Summer Reads: Benjamin

A monstrous heatwave sidled up to me one day in June and growled: get your head out of the freezer and read Mary Ruefle. So I did that. I also read other books by other authors, some of which I have listed below. Happy summer!


Nepantla: An Anthology Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color - ed. Christopher Soto

Nepantla is a landmark collection—it is the first major anthology for queer poets of colour! A glance at the list of contributors gleans some of the most exciting voices in contemporary poetry (Danez Smith, Juliana Huxtable, Chen Chen, to name but a scant few) rubbing shoulders with those most vital over the past century (James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, etc.).

Selected Poems - Mary Ruefle 

I have three Mary Ruefle books on this list.

F: Poems - Franz Wright

Entering a Franz Wright poem is like chancing upon a trap door into which you recite countless turns-of-phrase but someone's changed the password and it soon becomes apparent that the trap door is the mouth of a cave which the wind and water have eroded season after season until it is so wide that it winks out of existence. Also, this book contains one of my favourite lines ever written: Where the captors required of nobody a song, indifferently allowing yours; even listening politely with their sad attack-dogs’ eyes awhile.

New Poets of Native Nations - ed. Heid E. Erdrich 

Cannot wait to dip into this fabulous anthology of Native American voices—Layli Long Soldier! Tacey M. Atsitty! Tommy Pico!—which has recently landed in-store.

Prose Architecture - Renée Gladman

Prose Architecture is an astonishing creation; a "book of ink drawings that regards language as an exposed nervous system". It is a beautiful and bewildering gesture to the thinking that exists outside of the written word.

City of the Future - Sesshu Foster

These prose poems have the hang of it. I highly recommend anything and everything from Kaya Press, a small publisher committed to putting out thoughtful and challenging books of the Asian Pacific diaspora. 


The Marrow Thieves - Cherie Dimaline

Cherie Dimaline's debut novel floored me with its sheer breadth of human emotion—I laughed, I cried. I haven't yet this year read a more compelling story, nor been more invested in a cast of characters. Told with a fervor and an unusual palette of sensual experience, The Marrow Thieves is an instant YA classic.

The Chandelier - Clarice Lispector

Hurricane Clarice's second novel is her most challenging, and at some point this summer—once I've mustered the necessary moxie—I will read it, and will doubtlessly be shattered.

The Most of It Mary Ruefle

I love Mary Ruefle.


Red Colored Elegy - Seiichi Hayashi

Recently reprinted by D&Q, Red Colored Elegy is Seiichi Hayashi's lugubrious masterwork. Channeling the French New Wave, the legendary Garo Cartoonist broke new ground in visual storytelling, and his stylistic inventions are ever surprising some fifty years later.

Yellow Negroes and Other Imaginary Creatures - Yvan Alagbé

These stories—written between 1994 and 2011 and collected in English for the first time—are shadowy glancing blows to the heart. Alagbé's style is incredibly disarming, using stark black-and-white brushwork to animate the dichotomies that dominate his characters' lives: oppression and freedom, trust and distrust, love and hate.

Sabrina - Nick Drnaso

A masterpiece. Sabrina is a disquieting look at the post-truth era and how those most vulnerable after a highly-publicized tragedy are targeted and bombarded with abuse. If you still need convincing, Zadie Smith had this to say: "Nick Drnaso's Sabrina is the best book—in any medium—I have read about our current moment."


Black and Blur - Fred Moten

Black and Blur, the first notch in the consent not to be a single being trilogy, explores blackness and anti-blackness in art and life. As he puts it in the preface: “It hurts so much that we have to celebrate. That we have to celebrate is what hurts so much. Exhaustive celebration of and in and through our suffering, which is neither distant nor sutured, is black study.” Each essay in Black and Blur is impossibly rich in scope and sensibility—requiring the mind to be both an expanse and an exit wound. Keep your eyes peeled for Stolen Life and The Universal Machine—published in the near future by Duke University Press—which will round out the trilogy.

Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures Mary Ruefle

Mary Ruefle is the best.

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