A few members of the Black Rock & Sage staff have some great book recommendations for the month of February. Check them out below!
Jeff Howard, Editor-in-Chief:
Many of us have at some time or another perused or seen or heard of one or more of the many accounts and perspectives of the Holocaust, found in literature and film, including such classics as The Diary of Anne Frank, Roberto Benigni’s La Vita È Bella, Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Maus II, and Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. These works are cultural and historical touchstones by which those of us who did not directly experience the Holocaust or have the faintest inkling what it entailed catch glimpses into a series of events which are otherwise unimaginable. For my pick today, I would recommend adding an anthology called Holocaust Poetry, edited by Hilda Schiff, to the list of acclaimed Holocaust literature, of which there is a great deal. Poetry, as an art form, I believe, is uniquely suited to fill in the emotional gaps in our frequently porous cultural understanding—or, in my case, lack thereof—of the Jewish experience in the concentration camps. The polyvocal quality of the anthology too adds to the reading experience. The collection contains poetry by Anne Sexton, Paul Celan, Sylvia Plath, Elie Wiesel, Czeslaw Milosz, Primo Levi, Bertolt Brecht, and many others. United in this anthology, these voices present a mosaic of insight that implores the reader, to borrow a phrase from Wiesel’s stirring poem “Ani Maamin, A Song Lost and Found Again,” to “open your eyes and see what I have seen.”
Susan Goslee, Faculty Adviser:
I recommend Elegies for Uncanny Girls by Jennifer Colville. Spectacular! And a recent guest writer at ISU!
Anelise Farris, Poetry Editor:
One of my favorite comic books I’ve read recently is Snow Blind, written by Ollie Masters with art by Tyler Jenkins and letters by Colin Bell. Snow Blind centers on a teenager named Teddy, who is probably the coolest loner ever—who gets in trouble for sneaking into a library? Answer: my kind of guy. Any who, after Teddy posts a picture of his dad to social media, the FBI show up, and, long story short, Teddy finds out that his family is in the witness protection program and now they’re in danger. I don’t read a lot of crime comics, but this is so much more than that: it’s a really affecting coming of age story that has ridiculously beautiful art and fantastic lettering. This is one to read again and again.
Chris Swensen, Prose Editor:
I recommend Suite française by Irène Némirovsky. The story behind this collection is as tragic as its contents. Written in the days of Germany’s invasion of France, Némirovsky was a victim of the Holocaust. Her manuscript for these two combined novels were discovered years later and published. the novels themselves detail how the people of France both feared and coped with their German invaders.The novels are an insightful and often bitter exploration of human vanity in the face of great historical upheaval. Having been introduced to these at school, I believe Némirovsky belongs in the canon of great modernists. A must read for lovers of literature from that era.