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5 Books To Read for Black History Month

TESTIFY by Douglas Manual


A book of elegiac ambivalence, Testify’s speaker often finds himself trapped between received binaries: black and white, ghetto and suburban, atheism and Catholicism. In many ways, this work is a Bildungsroman detailing the maturation of a black man raised in the crack-laden 1980s, with hip-hop, jazz, and blues as its soundtrack. Rendered with keen attention to the economic decline of the Midwest due to the departure of the automotive industry, this book portrays the speaker wrestling with his city’s demise, family relationships, interracial love, and notions of black masculinity. Never letting anyone, including the speaker, off the hook, Testify refuses sentimentality and didacticism and dwells in a space of uncertainty, where meaning and identity are messy, complicated, and multivalent.


The poems in Allison Joseph’s latest collection are smart, shameless, and empowered confessions of the best kind. In semi-autobiographical verse highlighting in turns light-hearted and harsh realities of modern black womanhood, these poems take the reader down “A History of African-American Hair,” visit with both Grace Jones and the Venus de Milo, send Janis Joplin to cheerleading camp, bemoan a treacherous first pair of high heels, and discuss “vagina business.” Funny, but never flippant, and always forthcoming about the author’s own flaws and foibles, Confessions of a Barefaced Woman is sure to keep readers entranced, entertained, and enlightened.


SUCK ON THE MARROW by Camille T Dungy


Suck on the Marrow is a historical narrative revolving around six main characters, set in mid-19th century Virginia and Philadelphia. The book traces the experiences of fugitive slaves, kidnapped Northern-born blacks, and free people of color, exploring the interdependence between plantation life and life in Northern and Southern American towns and illuminating the connections between the successes and difficulties of a wide range of Americans, free and slave, black and white, Northern and Southern. This neo-slave narrative treats the truths of lives touched by slavery with reverence but is not afraid to question the ways the old stories have too often been told. In addition to creating new stories, Suck on the Marrow develops new ways of telling those tales.


PATTER by Douglas Kearney


For a couple struggling with infertility, conception is a war against their bodies. Blood and death attend. But when the war is won, and life stares, hungry, in the parents’ faces, where does that violence, anxiety, and shame go? The poems in Patter re-imagine miscarriages as minstrel shows, magic tricks, and comic strips; set Darth Vader against Oedipus’s dad in competition for “Father of the Year;” and interrogate the poet’s family’s stint on reality TV. In this, his third collection, award-winning poet Douglas Kearney doggedly worries the line between love and hate, showing how it bleeds itself into “fatherhood.”




Percival Everett’s The Book of Training by Colonel Hap Thompson of Roanoke, VA, 1843, Annotated From the Library of John C. Calhoun, is poetry within the harsh confines of a mock historical document—a guidebook for the American slave owner. The collection features lists of instructions for buying, training, and punishing, equations for calculating present and future profits, and handwritten annotations affirming the brutal contents. The Book of Training lays bare the mechanics of the peculiar institution of slavery and challenges readers to place themselves in the uncomfortable vantage point of those who have bought and enslaved human beings.

The 69 Test

According to Marshal Zeringue,

“PIGS asks readers to think about the way we use perspective to direct what we’re willing to acknowledge about the world” and it “passes the page 69 test with its own brand of strange but flying colors.”
Check out the blog post here:


Live Signing!

Landon Houle will be hosting a release and signing for Living Things at 7 p.m. on Oct.19 at Seminar Brewing. The event features readings by Houle and her students as well as live music from the Thrift Store Cowboys. Those not attending can get a copy of Living Things at https://aerbook.com/maker/productcard-4985020-1458.html


Elizabeth Bradfield began as a seafaring deckhand only to be marooned at a desk upon returning home. Hear her discuss how a visit to a bookstore inspired Toward Antarctica on National Public  Radio. https://www.capeandislands.org/post/towards-antarctica?fbclid=IwAR0nUJ2KtsE1oabd5txXqXeyz5WXEKmarMmTSEnIpGjkVwPYKImD0En6kf0#stream/0

Read her book at https://aerbook.com/maker/productcard-4461537-1458.html?fbclid=IwAR1Z1h3FTY0JmORdxLbSbFYQDRKYuDluT01ODCAnpEcngPLVrOAgd43d-rQ

Follow Your Weird

“Work-In-Progress” features Johanna Stoberock in conversation with Leslie Pietrzyk about how you should “follow your weird” within the creative process.

The Gravity of Ableism

“Ableism is woven into urban spaces and the minds of able-bodied people as deeply and indestructibly as white supremacy and patriarchy. ”

Allies Think We Understand Ableism, but I Didn’t Until I Was Disabled

Elizabeth Earley’s essay deeply examines disability in a hostile world. Find more of Earley’s writing at https://redhenpress.org/…/like-wings-your-hands-by-elizabet…

Uncomfortable Beauty

Pigs “is the writing of a woman who considers the breaking and the growth of beings. I am always struck with her ability to describe uncomfortable beauty. She explores unquestioned roles and rules, the pain we stifle and the pain we commit, and the process of change and release and giving as sacrifice.” Read about Augusta Sparks Farnum’s personal connection to Stoberock’s work. https://www.union-bulletin.com/local_columnists/questioning_artists/whitman-college-professor-pens-new-novel-pigs/article_4120d388-e55d-11e9-891a-67f9a8c275d0.html?fbclid=IwAR3oM3fZzqFuUIyVj2SU3QiWNNaPjBMhud-QqsMVXX_y1y4UvAYqMJ8hPjE

To read Pigs head over to its new home.


Booklist is not bluffing in this review!

UNDER NASHAGAK BLUFF is “beautifully written, Heavener’s evocative debut paints a moody, vivid picture of a Native culture undergoing change” according to Joan Curbow of Booklist. Check out the article once it goes live on October 15, 2019!