“Tides Advance, Tides Retreat,” Review of WATER LOG by Hugo Clemente

This review is published and owned by American Book Review. To read it in its entirety, please create an account with Project MUSE.

EXCERPT: Serene, seductive, buoyant, and seething in turn, Hugo Clemente’s Water Log is ever shifting and always beautiful, like the ocean that features as both character and landscape in this fragmented narrative. It has been called poetry, a novel, a love story, a travel log — and while it is these things, it’s also a celebration of the nomadic surfer’s lifestyle and a keen-eyed critique of those who inhabit and visit the Canary Islands.

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“Love Lies Large,” Review of LOVE WAR STORIES by Ivelisse Rodriguez

This review is published and owned by American Book Review. To read it in its entirety, please create an account with Project MUSE.

EXCERPT: In her debut collection, Ivelisse Rodriguez shows us that love and war do not exist as binary opposites—they are not even two sides of the same coin or any other cliché that points to a line, a division between the two. Love is war, an amorphous, shifting mass that stains forever what it does not consume.

Readers should mark that a Julia de Burgos quote opens the first story, and that is a clue to what follows. The famous Puerto Rican poet—champion of women and independence, disappointed so many times by love and lovers—will show up here and there throughout the pages that follow, an inspiration to the characters as well as Rodriguez herself. That several biographies trace a straight line from de Burgos’s heartache to her early death is lost on no one.

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“Hurt Like a Man,” Review of THE DOGS OF DETROIT by Brad Felver

This review is published and owned by American Book Review. To read it in its entirety, please create an account with Project MUSE.

EXCERPT: One phrase comes to mind again and again while reading Brad Felver’s story collection, The Dogs of Detroit: toxic masculinity.

Colleen Clemens, in her essay “What We Mean When We Say, ‘Toxic Masculinity'” for The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project (tolerance.org), asserts that the term refers to a gender-construct theory—that it does not label all men as violent or evil, but that it is a “dangerous brand of masculinity” that can reinforce or encourage violence as the only or best answer.

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“Off Track and the Climb Back,” Review of CATCH, RELEASE by Adrianne Harun

This review is published and owned by American Book Review. To read it in its entirety, please create an account with Project MUSE.

EXCERPT: What happens in the murky spaces between bright streets and crowded playgrounds? Where do the children go when no adult can bother to wonder; what do the adults get up to when grief, addiction, and sex stop up their senses and make them forget the roles they’re supposed to play?

Adrianne Harun shows us the answers in her third book, Catch, Release, a collection of short stories linked by her protagonists’ dark urges and unblinking shamelessness.

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“Groping Through the Fog,” Review of NOTES FROM THE FOG by Ben Marcus

This review is published and owned by American Book Review. To read it in its entirety, please create an account with Project MUSE.

EXCERPT: Folks don’t always know what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, what they’re supposed to be doing instead, and, moreover, how they’re supposed to feel about any of that. Ben Marcus’s collection Notes from the Fog seems to offer readers a variety of these existential crises—the author spreading out the brutal choices like a Vegas dealer fanning out cards—and while no one will really find clear answers to those questions or even much comfort in reading the stories, the collection’s narrators and speakers do function as grinning Pied Pipers who will dance everyone happily to hell.

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“On Giving and Forgiving,” Review of MY BEARD: MEMOIR STORIES by Sharon Doubiago

This review is published and owned by American Book Review. To read it in its entirety, please create an account with Project MUSE.

EXCERPT: Sharon Doubiago’s vibrant career as a poet, memoirist, teacher, and chronicler has most recently given readers My Beard: Memoir Stories, what her included biography calls “a memoir in the form of individual stories rather than the on-going narrative of traditional memoir.” Though the term “beard” calls to mind disguises—costume-shop props as well as pretended heterosexual relationships—Doubiago can’t be accused of hiding behind one in any of these remembered encounters. If anything, her accounts are painfully bare, raw in the sense that even with the balm of time and reflection, the reader can feel her frequent heartache and sometimes physical agony crackling outward from the pages.

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“In Memory of Exoskeletons”

Published by Memoryhouse Magazine, “Albeit” issue.

And there it goes—another shingle chipped off,
chiseled away this time by the righteous cliché of a baby’s stunned
laughter, and
in Trump’s America, I’m lying naked on the banks of a mosquito-clogged swamp
and the hungry bastards are full of malaria,
pink eye and mad cow disease.

He’s not my first nephew,
I wasn’t a great big sister, but watching my baby brother’s baby
shriek joy and kick fat legs is somehow brand new,
a sneaky tectonic shift
that moves everything in my life two disorienting inches to the left.
Vertigo.

I watched a Facebook video featuring a Sulcata tortoise
whose shell had been damaged in a house fire. Chunks missing,
mottled flesh exposed
to cruel breezes and sunshine, but do-gooders made him a 3-D
printed shell
and it seemed to do the trick.

I’ll have to watch less news, drink more, but Darwinism
will eventually claim me, soft and angry
wrapped in layers of beige cardigan sweaters that aren’t helping, and
by then I’ll probably
go so quietly.

“Stretching the Summer Harvest”

Published by Forever Young.

Summertime brings plenty to look forward to for Western New Yorkers—dips in Lake Erie, strolls through Delaware Park, visits to Canalside, and of course, trips to every nearby farmers’ market and U-Pick farm. But because the season never lasts long, sadness sometimes creeps in with all that fresh-picked sweetness. This year, save at least the tastes of summer by drying, freezing, and canning to bring a bit of summer into the colder months. 

Dry it

Drying fruits, herbs, and vegetables is a clever way to keep your favorite flavors shelf-stable for several weeks. Dried fruit can be eaten as a healthy snack, added to trail mixes and cereal, and baked into desserts. Dried tomatoes and peppers are tasty in soups and stews and can be rehydrated for other dishes. And who doesn’t want to stock their own spice cabinet?

It’s not necessary to buy expensive food dehydrators to dry your summer produce; all you need is an oven. Cut tomatoes and large peppers into quarters or eighths; leave smaller vegetables whole. Bake them on parchment paper in an oven set to 200 degrees for four to five hours, turning them every so often and checking for dryness. 

Herbs can be dried the same way or hung upside down. For the second method, pick or cut a handful of rosemary or thyme (or sage, parsley, or oregano), wrap the stems together with wire or twine, and hang the bouquet upside down in a cool, dry place. Keep out of direct sunlight. When the herbs are crispy to the touch, they’re ready. Take them down, crush or break them up, and store them in an air-tight container. 

Tip: Reuse glass baby food jars for an eco-friendly option.

Freeze it

Freezing is wonderful for food preservation, if you’ve got the space. There’s no greater comfort than pulling out a container of homemade spaghetti sauce in the middle of December, heating it up, and reliving the magic of summer tomatoes. Freezing is also a safe way to save soups, sauces, and stews that contain meat. 

No other food preservation method is easier. Put your fruit, jam, or sauce into a food-safe and air-tight container (no glass!), label it, and pop it in the freezer. To avoid freezer burn, make sure the food is wrapped or sealed tightly, without a lot of extra “air space” in the container. 

Tip: Freeze multiple small quantities instead of a few huge containers. They are easier to use and share, and you’ll cut down on thawing time. 

Can it

Save summer in a bottle by canning your own salsa, preserves, or pickles. Local produce (even from your own backyard) always tastes better than store-bought versions, and canned goods make perfect gifts, appropriate for any occasion. For an added personal touch, design your own labels. (“Peggy’s Pickles” will be a hit at Christmas, and “Sweet and Sassy Strawberry Jam” will be everyone’s favorite housewarming gift, guaranteed.)

When canning, it’s important to follow preparation guidelines, including temperatures, measurements, and cook times. Cutting corners can be dangerous; follow trusted recipes and do your research.

Tip: If you’re new to canning, cook one batch at a time, then check for proper seals, taste, set, and texture. That way, you can make any corrections necessary for a perfect second batch. 

The warm weather won’t last long, but with a little planning, the harvest can. This winter, when your friends and family members are pining for fresh raspberries or vine-ripe tomatoes, pop open a jar of summer and pass it around. 

“Tourist”

Published in Anti-Heroin Chic (heroinchic.weebly.com).

Bryant Park, a weekend in May, and I’m far from home, wearing small-town nerd hard in ballet flats and a discount camel coat. My host, a writer, has an appointment and alone, I approach this tiny patch of New York like it’s a tea party I’ve been invited to.

But it’s not, and I haven’t.

I turn into a café, or try to, its shopfront a funhouse maze of 90-degree glass. I run up against a wall, not a door, and bounce back into a businessman. “Good job,” he sneers, and cuts ahead of me. Inside, I order a coffee and moments later, spill it on my new coat. I rush back in, find the bathroom, splash too much water on the stain while someone bangs on the door. I leave for the second time, head into the park, thread my way through crowds of people who don’t look down or at each other, who swarm like ants from a kicked-over hill.

The sunshine is a liar and I shiver, the wet spot on my coat spreading up my shoulder. I spot another bathroom and duck inside, relieved to see hand dryers. I just get to the front of the line, feel the rush of warm air, when an attendant in a uniform yells, voice shrill, “You can’t be doing that in here, Miss!” Heads turn to stare, heat rushes to my face and I back out of the small building like I’ve been caught bathing in the sink.

Outside, I see a pigeon whose foot is caught in a scrap of thin plastic netting. It can barely walk, the injured foot curling in on itself like a tiny fist. I stare, helpless. I have nothing to trap it with, nowhere to take it if I did. I tell a woman pushing a garbage can, point to the area where I saw the pigeon. She says thank you like it’s a question and keeps walking.

The park is filling but I find an empty chair and sit down, alone but so exposed, hoping to hide in plain sight, and cry without sound.

Next to me sits a fat, shirtless man whose entire upper body, bald head too, is covered by a tattooed treasure map. Dotted blue lines cross and recross his skin, landmarks labeled. I want to stare but look away, too late. He sees me.

“Hi,” he says, more of a grunt than a word. He folds his hands on his belly, and I wonder how he can be warm enough. But he seems happy, cat like, with an eye open and then closed again, almost dozing.

I sniff. “Hello,” I say. Then I look back to the grass in front of me, wipe at my eyes.

He doesn’t say anything else and I don’t try to, either. We sit like that for ten minutes, maybe more. Until I’m done crying. I don’t turn my head but I know he is there, breathing slowly. From the corner of my eye I see his belly rise and fall.

Then, face almost dry, coat still wet, I stand. He opens an eye and tips his head, the movement barely perceptible. The eye closes again and I walk away.

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