Summer 2015 reads - Helen's Picks

Happy early summer, everyone! Here are the books I plan to bring with me to parks, poolsides, and various shorelines. Perhaps you will be inspired to do the same!

Octavia's Brood, edited by Adrienne Maree Brown and Walidah Imarisha
A collection of  social justice-driven speculative fiction that name-checks Octavia Butler in its title? Yes please! The stories in this collection are written by folks who do a wide range of organizing in their other lives, addressing issues from urban gentrification to institutional racism to radical parenting. In her introduction, editor Walidah Imarisha reminds us of the thick ties between social justice organizing and future-looking fiction: "Whenever we try to envision a world without war, without violence, without prisons, without capitalism, we are engaging in speculative fiction. All organizing is science fiction."

After the Tall Timber: Collected Nonfiction, by Renata Adler
It's become a bit of a ritual for me to read Renata Adler in the summertime. Two summers ago I read her dazzling Speedboat, last summer I raced through the paranoid and fevered Pitch Dark, and this summer I look forward to getting acquainted with her nonfiction, conveniently collected here by the New York Review of Books. I look forward the crackle of her wit and the combativeness of her views. For a nuanced look at her legacy, check out this piece at The Millions.

The Argonauts, by Maggie Nelson
Many of my favourite writers are those who bend and blend genres to create wonderfully unclassifiable works. Hilton Als, Chris Kraus, Claudia Rankine and W. G. Sebald spring to mind from my recent reading, and now I happily add Maggie Nelson to the list. The Argonauts is a memoir and a love story that draws liberally from Nelson's favourite theoretical texts. It is also a reflection on how narratives around gender, queerness and parenting can complicate and uplift each other. I begin to copy out a quote and find myself writing out the entire book.

SuperMutant Magic Academy, by Jillian Tamaki
I already blew through this in one or two sittings, but I intend to reread it in bursts all summer long in order to fully enjoy Tamaki's winsome concoction of everyday school troubles and more metaphysical problems. Freaky and feminist, SuperMutant doesn't shy away from meanness or negativity, making it a much more entertaining and relatable read than many other teen-character-driven books!

Frontier #7: SexCoven, by Jillian Tamaki
Jillian Tamaki is on a roll these days! In addition to SuperMutant, she also did the most recent Frontier (a rad comics series by Youth in Decline)! SexCoven is a mysterious file, uploaded anonymously and containing drone frequencies that induce a powerful high in those (mainly people under 25) who can hear them. There's a lot to like in this small package: internet nostalgia (oldschool file-sharing networks!), teenaged obsession, tragic accidents, and a cult-like commune.

The Sellout, by Paul Beatty
I've been sleeping on the force that is Paul Beatty, I admit, but no longer! His latest, The Sellout is an absurdist and biting satire that exposes the innards of American race relations through the (extreme) actions of its narrator, a black man who reinstates slavery in a small California town. Kiese Laymon (Long Division, How To Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America), whose every written word I seek out hungrily, wrote a glowing review for the LA Times, in which he names The Sellout as "among the most important and difficult American novels written in the 21st century." Sold!

 š! #21 'Business Time'
The latest from comic Latvian comic arts anthology kuš! komiksi interprets the world of business in appropriately bizarre and fantastical ways. Standouts for me are Harukichi's heroic cat DJ story, Chris Kuzma's office corridor nightmare, Ann Pajuvali's ode to doing nothing, and Lai Tat Tat Wing's "Door to Door" which is rife with physical comedy and impossible working spaces that recall the half-floors of Being John Malkovich. Great for flipping through at your leisure. Excellent source of drawing inspiration too!

Palm Ash, by Julia Gfrörer + In Pace Requiescat, by Sean T. Collins & Julia Gfrörer
If an overdose of sun makes you hunger for the gothic and the horrifying, may I strongly recommend reading anything by Julia Gfrörer? Her chilling Black is the Color is currently out of print (although you can read it over at Study Group!), but we do have these two recent comics! Do not be fooled by the cheery neon paper. These tales will fill you with fear and loathing. Who said the warmer months had to be light and carefree? 

City by City: Dispatches from the American Metropolis, edited by Keith Gessen and Stephen Squibb
A promising anthology from n+1 that assembles pieces by a wide array of young writers grappling with the changing state of American cities over the past five to twenty years. A project that slowly came together as the financial crisis hit, picked up speed as the Occupy movement came and went, and wrapped up as Black Lives Matter was born and lit American cities on fire.  
š! #21 'Business Time'
š! #21 'Business Time'
š! #21 'Business Time'
š! #21City by City: Dispatches from the American Metropolis, edited by Keith Gessen and Stephen Squibb

The Neopolitan Novels (My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay), by Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein
It's all be said already, I think. If you haven't read them, do it now! They will propel you through the summer with ferocity and grace. The English translation of the fourth book will be out in September, so if you time your reading perfectly, you won't be left hanging...
š! #21

š! #21
š! #2

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