The Lesser-Known Children’s Books of Langston Hughes and Graham Greene

-

The New York Times takes a look at lesser-known children’s books written by literary titans such as Langston Hughes, Gertrude Stein, William Faulkner, and more. Though these writers did not stay long in this genre, their efforts were lauded, as in the case of James Thurber and Many Moons. “When a well-known writer of adult books dashes off a juvenile story, a scarred and hardened reviewer is apt to approach it a little gingerly,” the review goes. “In Mr. Thurber’s case, happily, such caution is unnecessary. Brief, unpretentious, but sound and right of its sort, his fable is one which adults and children both will enjoy for its skillful nonsense and for a kind of humane wisdom which is not always a property of his New Yorker stories.”

Jane Wong Curls and Uncurls Her Fists

-

At NPR, Jane Wong discusses her new poetry collection, How to Not Be Afraid of Everything, which depicts her own experience of Chinese immigrant life in the U.S., while also giving voice to generations before her. “In writing this book, I did not conduct quote-unquote interviews,” Wong says. “I didn’t do quote-unquote research with my family directly, because it would be too painful. Instead, I just listened really deeply. Like, what are they not saying? And what does that mean? This book feels very much like it’s trying to make sure everyone sees that I have fists and they are curling and uncurling at all times.”

Tiphanie Yanique on the Destruction and Blessing of Love

-

At Lit Hub, Tiphanie Yanique discusses her second novel, Monster in the Middle, which follows the maze-like trajectory of generations of love and relationships. “I want the book to consider how what is monstrous to us might also be what is holy,” Yanique says. “The book is structured in what might feel like a wending manner, as with a labyrinth. Labyrinths and other images of journey are used to metaphorize the idea of, well, love. Because what is more likely to destroy you or bless you than love?”

A Community Library of Rare Black Books, Courtesy of Solange

-

Beginning today, Solange is opening the Saint Heron Community Library, a media center dedicated to out-of-print and rare books by Black and Brown voices in poetry, visual art, critical thought, and design. The library features works by Ntozake Shange, Lucille Clifton, Audre Lorde, and more. Patrons can reserve books online and have them shipped anywhere for free within the United States. “That’s what I wanted to focus on; both the classics and the popular stuff,” says Rosa Duffy, curator and founder of For Keeps Books. “This is the stuff that people were writing for us since the very beginning to help us get through day-to-day life, to help us get through times that we’re facing right now. They did this for us, and the reason that they’re such popular names is because they had such a strong voice. So that’s what I wanted to cover. It varies day to day. There’s so much. We are like a goldmine.”

The Link Between Writing and Listening with Tracy K. Smith

-

At Time, Tracy K. Smith discusses her newest poetry collection, Such Color, whose poems allowed her to face this past year and a half with a sense of peace. “Lately, it feels like, is a future even possible?” Smith asks. “That’s the question, but all of those things—joy, humor, and the hope that a future might be possible—have long existed to sustain communities of people who are imperiled in some way. Not as an escape, but as a way of saying, you and your body and your story, matter. That you are vital, necessary, and you are loved in some way. And that’s a way of keeping going.”

The Case for Picture Books for All Ages

-

At the Atlantic, Amitava Kumar makes a case for more images to appear in literature for adults, as tools to prompt questions and multiple interpretations. “Drawings and photographs run the risk of making everything literal,” Kumar writes. “In books for children, they mostly are mere illustrations, directly representing the ideas on the page. Virginia Woolf once wrote about paintings: ‘A story-telling picture is as pathetic and ludicrous as a trick played by a dog.’ But it is possible to imagine a more complex dialogue between art and narrative. Writers can use images to question the truth instead of simply underlining it.”

Eugene Lim Faces the Transformative Power of Grief

-

At Poets & Writers, Eugene Lim discusses his newest novel, Search History, which examines grief through his signature mix of the mundane and extraordinary. “Even if there are many things going on in it, I think at its heart this novel is a book about grief,” Lim says. “And writing about that subject while enduring its wound makes you doubt yourself, makes you wonder whether one is being honest or honoring or insensitive or sentimentalizing. I wanted to articulate and be honest to the emotion of grief but also I wanted it to be both original and transformed by and into fiction—not so that the emotion was made into mere artifice but so that the artifice and strong emotions could stand together without either feeling manipulated or made false by the other.”

Lucy Ellmann Flies Off the Handle

-

At the Chicago Review of Books, Lucy Ellmann discusses her new book, Things Are Against Us, a nonfiction collection that offers many of the surprises and insights from her fiction. “My essays aren’t exercises in fact-finding, I’m glad to say,” Ellmann explains. “They’re merely vehicles for the expression of opinion. Fiction allows me to get my opinions across too, but sometimes it’s fun to just fly off the handle. My essays are also full of good advice, since the only real self-help is self-hatred, and that I can teach. Otherwise, the job is the same as in fiction: to write things the way they ought to be written.”

Reginald Dwayne Betts Finds Freedom in Poetry

-

At WBUR, self-described “lawyer poet” and recent recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship Reginald Dwayne Betts discusses how he uses poetry and law in his day-to-day life to learn about the world. “I think in a real way, freedom begins with a book,” Betts says. “The reason why I was able to engage in those ways was because I had spent all of this time literally just reading books, imagining that it wasn’t just a fanciful place that they were taking me, but I was learning something about being in the world that I didn’t fully know.”

Creating Markers of the Moment with Sanjena Sathian

-

At the Atlantic, Sanjena Sathian discusses why she chooses to use concrete pop culture references that ground her work to our current time period, most notably in a recent short story, “The Missing Limousine.” “Among writers,” Sathian says, “there’s a sense that pop culture weighs down ‘serious’ art—like we’re afraid of burdening our work with specific markers of the moment. But all art and thought is a product of its moment, whether we acknowledge it or not.”

Read more about Sathian’s debut novel, Gold Diggers, in her recent conversation at the Millions with Maria Kuznetsova.