Gulf Coast Books

Reviews • Interviews • et Cetera

Reviews • Interviews • et Cetera

Brown Neon: An Interview with Raquel Gutiérrez

Josh T Franco

What the novelist Rudolfo Anaya did for New Mexico, or what cultural critic Fran Lebowitz does for New York City, Raquel does in BROWN NEON for Los Angeles, San Antonio, and Tucson. Every generation and community should have their master portraitists. Gutiérrez is one of ours.


Stupid Prayer: On God and Solitude in Ottessa Moshfegh's Lapvona

Madeleine Gaudin

The God of this novel is infinite, inside everything, and yet its absence can be felt on every page. This diffuse and elusive God requires a different kind of prayer, one that is collective and connecting, and so, much of the small action of the novel—the hand-holding, cloud-watching, and land-working—carries the weight of prayer.


The Moss Laughs at Our Melancholy: A Review of Imagine a Death by Janice Lee

Alyssa Manansala

It is not Lee’s intent to trivialize any type of death or trauma by juxtaposing the simultaneous banality and brutality of isolation; it is perhaps not even Lee’s intent to distinguish between mourning that is psychoanalytic or sociological vs. suffering that is individual and proprietary (à la Barthes). Rather, Lee contextualizes each character’s experience of loss within the ecological disaster that serves as the quiet backdrop of her novel—the city in which the Writer, the Photographer, and the Old Man live, where the hillside burns regularly, and birds and children fall from the sky to their death with little regard from the humans and nonhumans who survive them, absorbed in their own individual experiences of death.


Nostalgia is the Constant State of Our Living: Chasing Ghosts in José Vadi’s Inter State

Jari Bradley

Inter State is infused with some of the same passions many of us youth poets had back then, not just for our craft, but for our immediate surroundings—for our respective slice of the City or the Town. Vadi echoes the very growing pains of those of us who moonlighted as formidable proponents of the mini halfpipe and open mic alike. Written with all the angst that only a grandson of a Mexican farmworker can muster, Vadi opens up the landscape of California as a breathing, living history susceptible to the erosion of time, memory, and development.


Troubling the ‘Water’: New Selected of Lucille Clifton’s Poetry is Fit for Turbulent Times

Justin Jannise

Among the many significant collections of poetry that plunked into the roiling depths of 2020 was Lucille Clifton’s How to Carry Water: Selected Poems, put out by the late Clifton’s longtime publisher, BOA Editions, Ltd., and carefully edited by poet Aracelis Girmay. How to Carry Water joins two previous volumes that each span multiple decades of Clifton’s trailblazing poetry—Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems 1988-2000 and The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010—prompting a fair question from readers who may feel that Clifton’s work already occupies a stout presence on their bookshelves. Who really needs How to Carry Water?


Michelle Zauner's Crying in H Mart unpacks grief as she reconnects with her Korean heritage

Ashton Yoo

Before the release of her New York Times bestselling memoir Crying in H Mart, which met national acclaim, Michelle Zauner was a songwriter. Born to a Korean mother and a Jewish-American father, she came up in the Pacific Northwest’s alternative scene. She spent her allowance on CDs and frequented the concerts of local indie heroes like the Rock ‘n’ Roll Soldiers and Modest Mouse.


Alive on Stage: Collaboration, Intimacy, and Perseverance in Ian Spencer Bell’s Marrow

Devereux Fortuna

It's hard to talk about dance and not talk about music. By applying poetry to dance, I create a score that’s particular to my body. I am skeptical of universality; I believe that our lives are particular. Putting dance and poetry together—two different languages that are two personal languages—feels important for carving out my space in the world.


On Genre, Transcendence, Dogs, and Workshop: A Conversation with Jo Ann Beard

Adele Elise Williams

There is always a mystery in literature; not every question can, or should, be answered for the reader. It takes away the power, pulls the punch, to have such a personal experience (as reading) explained in blunt terms. Anyway, it would nearly always be reductive, because reading is a collaborative experience and when you define it too much you erase the reader’s own interpretation.


Writing the Body: Katherine E. Standefer's Lightning Flowers

Sarah Battilana

To make metal is to take the earth apart. The process of taking and refining the materials needed for the manufacturing of electronics, including life-saving ones, often irrevocably disturbs and poisons the nearby land, rivers, animals, and communities. The solvents used to extract the minerals are toxic; endangered species lose their natural habitats; people get sick. In Lightning Flowers, Katherine E. Standefer’s debut memoir, Standefer weaves a narrative of illness and trauma with her research into the ecological and ethical ramifications of the mining and healthcare industry.