Can you wax poetic about butts and still face the existential dread of the unvierse? Whoever said poetry was a dry, serious thing has A) never lived a day in their life and B) never read 2018 Whiting Award winner, Tommy Pico. Pico's JUNK is a book-length breakup poem but also an exploration of "Junk"—everything that falls in the gray area between utility and clutter, consumption and gluttony. JUNK's also just hella funny. And always, always true: "I want to make the opposite of death... / Ever bought / a McFlurry n shouted YR DEAD INSIDE but yew were pointing a finger at / yrslf and, horrified, yew screamed Ran home but halfway / home yew forgot what yew were doing and bought a pair of / sneaker boots at DSW or just me?"
Like using a lighter to open a wine bottle or the butt of a knife to shell a nut, Charles's feeld doesn't look to reclaim language but repurpose, speculate, create something new where standard English fails to represent the trans experience. The result is a mix of text-speak and Chaucerian English—visually minimal poems overflowing with puns. (Look at the title: feeld. Something grassy and pastoral? A weird past tense of felt?) Next to Tommy Pico's JUNK, this is my favorite poetry collection of 2018 and one of the most important books I've ever read. So smart. So funny. So necessary.
Everybody—not just men—should read this book! McBee, a trans man, explores all the doubts, questions, tensions, and social implications of masculinity as he trains for a boxing match in Madison Square Garden. I wish I had this book much sooner in my life because McBee puts into words the feelings I've never quite been able to articulate. (Definitely in the vein of Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts—part-theory, part-memoir.) So refreshing to look at "manliness" as this fluid, beautiful, loving thing in us all.
This is as dark a book as it is a funny one, and' it's hilarious. Full of WTF humor—y'all good with The Shape of Water movie?—and head-on confrontations with addiction, love, lust, and mental health, The Pisces is contemporary fiction at its best. A beautiful and necessary book—but one to take slow! Think of some Fifty Shades-type stuff but literary. Throw in some Zadie Smith-level philosophy and Lidia Yuknavitch's edge and you get this wonderful book!
So, as ridiculous as the back jacket copy may be, it does NO justice to how hilarious this book actually is. I've never laughed out loud as I have with Priestdaddy. Plus, all the tighty-whitey-wearing glory of Greg Lockwood (and the infinite quotability of Patricia's mother) aside, Patricia is an accomplished poet. If you're looking for something on-par with David Sedaris, can put up with sacrilege, and want a heartfelt exploration of family, I'd add this book to your list. And if you're still not convinced, read the section starting on p. 62, or the section starting on p. 124, or why not the whole book?
Jeannie Vanasco is a name you should remember. A contemporary classic—if you can call it that? Can I? I will! In bone-clean prose, Vanasco delivers one of the most powerful memoirs on mental health in contemporary lit. After her father's death—and the death of her sister...with the same name—Vanasco struggles with a newly developing diagnosis. Yes, this is a story of grief, but this is also a story of creation and healing. It's also a "how to" for your own writing, so there's that, too. (If you write, read this now; it's even more urgent.) Either way, read this beautiful book. I promise you'll feel so much—and never look at the letter "I" the same again.
When I went to see the movie in theaters, I only cried for about 3/4ths of the showing. This beautiful book broke my heart. Conley handles the impossibility of his Southern Baptist upbringing and his violent outing in college, and he does so with grace. Where I imagine others would reach to anger, Conley only wants to honor both himself and his family, as he tells his story of being pressured into attending gay conversion therapy--a practice still legal in 36 states. Gorgeous images. Incredible empathy. Subtle humor. This is a must-read for anyone interested in the intersection of queerness and faith.