A Year in Reading: Zoë Ruiz

December 12, 2020 | 3 books mentioned 3 min read

560 fires were burning in California the weekend I finished Heart Like a Window, Mouth Like a Cliff by Sara Borjas, a powerful poetry collection that had me falling in love with Fresno as well as contemplating daughterhood and the heartbreak and violence that comes with it. Structurally, I was impressed by the way the book moved — the poems moved into one another, unfolded, and echoed.

“We Are Too Big for This House” inspired me to rethink form, how to work with time and space within a narrative, and interweave art criticism into a story. It’s a poem I’ll return to again and again. I’ll also return to the series of poems that feature Narcissus, the surreal landscape of “The Island of Raped Women,” and the wanting in “Pocha Heaven.”

Borjas had posted on Insta that she was selling signed copies and I bought the book. She signed the book and also included a handwritten note with a quote by Baldwin: “The victim who is able to articulate the situation of the victim has ceased to be the victim: he or she has become a threat.”

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In May I attended a writing workshop with poet and educator José Olivarez, which is available online, and he shared a poem by Sharon Olds titled “Known to Be Left.” After reading it, I immediately bought her collection Stag’s Leap, a collection of poems that examine love, loss, heartbreak, aloneness, and attachment.

In many ways, I thought I was done with narratives about unhappy marriages and divorce, but this collection proved me wrong. Olds doesn’t look away from her pain or her love (even after it’s lost or left) and writes about them with such precision. I was in awe of this. Inspired, too. Maybe one day I can have the strength to not look away, in my own life and in my own work, as my heart breaks.

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It was November and I had moved to the desert. Sometimes I’d wake at dawn, watch the sunrise, and take a walk in the nearby national park. I wanted to close the year and begin a new one surrounded by space, quiet, and light. It was here that I began reading Sarah Faith Gottessdiener’s The Moon Book.

The book is filled with Gottessdiener’s knowledge of lunar cycles and magic. As Chani Nicholas says, “This book is written from a place that is informed by decades of practice, study, and experience.” I’d almost describe it as dense — except the experience of reading The Moon Book is less like being in a dense thicket or woods and more like being swept along by the current of a river. 

The book begins with chapters that introduce the concept of moon magic and lunar phases and then chapters are divided into each lunar phase. This structure allows for The Moon Book to be an easy-to-use reference and I know I’ll be using it for years.

As I read the book (and listened to the podcast Moonbeaming), I appreciate the way in which Gottessdiener approaches her work with a critical eye on power structures, injustice, and New Age beliefs. I highly recommend The Moon Book for readers who are interested in learning more about magic and symbols. I also recommended this book for people who are looking for inspiration and ways to connect to their creativity and intuition.

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Don’t miss: A Year in Reading 20192018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005

is a staff writer for The Millions. Her writing has appeared in The Believer, Lit Hub, The Rumpus, Marketplace, and anthologized in California Prose Directory, Rooted, and Golden State Writing. She has received scholarships and residencies from Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Oregon State University’s Graduate School, and Spring Creek Project. She lives in Los Angeles.

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