A Key to Treehouse Living

Elliot Reed

A Key to Treehouse Living is the adventure of William Tyce, a boy without parents, who grows up near a river in the rural Midwest. In a glossary-style list, he imparts his particular wisdom on subjects ranging from ASPHALT PATHS, BETTA FISH, and MULLET to MORTAL BETRAYAL, NIHILISM, and REVELATION. His improbable quest—to create a reference volume specific to his existence—takes him on a journey down the river by raft (see MYSTICAL VISION, see NAVIGATING BIG RIVERS BY NIGHT). He seeks to discover how his mother died (see ABSENCE) and find reasons for his father’s disappearance (see UNCERTAINTY, see VANITY). But as he goes about defining his changing world, all kinds of extraordinary and wonderful things happen to him.

Unlocking an earnest, clear-eyed way of thinking that might change your own, A Key to Treehouse Living is a story about keeping your own record straight and living life by a different code.

A Cat

Leonard Michaels

A cat is content to be a cat. A cat is not owned by anybody. A cat imagines things about you, nothing you can know for sure. A cat reminds us that much in this world remains unknown.            

In his novels, stories, and essays, Leonard Michaels proved himself to be one of the most incisive observers of human behavior, but few know that he was every bit as perspicacious a chronicler of America’s favorite pet: the domestic cat. Elusive, elegant, and often humorous—much like his subject—Michaels gives us this unfathomable animal as we have never quite seen it before, and yet as we have always known it to be. Through a series of meditations, aphorisms, and anecdotes, along with original illustrations from Frances Lerner, A Cat is a both a compendium of feline behavior and a love letter to this marvelous creature.    

Girls Write Now: Two Decades of True Stories from Young Female Voices

Girls Write Now

Teenage girls tell their most urgent stories, punctuated by inspiration and advice from Zadie Smith, Roxane Gay, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Gloria Steinem, Alice Walker, and more of today’s great writers.

Girls Write Now: Two Decades of True Stories from Young Female Voices offers a brave and timely portrait of life as a teenage girl in the United States over the past twenty years. They’re working part-time jobs to make ends meet, deciding to wear a hijab to school, sharing a first kiss, coming out to their parents, confronting violence and bullying, and immigrating to a new country while holding onto their heritage. Through it all, these young writers tackle issues of race, gender, poverty, sex, education, politics, family, and friendship. Together their narratives capture indelible snapshots of the past and lay bare hopes, insecurities, and wisdom for the future.

Interwoven is advice from great women writers―Roxane Gay, Francine Prose, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Zadie Smith, Quiara Alegria Hudes, Janet Mock, Gloria Steinem, Lena Dunham, Mia Alvar, and Alice Walker―offering guidance to a young reader about where she’s been and where she might go. Inspiring and informative, Girls Write Now belongs in every school, library and home, adding much-needed and long-overdue perspectives on what it is to be young in America.

When Rap Spoke Straight to God

Erica Dawson

When Rap Spoke Straight to God isn’t sacred or profane, but a chorus joined in a single soliloquy, demanding to be heard. There’s Wu-Tang and Mary Magdelene with a foot fetish, Lil’ Kim and a self-loving Lilith. Slurs, catcalls, verses, erasures—Dawson asks readers, “Just how far is it to nigger?” Both grounded and transcendent, the book is reality and possibility. Dawson’s work has always been raw; but, When Rap Spoke Straight to God is as blunt as the answer to that earlier question: “Here.” Sometimes abrasive and often abraded, Dawson doesn’t flinch.  

A mix of traditional forms where sonnets mash up with sestinas morphing to heroic couplets, When Rap Spoke Straight to God insists that while you may recognize parts of the poem’s world, you can’t anticipate how it will evolve.   

With a literal exodus of light in the book’s final moments, When Rap Spoke Straight to God is a lament for and a celebration of blackness.  It’s never depression; it’s defiance—a persistent resistance. In this book, like Wu-Tang says, the marginalized “ain’t nothing to f— with.”

Ursula K. Le Guin: Conversations on Writing

Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin discusses her fiction, nonfiction, and poetry―both her process and her philosophy―with all the wisdom, profundity, and rigor we expect from one of the great writers of the last century.

When the New York Times referred to Ursula K. Le Guin as America’s greatest writer of science fiction, they just might have undersold her legacy. It’s hard to look at her vast body of work―novels and stories across multiple genres, poems, translations, essays, speeches, and criticism―and see anything but one of our greatest writers, period.

In a series of interviews with David Naimon (Between the Covers), Le Guin discusses craft, aesthetics, and philosophy in her fiction, poetry, and nonfiction respectively. The discussions provide ample advice and guidance for writers of every level, but also give Le Guin a chance to to sound off on some of her favorite subjects: the genre wars, the patriarchy, the natural world, and what, in her opinion, makes for great writing. With excerpts from her own books and those that she looked to for inspiration, this volume is a treat for Le Guin’s longtime readers, a perfect introduction for those first approaching her writing, and a tribute to her incredible life and work.

Junk

Tommy Pico

The third book in Tommy Pico’s Teebs trilogy, Junk is a breakup poem in couplets: ice floe and hot lava, a tribute to Janet Jackson and nacho cheese. In the static that follows the loss of a job or an apartment or a boyfriend, what can you grab onto for orientation? The narrator wonders what happens to the sense of self when the illusion of security has been stripped away. And for an indigenous person, how do these lost markers of identity echo larger cultural losses and erasures in a changing political landscape? In part taking its cue from A.R. Ammons’s Garbage, Teebs names this liminal space “Junk,” in the sense that a junk shop is full of old things waiting for their next use; different items that collectively become indistinct. But can there be a comfort outside the anxiety of utility? An appreciation of “being” for the sake of being? And will there be Chili Cheese Fritos?