Issue Thirty-Seven -- Winter 2021

What we’re reading, January 2021

Here’s what some of SHARK REEF’s editors have been enjoying in recent weeks.

Stephanie Barbé Hammer
Managing Editor Stephanie just finished Natashia Deón’s ambitious multigenerational novel Grace (Counterpoint, 2017). Grace is at once a bildungsroman, a fabulist tale of hauntings, and a powerful feminist exploration of Black women’s struggles in the South before, during and after the Civil War. Suspenseful and deep. Stephanie is also reading John Brantingham’s chapbook of linked short stories, Life, Orange to Pear (Bamboo Dart Press, 2020). Understated, lyrical and quietly strange, Brantingham’s stories uncover the brave mind of Cindy, who evolves from preschooler to adulthood during the course of this little book, and who repeatedly challenges her father about good and evil, death, and belief.

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Richard Widerkehr
Poetry Co-Editor Richard has been reading Patricia Hooper’s new book, Wild Persistence, which has won the Brockman Prize for poetry from the Poetry Society of North Carolina. It’s a beautiful, moving book in a quiet, often understated voice about loss and renewal, grief and wonder. Also, he’s been reading Joseph Stroud’s new collection, Everything That Rises, which also contains many vivid, powerful nature poems and this suggestion on writing them: “Don’t muddy the waters; do rock the boat.” He has been given The Lifetime Achievement Award from the Lamont Society.

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Linda Conroy
Poetry Co-Editor Linda opened a recent morning with Lynn Casteel Harper’s beautifully written non-fiction, On Vanishing, a good, though emotionally challenging, read for those of us who are getting older, and who isn’t. Although she misses going to the library and browsing, holding the books before she takes them home, she is enjoying beautiful descriptions in the poetry of R.S. Thomas, an Anglican priest who is known as a leading poet of modern Wales, and the formal poetry of Marilyn Hacker whose sonnets, ghazals, sestinas and couplets describe urban life from intellectual, feminist and political points of view in voices that are familiar and intimate.

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Lorna Reese
Lorna just finished The Night Watchman by National Book Award-wining Louise Erdrich and heartily recommends it. It’s based on the extraordinary life of Erdrich’s grandfather who worked as a night watchman and carried the fight against Native dispossession from rural North Dakota all the way to Washington, D.C. and explores themes of love and death with lightness and gravity and unfolds with the elegant prose, sly humor, and depth of feeling of a master craftsman. It was deeply moving and the characters feel like real people she knows. Something of a call to arms, too. Published 2020 by Harper

She also finally got around to reading Leif Enger’s debut novel, Peace Like a River, published in 2002 by The Atlantic Press, and loved it. The narrator is an asthmatic 11-year-old who, with his unusual family, traces their journey across the frozen Badlands of the Dakotas in search of his fugitive older brother. It’s tragedy, romance and exploration of the spirituality and magic possible in the everyday world. Truly superb.

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Noel Pobillo Mariano
Nonfiction Noel finished up Nobody’s Victim: Fighting Psychos, Stalkers, Pervs, and Trolls by Carrie Goldberg (Plume 2019), a book that delves deep into the anonymity of harassers behind the computer screen when they find their targets online as well as the tools and strategies for stalking victims to address their concerns, whether or not the attention is online or offline. With her background in victim’s rights and her straightforward writing, her book serves as not only a guide but as comfort for those experiencing bullying and cyber terrorism in our ever-growing digital world. If you are experiencing cyberstalking and harassment, yes you are a victim, but Goldberg’s text proves that you no longer have to be victimized.

On the lighter end, they also just finished I Hope This Helps: Comics and Cures for 21st Century Panic by Tommy Siegel (Andrew McNeel Publishing 2020). Rock musician Tommy Siegel shares witty, silly, and often heartbreaking slices of life through his doodles and short nonfiction essays in his book that was compiled primarily while on tour with his band, Jukebox the Ghost. His work caters to fellow older millennials still trying to find their place in our chaotic and “unprecedented times” while still retaining a quirky sense of humor that is one part self-deprecating, one part fatalist, and one tiny dash of hopeful.