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Reading Sally Rooney is like finally being compensated for being a young woman. Her first two novels, “Conversations with Friends” and “Normal People,” catalog the romantic and intellectual obsessions of her college-aged subjects with rare tenderness and precision. She takes seriously the kind of stories that are often deemed frivolous merely because their subject matter (girls) is not seen as a viable cultural subset for which to make art, manifested in the phrase “chick lit.” Art which portrays female perspectives — especially young, contemporary female perspectives — is often viewed as separate and illegitimate. Rooney is the novelist I go to when I want to be seen and validated, so waiting for her highly anticipated third novel was like waiting for an old friend to return home.
“Detransition, Baby,” Torrey Peters GR’13’s debut novel, has been making waves in the publishing industry. It was longlisted for The Women’s Prize and honored as a New York Times Editors Choice. Notably, it is one of the first novels by a transgender person to be published by a big five publishing house — in this case, One World, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
Frank J. “Jay” Barrett Jr. has always had a passion for architecture and a love for the town of Hanover. As a former Hanover Historical Society president and an architect by profession, Barrett has himself made contributions to chronicling the town’s history, even recommending buildings to the National Register of Historic Places. As a writer he has thoroughly chronicled Hanover’s rich history in the three volumes he has already published on the history of Hanover.
If every genre but romantic comedy suddenly disappeared from the face of the earth, absolutely nothing about my media consumption would change. I scan book reviews waiting for a hint of romance in the narrative. My streaming service recommendation algorithms have given up on selling me anything without at least a secondary plot of romance. I am indiscriminate as to whom, where or how fictional characters profess their love for each other — I only insist that they do. I love indie rom-coms about people falling in love while wearing overalls and studying at liberal arts colleges. I love blockbuster movies starring celebs with shiny teeth and perfect hair. I love love, period.
Eric Dezenhall ’84 is a crisis management consultant and the author of seven novels, which draw inspiration from his experiences and transform them into fast-paced tales of gangsters, terrorists, dirty politics and, most recently, revenge.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s New York Times best-seller “Mexican Gothic” is a lush, moody story brimming with horror and mystery. With all the trappings of a Victorian novel, “Mexican Gothic,” which was released in June, calls upon notable doomed heroines in the literary canon, from Ophelia in “Hamlet” to Cathy in “Wuthering Heights,” in order to place readers in its melodramatic prose. “Mexican Gothic” is your favorite Brontë novel, but better.
Yaa Gyasi’s follow-up to her American Book Award-winning 2016 debut “Homegoing” is “Transcendent Kingdom,” a novel alternating between past and present in the life of Gifty, a Ghanaian-American neuroscience Ph.D. candidate and former self-proclaimed “Jesus Freak.” Throughout the book, Gifty, who studies impulse control in mice, reexamines what led her to a life of empiricism after growing up in a deeply religious immigrant family in the Bible Belt. Grappling with Gifty’s experiences growing up “sticking out like a sore thumb” in her predominantly-white town and “as Ghanaian as apple pie,” the novel is both accessible and urgent.
It’s strange to say, but I did not notice the narrator had no name the entire time I was reading Nico Walker’s novel “Cherry.” It was only when I sat down to write this review that I realized the person whose deepest thoughts I had been reading was unnamed to me, however fictional or autobiographical he may be.
The Dartmouth: Through the Ages presents a curated collection of the newspaper's archives from 1900 to the present. The book captures the monumental events both in the world and the College from the lens of The Dartmouth's reporting and coverage. This book is perfectly suited for a gift or a casual coffee table read. Don't miss out on this exclusive collection of archives which traces both the history of the newspaper and Dartmouth College since the early 20th Century!
“Lincoln in the Bardo” by George Saunders is a luminary novel depicting a single night of grief. Set in a graveyard where Abraham Lincoln’s son, Willie, is buried, the story follows Lincoln’s visits to the tomb where several ghosts discuss their lives and their deaths. The novel is narrated by these ghosts who all occupy a purgatory-like existence called, after the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, “the bardo.” The ghosts in the bardo have all decided to stay between the living and the dead for a host of reasons. For instance, one of them, a preacher, knows he will go to hell if he leaves the bardo. The most common reason for staying, however, is that most of the ghosts are convinced that they are simply “sick” and set to eventually return to the realm of the living. For Willie, the choice between leaving for heaven or staying in the bardo is only complicated by his father’s return to his tomb. While the other ghosts try to convince Willie to leave — for the bardo is a complicated place where the young often go crazy — he desires nothing more than to stay with his father.
I grew up in the south, and some of my most vivid childhood memories took place on the sandy shores of the Atlantic or in the pristine saltwater marshes on the Carolina coast. I was always captivated by the raw beauty in these environments: sunlight bending through Spanish moss, the great arc of a blue heron in flight, hundreds of fiddler crabs scuttling across the mud flats and the gentle lapping of waves at low tide. The sheer abundance of life clustered within the marshes always astounded me. They were their own little sanctuary, sheltered from concrete high-rises and boisterous tourists, having just the right conditions to foster an entire ecosystem.
“Tangerine” by Christine Mangan transported me beyond my world. I felt like I knew how the ghostliness, both the good and bad tangles of history, feels in Tangier. The book brought the feeling of standing on top of Phoenician tombs, gleaming white against the azure of the intersection of the Mediterranean and Atlantic Oceans alive; I felt like I could feel the layered history beneath my feet and the physical manifestations of syncretic culture present before my eyes.
The first poem I remember loving was “From Blossoms” by Li-Young Lee. I memorized its soaring verses, each one a dedication to peaches, and would recite it at nearly every lunch period to the chagrin of my classmates. I was a girl obsessed. That was the first time I had seen a poem that was unapologetically jubilant; Lee eschewed everything I thought I knew about poetry in “From Blossoms.” There was nothing depressing, pejorative or traumatic. It was simply an exalting review of some really good fruit and a really good summer’s day — and it was in that simplicity that Lee found the nuance and depth that marks interesting poetry.
At once a stunningly evocative retelling of Greek mythology and a commentary on mortality, motherhood, resilience and female agency, “Circe” by Madeline Miller intertwines the fantastic with the familiar, shaping a narrative whose supernatural exterior ultimately serves to tell an altogether human story of a woman’s life.
Italian writer Elena Ferrante’s operatic Neapolitan Quartet, a series that spans four volumes and six decades of friendship, traces the intertwined lives of characters Lila and Lenù. The series begins with Lenù and Lila’s childhood as they grow up in a poor Neapolitan neighborhood and traces their subsequent lives as wives, mothers and ultimately lonely old women. The quartet is a series of cyclical events encapsulated in a larger cyclical narrative structure. The first book of the series, entitled “My Brilliant Friend,” opens at the fourth book’s close. Rino, Lila’s son, telephones Lenù to tell her that his mother has gone missing. At the end of the final book, entitled “The Story of a Lost Child,” there is no answer as to where Lila has disappeared. However, Ferrante writes such a thorough description of Lila’s character and psyche throughout the series that, in the final book, it makes sense as to why she erased herself. It seems not to matter where she’s gone. Lila is mean, whip-smart and down-trodden — how could she not want to disappear, how could she not want to melt into what she calls the “dissolving boundaries” of her complicated world?
Simultaneously making readers want to revel in the narrative as long as possible while also powering on to the end of the tangled story, “Providence,” by Caroline Kepnes is a novel about love and obsession, full of gripping emotional detail and a compelling New England narrative backdrop.
“You can only actually help someone who wants to be helped.”
Hilarious, thoughtful and unwavering, pop culture critic Michael Arceneaux’s memoir “I Can’t Date Jesus” tackles the awkward and sometimes painful realities of growing up over the course of 17 essays.
“How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective,” edited by Princeton University professor Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, takes on the task of commemorating the inimitable 1977 statement made by the Combahee River Collective, a group of radical Black feminists that emerged after America’s Civil Rights era. The collective’s letter, a political declaration, revolutionized the way radical political change is talked about to this very day. “How We Get Free” includes the infamous statement in its pages, offering readers the opportunity to engage with the group that has shaped our political world yet remains unknown to many.
In 2017, writer and historian Erica Armstrong Dunbar published the biography “Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit Of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge.” Attempting to accomplish an ambitious feat, Dunbar imagines the life of Judge, a young woman who was enslaved by America’s first family but managed to escape from bondage. The book reconstructs the course that Judge took on her journey to freedom from enslavement in 1796. By harnessing her skill for research, Dunbar reconstructs Judge’s world, telling a story that has never been explored in such detail or with such tact. Through this biography, Dunbar also honors the life and humanity of a woman who was denied niceties at birth.