• Natalie Diaz. Photo: Rachel Eliza Griffiths
    October 10, 2019

    Not Just a Game

    What stands out most about the new anthology Bodies Built for Game is how broadly it defines “sports writing.” Edited by former pro basketball player and poet Natalie Diaz and Lambda Literary Award–winning poet Hannah Ensor, the collection moves beyond game recaps and celebrity profiles, opening up the genre to poetry, personal essays, and short stories. The diversity of form, structure, and voice in this anthology broadens the language and narrative around sport and sports writing. (Diaz prefers sport rather than sports “because it connotes a structure of power rather than a pastime.) Whether

    Read more
  • Kimberly King Parsons. Photo: Heather Hawksford
    September 24, 2019

    Bookforum talks with Kimberly King Parsons

    The Texan girls and women who populate Black Light, Kimberly King Parsons’s debut story collection, are messy and loud and unapologetic. They fall hard and fast. Parsons gives her characters ample space to make mistakes, and they do—repeatedly—but we love them no less for it. Case in point: in “Glow Hunter,” when the impossibly magnetic Bo gets shards of glass embedded in her hand while doing parking-lot cartwheels, she pours Mountain Dew on the gash, watches it fizz, and goes about her day (which involves hunting for magic mushrooms in roadside cowpats). Such is an ordinary sequence of events

    Read more
  • Tupelo Hassman
    September 19, 2019

    Bookforum talks with Tupelo Hassman

    Tupelo Hassman’s gods with a little g is out now, and announces its own universe—a town somewhere in California called Rosary. Like most towns, Rosary has its merits, but it has been overrun by Bible-thumpers. The book’s central character, Helen, nicknamed “Hell,” navigates the margins of the town, and dwells on topics like teen pregnancy, addiction, magic, sexuality. The novel is extremely funny and extremely dark—often both at the same time. Though fundamentalists are threatening to rule Rosary, pockets of freedom remain: There’s a magic shop, run by Helen's Aunt Bev; and there’s the neighboring

    Read more
  • Kristen Arnett. Photo: Maria Jones
    September 11, 2019

    Bookforum talks with Kristen Arnett

    Kristen Arnett has an enviable knack for creating dark comedy. I’m often unsure of whether to laugh or gasp at her work (I usually end up doing both). When we meet Jessa-Lynn Morton, the narrator of Arnett’s debut novel, Mostly Dead Things, her father has recently died by suicide and she has been left in charge of the family taxidermy business. Jessa-Lynn and her brother are also dealing with another loss: Brynn, Jessa-Lynn’s sister-in-law who also happens to be her first love, has left her husband and her lover without warning, leaving the brokenhearted siblings to care for the children she

    Read more
  • Xuan Juliana Wang. Photo: Ye Rin Mok
    September 06, 2019

    Bookforum talks with Xuan Juliana Wang

    “I wanted to evoke a certain kind of life that would be worthy of future nostalgia.” That’s a line from Xuan Juliana Wang’s story “The Art of Straying Off Course,” but it is also a way of reading all twelve stories in Home Remedies, her debut collection about Chinese millennials and their families. The book is a meditation on the nature of home, and how everything from immigration to the forward march of time precludes the possibility of ever returning there. In “The Art of Straying Off Course,” the narrator also says, “The secret to building things was listening.” Wang has listened to the

    Read more
  • Jia Tolentino. Photo: Elena Mudd
    August 26, 2019

    Bookforum talks to Jia Tolentino

    Jia Tolentino is the Jia Tolentino of our generation. Formerly a deputy editor at Jezebel and contributing editor at the Hairpin, Tolentino is currently a staff writer at the New Yorker. As she put it to me when we spoke recently, these jobs have allowed her to “push against the conventional wisdom of online feminism” and “make youth and internet culture legible to the New Yorker’s readership.” In her debut collection of essays, Trick Mirror, she explores her own feelings about certain systems governing contemporary life. The nine essays comprising her first collection aren’t entirely memoir

    Read more
  • August 19, 2019

    Lawrence Weschler Remembers Oliver Sacks

    Lawrence Weschler, a former staff writer at the New Yorker and director emeritus of the New York Institute for the Humanities, has a genius for spotting “convergences,” concepts that mirror other concepts and yield electric connections—like the way Lee Friedlander’s photo of a winter tree rhymes with both the capillaries in an eyeball and with Ruth Asawa’s tied-wire sculptures.

    In And How Are You, Dr. Sacks?, subtitled A Biographical Memoir of Oliver Sacks, a rich, wry pleasure, Weschler uses this talent for dot-connecting to portray neurologist and author Oliver Sacks. He considers the multiple

    Read more
  • Chia-Chia Lin
    July 02, 2019

    Bookforum talks with Chia-Chia Lin

    Chia-Chia Lin’s debut novel The Unpassing follows an immigrant family from Taiwan as they adjust to life in Alaska and grapple with the death of the family’s youngest child, Ruby. Exploring the fallout from this tragedy and the family’s attempts to create a home in the US, Lin describes their struggles in hauntingly beautiful prose. The never-ending winter mornings are “dark and joyless but with a scrap of a promise: more than this, there would be more than this.” In the immediate aftermath of Ruby’s death, Lin’s narrator remembers of his mother, “I could still hear her cracking voice, saying

    Read more
  • Andrew Ridker. Photo: George Baier IV
    June 20, 2019

    Bookforum talks with Andrew Ridker

    Andrew Ridker’s debut novel, The Altruists, opens with a house on fire. It’s a scene full of energy, urgency, and dark comedy. The rest of the novel uncovers the tensions hidden in this opening, telling the story of the Alter family after the death of Francine, the matriarch. Francine leaves behind her husband, cynical and narcissistic Arthur; her daughter Maggie, who wants desperately to do good in the world; and her son, the reclusive and anxious Ethan. Early in the book, we learn that Francine cut Arthur out of her will. Strapped for cash, Arthur cooks up a plan to siphon some of Maggie and

    Read more
  • Maria Kuznetsova
    June 10, 2019

    Bookforum talks with Maria Kuznetsova

    Maria Kuznetsova was born in Kiev, Ukraine and moved to the United States with her family as a child. She lent some of her biography to the heroine of her debut novel, Oksana, Behave! The novel’s eleven chapters are episodic, beginning with Oksana and her family’s immigration to the US in 1992 and continuing on through a series of mishaps, losses, and adventures as Oksana haphazardly enters adulthood.

    Our protagonist is clever and impulsive—a fiery misfit. As a child in Florida, she dials 9-1-1 to find out whether the service really “works” and tells the dispatcher “My grandmother is trying

    Read more
  • Jacob Tobia. Photo: Oriana Koren
    June 03, 2019

    Bookforum talks with Jacob Tobia

    I first discovered Jacob Tobia, the LGBTQ activist, actor, and producer, on Instagram, where their exuberance nearly shatters the three-across, forever-down grid. Jacob’s work advocating for greater trans and queer media representation has landed them on the Forbes “30 Under 30” and OUT magazine’s “OUT 100.” Their writing has appeared in the New York Times, Them., and The Guardian, among other publications. Now, they’re aiming for the best-seller list with their memoir, Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story.

    Sissy follows Jacob from their Methodist childhood in Cary, North Carolina to Duke University,

    Read more
  • May 20, 2019

    Bookforum talks with Astra Taylor

    The media landscape is awash with concerns about threats to contemporary democracy. Political commentary rightly speaks to very troubling political shifts: President Donald Trump’s undermining of liberal institutions; concerns over Russian election interference; Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s upending of liberal democracy; Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s fascistic agenda; right-wing populism's rise across the West, and more. But media commentary often takes for granted that our imperiled democracies are the form of political life we should be upholding and defending, rather than

    Read more