Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

Recommendations from the staff at Seven Stories Press 

We're back! Maybe not better than ever, but certainly older. And sleepier.

For this episode of our self-titled Staff Picks Comeback Tour, all of our book recommendations (where possible*) link directly to our comrades at Pilsen Community Books. Next month, we'll link to another independent bookstore. And the next month, and the month after that. Perhaps until the end of time. 

We miss our bookstore friends so, so much, and we can't wait to see you soon.

*Where it's not available, we link to either Alibris or the book's publisher. 

Territory of Light by Yūko Tsushima (tr. Geraldine Harcourt)

This is one of those books that should be on every Ferrante fan's bedside table. Originally published in the late 70s as monthly installments in the Japanese magazine Gunzo, it took over 40 years for Territory of Light  to be translated into English. Better late than never, but I do wonder what the impact of this book could have been had it been published in the intervening decades. 

The language in Territory of Light is precise yet extremely poetic. It's a familiar story—one that you've likely read before—in which a woman grapples with the dissolution of her marriage (more like abandonment by her husband) and her subsequent transition to living as a single parent. But it's not the substance of the story that we look for in Territory of Light—it's how that story is told. There's so much to say about her writing, and how she conveys the process of self-realization that comes from being no longer married, and the sleep deprivation, maddening anxiety, and fleeting moments of joy that emerge in parenting a toddler. But this is already getting too long, so I'll leave off with this line from the book, which appears as the daughter is mid-tantrum (and could, realistically, sum up the entirety of my literary taste): "Why were children the only ones who ever got to melt down?"


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Judas and the Black Messiah, dir. Shaka King

Chairman Fred Hampton was the charismatic leader of the Chicago chapter of the Black Panther Party. He formed the original Rainbow Coalition with the Latino group the Young Lords and the southern whites of the Young Patriots. Hampton also helped organize the Free Breakfast Program for children in Chicago and medical clinics as part of the Black Panther Party's "community survival programs." In 1968 Chicago police assassinated him at the age of 21 in his own bed, 25 days before his fiancé gave birth to his son. Uncovered FBI files now indicate that J. Edgar Hoover ordered Hampton’s murder, and as the new film “Judas and the Black Messiah” explores, his own bodyguard, Black Panther William O’Neal was a paid COINTELPRO informant. If you watch the film and want to learn more about the enduring legacy of Fred Hampton and its lessons for activists today, there’s a podcast about the making of the film, a PBS documentary called “The First Rainbow Coalition," and an excellent book by Jakobi Williams, From the Bullet to the Ballot


History: A Novel by Elsa Morante (tr. William Weaver)

Elsa Morante's History: A Novel (translated from the Italian by William Weaver) is a book I've always wanted to read, since it's by reputation one of the greatest novels of the 20th century. I read it over the holidays and, well, it's so good that it really did bring me a lot of joy during the joyful season that wasn't. I'd put it up there as one of the all-time great war novels, right up there with Slaughterhouse Five or All Quiet on the Western Front, and it's approach is so beautiful and so radical, since it follows a woman and her two sons, mostly in Rome, so it isn't the military side of the war but its impact on civilian life that is its subject. A rare book, one of the most wonderful ever written, really. 

We also published a very good novel that has much in common with La storia. That would be Beverly Gologorsky's The Things We Do to Make It Home, about the impact of the Vietnam War on an American family. 


Gary In Your Pocket by Gary Fisher

This collection of stories, poems, and journal entries by a doctoral student of the queer theorist Eve Sedgwick are among the most harrowing descriptions of desire and violence I have ever read. In his introduction Don Belton describes Fisher from a photograph, “He looked as I imagined him, a beautiful brown man with startled eyes and a flowerlike mouth, indrawn, quizzical.” He sees Fisher’s tragic fate reflected in his expression. In his stories those that inflict or endure untellable pain, angels and demons, are depicted introspectively. He articulates affects, before they become emotions, in suspended, conflicting potential.



how to be a good girl by Jamie Hood 

Written entirely during lockdown, this "miscellany" is a collection of diary entries and poetry. Jamie uses the concept of the "good girl" to interrogate sex, femininity, and the body. I'm finding it hard to write about this book because I feel like there's no easy way to describe it and no words I can say can do it justice; this is also why I wouldn't be a good reviewer — I just want to run around and shove works of art I love into people's hands, but sometimes they touch me so deeply I'm rendered speechless. how to be a good girl was published by Grieveland, a publishing project organized by two communists and I'm looking forward to what they put out next. 


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Monstress: Stories by Lysley Tenorio

From an encounter with the Beatles, to living in a lepers' colony, to wrestling with a deceased sibling's gender, Tenorio's characters span centuries and their lives stretch through the long and turbulent history of the Philippines and the United States. At times tender and always unsettling, each short story resonated deeply with me as a Filipino person—but regardless, Tenorio's beautiful prose and imaginative storytelling easily capture the attention of any reader looking for a little bit of wonder.


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Where You'll Find Me by Ann Beattie

This month I recommend Ann Beattie’s Where You’ll Find Me, which I haven’t been able to stop thinking about and which completely wrecked me. It’s a story in which very little ostensibly happens—a woman visits her brother and his family, who are getting ready to throw a Christmas party. They talk about hors d’oeuvres and Bach. The brother and sister go on a drive to get a Christmas tree. That’s it, really. But every line is perfect and surprising—I kept thinking, how did she do that, how did she think of that. And when it was over I felt like I was losing a friend. One of the best stories I’ve ever read.


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Liniker e os Caramelows

I came across Liniker e os Caramelows on one of my many YouTube rabbit holes scouring for new music. This Tiny Desk blew me away. Originally from Brazil, the band’s seamless blend of jazz and Brazilian funk is some of the most exciting music I’ve heard in a long time. The lead singer, Liniker’s voice is stunning, her range nothing short of spectacular, and she is most-obviously a natural, gifted performer commanding the audience and the band. Required listening for all jazz lovers and funk aficionados and everyone else. 


On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

I listened to Vuong read this autobiographical novel on walks in the woods during the pandemic. With his mesmerizing voice, using the cadences of a poet, Vuong tells the story of Little Dog, who comes to the US from Vietnam with his single mother who neither speaks nor reads English. Written as a letter from child to mother (that she'll never be able to read), it is the story of an immigrant becoming an American, a boy becoming a writer.


Family Lexicon by Natalia Ginzburg (tr. Jenny McPhee)

This book is so tender. Natalia Ginzburg takes such care of her family’s memories and the language used to communicate those memories. Terms of endearment (“Beppino!”); recycled stories (“Let’s not begin again with Barbison! How many times have I heard her tell that story!”); and a shared language of youth (“If my siblings and I were to find ourselves in a dark cave ... just one of those phrases or words would immediately allow us to recognize each other”) all come through so, so, so clearly. 


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