“Whereas” by Layli Long Soldier

Whereas book coverThis book of poems by Layli Long Soldier (Greywolf Press, 2017) has rested on my reading table for months. I read it and I return at some point and read some more. I am not sure if I have read it through, but I know I will continue to read it for some time. It is a riveting and challenging work of art. As the title of this debut collection of poetry suggests, the tension at each poem’s center is language, and specifically the government-sanctioned language of the law, which includes (broken) treaties and official apologies, in this instance, a Congressional apology to Native Americans, which President Obama signed in 2009. Long Soldier’s poems represent and embody multiple “structures” of language through innovative typography. Each poem invites readers to consider how language has already and continues to shape and obscure the history of indigenous peoples throughout North America.

Dana Van Kooy
Associate Professor of Transnational Literature, Literary Theory and Culture
Director of the English Program
Humanities Department


“Exit West” by Moshin Hamid

Exit West Book CoverI have just finished reading Moshin Hamid’s brilliant novel (Riverhead Books, 2018). This short novel resonates with the contemporary moment: the global refugee crises, travel bans, and the ongoing construction of physical walls built with the intention of creating hard national borders. Exit West introduces an element of magical realism into its all too real narrative: doorways that can take a person from war torn streets in any part of the world to the relatively safe harbors in Greece, San Francisco, and Britain. Essentially, the story centers on the trajectory of Saeed and Nadia’s love for one another and makes clear how the complexities of any human relationship are shaped by the inescapable horrors of war. It does not matter if you stay in the same house your whole life or travel across the country or the world, movement and change are inescapable.

Dana Van Kooy
Associate Professor of Transnational Literature, Literary Theory and Culture
Director of the English Program
Humanities Department