• Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi. Photo: Beowulf Sheehan
    September 24, 2021

    A History of Violence

    The writer Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi has just published a new novel, Savage Tongues. The book, her third, features a middle-aged writer, Arezu, who returns to a family property in Spain for the first time in twenty years. As a teenager, Arezu had a brutal affair in the apartment with an older man, Omar. Revisiting the site means coming to terms with abuse, violence, desire, and the ways in which politics and power infuse our intimate lives. For Bookforum, poet and writer Nazlı Koca spoke to Oloomi about personal and political self-destruction, resilience, the literature of exile, and the

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  • Asali Solomon, Philadelphia, 2021. Ron Nichols; Mural: David Shane

    A Day in the Life

    POROCHISTA KHAKPOUR: The Days of Afrekete (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26) is another outstanding book, following up on your 2006 collection Get Down and your 2015 novel Disgruntled. I just love how you’ve created this incredibly intimate and yet expansive portrait of the complicated friendship of two women at middle age, who have all sorts of identity issues to reckon with—race, sexuality, class, everything. The fact that it is inspired by Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, Toni Morrison’s Sula, and Audre Lorde’s Zami also made it extra-satisfying to read. To what degree do you think it’s important

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  • Katie Engelhart. Photo: Owain Rich
    July 28, 2021

    Bookforum talks with Katie Engelhart about the right-to-die movement

    Mainstream debates over assisted suicide, or the “right to die,” are predictable. The so-called “sanctity of life” is pitched against “personal autonomy,” while murkier questions of context, political power, and personhood remain uninterrogated. Journalist Katie Engelhart’s The Inevitable does more than perhaps any book to date to advance and complicate the issue. The intensively reported text offers intimate portraits of people seeking and fighting to expand the “right to die,” each of whom seems to edge closer and closer to what we might call “imit cases”: individuals whose desires for

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  • Elias Rodriques
    July 15, 2021

    Bookforum talks with Elias Rodriques about nature, memory, and grief in his debut novel

    In Elias Rodriques’s new novel, All the Water I’ve Seen Is Running, the protagonist, Daniel, returns to his childhood home in North Florida from New York after a high school friend dies in a drunk-driving accident. Back in the town of Palm Coast, Daniel reunites with a cast of old associates including Desmond and Twig—two friends from the track team—and contemplates confronting the person who could be responsible for his friend’s crash. A mediation on grief, memory, family history, and homecoming, the book is also an exploration of how race, class, and queerness affect these time-honored themes.

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  • Nana Nkweti. Photo: Shea Sadulski/Out of Focus Photo Studio.
    June 15, 2021

    Bookforum talks with Nana Nkweti about her debut short-story collection

    I spoke with Nana Nkweti during the odd time after my first vaccine shot but before my second, when I felt stuck between the world as it has been since March 2020 and the world as it could be, post-immunity. This sense of being caught in two realities at once felt reminiscent of Nkweti’s debut short-story collection, Walking on Cowrie Shells. As embodied in characters like a pastor’s wife carrying a miraculous pregnancy after years of infertility in “The Devil Is a Liar,” an adopted daughter who isn’t at all like what her parents expect in “It Takes a Village Some Say,” and a jaded publicist

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  • Elissa Washuta. Photo: K. R. Forbes
    June 03, 2021

    Bookforum talks with Elissa Washuta about her new essay collection

    In her new collection of linked essays, Elissa Washuta explores heartbreak, the occult, and the legacy of settler colonialism in the US. Weaving Native folklore with the history of exploitation of tribes such as the Duwamish people—alongside analysis of Twin Peaks, Fleetwood Mac videos, and the Oregon Trail II computer game—Washuta considers broader notions of inheritance, magic, and value. For Bookforum, Washuta and I chatted over Zoom about narrative, literary Twitter, and learning to cede control.

    ELIZABETH LOTHIAN: You play with narrative a lot in White Magic. Can you talk a bit about

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  • Rachel Kushner. Photo: Gabby Laurent
    May 25, 2021

    Bookforum talks with Rachel Kushner about carceral geography and her new book, The Hard Crowd

    JULIA PAGNAMENTA: In a recent interview hosted by 192 Books, Ben Lerner observed that your essays in The Hard Crowd “resist psychological access.” You replied that any self-reflection missing from the essays was “intentional,” and that you were interested in analysis rather than in therapy. That the difference between the two models might play a role in the kind of “self-revelations” you were “willing to share.”

    I thought of this exchange when reading “Popular Mechanics,” The Hard Crowd’s chapter on writer Nanni Balestrini, where you write about Alfonso Natella, the protagonist in his novel

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  • Sarah Schulman. Photo: Drew Stevens.
    May 19, 2021

    Bookforum talks with Sarah Schulman about the life-and-death work of ACT UP

    In your new book, Let the Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP New York, 1987‑1993 you write that you can’t tell the story of ACT UP chronologically because too much was happening at once. So, you arranged the book thematically. What did this allow you to do that you wouldn’t otherwise?

    It lets the reader experience what time was like inside the organization. It was so intense. So many people were suffering and so many people were acting. In the back of the book, I do give a timeline so if people want to see when a particular event happened, they can, but it would be impossible to write

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  • April 27, 2021

    Bookforum talks with Maria Kuznetsova about her new novel of family lore and motherhood

    Maria Kuznetsova’s fiction is distinguished by her memorable female characters, women who can find wonder—and a wry laugh—even in the darkest moments. Her second novel, Something Unbelievable, introduces two such women: Larissa, a vivacious, acerbically blunt octogenarian living in Kiev, and her granddaughter Natasha, a “weary and ruined and sweat-covered” new mother in a cramped Upper Manhattan apartment. Natasha has lost both of her parents years earlier, and her baby daughter inspires her to reflect on matrilineal inheritance. She asks Larissa to recount her family’s escape from the Nazis,

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  • Dawnie Walton. Photo: Rayon Richards
    April 01, 2021

    Dawnie Walton discusses her novel about an iconic proto-punk singer

    One night in the spring of 1970, up-and-coming British singer-songwriter Nev Charles sees a young woman named Opal Robinson singing at a Detroit open-mic. She is wearing crushed velvet and a long blue-black wig, and he is, in his own words, “absolutely gobsmacked.” Her strange voice wields just the power his act is missing. When Opal starts performing with him in the New York City rock scene, a cult idol is born.

    Opal is the fictional musician and provocateur of Dawnie Walton’s debut novel, The Final Revival of Opal and Nev, which begins by revisiting the duo’s origins. It goes on to cover

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  • Jo Ann Beard. Photo: Franco Vogt
    March 25, 2021

    Jo Ann Beard on how she found the deep imaginative spaces of her new essay collection

    With a year of lockdown and a year at home, what’s helping you stay in what you’ve described as the “underwater” imaginative space of writing, and what’s making it harder?

    I’m on sabbatical this year, and made a decision, even before the pandemic, that I was going to use it as an opportunity to do nothing. I’ve more or less worked full-time since I graduated from high school, and as you know, if you’re a writer, whatever you do for a living you always feel you have another full-time job on top of that. So I decided that I was going to spend this year not writing but experiencing what it is

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  • Bett Williams. Photo: Beth Hill
    March 15, 2021

    Bookforum talks with Bett Williams about her mycological journey

    If mushrooms are having a moment, psilocybin mushrooms are having their own red-carpeted star turn. Multiple double-blind studies conducted at Johns Hopkins University, which has its own Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, have shown how psilocybin mushrooms, administered in hours-long, therapist-guided sessions (with a playlist), have helped those with depression, various types addiction, fear of death. Microdosing is widespread, and psilocybin mushrooms have been decriminalized in Oregon and various cities around the country. Bett Williams recounts her own “psilocybin odyssey”

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