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Valerie Stivers-Isakova
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Entries by Valerie Stivers-Isakova

Small Press Books to Watch in 2014 (AWP edition)

(0) Comments | Posted March 5, 2014 | 10:43 AM

My first AWP conference (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) is over, and never have I been in a nicer group of people. Writers, writing teachers and people who work for small presses are a supportive bunch, wearers of cozy scarves, attractive little glasses and a refreshing amount of non-fashion...

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Poetry for the Russophile: Paul Nemser's Taurus

(0) Comments | Posted January 28, 2014 | 6:01 PM

Here is a fabulous curiosity for the Russophile, and a new obsession of mine -- a book of poems, a first book, it looks like, called Taurus, by Paul Nemser, from New American Press, an organization whose editorial vision I've been appreciating lately. It takes place...

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10 Rules of Writing a Bad Review

(12) Comments | Posted January 10, 2014 | 9:53 AM

I've been thinking a lot lately about being mean in book reviews, or rather, how to strike a balance between honest and being fair, and if meaningful critique is worth doing in a small book-reviewing world where the de facto style seems to be politeness, encouragement and praise. And then,...

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Top 10 Best and Worst Books of 2013

(2) Comments | Posted December 23, 2013 | 8:23 PM

Welcome to my first end-of-year roundup. I have read a lot of good contemporary literature this year -- more than usual, because I've been doing some official reviewing -- though I don't claim to have an exhaustive sample. Still, if you are a reader of my blog, who...

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September Girls and Other Lost Treasures of YA Lit

(0) Comments | Posted December 3, 2013 | 2:56 PM

The launch of Lizzie Skurnick books, an imprint devoted to re-releasing weird, wonderful, lost YA novels (All of a Kind Family? Out of print!?!?) made me remember with a lurch of delight that there was a time when all YA was weird, or at least it...

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Difficult Men by Brett Martin -- Review

(1) Comments | Posted July 11, 2013 | 8:34 PM

I read Difficult Men with the binge-like intensity of discovering Deadwood on DVD -- in three days, to the neglect of other responsibilities -- which makes sense, since the book is the story of all my favorite shows in one, a look at the great '00s revolution, when...

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Reading It Now -- Assata: An Autobiography

(1) Comments | Posted May 6, 2013 | 4:57 PM

By odd coincidence, I was in  the middle of reading the autobiography of Assata Shakur last week when it was announced that she was being added to the FBI's 10 Most Wanted Terrorists list. HuffPost already has a wonderful story, which should be required reading for...

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Re-Reading George Saunders: The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil

(0) Comments | Posted March 27, 2013 | 1:10 PM

Fine artists have been putting garbage in the museum for 100 years, and it's now so pervasive as to be cliche, look at Chelsea, look at any Bienniale to see halls upon halls of re-purposed detritus. Artists can't look away from our epic belch of crap. So I'm...

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Review: Tenth of December, George Saunders

(0) Comments | Posted March 14, 2013 | 3:24 PM

There's an emerging tradition of consoling dystopias, though consolation is not their primary function. The Wire is one, and so is the fiction of George Saunders, in that both brilliantly lay bare just how fucked up are human systems, and in what particular ways.

If you are the type to...

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8 Best ('Worst') Mother-Daughter Memoirs

(11) Comments | Posted March 11, 2013 | 8:00 AM

Oh, the daughter-memoir, fraught thing. How do you write honestly about your mother when your mother is still alive, part of your life, and probably not going to appreciate the portrait?

Daughters who go on record tend to have truly crazy mothers (and even then, the mothers are often...

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Barbara Pym: The Other Jane Austen

(5) Comments | Posted February 21, 2013 | 5:42 PM

Barbara Pym is the thinking girl's romance writer, the only one I'm aware of, outside of Jane Austen, who hits that sweet spot of an utterly unsentimental romance, one which can be read 1,000 times and never become annoying.

I have spent quality time wondering why there aren't more books...

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Review: Lidia Yuknavitch's The Chronology of Water -- A Body Memoir Gone Viral

(0) Comments | Posted February 13, 2013 | 4:57 PM

"Viral" is a good meme for a memoir about the body, and seems appropriate for a small book published in 2011 that's still breaking 50,000 on Amazon, and keeps popping up on blogs and social media feeds. Lidia Yuknavitch's The Chronology of Water is the kind of book that people...

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