An inspired anthem for the next generation—a remarkable poetry debut.

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CALL US WHAT WE CARRY

POEMS

Poems for teenagers and adults that cast a scrutinizing eye on United States history and current events while being hopeful about the future.

Gorman’s opening poem, “Ship’s Manifest,” lays out her intentions: “This book is a message in a bottle. / This book is a letter. / This book does not let up. / This book is awake. / This book is a wake. / For what is a record but a reckoning?” Gorman delivers subtle turns of phrase alongside playful yet purposeful punning. The book tackles grief without succumbing to melancholy. It earnestly charts the challenges its collective “we” must navigate, including mask mandates and Covid-19 restrictions; social isolation; the environmental negligence of past generations; and the civil unrest following the killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. A “dark girl” dreams and skillfully steers the collective “we” point of view in these poems, which marks a sea change in the United States and, subsequently, in contemporary American poetry. Mostly, the collective “we” point of view adheres. Occasionally it reads as monotonous or prosaic. But variation exists in the diversity of concrete or visual poems—shaped on the page to look like flags, whales, buildings, and text bubbles—and the intricate range of people, generational insights, and historical footnotes populating the pages. The collection overflows with teachable moments you can imagine quoted at graduation ceremonies and special events for years to come. It’s not a book to be read in one sitting but to be savored and revisited. By the time readers are finished, they’ll have discovered Lucille Clifton, Don Mee Choi, M. NourbeSe Philip, and a dizzying host of poets and thinkers that inspired these verses. The poems don’t preen to prove their intelligence; rather, they’re illuminated by it. Gorman’s impulse to enlighten readers rather than exclude them is the book’s guiding force. With generosity and care, Gorman takes the role of the poet seriously: “The poet transcends 'telling' or 'performing' a story & / instead remembers it, touches, tastes, traps its vastness.”

An inspired anthem for the next generation—a remarkable poetry debut.

Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-46506-6

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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Who tells your story? Williams illuminates why women needed to be in the room where, and when, it’s written.

THE DICTIONARY OF LOST WORDS

The Herculean efforts required to assemble the Oxford English Dictionary are retold, this time from a fictionalized, distaff point of view, in Williams’ debut novel.

Esme Nicoll, the motherless young daughter of a lexicographer working in the Scriptorium—in reality, a garden shed in Oxford where a team led by James Murray, one of the OED’s editors, toiled—accompanies her father to work frequently. The rigor and passion with which the project is managed is apparent to the sensitive and curious Esme, as is the fact that the editorial team of men labors under the influence of Victorian-era mores. Esme begins a clandestine operation to rescue words which have been overlooked or intentionally omitted from the epic dictionary. Her childhood undertaking becomes a lifelong endeavor, and her efforts to validate the words which flew under the (not yet invented) radar of the OED gatekeepers gain traction at the same time the women’s suffrage movement fructifies in England. The looming specter of World War I lends tension to Esme’s personal saga while a disparate cast of secondary characters adds pathos and depth. Underlying this panoramic account are lexicographical and philosophical interrogatives: Who owns language, does language reflect or affect, who chooses what is appropriate, why is one meaning worthier than another, what happens when a word mutates in meaning? (For example, the talismanic word first salvaged by Esme, bondmaid, pops up with capricious irregularity and amorphous meaning throughout the lengthy narrative.) Williams provides readers with detailed background and biographical information pointing to extensive research about the OED and its editors, many of whom appear as characters in Esme’s life. The result is a satisfying amalgam of truth and historical fiction.

Who tells your story? Williams illuminates why women needed to be in the room where, and when, it’s written.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-16019-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

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THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY

An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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