Esmé's Staff Picks

Showing 13 - 19 of 19 items

Shipwrecks, friends to lovers, and a Jacque Cousteau musical filled with ocean puns await you in this surprisingly emotional adventure. One of the most honest coming of age stories I've read, Drake pulled me back into the exhilaration of self-creation. The tender, sapphic romance between two fully realized, flawed, complimentary characters make this one of my all time favorite queer stories!

Content Warnings: death, drowning, unsuccessful suicide attempt, hypersexuality as a trauma response, substance use, coming out

This unhurried, character-driven read absolutely shook me to my core when I read it for the first time. I had never felt like I had lived so many different lives or seen the world reflected back to me so honestly. The book is from 2016 but Roy's blistering examination of India's continued military occupation of Kashmir and rising religious nationalism remains extremely topical. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is the kind of book that will truly stay with you for a life-time and demands to be reread over and over again.

Content Warnings: Military & police violence, mob violence, torture, sexual violence (not graphic), death, alcoholism, mentions of the deaths of animals.

"In Appalachia, coal isn't just coal. It's the blackest part of a constellation of knowledge that tells us it is easier in our world to bury a person alive than to lift her up."

Historian Elizabeth Catte's biting response to J.D Vance's popular memoir Hillbilly Elegy does exactly what it sets out to do. What You are Getting Wrong About Appalachia retrieves the narrative from the sticky fingers of sensational journalists, "local color" writers, eugenicists disguised as academics, and self-appointed Appalachian representatives such as Vance. Through storytelling and photographic imagery of the labor and civil rights movements which are deeply rooted in these hills, Catte complicates our belief in a white, complacent, and doomed Appalachia.

Wow! This book set a new bar for what I believe is possible for a short story collection! Jemisin immediately pulled me in within the first couple of sentences and kept me enthralled through every story - some dystopian and grotesque, many invigorating and hopeful, and most leaving me hungry for more. Jemisin allows us only a brief taste of the strange and wonderful futuristic worlds she has dreamed up. My favorites were the sensual, mysterious stories centered around food that made me ache for half-forgotten meals and yearn for flavors yet unknown. 

Content Warnings: Some blood & gore, death, natural disasters.

The eye-catching title "How to Do Nothing" may be a bit reductive, but the subtitle gets closer to the book's overall goal. Odell points to the ways that corporate interests monetize our attention and explores spaces, activities, and art that challenge this gospel of productivity. Far from promoting expensive beach vacations, Odell advocates periodic retreat to inspire and reorient future actions that are anything but selfish. This is the perfect COVID read as we all prepare for the long haul of quarantine and protests. Raise hell, rest, repeat!

Wintering is a beautiful meditation on both the dark & chilly season, as well as the periods of "winter" in our lives: stretches of illness, grief, and transition that disrupt our routines and force us inward. This theme felt especially resonant in preparation for the lonely, home-bound winter of 2020.

Although May unfortunately does not address the millions who are violently denied the conditions for "rest and retreat," May imparts wisdom from people and animals of northern regions for surviving in harsh conditions. Whether you are prepared to take a "polar bear plunge" into an icy body of water, as the author suggests, is up to you (that will be a no from me), but the hibernation metaphors might help you give yourself permission to get through your winter however you can!

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"Time has a way of eternally looping us in the same configurations. Like fruit flies, we are unable to register the patterns. Just because we are the crest of the wave does not mean the ocean does not exist. What has been before will be again."

Set in a northern region where the seasons oscillate between the permanent darkness of winter and the delirious never-ending daylight of summer, Tanya Tagaq's #ownvoices mythobiography dances between extremes. Presented through gorgeous poetry, prose, and retellings of myths, Split Tooth explores the tenderness and beauty that coexists with the harshness of daily life in a tight-knit indigenous community devastated by colonialism, addiction, and sexual abuse. In equal measure fantastical and brutally real, Split Tooth will appeal to fans of other dark magical realism titles such as Carmen Maria Machado's In the Dream House and Akwaeke Emezi's Freshwater

Content warnings: Addiction, domestic violence, sexual abuse, pregnancy & birth, infanticide