This review copy was purchased at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, MI
It seems odd to note that it's book review number 1 on June 28, but with the site pretty much being dormant for over a year, such is the case. I'm glad this is the first book though to get the treatment this year. While Roxane Gay is pretty well known, I'd suggest she is still an Emerging Writer. This title is a Limited Edition Autographed Copy, which is the type of thing we've always liked around the EWN. And it's really a great little (64 pages plus with no ruler in hand, I'd guess maybe 4.5 x 7") book with 5 essays and 2 interviews within. It's great because it's both well written AND it is a book that causes some thinking; I'd like to think especially so for a voracious reader.
It is set up very well too, with the end pieces both explaining something of Roxane's career to date as a published author in two very different ways. The interviews fit in nicely with a large part of what Roxane seems to want to say and the title essay, second to last piece in the book, really hammers home what I believe is the point of the book--as a publisher, as a reader, search for what Jynne Dilling Martin referred to in a conversation with Roxane as "urgent, unheard stories." Between the end cap essays and this one in particular, it's got me thinking about my own reading habits and how they've changed since 2000 and the inception of the EWN--these essays have me thinking that those changes have been in the right direction, just maybe not fast and harsh enough.
The first essay, "Two Damn Books: How I Got Here and Where I Want to Go," describes aspects of the publishing industry itself through Roxane's experiences publishing her first two books. One is with a smaller, independent publisher and the other with a much larger house. Working with both she notices their structure, who else they're publishing, who they have working for them--where there is diversity and where there isn't and how much more climbing still needs to be done. The last essay, "The Books That Made Me Who I Am: I Am the Product of Endless Books," goes through some of the books that have influenced Roxane as a writer. As she notes in the essay "A list could not contain me." While she's able to come up with many titles that had an effect on her, she's well aware that there are dozens, or probably hundreds, of others that did so as well. I love that she includes children's books on her list--something I don't think many other writers have been brave enough to do when asked to make up their own list.
Beyond giving her readers something to think about in regards to who and what they are reading and why, Roxane's essays and interviews also generously gives her readers dozens of authors and titles to read as suggestions. While I've enjoyed many of the authors or books named in these essays, there are many others that I'm now looking forward to--including more of Roxane's work.