Book Review- Coyote Songs by Gabino Iglesias

Okay my babes. Buckle in cause I’m about to go in on the homie Gabino Iglesias.

If you haven’t been with me for a while, Gabino is one of my favorite writers. I wrote a review on his book Zero Saints here. Open that in a new window and read it next.

SO lets GET INTO THIS. Coyote Songs* by Gabino Iglesias.

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[image description: a book cover with a weathered but beautiful Virgin Mary, the title is in yellow Coyote Songs below that the authors name, Gabino Iglesias.]
The short version is, holy fuck this is an amazing book. It is not for everyone. The TL:DR is coming at you.

It took me weeks to read this book. It isn’t the longest book nor does the frequent Spanish slow me down, it is so fucking rich and beautiful and bloody, it hurt me to read. Yes it is very violent, it is graphic, it is intimate and reaches into your heart and it is so beautifully written. It is fucking brutal and the kind of beating I crave as a reader.

Yeah I know some of y’all are gonna nope out because it isn’t fluffy and that is fine. For me, this type of hard hitting, gut punch writing is my escape.

This book is gorgeous. It is a bloody mouth I would kiss and be happy. I also want to note, if you are averse to needing to look up some Spanish it is also not for you. My Spanish isn’t awesome but, what I couldn’t figure out I looked up and it is worth it.

Gabino has such a masterful touch with the way he uses language. One of my personal favorite things in any type of literary art is when a writer can use use violence with grace. Gabino is excellent at this. There were a lot of times I just put it aside, to let the blood dry and I liked it.

This is gory but not mindless. The depth and care that obviously goes into the violence in Gabino’s work transcends the ew factor. I am not really a fan of silly gore in books. I’ve never been into gore for gore sake horror. I don’t really like the gross out because most of the time it is some shitty bullshit punchline and I don’t fuck with that. What I do like is the use of violence and gore etc in a manner that is both helpful to the story but also just beautifully done by itself.

For me, this is the same thing that allows me to visually enjoy certain filmmakers because I do love something terrible done with grace and beauty. This is also why, when I was a baby potato writer, my favorite writer was Nabokov. For me, the art of transcendence in the context of using your medium to lift the work out of the pile of shit is just magical.

Gabino’s work, especially in this book hits those buttons for me.

Gabino’s work in this book, is transcendental art.

I don’t want to give a lot of plot away because I hate that. I want to talk about a few of my favorite characters.

Alma the artist. I love all of these characters but she feels special to me. This is what got me:

She wanted to shine on the institutionalized racism that made this country a pain for anyone on the “wrong” side of Otherness.

Bruh. The entire passage is so real and so deep. Gabino has an ability to write women, diverse women so well. Yes, even women who have been violated or victims of violence there is that same grace he brings to the other violence in his work. These aren’t tropes. These aren’t vaginas meant to forward a dudes story. That is so important and I want other male writers to do this level of work.

In this book, the characters each have a pulse. They have heartbeats, they are weighty and meaty and some of them are awful.

The prose in general, goddamn. There are multiple times in the book where I thought to myself, you mother fucker that’s amazing. I just love a writer who makes me feel a little jealous. This is beautiful, writing full stop.

Lastly.

This book is a sterling example of why #ownvoices is important. Nobody wants to get dragged like Jeanine Cummins,  and really why read that when you can read this?

Listen. You can google #ownvoices and all the reasons why it is important. What I’m going to tell you is this. If you want publishing to be better, read better. Dassit. Read better and talk about what you’re reading.

Gabino Iglesias is a deeply important writer to me. The literary canon fucking needs him. I need him. Real talk, I revisit Zero Saints (THAT ENDING U BASTARD) often. Y’all. I’m a fan. I’m an admirer. I’m down for this human.

SO go check him out. He hustles hard and has a LOT of things to read so start at twitterkids. You won’t be sorry.

Book Review- On Being Human by Jennifer Pastiloff

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[image description: a photo of the book On Being Human: A Memoir of Waking up, Living Real, And Listening Hard
Okay buckle up babes.

If you’ve been here a while you’ll remember Beloved Jen from this post.  AND after months let’s get it going with my review.

At first blush, On Being Human*   and really Jen’s stuff probably doesn’t seem like my shit. Like I hate doing yoga and on the surface at first glance, nah. But, and if you remember from my last post I don’t recall how I got aquainted with Jen but, I’m so glad I did.

The thing I love about Jen and her book is that, it isn’t a blow sunshine up your ass type of book. In terms of memoir, I don’t really like the sunshiney redemption arcs. This book gives us an intimate look at and ride with her through a lot.

We go through death, pain, shame that ride, whew chile.

I love this book because it reflects a lot of the tone and emotion of things I’ve wanted to do in my own work. Less than 20 pages in, is where I got hooked.

“I have spent my whole life trying to hide who I was,”

Full disclosure, when I first got the book I very literally stopped on that paragraph on page 14 and put the book down for two weeks. That was me for so long. For years, I spent most of my energy beating myself with my shame(s). For me when I read memoir, there is frequently a moment like this, I have to put it down and exhale because for a second, I know the writer. I am them.

OKAY on to some nerdy shit.

In terms of memoir I have read them fairly widely. I prefer my memoir to be a little messy, not overly fancy. Jen uses a clarity of language that is plain enough to be very, I hate the word but it is very relatable. Unlike a lot of folks in the self helpy area of the world, Jen is not afraid to say fuck and mean it.

If you follow Jen on social media and you read the book, you know this is real. To steal half of one of her favorite phrases, it is no bullshit. I appreciate that both as a reader and as a writer. Often when folks reach a particular area of fame within their chosen area of the lit world, suddenly they aren’t the person who ever said fuck or shit or how they actually feel about anything.

There is a grace to Jen’s work that is honest and grounded. There is a LOT of woo in the world of self helpy, yoga stuff and this book is not that. There is a depth of exposed humanity that is why I like her so much both as a writer and as a human being. This is work you can hold on to.

This work is meaty and has flesh. It has tears and will probably give you some cries and some giggles. I think there are a lot of us who might see reflections of our own paths in life without the, aspirational aspect of a lot of this type of work that turns me off. Jen isn’t posturing as the person you want to be. In this work she’s showing us her heart and that is what I like.

So TL:DR this is a great fucking book. I will reread it again. I will continue to enjoy her work and humanity and sometimes, this is the best part sometimes, I think of that line from page 14 and I let out a breathe.

Neither of us has to be that person anymore and that is a beautiful thing. This book is about more than a glow up.

Read it. Get to know one of my favorite humans.

Next review we’ll be talking about another fave human of mine, Gabino Iglesias. Stay tuned babes!

Reprint-What is More Beautiful Than Beyonce?

This was originally printed in Roar magazine. I was solicited by Anna March to review There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce by Morgan Parker. Read about my experience with Anna March here. 

I will be writing a follow up to that soon. And about this review in particular.

 

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The short version of this review is- you should read this book. The work in There Are Things More Beautiful Than Beyonce is beautiful and immaculate, it is excellent work. Morgan Parker is an exciting and wonderful poet. Stick around for the long version.

I have a habit of yelling at things I like, especially writing I like. After the first poem, I put this book face down on my lap and started muttering to myself in public. Oh shit, first poem, okay, fine, just fucks me up fam. I had to take my time reading Morgan Parker’s beautiful collection because it felt private. I felt invaded and read to filth in the best kind of way.

I love poetry. Poetry for me is the highest kind of art. Poetry bleeds, it weeps, when it is good to me, it has a hard steady pulse and reaches inside me to rearrange things a little. Parker’s work in this book, is the type of art I dream about.

To say there are things more beautiful than Beyonce, is throwing a major gauntlet. Beyond the potential wrath of the Beyhive, what is more beautiful than Beyonce? What can be more beautiful than Beyonce? As I (or you) the reader enters into the little world of this book, we gon’ learn today.

I know my pussy is real good because they said so.

Poetry when it is good for me reaches in and starts grabbing. Words put together in ways that thrill me and pull me in tight to the work. Aesthetically, the way the poems are put together, I can hear breath in the spacing, silence where appropriate. The way Morgan has interwoven Blackness, beauty, sex, vice and desire gives her work a body, a pulse, a wet mouth, tears.  It is bodied and embodied. This is poetry that sees and loves my Black body and I am here for it.

Confuse the meanings

of castle and slum, exotic

and erotic.

When you get deeper into the book, settle into a comfortable rhythm, it’s easy to devour this book whole. I read it in a bus ride and read it again on my next bus ride. This isn’t overly fancy, poetryYou don’t need a stack of reference books and your lifeline on speed dial. This is accessible and but not easy. To be a Black poet who boldly and nakedly talks about Blackness, the beauty and the pain is by default not doing anything simple. Blackness is so varied and capturing nuance of being Black in America is no small thing.

We low hum of satisfaction. We is is is is is is is is

Touch, touch, shine, a little taste.

The level of skill it takes to use simple, easily understood imagery and keep the complexity and intricacy of the work intact and in this case, presented with dignified coolness is testament to both Morgan’s skill as a poet and the skill of the other people who worked on this book.  In terms of the things I as a reader crave, this book has it all.

I am hungry for myself.

As a reader, I am hungry for representation. I am in need of hearing a voice that could be my own, even if I can’t write poetry. Many of the poetry collections that are recommended to me, are absolutely lovely, but am not there. Being seen and heard, especially in the lit world is a rare thing that is more beautiful than Beyonce. Given the deleterious Whiteness of the poetry world, as a reader it can be difficult and hurtful to be invisible in the pages of poetry collections. To be seen and loved in the way this collection does, is wonderful.

What if I said I’m tired?

I am a writer and sometimes a poet. Real talk, I’m pissed off that I didn’t write this.  As an artist, one of the things I can freely admit to is a certain amount of peevishness when I read or see beautiful things that I did not create. I want to have birthed this beautiful, magical book. I want people like me, to read such a book and feel what I feel. Mind you, this is not a lasting peevishness. I’m not mad at Morgan Parker or Tin House, I just love it that much.

Do you think I could be a witch?

Can shine be caught like a fever?

Overall, Morgan Parker’s collection There are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce is more beautiful than Beyonce. The flesh and bone of this volume is thick as my thighs and solid. Morgan Parker’s voice is strong and sure and sad and gorgeous and drunk on wine and bodies and itself. I want to tell Morgan Parker, thank you. I want to hear her read these poems to me until I fall into the most satisfied of sleeps.  Read this book. Cherish it. Live with it in your heart.

Dear reader, I’m sure you noticed the bolded lines above. These are some of my favorite lines from this book. I didn’t attribute each poem because I’m kind of a weirdo and I want you to find them when you read this book. Because, you need to read this book.

~

And one last thing, I now have an official writer page over at Facebook. Come like it. Share it with your friends.