What I Read in March

BY JAEDA ENGBERG

With spring break and the unexpected arrival of COVID-19, March seemed to last an entire year. This resulted in a work from home status and lots of reading. Thankfully, I had prepared well in advance for this unfortunate and indefinite time of quarantining by checking out several books from the Fargo Public Library. Throughout the month, I could be found cozied under a blanket (plus snuggled with animals) with a mug full of coffee as my brain was fed with a wild variety of poetry and fiction.

Here is a list of what I read in March. All books can be found at the Fargo Public Library.

Bloom in Reverse by Teresa Leo, 5/5 stars

Bloom in Reverse (Pitt Poetry Series): Teresa Leo: 9780822962977 ...

As implied by its title, this collection does life backwards. Starting with death and melancholy and ending with solace and love, Bloom in Reverse follows life after a friend’s suicide, a toxic relationship, and the relatable (and cringey) experiences of dating. All emotions and events tie together in some form or fashion, creating a beautifully mesmerizing book that will leave you thinking: Did I just read about my life? Well, that’s how I felt anyway. Just read this and come back to me with your review. 

Blowout by Denise Duhamel, 4/5 stars

Blowout (Pitt Poetry Series): Duhamel, Denise: 9780822962366 ...

Blowout covers years of love, variations of love, from falling out of love to falling in love, ex relationships, desire, cheating, and healing. This relatable subject matter will be of interest to any reader, and Duhamel’s interesting conversational language will captivate you until the last page. 

Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith, 5/5 stars

Amazon.com: Don't Call Us Dead: Poems (9781555977856): Smith ...

This celebrated collection sequences violence, the afterlife, queer experiences, racism, and police treatment toward black individuals. Smith’s daring and raw language encompasses the danger and outrage of living as a queer African American man in the modern world. Don’t Call Us Dead will make you cry, give you courage, make you angry, and make you proud of Smith’s strength and vulnerability. 

Earthbound by Dee LeRoy, 3/5 stars

Earthbound: Poems by Dee LeRoy

I was really excited about this book but ended up being let down. Earthbound is a simple tribute to the universe and nature. It is meditative and lovely, but I found myself drifting off and grateful that it was such a short collection. This may be for others, but it’s not the one for me. 

Eye Level by Jenny Xie, 5/5 stars

Amazon.com: Eye Level: Poems (9781555978020): Xie, Jenny: Books

Wow, this collection was stunning. Focusing on life as an immigrant, Eye Level embodies the fast paced, ever moving travels across the world as the speaker’s observations lead her to ask herself many pressing questions regarding life as an outsider. 

Four Reincarnations by Max Ritvo, 5/5 stars

Amazon.com: Four Reincarnations: Poems eBook: Max Ritvo: Kindle Store

I received a free copy of this book from Milkweed Editions, and I read it in one sitting as soon as I got it in the mail. Holy, this is one of my top five favorite books I have ever read. Ritvo passed away in 2016 at age twenty five from a long battle with cancer, and this poetry collection was published shortly after his death. Four Reincarnations is an intimate look at death, suffering, love, counting down the days in a hospital, and loneliness while battling a tragic disease.

The Smoke of Horses by Charles Rafferty, 5/5 stars

The Smoke of Horses (American Poets Continuum): Charles Rafferty ...

The Smoke of Horses consists of prose poems covering the mundane with slight twists of pure imagination. If you didn’t think deer, dead mice, a smoke detector, and more can be interesting and full of deeper meaning, then think again. Rafferty’s collection will leave you pondering your surroundings and the wild stories you can create just by looking around you. 

Time of Useful Consciousness by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, 5/5 stars

New Directions Publishing | Time of Useful Consciousness

It’s no doubt that Ferlinghetti is an absolute legend. Published when he was 93 years old, Time of Useful Consciousness authentically takes readers back to the 1950s when the Beat Generation was thriving. Lovers of Ginsberg, Kerouac, Neal Cassady, and others will equally admire Ferlinghetti’s electrifying voice. I can’t describe this poetry collection. Just know that if you are a poet or avid and explorative reader, you should be reading work by all the Beats. 

Mystery

Dear Wife by Kimberly Belle, 5/5 stars

Dear Wife: A Novel: Belle, Kimberly: 9780778308591: Amazon.com: Books

I’m a sucker for a great and original mystery novel. Going into this, I thought it was going to be another Gone Girl (which I loved but feel it has been overdone), but man, was I proved wrong. Dear Wife will have your eyes glued to the pages and your mind racing as to what phenomenal twist will finalize this book. Surprised you will be, but disappointed you will not.

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus, 4/5 stars

Amazon.com: One of Us Is Lying (9781524714680): McManus, Karen M ...

This was a little young for me, but an eye-catching read, nonetheless. Think of Pretty Little Liars meets The Breakfast Club and you get One of Us Is Lying. Filled with romance, cliques, mystery, and four suspects of a murder, this novel will have you finishing it in one sitting. 

Something New for Your Literature Needs

BY AZIM USMANOV

The topic of Russian classic short stories might seem not very prominent during the times of panic and crisis around, not only NRP’s home at MSUM’s campus, but the whole world. COVID-19 has dealt effect on our normal daily lives by drastically limiting our social interactions and headlining all the news articles. In this time of self-isolation, we are granted a lot of free time that we should devote to exploration of new horizons within the parameters of our homes. Reading new literature might perform the role of a distractor from the present situation and be used as a relaxation medicine as it allows us to dive into completely different environments.

Having grown up on Eastern European literature, I chose multiple short stories and novels to help us surround ourselves with a different atmosphere. I hope these Russian literature classics will brighten your day with their unique aesthetics full of foreign culture.

  1. “The Chameleon” by Anton Chekhov: Chekhov’s stories consist of comedy, and “The Chameleon” is not an exception. It tells a story of police officer Ochumelov, and presents a deep truth about human nature described by means of satire.
  2. “The Nose” by Nikolai Gogol: Nikolai Gogol is one of my personal favorite authors, due to the orthodox plots that contain unrealistic circumstances and mysticism. “The Nose” is one of his short stories touching such topics as society and class, identity, and somewhat olfactory perception, which focuses on appearance and identity perception.
  3. “Mumu” by Ivan S. Turgenev: This story of a dog named Mumu and its rescuer Gerasim portrays the theme of cruelty of the Russian empire. The brutal serfdom of Gerasim is represented through his friendship with his dog throughout the story. Fun fact! “Mumu” was written while Turgenev was imprisoned for writing an obituary for Nikolai Gogol.
  4. “The Conversation Between the Drunk Man and the Sober Imp” by Anton Chekhov: In this piece Chekhov writes about a conversation between a man and an imp. The imp is worried that people are already spoiled creatures even without the influence of imps.

March: Small Press Month is Upon Us

BY MADDIE SCHMIDT madelyn.schmidt@go.mnstate.edu

March is Small Press Month! What is Small Press Month, you ask? Small Press Month is a way to celebrate publishers and authors around the world. It aims to highlight small publishing houses themselves, as well as the various writers they represent.

What is unique about small presses?

Small presses often work with a diverse, unique array of writers, working to publish those literary voices that big publishers won’t. People who work at small publishing houses are passionate and driven about the work they do. They care about literature, and they care about featuring bold, exceptional writers. 

These independent publishers are essential for writers; writers don’t have to compete against every other wanna-be author and rely on big publishing houses anymore. Indie presses provide so many more avenues to get your book published. Plus, small presses can take risks with what they publish, trying new things and letting creativity shape their decisions. 

How was Small Press Month started?

Small Press Month was invented by two companies in 1996: New York City-based Small Press Center and California-based Publishers Marketing Association. Their intention in creating this celebratory event was to highlight small presses around the world and advocate for their work in the face of the traditional big publishing houses. They wanted to encourage small publishers to keep doing what they’re doing, fighting for their unique work to be read. According to daysoftheyear.com, “It takes courage and strength of spirit to stand up and publish in the face of the large publishers.”

How can you celebrate Small Press Month?

Local libraries and bookstores often create displays of small press books during Small Press Month. Check out or buy these books to support indie presses and their authors. You can also visit bookstores of small presses, like the Milkweed Editions bookstore located in Minneapolis, MN. You could attend this event at Dream Haven Books and Comics (Minneapolis) on March 19 to learn about how a small press runs. 

Or, right from the comfort of your home or favorite coffee shop, you can check out websites of small presses and order their books online to support them. I would suggest Graywolf Press, Coffee House Press, New Rivers Press, or Grove Atlantic, just to name a few.

Small Press Distribution, New Rivers Press’s very own book distributor, is also a great way to find and acquire small press books.

Additionally, you should follow New Rivers Press on social media (@newriverspress) to see our interns’ favorite small presses and small press books, which will be featured throughout March.

Some of my favorite small press books

  • Into the Sun by Deni Ellis Béchard, published by Milkweed Editions
  • Deep Calls to Deep by Jane Medved, published by New Rivers Press
  • The Sarah Book by Scott McClanahan, published by Tyrant Books
  • History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund, published by Grove Atlantic
  • Nighttime on the Other Side of Everything by Sarah Kobrinsky, published by New Rivers Press

*references used to write this blog post: https://www.daysoftheyear.com/days/small-press-month/, https://www.tckpublishing.com/complete-guide-to-small-press-publishing-for-writers/, other links included in body text

My Favorite Book Series as a Child

BY KATELYN MARTINSON

I’ve always been a bit of a bookworm and never passed up a chance to read as a child. I can remember the excitement I felt each time I was able to visit the library and get lost in new worlds. Choosing my five favorite book series that I loved when I was younger was NOT easy and took much time and consideration. That being said, here is my list of books (in no particular order). Hopefully some of your favorites made the list!

1. Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park: Junie B. Jones is a series mixed with humor and sass that tags along with the main character at the start of kindergarten. Throughout the series, Junie B. must face the highs and lows of not only kindergarten and elementary school, but also events like not being an only child anymore. Told from Junie’s perspective, it’s a classic that doesn’t disappoint.

2. Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne: In this exciting series, siblings Jack (8) and Annie (7) discover a treehouse near their home. This isn’t just any old treehouse though. It’s a treehouse that teleports the siblings to different places and historical periods. For each adventure, they are sent around the globe and face challenges that keep readers on their toes.

3. Katie Kazoo, Switcheroo by Nancy E. Krulik: In this series, Katie is an ordinary third grader who wishes on a star to be anyone else. Well, she finds out that wishes really do come true. When the magic wind blows, she switches bodies with someone else and must find a way to switch things back.

4. Dear Dumb Diary by Jim Benton: This series follows the main character Jamie Kelly who begins writing in a diary after finding her grandmother’s. With humor and wit on every page, readers get to follow Jamie on her journey through middle school and all the eventful moments that follow.

5. Dear America by Multiple Authors: Dear America is a series written in the form of diary entries from young women living during major events or time periods in American history. These events and time periods include colonialism all the way to World War II. This collection of historical fiction hooks you from the beginning and lets you feel as if you’re experiencing the moments yourself.

Free Comic Book Day and The Growing Legitimacy of Comic Books as Literature

“I just don’t have time for books anymore.”

 
If you’re a working adult, or even just a busy person of indeterminate age, you may have heard this sentiment among your peers. Maybe even you have slipped into that tenebrific bookless existence. I am here to offer a solution you may not have considered before: graphic novels.

This Saturday, May 5th, is Free Comic Book Day, an event created in 2002 in order to celebrate and increase the visibility of independent comic sellers across the United States. Various comic publishers release special 1-issue samples for comic shops to give away on Free Comic Book Day. Series such as The Avengers, Tank Girl, Riverdale and many others are represented on the list of this year’s free comic samples. If you’ve ever been interested in the world of comics, but had no idea where to start, Free Comic Book Day could be an excellent, low-risk opportunity for you to make your entrance. Locally, businesses such as Paradox Comics and Cards and Comic Junction are joining in on the festivities, but for a list of participating businesses in your area, or for more information on the event, you can visit the official Free Comic Book Day website.

Maus, the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize.

There is something of a stigma surrounding comics and graphic novels. Their ample use of images rings in people minds as akin to childish picture-books. Much like cartoons, comics and graphic novels suffer from the assumption that only children can, or should, enjoy them. While children certainly enjoy reading comic books, and an ample supply of the comics on the market are meant for children, there is also a thriving market of comic stories meant to be relevant to adults. When it comes to comic books for adults, the thought is that with fewer words per page, this makes graphic novel reading easier and thus less fulfilling than reading a full prose novel. Additionally, there exists and undesirable stereotype about the kind of adult who reads comic books: that of an obsessive, dysfunctional, child-like adult. Let’s banish all of these misconceptions from our minds. Just as there is traditional literature of every genre for every age, so too, are there impactful comics for everyone of any background.

Hugo-Award Winning Graphic Novel: Saga

Comic books (as well as their Eastern counterpart, called manga/manhwa) have been making strides recently both in widespread popularity and in credibility as a legitimate form of art and storytelling. In 1992, the historical memoir graphic novel Maus, became the first graphic novel to win the Pulitzer Prize. As a result, it is often read alongside other historical literature in classrooms around the country. The first volume of Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples’ Saga series, a provocative space opera with elements of fantasy, won a Hugo Award in 2013.

In 2009, five comic book artists had their artwork displayed at the Louvre in Paris as a part of a special exhibit titled “The Louvre invites the Comics“. Among the participating artists was Hirohiko Araki of Japan, the mangaka (comic book artist) who created the internationally acclaimed manga series Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.

Illustration by comic artist Hirohiko Araki, whose art has been featured in the Louvre.

As we can see, comics, manga, and graphic novels have continuously proven their legitimacy as a media for art and storytelling. They can offer a fulfilling reading experience for people of any age, often with a smaller time commitment. As a visual medium, graphic novels are distinctly poised to enrich the experience of stories in which world-building or character nuance is key. The novel’s artwork allows the author’s vision to be communicated in the truest way. There exist many comic book adaptations of already existing classic or acclaimed literature. Here is a list of 5 graphic novels based off your favorite stories to help get you break into the world of comics.

 


wrinkle-in-time-coverA Wrinkle In Time

Adapted by Hope Larson / Based on Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time
Grahic Novel – Monochrome / Sci-Fi, Adventure
Published by Margaret Ferguson Books

Many Americans remember A Wrinkle in Time as “that confusing sci-fi book” from their middle school English class days. You may have had the chance to revisit this story with the recently released live action adaptation. If you just can’t get enough, pick up a copy of Hope Larson’s A Wrinkle in Time and see how the medium of the graphic novel has transformed this familiar yet delightfully strange story.


3119150Emma

Adapted by Kaoru Mori (writing & art) / Based on Jane Austin’s Emma
Manga – Black and White / Historical Fiction, Romance
Published by Yen Press

In Japan, comic books are called manga, and have developed their own iconic look and conventions for telling stories.  They are marked by their unique art style (sometimes also referred to as “anime style,” after their animated, and more widely known equivalent) their inventive use of paneling and emotive character expression.

While I have not personally read this adaptation of Emma, I have read Mori’s other work, A Bride’s Story, a collection of stories from the perspective of different women in the historical Middle East and Central Asia. Mori’s artistic attention to detail, especially in clothes and home decor is astounding and her nuance in character development make her perfectly suited to adapting this classic novel.

Note: read from left to right, as per the original layout in the Japanese language.

 


max-ride-coverMaximum Ride

Adapted by Narae Lee (story & art) / Based on James Patterson’s Maximum Ride series
Manga – Black and White / Urban Fantasy, Action
Published by Yen Press

For the thrill junkie, check out Narae Lee’s adaptation of James Patterson’s wildly popular Maximum Ride series. The story centers around a “flock” of children all genetically enhanced with wings and other abilities, as they evade the cruel and shadowy organization that made them that way. I personally think that the fast-paced nature of the story and the fantastic details of the plot lend themselves better to a graphic novel than a traditional book. For that reason, this manga series is, in my opinion, the best way to experience the Maximum Ride saga.

 


lastunicorn_tpb_cvrThe Last Unicorn

Adapted by Peter B. Gillis (story) Renae De Liz (art) & Peter Dillion (art)
Based on Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn
Fantasy
Graphic Novel / Color
Published by Idea & Design Works LLC

You may take on look at that word “unicorn” and conjure up notions of silly, girlish, fantasies swathed in pink. Nevertheless, you will find something a fair bit more nuanced and mature in The Last Unicorn, though no less pretty to look at. This story feels equal parts folk and fairytale, and the art style of the graphic novel adaptation does an excellent job evoking the unnerving yet alluring nature of both. The story revolves around the eponymous last unicorn as she leaves her forest to search for her kin, rumored to be missing by malicious means. She is joined by a clumsy magician and courageous bar maid as they forge into the territory of the ruthless King Haggard in order to discover the truth.

 

 


Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Adapted by Andy Seto (story & art)
Based on The Iron-Crane Pentology by Wang Dulu
Historical Fantasy, Wuxia (Martial Arts Action Adventure), Romance
Manhua / Color
Published by Comics One

You may not have known that director Ang Lee’s year-2000 award-winning martial arts epic was based upon a series of novels dubbed the Iron-Crane Pentology. Or that it was further adapted into a gorgeously illustrated manhua (Chinese graphic novel) series. Inspired in combination by the original novel series and the movie, this adaptation of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, offers an action-packed, drama-filled saga set in a fantastical interpretation of historical China surrounding the wielders of  the legendary sword, Green Destiny, and those who would seek to steal or destroy it.


Originally posted May 3, 2018
Written by Mikaila Norman