• 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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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,

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  • 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

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  • May 15, 2019

    Bookforum talks with Sophie Lewis

    When the topic of surrogacy is given media space, stories usually revolve around the struggles of women with fertility problems who turn to surrogate gestators to relieve the pain of childlessness. Or they expose the commercial surrogacy industry’s exploitative practices, lingering on the perceived body horror of commercializing someone’s else womb.” Surrogacy is presented as either a glorious gift or the worst sort of exploitation. Sophie Lewis’s book Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism Against Family, takes a scalpel to both these accounts. Indeed, it explodes the very concept of surrogacy, and

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  • April 24, 2019

    Bookforum talks with T Kira Madden

    T Kira Madden grew up queer and biracial in Boca Raton, Florida, the only child of parents battling drug and alcohol addictions. In her widely-lauded debut memoir, Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls, she details her coming-of-age and her search, admist such volatile circumstances, for connection and stability. She often finds those things—or semblances of them—in unlikely places. The first few pages of the memoir find Madden befriending the J.C. Penney jewelry mannequin her mother sets up in their living room to ward off intruders, naming him "Uncle Nuke." She twists off his plastic hand,

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  • Nancy K. Miller
    April 11, 2019

    Bookforum talks with Nancy K. Miller

    Nancy K. Miller is a veteran feminist academic—an early scholar of French feminist literature at Columbia, the first full-time tenured member of the Women’s Studies Program at Barnard College and its first director, and now Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the CUNY Graduate Center. All of this history flows into her recent book My Brilliant Friends, a piece of hybrid autobiographical criticism about her friendships with the scholars Carolyn Heilbrun, Naomi Schor, and Diane Middlebrook. Rather than a portrait of rosy, simplified affection, Miller follows the

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  • April 03, 2019

    Bookforum talks with Valeria Luiselli

    Valeria Luiselli began volunteering as a translator for children in immigration court around five years ago. Drawing on that work, and the activism that followed, she wrote two books: Tell Me How It Ends, an extended essay based on the questionnaire used to interview the children, and her latest, Lost Children Archive (Knopf, $28), a novel about a family traveling by car from New York City to Arizona so that the father, an audio documentarian, can work on a project about the Chiricahua Apache. During the trip, the mother becomes obsessed with news on the radio of migrant children being deported

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  • Geoff Dyer. Photo: Marzena Pogorzaly
    March 20, 2019

    Bookforum talks with Geoff Dyer

    In 2012, the British author Geoff Dyer published Zona, an eccentric volume on Stalker, Andrei Tarkovsky’s vaunted 1979 film. Dyer’s Zona moves with pronounced energy between close readings and carefree riffs. Dyer’s new book, ‘Broadsword Calling Danny Boy’—just out from Pantheon—marks the writer’s second crack at book-length movie criticism. Slimmer than Zona, 'Broadsword Calling Danny Boy' offers a gleeful report on Where Eagles Dare (1968), Brian G. Hutton’s World War II entertainment about a pack of Allied soldiers (led by Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood) attempting to retrieve an American

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