An American Marriage
I was really dazzled by Tayari Jones’s new novel An American Marriage, which tells the story of an African-American family whose lives take a catastrophic turn from which there is no recovery as a consequence of the inherent racism in the American justice system. In some ways, this novel bookends Jesmyn Ward’s 2017 National Book Award-winning novel Sing, Unburied, Sing, which also tells the story of an African-American family whose lives are shredded by the justice system. Ward’s novel is a multigenerational history studded with many familiar tropes of poverty and drug addiction, while An American Marriage is a contemporary story about an upwardly-mobile, prosperous couple, told in the alternating voices of the two main characters, both in straightforward narrative and in their letters to each other. Jones makes our racist justice system not so much the subject of her novel as it is the deadly, poisonous atmosphere that everyone must breathe.
– Katharine Weber
Richard L. Thomas Visiting Professor of Creative Writing and Editor-at-Large at the Kenyon Review
You Play the Girl
Carina Chocano is a writer in Los Angeles who has written for Vogue, the New York Times Magazine, Wired and others. Her first collection of essays, You Play the Girl: On Playboy Bunnies, Stepford Wives, Train Wrecks, & Other Mixed Messages is a funny, intimate portrait of what it’s like to grow up surrounded by the stories of other girls, from books to TV shows to movies. Her experience is personal and universal, and Chocano smoothly taps in to how we process the characters all around us. Her pop culture references mixed with vignettes from her childhood and anxieties about raising her daughter force us to trust her and to remember to trust ourselves. From Alice in Wonderland to “Masters of Sex” and “The Bachelor,” Chocano helps us realize why we are the way we are.
– Sabrina Greene ’18
Kenyon Review Intern
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
Mary Roach is a journalist who writes about morose subject matters with a sense of glee and deft skill. Her non-fiction work is crafted with a dry sense of humor and light-hearted desire for knowledge. Stiff: the Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, Roach’s first book, explores what happens to cadavers after they have been donated to the sciences. Roach takes her readers everywhere from the infamous “body farm” at the University of Tennessee to a plastic surgery seminar. The work features insightful anecdotes from those involved in the forensic sciences and a compact history of the cadaver ‘“trade.”
– Bailey Blaker ’18
Kenyon Review Associate