Bookstore / Roundup

Bookseller Recommendations: March

Milkweed Staff — 02/19/2020

We know a lot of you may be headed to San Antonio, TX for AWP right now, and it’s likely you’re planning to bring your weight in books back with you—so hey, why not throw a couple more on the stack? Here are our bookseller’s latest recommendations.

A Horse with Holes in It: Poems
by Greg Alan Brownderville

LSU Press | November 2016 | $17.95

Whenever I enter a Greg Alan Brownderville book, I feel like I’m walking into an acoustically perfect crystal-dappled cavern just outside of Bald Knob, Arkansas, and in this cavern there’s somehow a whole house complete with a front porch, porch swing, and a couple half-boiled citronella candles, and on the swing there’s a man in brown boots, and with the candlelight bouncing off the foggy quartz all around us, he offers me a glass of water and asks if I’d like to hear a story. Brownderville writes with a music distinct to the Mid-South, wielding words in ways that smack of home to me. I grew up in Memphis, which is only about an hour from Brownderville’s home of Pumpkin Bend, AR, so when he writes of the heat, of the “rickety sanctums” of churches, of boozy “party barges,” I am viscerally placed. “My kin don’t know / about my wordness, all the languages / that swarm me,” he writes, and while his poems do kind of feel like that—being swarmed by wordness—he tempers the frenzy with narrative. I love Brownderville’s poems because he’s as interested in music as he is in storytelling. Read A Horse with Holes in It if you love inventive lyricism, unsettling persona, and some extremely good-sounding lines.

Black Lives 1900: W.E.B. Du Bois at the Paris Exposition
by David Adjaye, Jacqueline Francis, and Stephen G. Hall

Redstone Press | October 2019 | $35.00

This is the second time I’ve recommended a book about W.E.B. Du Bois and the Paris Exposition in 1900. The difference between the two is that this edition contains photographs to match all the exquisitely done infographics that Du Bois used in service of his idea that, “…there was one thing the white South feared more than Negro dishonesty, ignorance, and incompetency, and that was Negro honesty, knowledge and effiency.” Both of these art books take a visual census/look at some oft-forgotten, or ignored, pieces of our past, and they’re solid (and problematic) looks at United States history and how we educate.

Long Way Down
by Jason Reynolds

Atheneum Books | April 2019 | $11.99

The opening notes of Jay Z’s Dead Presidents II aren’t immediately identifiable as notes at all. Instead of the elegiac piano gliding under the rest of the song, clean cut and mournful as skyscrapers expecting snow, it’s Nas’s voice sampled to percussion. A request then, for representation, makes the voice of a peer into a door. A similar verve and brilliance defines Jason Reynolds’s Long Way Down, a YA Novel in Verse that follows the protagonist, Will, in the aftermath of his brother’s murder. Will boards an elevator, bound in equal measure by grief and tradition to avenge his brother.

Nas’s voice arrives 6 times across the course of Dead Presidents II, 4 choruses and 2 bridges, each a door out of which Jay-Z is greeted by the recent past. Similarly, at each floor of the elevator Will is met by a ghost from his past. What I admire in this book is legion, the pinpoint lyricism and economy of voice, the sheer audacity of the concept; but most of all how this book cautions against the cycle of revenge but doesn’t rely upon shaming tactics to do so. Rather, it’s the growing chorus of ghosts making the elevator a palindrome; at the beginning and end of the story there is a door, a choice.

Years before I worked at Milkweed I taught students in a youth detention center in Philly. None of us, myself included, were killers though all of us easily could have been pushed to be. What Reynolds captures in Long Way Down is how quickly a life can change, can end, can be pushed beyond all recognition. This is a gorgeous book, and every time I pass a copy I have to remind myself I already own 2. Instead, I play Dead Presidents II, Jay-Z elegizes, Nas punctuates, the door opens, I step into the rest of my life.

Wasp Queen: Poems
by Sequoia Nagamatsu

Black Lawrence Press | May 2016 | $16.95

This collection of poems is told through the perspective of Lucy—the unleashed id of suburban girlhood. She’s relatable, scary, vulnerable, and a badass. There is a tactile realness to Lucy’s world that is inhabited by late 80s and early 90s pop culture which would normally take the reader to a nostalgic place, but Lucy will make you remember the brutality of adolescence. The rot of misogyny is woven through every moment with Lucy, internally and externally—there is no escaping.

The Friend
by Sigrid Nunez

Riverhead Books | February 2019 | $16.00

The Friend by Sigrid Nunez is a novel about a dog that’s not really about a dog. The unnamed narrator agrees to take in her friends’ 180 lb great dane into her 500 sq. foot Manhattan apartment in the wake of his death, and with it is forced to reckon with herself.

It’s told through a series of vignettes—memories and conversations, musings on the work of other authors, historical anecdotes, recountings of film plots. A pastiche of different topics comes to form a personal-encyclopedia-as-storytelling, where a lifetime of information and experience comes to define your present moment.

Thanks for reading, y’all! Mention our March recommendation list to get 10% off any one of the above titles. (One coupon per visit, please. Not valid with other offers.)

?If any of these books sound interesting to you, swing by the bookstore (or ?give us a call at 612-215-2540) to pick up a copy! Mention our February recommendation list to get 10% off any one of the above titles. (One coupon per visit, please. Not valid with other offers.)​

?To see more reading suggestions from bookstore staff and from some of the bookstore’s favorite authors, click here.

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