The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

I have a tremendous aversion to reading about torture. I can’t stand slasher flicks or brutality in movies either, particularly if it’s detailed. So I sweated and squirmed through the beginning of Colson Whitehead’s incredible new novel, The Underground Railroad, in which runaway slaves from an 1820s Georgia plantation are recaptured and subjected to unfathomably brutal, disgusting punishments. While I’d love to believe not every pre-civil-war plantation owner was a full-on sadistic psychopath, I have to wonder if the overseers—those hired to manage the enslaved men and women most directly—hadn’t self-selected for the job precisely because they were men capable of unflinching cruelty. Think

Excerpt from Kimmery's as-yet untitled novel (formerly known as Trauma Queen)

In honor of the first day of school, I'm including a snippet from my upcoming novel, which I'm hoping will resonate with anyone who has ever suffered a dysfunctional morning with their school-aged children. (That's everyone, right? Right??) This excerpt may or may not make it into the final version of the book, but I read it to my own children, and--not having mastered the concept of irony--they found it hilarious. Hope you enjoy. Disclaimer: This certainly would never occur at MY house... Downstairs, I hurriedly set out bowls, grabbed the milk, and examined the pantry for options with a decided lack of enthusiasm. I normally enjoyed being in the kitchen; it was a pleasant, light-filled room

Cheesie Mack is Cool in a Duel, by Steve Cotler

Note from Kimmery: All middle-grade books with boy protagonists are reviewed by my 10 year-old son, Alex. This book is about a boy named Cheesie Mack, and he and his sister are having a contest to see who has the most points by the end of the summer. Cheese’s sister’s name is June but Cheesie calls her Goon. To get points you have to make an embarrassing moment happen to your sister/brother. In camp, a border separates the boys side from the girls side. Cheesie and his best friend Georgie are in the 12 year old cabin when they’re only 10. Unfortunately, Kevin (Cheesie’s enemy) is in the same cabin. Kevin doesn't like him because he is Goon’s boyfriend. Also he is kind of a bully. Cheesie and

An Interview with Nadia Hashimi, author of A House Without Windows

Today, I'd like to introduce you to Nadia Hashimi, and her brilliant book, A House without Windows, which is the story of a woman accused of murder in Afghanistan. So let’s begin with a brief, brief, brief history of Afghanistan. Okay, I can see you convulsing in the grip of a torturous flashback to 9th grade World Civ, but hold up. Don't click away. I promise this is relevant; it will take 45 seconds to read and then you’ll be able to contribute semi-knowledgeably at dinner parties whenever somebody starts yammering on about the geopolitics of the Middle East. Afghanistan is ancient. Wikipedia says urbanized culture has existed in the area since around 3000 BCE, but evidence exists of prehi

Lunch with Book People

Last week was the most exciting week of my life. At noon, I slipped out of the conference I was attending in Midtown Manhattan and walked to 5th Avenue to catch a cab. (Well, to be precise, I walked to 7th Avenue, because I am afflicted with Geographic Opposite Syndrome and generally go 180 degrees in the wrong direction when navigating anywhere.) I managed to hail a cab with broken air conditioning—in near-100 degree heat—for the half hour ride to the West Village, but whatever. A little sweat never killed anyone. I also managed to hail the only cab driver in Midtown with a broken GPS, who asked me to please tell him how to get to Houston Street, despite the fact that a) I’m a tourist, and

The 3 Best Literary Books of the Year

Bear with me, because at first this is going to sound like a hard sell. I want you to read about the torture of twins at Auschwitz, the suppression of women in Afghanistan, and the straight-up nerdy field of geobiology. I know about half of you stopped reading after that last sentence, and ran shrieking to your computer to click on 10 Celebrities Who Look Like Crap or whatever, but I’m hoping I can convince the rest of you to hear me out. I’ve just read these three exquisite, incredibly impactful, interesting books: Affinity Konar’s Mischling, Nadia Hashimi’s A House Without Windows, and Hope Jahren’s Lab Girl. Some writers have the gift of churning out sentences of such perfection they sho

Authors out of Carolina: Engaging Women's Fiction

The Gilded Age of New York. Suburban secrets among the picket-fence set. An 1800’s shipwreck in the Carolinas carrying a famous daughter. Elvis. What do these topics have in common? They’re all subjects of new novels by Charlotte authors: the irrepressible, incredibly talented members of Authors out of Carolina, a local writer’s group. Imagine for a moment that you had to take these topics and spin them into hundreds of thousands of words in a way that manages not just to be coherent and plausible, but elegant and fascinating as well? Yeah, I know: most of us will stick to our day jobs. Luckily these ladies didn’t. I asked them to describe themselves, their latest books, and how they managed

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