• Fatima Daas. Photo: Olivier Roller
    January 06, 2021

    Bookforum talks with Fatima Daas about her debut novel, which covers coming of age in a Paris banlieue

    In many ways, Fatima Daas’s new novel, The Last One (translated by Lara Vergnaud), appears to be autobiographical. The character bears the author’s name (a pseudonym) and is also a young Clichoise who spends three hours commuting on public transportation to get to the city center from the far-flung suburbs. As a teen, she has a Harriet the Spy–like tendency to observe those on the train, listening to them arguing on the phone or manifesting peculiar laughs. The only member of her Algerian family who was born in France, Fatima struggles to identify with the gendered and religious expectations

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  • Women from Boston and Charleston, West Virginia, holding signs, demonstrating against busing and textbooks, Washington, D.C.
    November 30, 2020

    Rick Perlstein, Leon Neyfakh, Sam Adler-Bell, and Matthew Sitman on how the Right keeps winning

    In his podcasts Slow Burn and Fiasco, Leon Neyfakh and his team have covered Watergate, the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the Iran-Contra affair, and more, making seemingly familiar stories feel both fresh and suspenseful. In the third season of Fiasco, Neyfakh turns his attention to the battle over school desegregation in Boston in the 1970s, during which white Northerners took pains to distance themselves from racist Southerners while fighting against school integration in their own city. An activist and two-time mayoral hopeful named Louise Day Hicks led the opposition to Judge W. Arthur Garrity

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  • Kevin Young. Photo: Melanie Dunea

    The Difficult Miracle

    AMBER ROSE JOHNSON: In the face of this title, African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song (Library of America, $45), you’re intentionally widening the geographic and aesthetic scope. It’s much more diasporic than “African American” might seem to suggest. And you have prose, songs, epics, formally constrained poems, poems that make us question what poetry can be, and look like, and do. What was your approach to the scale and scope of this anthology?

    KEVIN YOUNG: The African diaspora is so rich and important, yet I couldn’t call it “Black Poetry” because that would be worldwide, and

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  • Emily J. Lordi
    November 24, 2020

    Bookforum talks with Emily J. Lordi

    Emily J. Lordi’s new book, The Meaning of Soul, is her third, and it continues her larger project of examining how the work of Black vocalists embodies Black music in both historical and practical forms. She’s written extensively on Donny Hathaway and Aretha Franklin, who appear here alongside Nina Simone, Otis Redding, Minnie Ripperton, and a half dozen other artists. Over the summer, I talked about the book several times with Lordi, who works as a freelance writer and an English professor at Vanderbilt University. Those conversations have been combined, condensed, and edited for clarity.

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  • Helen Macdonald. Photo: Bill Johnston Jr.
    October 27, 2020

    Bookforum talks with Helen Macdonald about Vesper Flights

    In the introduction to Helen Macdonald’s new collection of nature essays, Vesper Flights, she describes a trend in sixteenth-century European palaces and halls—Wunderkammer. These were ornamental display cabinets, similar to Joseph Cornell’s shadow boxes, filled with “natural and artificial things together on shelves in close conjunction,” like coral, fossils, miniature paintings, tiny instruments. Macdonald’s aim was to replicate the experience of Wunderkammer in her book. She so successfully achieves her goal, we wander around Vesper Flights amazed by flocks of songbirds migrating over the

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  • Legacy Russell. Photo: Mina Alyeshmerni
    September 29, 2020

    Bookforum talks with Legacy Russell about Glitch Feminism

    In her first book, Glitch Feminism: A Manifesto, writer and curator Legacy Russell argues that our online identities can be tools for emancipation. Glitch Feminism portrays the online avatar as a laboratory where Black, queer, and gender-nonconforming artists have explored, experimented, and ultimately expanded notions of the self.

    By creating online identities that do not conform to society’s expectation of the body, the book asserts, Black, queer, and gender-nonconforming people can introduce glitches into the binary software of gender. “We will be not ‘single beings,’” Russell writes, “but

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  • Stephanie LaCava
    September 10, 2020

    Bookforum talks with Stephanie LaCava

    Stephanie LaCava’s new novel The Superrationals is a destabilizing read—like coming across a sudden anagram in a sentence. The book’s strikingly true-to-life characters are similarly jarring: constantly misunderstood and misunderstanding and fiercely protective of fortresses of self-delusion (though LaCava resists moralization at every turn). The story is told from the point-of-view of three main characters: Mathilde, a young art-world initiate who is haunted by trauma and the death of her mother, a legendary editor; Gretchen, Mathilde’s best friend, who travels alongside the protagonist in

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  • James Baldwin, Kensington Gardens, London, 1969.

    The Disasters We’ve Become

    DAVID O’NEILL: In Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own (Crown, $27) you write about your student days at Princeton, when you first encountered Baldwin. Can you talk about the initial resistance you felt to his work?

    EDDIE S. GLAUDE JR.: There was initial resistance on two levels, but they’re connected. One was that Baldwin just asked too much of me. I had to deal with my own pain as a precondition to saying anything about the world. He believes firmly in the Socratic dictum that the unexamined life is not worth living, and he grounds his social criticism in

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  • Stephanie Danler. Photo: Emily Knecht
    August 27, 2020

    Bookforum talks with Stephanie Danler

    Stephanie Danler’s new memoir, Stray, begins with the author’s return to her native California after the publication of Sweetbitter (2016), her best-selling debut novel. Danler interweaves the mythology of the storied, volatile land she comes from with that of the three complicated people who shaped her most: her mercurial, alcoholic mother; her estranged, charismatic, meth-addicted father; and “the Monster,” a sadistically charming married man with whom she’s having a toxic affair. Stray sees Danler fight for independence and survival—an apt theme for a book released during the third month of

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  • Moyra Davey. Photo: New Directions
    August 24, 2020

    A conversation with Moyra Davey about her recent essay collection

    Moyra Davey began her career in photography and filmmaking. Her experimental, cross-media artworks incorporate elements of fiction, documentary, and journals. Writing has long been an important aspect of Davey’s visual work. In her recent collection, Index Cards, she lingers on the page, creating an associative personal canon through close readings of literature, theory, film, her own journals, and more. Throughout, Davey returns to the same themes and vignettes: Walter Benjamin’s epistolary account of a clock seen from his study, for example, or the unconventional lives of eighteenth-century

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  • Genevieve Hudson. Photo: Thomas Teal
    August 18, 2020

    Bookforum talks with Genevieve Hudson

    Genevieve Hudson’s debut novel, Boys of Alabama, tells the story of Max, a shy German teenager with a rare magical power, who emigrates with his parents to Alabama (Hudson’s own native state). There, Max finds a place rife with wonders and terrors beyond anything he’s ever known. It’s a slow-burning exploration of queerness and magic and toxic masculinity—of otherness and the yearning to belong—set against the landscape of the Deep South.

    During the early days of the lockdown, Hudson and I talked about obsession, sentences that are more than mere load-bearing devices, and the innumerable

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  • Algiers, Third World Capital by Elaine Mokhtefi
    August 10, 2020

    Bookforum talks with Elaine Mokhtefi

    Born in New York, journalist and artist Elaine Mokhtefi became active in the youth movement for peace and justice in the early ’50s. In 1951, she went to Paris, where she first became aware of France’s colonial involvement in Algeria, and in 1962 she moved to Algiers to work in the newly independent Algerian government. Algiers, Third World Capital captures the author’s experiences in Algeria after its liberation from French colonial rule; her interactions with figures there such as Frantz Fanon, Stokely Carmichael, Timothy Leary, Ahmed Ben Bella, Jomo Kenyatta, and Eldridge Cleaver; and the

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