Daniel Zomparelli: In praise of three great first books

Misadventures by Nicholas Grider
A Strange Object Press
Short Fiction

Grider writes a book that is about form, about structure just as much as narrative. He takes characters who wouldn’t normally be able to tell a story but makes the narration work. His stories give you just enough clues to let you settle into the dark history of these people. Each story takes on a different form or structure, whether it be a series of “facts” or a series of men the narrator has dated, the form flips each time. A book that works like a home with so many trap doors. Or, to use a more fitting simile, the book reads as if you’ve been tied up to a chair, and have to untangle all the ropes tightly constricting your body. Erotic, complicated, dark, funny, and a well crafted book.

 

Prelude to Bruise by Saeed Jones
Coffee House Press
Poetry

In his first book of poetry, Saeed Jones throws you into the deep end. This book is a well-crafted engagement into the themes of race, gender and identity and he doesn’t let you look away. The language of abuse is sewn into the poems, dressed with surrealist images. This book is about what it is to go back to hurt: whether for pain or pleasure. It’s the way Jones’ complicates both of these types of hurt that make this a book I will return to, over and over again.

“His mouth bleeds when he starts
to sing, but—bless him—he licks

the taste of ruby from his teeth
and sings anyways.” (p. 72)

A smart, tough book that has you saying “YAAAAAAS” with more a’s than possible, and if you need a musical suggestion after reading this book, download “Hunger Pangs” by Cakes Da Killa. Dance it out.

 

When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid
Arsenal Pulp Press
Young-Adult Fiction

You’re a celebrity. The glamour of indulgence, expensive shoes, diamonds and the paparazzi follow you. Or, you’re a teen, feeling the blood rush from your face after being beaten with a skateboard. You’re a star down the runway. Or, you’re running from the kids chanting “faggot.” This book is a wonderful, energetic, sharp young adult fiction book that takes you into the life of a young kid with an imagination that he attempts to use to save his life. This book is all about what it takes to survive (and fail to survive) the homophobia and bullying of school and society. A powerful first book, an important book for young queer youth, and written like a burst of glitter gushing through an open wound. It’s both intense and fucking fierce.

Now go buy a fucking book, or three.

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