Snakes in the Church

Book review: Salvation on Sand Mountain “Snake handling didn’t originate back in the hills somewhere. It started when people came down from the hills to discover they were surrounded by a hostile and spiritually dead culture.” At some point last year, I read an article, I think either about a preacher getting arrested or else bitten and killed, and I learned about the Southern Pentecostal groups that interpret a … Continue reading Snakes in the Church

An American’s Insights into Russia, 1995-2005-2015

Book review: Bears in the Streets, by Lisa Dickey No fewer than six people in six different cities (and four different time zones) had informed me that this is what Americans think. “Bears in the streets,” I realized, was the apparently ubiquitous shorthand for the Russians’ feeling that the West doesn’t take them seriously enough – that we think they’re primitive or backward. Lifelong Russophile Lisa … Continue reading An American’s Insights into Russia, 1995-2005-2015

Jihad, Choices, and Fearless Journalism

Book review: I Was Told to Come Alone, by Souad Mekhennet Sometimes a reporter is simply lucky enough to pick the right restaurant for tea. That’s one way journalist Souad Mekhennet, a contributor to the New York Times and Washington Post, among others, and a veritable force in modern journalism, describes her experience in 2001, listening in on conversations of the regulars in a Muslim neighborhood in Hamburg. Some of … Continue reading Jihad, Choices, and Fearless Journalism

All About Eddie

Book review: Believe Me, by Eddie Izzard “I was a bit bonkers. But good bonkers. There is a difference.” Eddie Izzard is a beloved British comedian, actor, activist and marathon runner. He’s also known, for better or for worse, for being a proud transvestite. I say for better or for worse because as he explains in his new memoir Believe Me, whatever he chooses to wear is only a … Continue reading All About Eddie

Roxane Gay on Hunger in Its Many Forms

Book review: Hunger, by Roxane Gay The story of my body is not a story of triumph. This is not a weight-loss memoir. There will be no picture of a thin version of me, my slender body emblazoned across this book’s cover, with me standing in one leg of my former, fatter self’s jeans. This is not a book that will offer motivation. I don’t … Continue reading Roxane Gay on Hunger in Its Many Forms

Behind-the-Scenes Glimpses into the Mind of David Sedaris

Book review: Theft by Finding, by David Sedaris “In order to record your life, you sort of need to live it. Not at your desk, but beyond it. Out in the world where it’s so beautiful and complex and painful that sometimes you just need to sit down and write about it.” David Sedaris, beloved humorist and essayist known for his dry, witty takes on the absurdities … Continue reading Behind-the-Scenes Glimpses into the Mind of David Sedaris

Royals to Refugees: Roots of an Afghan Family

Book review: Crossing the River Kabul, by Kevin McLean Author Kevin McLean adopts the voice of Baryalai Popal to tell his dramatic true story, spanning decades, of escaping Afghanistan in 1980 during the Russian invasion and war, and his eventual trek to America. Now an American citizen, Baryalai (called Bar) was born into one of the two historic royal families of Afghanistan. Bar’s family history and … Continue reading Royals to Refugees: Roots of an Afghan Family

Real Life Essays with a Little Raunch

Book review: We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, by Samantha Irby Samantha Irby is the Chicago-based blogger behind the popular, ultra-honest, hilariously confessional blog Bitches Gotta Eat. She opens her personal essay collection with a piece about how she’d fill out an application to be a Bachelorette contestant. It’s a pretty wonderful, hilarious introduction, and you can imagine what you’re in for with her from there. Her … Continue reading Real Life Essays with a Little Raunch

Love, Death and Feudalism in Old World Italy

Book review: Murder in Matera, by Helene Stapinski Author and journalist Helene Stapinski comes from a long family line of thieves and crooks, as detailed in her popular history of crime and theft in Jersey City (especially her family’s participation in it), Five Finger Discount. In her new memoir, Murder in Matera, Stapinski travels to the Basilicata region of southern Italy, attempting to track down and flesh out a … Continue reading Love, Death and Feudalism in Old World Italy

Hilarious Truths and Poetic Tales From a Priest’s Daughter

Book review: Priestdaddy, by Patricia Lockwood “We are congregating in the dining room of my father’s rectory in Kansas City, where I have returned to live with my parents after twelve long years away…We are penniless and we are exhausted, and in the grand human tradition, we have thrown ourselves on the mercy of the church, which exists for me on this earth in an unusually patriarchal form…It walks, … Continue reading Hilarious Truths and Poetic Tales From a Priest’s Daughter

Images of Apocalypse in the Everyday

Book review: The World is On Fire, by Joni Tevis Joni Tevis has a strange talent for writing essays that combine the most unlikely, unrelated subjects, skipping without any obvious connection between topics and somehow making it work as a coherent, emotional, interesting piece. I’ve never read anything quite like it before. As one example, she writes an essay contrasting her own struggles with fertility … Continue reading Images of Apocalypse in the Everyday