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Staff Picks: Holiday Reading Recommendations 2011

2011 December 21

It’s become a little bit of a tradition for us to post a list of books recommended by the LR Blog writers and editors just before the holidays.  In keeping with that tradition, we’ve surveyed the staff team and have put together a list of  titles that we enjoyed reading this year and think that you might like, too. Here are our end-of -year Staff Picks for 2011:

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PEOPLE ARE TINY IN PAINTINGS OF CHINA

PEOPLE ARE TINY IN PAINTINGS OF CHINA

People are Tiny in Paintings of China
by Cynthia Arrieu-King
Octopus Books, 2010
Recommended by Iris:

“I lost my father in late 2010, and the delicate—almost brittle—transparency of this collection (which has much to do with fathers and familial heritage) struck me to the bone.  Arrieu-King’s language is beautifully evocative, but economical; her poems are rendered with slim, decisive strokes that are as breathtaking for their clear-eyed, precise minimalism as they are for their wry, sharply observant (at times downright blunt) commentary.  Acts of mathematical counting, division (or inability to divide, as in the case of the poem titled “Prime Numbers”), and serial repetition are motifs in the collection, as are colors, lenses or frames of vision, the contours of landscapes and language. Taken together, these themes serve to magnify and illuminate the speaker’s gaze as she negotiates what it means to claim a multiracial, transnational identity in a world that irrationally desires, even demands, perfectly divisible, concrete forms.”

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ARDENCY

ARDENCY

Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels
by Kevin Young
Alfred A. Knopf, 2011

Recommended by Mia:
“Kevin Young’s latest book, Ardency, is at once epic and lyric, documentary and wholly imaginative.  Written from the perspective of various figures involved in the Amistad rebellion of 1839, the three sections of this book, ‘Buzzard,’ ‘Correspondence,’ and ‘Witness: A Libretto’ unfold in a dramatic reimagining of this moment in history.  While it’s true that with this collection, Young ‘[places] himself squarely in the African American poetic tradition pioneered by such writers as Langston Hughes’ (as the Washington Post claims on the book jacket), he also uses it to reinvent the tradition.”

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THE ANATOMY THEATER

THE ANATOMY THEATER

The Anatomy Theater
by Nadine Sabra Meyer
Harper Collins, 2005

Recommended by Mia:
“Nadine Sabra Meyer won the 2005 National Poetry Series Award with this collection, and I can’t recommend it more highly.  The poems draw deeply from history and mythology, studies of the human figure—its dissections, assemblages—and the tradition of the body in medicine and art.  Her work is riveting, beautifully crafted, and a must-read for anyone interested in, as John Koethe puts it, the human body and its relationship to the transcendent.  Luckily, Harper Collins lets you browse the contents of the book on their website, so you can preview a selection of the poems online.”

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CHEERS TO MUSES

CHEERS TO MUSES

Cheers to Muses: Contemporary Works by Asian American Women
Asian American Women Artists Association, 2008
Recommended by Kelsay:
Cheers to Muses is a truly inspired and inspiring anthology featuring visual art, poetry, fiction and nonfiction by Asian American women who challenge contemporary and historical assumptions about what it means to create Asian American art in all of its forms. Barbara Jane Reyes, Kathy Aoki, Keiko Nelson, Nellie Wong, Katherine Westerhout, Genny Lim, Catherine Ceniza Choy and many others share pieces of work and tributes to the Asian American women who have influenced their creative lives. Aside from being visually appealing, it offers a taste of how Asian American women approach the contemporary art scene.”

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APOCALYPTIC SWING

APOCALYPTIC SWING

Apocalyptic Swing
by Gabrielle Calvocoressi
Persea, 2009

Recommended by Henry:
“This was recommended to me by someone who’s completing a dissertation on boxing and Modernism. I’ve boxed and had a hard time writing about it, and have never come across any literature about the sport/art that isn’t mere glory or gossip. But this book of poems is ‘it.’ Brutal, beautiful, sincere. It’s the one that blew me away this year.”

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bough breaks

Bough Breaks
by Tamiko Beyer
Meritage Press, 2011

Recommended by Jai:
“I am excited by this book’s inquiry into and desire for queer conception and how it imagines what queer mothering would look like.”

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For yet more evocative reading, we also recommend any of the following titles, which we have reviewed or featured in the last year:

Poetry

Prose, Mixed Genre, & Comic Art

What is the best book that you have read in 2011, or what books are you planning to read (or give) over the holidays?  Let us know in the comments!

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