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A Critical Look
Hull, by Xandria Phillips (Nightboat Books)
"In this debut collection, Phillips’s poems breathe a story as long as time, in which history holds to its pattern of the same crimes committed again and again against the Black body. Into a world where it is still audacious to speak truth, they exhale condemnation, reclamation, empathy and light. The physical walls in this collection span from Elmina Castle in Ghana to Tuskegee, Alabama, to the Angola penitentiary in Louisiana; with resonant lyricism, Phillips charts a pattern of atrocities made distant from one another only by time and space. Still other poems permeate the walls of the body, carefully channeling Black women, inviting them to claim their erotic voices."
Laura Eve Engel, reviewing for
You Exist Too Muchby Zaina Arafat (Catapult)
"[The novel] tells the story of a twenty-something bisexual Palestinian American woman recovering from growing up with a narcissistic mother. ... Never Arab enough, never American enough and definitely never a good enough daughter, she not only epitomizes the struggles of most immigrant children, she is the embodiment of the displaced person. ... In You Exist Too Much Zaina Arafat has created a beautiful story about one woman's struggle to find her way past the domineering character of her mother to define herself in her own image. It's an unflinching look at the long difficult process of recovery from abuse and addiction without being polemic or preachy. A masterful accomplishment."
Richard Marcus, reviewing for Seattle Pi
HoodWitch, by Faylita Hicks (Acre Books)
"These poems explore Black femme power and the reclaiming of those harmed bodies described as 'something that can & will survive / a whole century of hunt.' ... The collection calls upon the spirit of mothers, specifically Hicks’s mother and their own experience of motherhood, through a series of poems based on childhood photographs. Readers get an experience that is personal yet universal. Hicks’s poems are about giving their child up for adoption, mourning their fiancé, and embracing the nonbinary femme body through a miasma of language and imagery that conjures Christian, Afrofuturist, and Voodoo mysticism; it’s all beautifully visceral and real."
Tyrese L. Coleman, reviewing for Electric Literature
This Town Sleepsby Dennis E. Staples (Counterpoint Press)
"[This] debut novel takes place on a 667-person Minnesota reservation town named Geshig. In a sparse and beautiful page-long prologue, we encounter a violent act against Kayden Kelliher, a 17-year-old Geshig High School basketball star. His death, brought on by gang violence and communal depression, haunts the town in this story of violence, redemption, and self-determination... This Town Sleeps is suffused with such humanity and the voices are so enchanting that a longer novel, to allow for a plurality of perspectives, might have been warranted. But this is a comment about expansion. The narrative is so well controlled that, however brief, This Town Sleeps remains a consistent pleasure."
Matthew Caprioli, reviewing for Lambda Literary
Know of a small press book released within the last twelve months that you'd like to see included in The Critical Look Section? Use this google form to let me know! 
An Inside Look
Shade Literary Arts Empowers and Supports Queer Writers of Color
This month, as part of our goal of celebrating LGBTQ+ writers of color, we're highlighting Shade Literary Arts. Founded by author Luther Hughes (himself a small press author of Touched, which came out from Sibling Rivalry Press in 2018), Shade Literary Arts is a literary organization focused on the empowerment and expansion of queer writers of color. Shade Literary Arts has published five issues of The Shade Journal, which focuses on "work that challenges forms and upsets the canon, while understanding literature’s rigorous and traditional roots." Their website also features an excellent list of poetry collections coming out in 2020 from queer writers of color. 

Since March, Hughes has shifted the focus of the organization in order to offer direct financial support to queer writers of color who've been impacted by the pandemic. 
Launched with an initial goal of supporting 100 queer writers of color, the Queer Writers Relief Fund has already given out $35,000 to 136 writers. Hughes has no intention of slowing down. "Shade's current 2020 goals are continuing the Queer Writers of Color Relief Fund until the end of the year and create programs, including but not limited to virtual workshops, readings, and seminars. Shade will open again for submissions for the Shade Journal in early 2021," Hughes told me. 
Donate to the Fund
Donors who gift $10 or more will receive a free .pdf copy of A History of Flamboyance by Justin Phillip Reed and Dream With a Glass Chamber by Aricka Foreman, both from YesYes Books.
Apply for Support
Queer writers of color in need of support can complete a survey to apply for between $100 and $500 in support from the fund. Priority will be given to queer trans women of color and queer disabled writers of color.
Have an idea for an Inside Look column? Let me know! Please read these pitch guidelines before reaching out. In addition to topics mentioned on my blog, I'm also really interested in stories or experiences from small press authors launching books during this pandemic, or otherwise building and maintaining literary community while social distancing. 
Another Look
I'm not really sure how to classify Naked: The Rhythm and Groove of It. The Depth and Length to It, by Nastashia Minto (Eldridge Books). I think it could be considered a poetic memoir, where some of the poems are prose poems, and so less traditionally recognized as poetry. In this book, Minto is inviting the reader to really scrape below the surface. She shows us her scars and her healing, her weaknesses and her strengths. In doing so, she asks the reader to take a look at our own pasts, our own strengths and weaknesses. She talks about race, sexuality, family, faith, and more. She lets the reader see how she comes to understand and accept herself over time; there's a real beautiful self-love that she models for us. Somehow this series of personal poems is a conversation with her, showing us that when we strip down and face ourselves, when we take away all the shields we put up to protect ourselves, that we might be naked, but we're beautiful and strong, like Minto is.
Each month, Another Read Through owner Elisa Saphier will choose a small press book released a year or more ago for our Another Look column. Based in Portland, Oregon, Another Read Through ships, so if you want to order any of the books featured in Magnify, follow the links to order them from Elisa
Thanks so much for reading Magnify! If you have a review of a recent small press book you'd like to see included in our Critical Look, or questions about life as a small press author, feel free to contact me. See you next month! 

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