Multitudes of Identities in Multitudes of Stories: Emotional Empathy in Five-Carat Soul

In James McBride’s latest short story collection Five-Carat Soul, McBride tackles an era of history dominated by contentious social and racial dynamics through the a lens that humanizes the oppressed. Through each story, McBride reveals social truths about groups ranging from PhD students at Columbia University to war veterans to lower class African Americans in the wake of desegregation. Each story takes the reader through emotional, often heart-breaking encounters that demonstrate different pains of the human condition: love, trauma, injustice and acceptance, among others. Through his clear but poignant prose, McBride emulates the sort of rational and telling voices of historic authors whose literature exposed cultural norms, even if such norms were unflattering. His prose is didactic guised as charming, thus going beyond simply conveying the multiple personalities and experiences, but more broadly conveying an era of post-traumatic stress, whether it be racial, economic, political, or a hybrid of the three.

An excerpt from "everyone's a aliebn when ur a aliebn too"

An Alien Knows More About Me Than I Ever Will

Be it often or seldom, we are reminded just how ridiculous our society and morals are. We get sad for no reason, we get grumpy, we’re ungrateful when we have everything given to us and treat each other like garbage. Jonny Sun’s illustrated novel, Everyone’s a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too, is all about the weird ways of “humabns,” the concepts they’ve created and the way that they deal with feelings, fears and each other.


White Tears: Transcending Time

Hari Kunzru’s new novel White Tears takes the reader on a historical rollercoaster that weaves between the real and the surreal. A novel that comments on various dimensions of the race problem in America, White Tears transports both the novel’s protagonist, Seth, and its audience between contemporary New York City and Southern states under the oppression of Jim Crow. Kunzru skillfully navigates a complex novel with a plot that is not simply entertaining, but one that also carries an important message about the notions of culture and “post-racial America.”

The Wall Street Journal claims that “Kunzru can rival…any current novelist with the strength of his prose and imaginative blondness,” and indeed his latest novel proves this statement true. A Brooklyn native, Kunzru does an incredible job of painting the city in vivid shades of grit and romance. The first half of the novel, carried by the New York City setting, portrays a tangible realism that depicts the protagonists’ specious “struggling artist” identities.


Actually, No One Is OK

Darcie Wilder’s novel literally show me a healthy person is a constant yet broken inner monologue in which commas, periods and uppercase letters are scarce, while strangely specific bad memories, death and ex-boyfriends are abundant. There are no chapters, no coherent paragraphs and definitely no chronology. As it turns out, Darcie Wilder knew the recipe for the perfect book all along: all you need is the internet, a large helping of bad experiences, humor and — if you’re as deranged and edgy as Darcie Wilder — you can also kill grammar because in your scattered mind, there are no such thing as rules and organization. Through confusion and memory, literally show me a healthy person taught me many things, among them the fact that either I am already just as deranged as edgy as Wilder, or I will get there very very soon. The novel is meant to tell stories that will make the reader think either “This is weirdly specific and it sounds like something terrible to go through, yet here I am laughing,” or “Yeah that actually happened to me too and I thought I was the only one.” Each anecdote triggers different memories in different people, creating a highly intimate, roller coaster-like,  soul-finding journey for everyone.

exit west

Mohsin Hamid’s Novel Exit West Opens Doors to the Migrant Experience

Mohsin Hamid’s latest novel Exit West tells the compelling story of migrants Saeed and Nadia as they face the challenges of a nameless country in the midst of civil war. In fleeing their country, the couple passes through Greece, England and the United States and face literal and psychological obstacles on their way. Hamid successfully penned a novel regarding a pertinent topic with an anonymity that appeals to human experiences of abandonment and cultural detachment that explicate the migrant experience to his readers. Through simple but poignant prose, Hamid spins a tale of anxiety and hope that is equally engaging and humbling. Mohsin Hamid is an internationally bestselling author and essayist who is known for tackling topics that shake global social and political spheres.


American Anxiety in Saunders’s Novel Lincoln in the Bardo

Though many authors have tackled the character of Abraham Lincoln, few are able to dive into the complex psyche of one of America’s most beloved presidents like George Saunders. In his novel Lincoln in the Bardo, Saunders brilliantly captures a deeply emotional story between father and son with a balance of poise and comedy. The novel had potential to fall flat due to its unconventional structure, but Saunders’s risk-taking pays off and works to tell a truly unique and engaging narrative that certainly makes the novel one of Saunders’s best executed works to date. George Saunders is a renowned short story writer commended for tackling dystopian satire and straying from literary convention. A recipient of both the inaugural Folio Prize and the Story Prize for his tongue-curling cleverness and comical narratives, Saunders modestly embarked on the next milestone in his career by writing his first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, released February 14th, 2017.

Swing Time

Shall We Dance? Yes, but not Around Colonialism

As a longtime Zadie Smith fan, I began my journey into Swing Time, her latest novel, with a certain degree of expectation. I anticipated to be entertained, that there would be points where I laughed and, as a testament to the complexity of her writing, for there also to be moments in the book when I cried. I did not however, expect to feel intense irritation, almost to the point of hatred. The plot of Swing Time is effectively split into two. The first revolves around the childhood friendship of two girls tied together by their similar skin tones and mutual love of dance.

the vegetarian

Kulturkampf: Fiction Versus All We Hold Near and Dear

The day following Donald Trump’s election, protests broke out on college campuses across the country and Cornell was no exception. Students came together across campus to showcase their collective rage, terror and sadness. These sentiments are just; I shared all of them and questioned our country’s future alongside my classmates. Yet another question continued to nag at my mind: how detached from reality are we? Little effort is needed to recognize the political correctness on college campuses.