Issue 1.1

‘Constructing a Nervous System: A Memoir’ by Margo Jefferson

  PANTHEON, APRIL 2022, 208 PP. Titling a book can be a tall order —finding the perfect, concise combination of words that announces your aim to an audience and entices them to read it. Margo Jefferson’s latest electrifying work of nonfiction, Constructing a Nervous System, is superbly titled. A nervous system, of course, is the part of an organism that processes stimuli, then sends signals that allow the organism to respond. As an acclaimed critic,

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Three Poems by Joy Ladin

Four Seasons     2020-2021 Three owls hoot and answer the last full moon of a year of love and terror. * Heavy spring rain. No matter who wraps them, my mother’s legs keep weeping. * For the first time this summer, I’m not wrong when I hear the sound of water. * Wind in the branches, someone’s mother calling, someone else’s childhood skipping from yard to yard. Disability Time to get used to wearing mortality

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‘The Right to Sex: Feminism in the Twenty-First Century’ by Amia Srinivasan

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, September 2021, 276 PP To what extent is sexual desire innate? It’s a tricky question for science to answer, given the difficulties of disentangling a sexually mature person from their social influences. (As the British neuroscientist Gina Rippon points out, gendered socialization physically changes the brain.) Attempts to control for socialization—in the comparison of sexual preferences across cultures, in the analysis of genes—can be ethically fraught and are largely inconclusive. The

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‘Patricia Highsmith: Her Diaries and Notebooks, 1941–1995’; edited by Anna von Planta

Liveright, November 2021, 1024 pp. Patricia Highsmith’s novels—often psychological thrillers with queer themes—were a master class in the twisted human emotions that lurk beneath the surface of social respectability. A talented painter and illustrator, she often alerted readers to the hidden malevolence of her characters with a simple, visual detail. Architect Guy Haines spots a debonair stranger on the train with “a huge pimple in the exact center of his forehead” on the first page

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‘The Swimmers’ by Julie Otsuka

Knopf, March 2022, 192 pp. Julie Otsuka’s third novel, The Swimmers, is not about swimming, however it might try to make you believe that it is. Otsuka, award-winning writer of The Buddha in the Attic and When the Emperor Was Divine, takes us to an underground swimming club whose members operate with a near-religious reverence. The first section of the book, “The Underground Pool,” is told by a collective voice. We, the devotees. Their routine

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‘Misogynoir Transformed: Black Women’s Digital Resistance’ by Moya Bailey

NYU PRESS, MAY 2021, 248 PP. When Moya Bailey—now an associate professor of communication studies at Northwestern University—first coined the term misogynoir in 2008, she was a grad student investigating how representations of Black women in popular culture influence their treatment in society and medicine. “It was in writing my dissertation that I landed on the word ‘misogynoir’ to describe the particular kind of venom directed at Black women through negative representations in the media,”

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‘Manywhere: Stories’ by Morgan Thomas

MCD January 2022, 224 pp. The dedication of Morgan Thomas’s debut fiction collection Manywhere reads, “For Bea, who introduced me to Frank, and for anyone who’s gone looking for themselves in the archives.” That spirit of searching drives this keen and coruscating set of nine short stories centered on Southern queer and genderqueer people, all of them pursuing or creating traces of themselves in history and myth, lore and legacy. The word archive in the

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Please Miss: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Penis’ by Grace Lavery

  Seal Press, February 2022, 304 pp I once saw Grace Lavery do a reading—more like what comedians call a tight five—and it killed. The text of that performance is in Please Miss, but it didn’t work for me on the page. I wanted to love this book but didn’t. And so I find myself in the awkward position of having to explain my mixed reactions to a book by a trans sister, one whose

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‘Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You’ by Big Thief

4AD, FEBRUARY 2022 The title of Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You, Big Thief’s fifth studio album, is a phrase which asks to be read twice. Appropriately, it has two births: the lyric first appeared on the track “anything,” off frontwoman Adrianne Lenker’s solo album songs. The transcendental universe of Lenker’s songwriting is our own: one in which the self is synonymous with the other and the atemporal world. Sonically, all of the

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