Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Laila Lalami, Anne Helen Petersen, Dan Chiasson, and more—that are publishing this week.
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Conditional Citizens by Laila Lalami
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Conditional Citizens: “In this eloquent and troubling account, novelist and National Book Award–finalist Lalami (The Other Americans) draws on her personal history as ‘an immigrant, a woman, an Arab, and a Muslim’ to argue that becoming a U.S. citizen does not necessarily mean becoming ‘an equal member of the American family.’ Recalling that the first time a U.S. customs agent examined her American passport, he wanted to know how many camels her husband had to trade in for her, Lalami critically assesses political rhetoric from 9/11 through President Trump’s border wall; skillfully unpacks charged words such as ‘allegiance’ and ‘assimilation’; reflects on Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh through the lens of her own experience calling out workplace sexual harassment; and examines the erasure of Muslims from American history. ‘Conditional citizenship,’ she writes, ‘is characterized by the burden of having to educate white Americans about all the ways in which one is different from them.’ Lalami offers essential insights into how racism and sexism function in American society, and makes a persuasive case for preserving the ‘gray zones’ between religious, ethnic, and national identities as a way to push back against tribalism and sectarianism. This profound inquiry into the American immigrant experience deserves to be widely read.”
Can’t Even by Anne Helen Petersen
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Can’t Even: “BuzzFeed writer Peterson (Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud) explores how low-paying jobs, overstimulation, and unattainable expectations have contributed to millennial malaise in this trenchant and well-researched account. Young people who once received participation trophies now seek ‘cool’ jobs, Petersen writes, only to fall into the ‘trap’ of long hours and inadequate pay. Though older generations mischaracterize America’s largest demographic group as lazy and selfish, millennials are actually working multiple jobs to pay bills in the modern gig economy as they watch the American dream slip away, Petersen contends. She weaves together personal reflections, profiles of other millennials, and a plethora of demographic information to addresses issues such as parenting, social media, college debt, and health care. Though she recommends finding ‘solace’ in hobbies and notes that one family reduced their stress by moving from the East Coast to Idaho, Petersen is more focused on bluntly describing her generation’s many obstacles than offering solutions to burnout. By turns exasperated, indignant, and empathetic, she supports her claims with strong evidence and calls on millennials to be a force for widespread social change. The result is
The Math Campers by Dan Chiasson
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Math Campers: “The meditative fifth collection from poet and critic Chiasson (Bicentennial) invites the reader to witness the poet’s processes of creation, retrieval, and revision as a writer and dreamer, father and son. Framed by ekphrastic poems that gloss murals by David Teng Olsen adorning the walls of the poet’s home, the book works by a loose Russian-doll principle: just as the murals reflect and refract details from the lives of the poet and his immediate family, so do these nested poems. As a teenager, the poet prays ‘that art/ would sometime send a ladder from the sky,’ and that he might ‘become the love child/ of Sylvia Plath, Ozzy, and Alex DeLarge.’ Years later, he finds himself ‘almost Ozzy, mansplaining/ to my eleven-year-old son the photo/ of a Louis Quatorze gilt dildo he found in our cloud.’ Intimations of social crisis and environmental disaster glow on the horizon, ‘Caskets line up for the slip-n-slide./ A collarbone surfboards down the alley./ Through the mudslide we humans wade,’ but the book centers on intimate dramas of adolescence, middle age, masculinity, and literary genealogy (poetic allusions from Milton and Eliot to Merrill and Bidart abound). These beautifully crafted poems are a memorable addition to Chiasson’s singular oeuvre.”
Also on shelves this week: Horsepower by Joy Priest.
Bonus Links: —American Inequality: On Laila Lalami’s ‘Conditional Citizens’—A Year in Reading: Laila Lalami—Ship of Fools: On Laila Lalami’s ‘The Moor’s Account’—Must-Read Poetry: September 2020