For The LA Review of Books, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor reviews Saidiya Hartman’s new book, Wayward Crossings, Beautiful Experiments. The book, which Taylor describes as “a radical, genre-defying examination of the lives of ‘ordinary’ young Black women” in the early 20th century, is an exercise in understanding these women’s lives without sensationalizing, idealizing, or dismissing their experiences. Hartman’s subjects, Taylor writes, are found “on the periphery of archival refuse,” and she celebrates the “black city-within-a-city” that they helped create in New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago in particular. Ultimately, Hartman is interested “in the multitude of ways that Black women ‘made a way out of no way,’ whether through flight, migration, work, sex, singing, dancing, screaming, and all of the social and cultural innovation born from pure defiance and a refusal to do what you are told.”
“Women writers and writers of color don’t really have the luxury of being known simply as writers. There’s always a qualification,” Roxane Gay writes for The Nation. She ponders what it means to be a “black woman writer” and concludes that we should view diversity as a search for “urgent, unheard stories.”
Cloud Atlas author David Mitchell and his wife KA Yoshida (who have an autistic son of their own) translated the latest work from Naoki Higashida, who uses an alphabet grid to communicate. The resulting memoir from the thirteen year old boy, The Reason I Jump, is scheduled for an August release. Hari Kunzru has a sneak preview of the book’s cover.
Tim Parks’s review of Han Kang’s The Vegetarian has some pretty interesting things to say about the nature of reviewing translation, but it also takes some shots at the novel and its proponents: “Looked at closely, the prose is far from an epitome of elegance, the drama itself neither understated nor beguiling, the translation frequently in trouble with register and idiom. Studying the thirty-four endorsements again, and the praise after the book won the prize, it occurs to me there is a shared vision of what critics would like a work of ‘global fiction’ to be and that The Vegetarian has managed to present itself as a candidate that can be praised in those terms.” Here’s a Millions review of Kang’s Man Booker International prize-winner.
“We don’t want to run a for-profit business, or even a break-even business that’s based on income. It’s something that would not return a great deal of money for us and would create an adversarial role.” The Huffington Post reports on the growing number of libraries dropping overdue fines. Pair with Daniel Penev on why public libraries have a more vital role to play in the culture than ever before.