they appear to white readers. Through such textual and symbolic details, Muñoz forges a new Latinx narrative, wherein all aspects of Latinx life are displayed with richness and complexity.

Muñoz brings the reader into a Latinx world rife with meaning, showing what some of us have known all along.

Through his story collection, Manuel Muñoz forges a new Latinx narrative, wherein all aspects of Latinx life are displayed with richness and complexity.

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