Carrie joined EHBC not long after uncoiling from her MFA in Writing program at Pacific University. When she’s not at the store, she’s most likely hunkering over a poem she’s trying to birth into the world, bouncing between her three school-aged boys, or wandering an off-beat trail without a cellphone. A suffering idealist, Carrie hopes to read most of the books in the world, with a special bias toward writers of color, poets, feminists, and mystics.
On the eve of the American Civil War, Elizabeth Packard’s husband commits her to an Illinois insane asylum for her independence of thought regarding women's equality. Separated from her six beloved children and determined to prove her sanity and secure her own release, Elizabeth begins to observe the mental institution with scrutiny as she works to write her way out of confinement. This book gives a scathing account of an early activist for women’s rights; it's a story that shocked, enraged, and inspired me. Although I felt the author skimmed much too easily over the boiling system of injustices surrounding Black Americans during these very years, Kate Moore has nonetheless told an important story that thoroughly absorbed my attention. ~ Carrie
What a strange and alluring novel, set in 1878 Germany. Although it is centered on a mother's deep grief after three of her children are swept away by a wave in the Nordsee, the story also acts as a tribute to the desires and tenuous bonds of women trying to uphold one another: the bereaved mother, Lotte; a young girl, Tilli, who will birth a child under the care of nuns at the Home for Pregnant Girls; and Sabine, a seamstress at the traveling Zirkus. Hegi moved me with her maternal imagery, religious iconography and her depiction of relationships formed in times of desperate need.
This book is a celebration. Abdurraqib writes as if he’s dancing his own line on Soul Train. He writes artfully, and clearly revels in the sheer freedom of his artistry and skill. He turns a critical eye on white America for trying to pimp out the genius of Black performers such as Aretha Franklin, Don Shirley, Mike Tyson, Whitney Houston, and others. Abdurraqib joins in the dance, focuses on the movements of his Black partners in art, dances through both anguish and delight, and ultimately “shows out” the power and autonomous glory of Black performance. Stay for the ending! ~ Carrie
After her parents move back to Korea during her teenage years, Eun Ji stays in California with her brother, never opening the letters her mother sends. This memoir explores Koh’s complicated longing for her mother, her Korean identity and family history, and the mode of language as the often tenuous and futile way we try to connect with those we love most. Koh, first a poet, is subtle and skillful as a memoirist. She lets readers see her intimate world by including a few photocopies of her mother’s letters. This book touches pain with a compassionate hand, transforming it into love. ~ Carrie
This novel slowly won my heart. I stayed with it because its premise captivated my attention: within a refugee camp in Sudan, Saba adjusts to camp life with her brother and mother after escaping the Ethiopian-Eritrean conflict. Although I was especially intrigued by “the need for confinement within a confined camp, for exile within exile,” I was also touched by how tenderly Saba cares for her brother (who cannot speak), navigates her own desires to become a doctor, and finally walks inevitably into womanhood. ~ Carrie
Victoria Chang's collection of poems is an intimate, original elegy from a daughter to her mother. In mourning, she lays to rest the many other things that died alongside her mother: a sense of home, the dress her mother wore, the blame she has carried as a daughter. Even the poet, a mother herself, watches her own selfhood die. I read Obit during a marathon of reading poetry books, and this one is a stand-out. I was particularly struck by Chang's emotional integrity, the cohesiveness of this collection, and how her precision of language and form cuts to the heart. ~ Carrie
“You cannot drink poetry,” Diaz writes. In this second collection of her poems, she celebrates and longs for the physical body of a lover as well as the body of the earth—its water in particular. These are ecological, culturally rich, incredibly human poems, binding us to our planet with raw and intricate lyricism.
Winner of the 2020 National Book Award in literature for young people, Callender’s beautiful novel handles grief, identity, and friendship with astounding warmth and tenderness.They set the story in the Louisiana bayou, populated with complex, believable characters. I love that the book does not shy away from topics of racism, homophobia, and death, in a way that will nurture and give courage to middle grade readers. Ages 8-12. ~ Carrie
At the trial of God, we will ask: why did you allow all this? / And the answer will be an echo: why did you allow all this? In an occupied territory during political unrest, villagers witness the killing of a young boy by soldiers. In the aftermath, every townsperson suddenly goes deaf. Through this parable in poems, Kaminsky asks us to consider collective silence and activism in the face of political violence. Urgent and tender, this book is a testament to why we need to keep making poetry. ~ Carrie
Lyrically written as a memoir-letter from Coates to his son, this book reflects on the author’s experience as a Black man in America. He considers the significance of being in his body—the griefs, dangers, and deep hope born from struggle. Intimate, sobering, and charged with historical significance, Coates’s book is an important voice in today's conversations about anti-racism. This is a book to read and then hand to the adults and teenagers in your life. ~ Carrie
If you've spent time in indie bookstores during the past few years, you have likely seenBraiding Sweetgrass root itself firmly onto the bestseller table for months on end. Kimmerer accurately describes her book as “an intertwining of science, spirit, and story.” I felt as if I was curled by a fire every time I read another chapter, listening to the bounty of Kimmerer's ecological wisdom, in a space with no fleeting urgency, only an earnest invitation to join her in gestures of knowledge, reciprocity, and gratitude toward our shared planet. My copy is thoroughly marked up. I hope Braiding Sweetgrass will echo across the earth for ages to come. ~ Carrie