Critical Reviews of Books and Essays

REVIEW: "Apartment by Teddy Wayne" by LaVonne Roberts

Apartment is Teddy Wayne’s fourth novel and an easy read in just over 200 pages. Wayne’s novel gets to the crux of every writer’s angst in an MFA program: when you strip away the art of craft, is your writing any more interesting than yourself? Offering a rare glimpse of what happens in a workshop and the sheltered creative writer’s MFA community, Apartment speaks to what a privileged, highly-competitive MFA degree does or does not do for a writer.

REVIEW: "Travelers by Helon Habila" by LaVonne Roberts

What is it like to be a refugee? Around the world, 70.8 million people have been forcibly displaced. It’s hard to fathom the terrible extent of the refugee crisis, but Habila captures the humanity of his characters in a way that newspapers can’t. Travelers comes at a time when Americans are being forced to reckon with what our country is becoming, what values we truly hold dear. Habila’s stories parallel anti-immigrant narratives being espoused in the U.S. and globally today.

INTERVIEW: "I Want to Write a Book that I Think No One Will Want to Read:" An Interview with Rachel Louise Snyder by LaVonne Roberts

Interview with Rachel Louise Snyder, a journalist and professor of creative writing at American University and the author of No Visible Bruises—winner of the prestigious 2018 Lukas Work-in-Progress Award from the Columbia School of Journalism and Harvard’s Nieman Foundation—and Fugitive Denim: A Moving Story of People and Pants in the Borderless World of Global Trade.

INTERVIEW: Reading Deb Olin Unferth: Humanizing the Hen - Literary Journal

LaVonne Elaine Roberts on Deb Olin Unferth’s new novel, Barn 8, in which two rogue auditors in the U.S. egg industry plot to steal a million chickens. It is published by Graywolf Press and available now wherever books are sold. Check back for Roberts’s interview with Deb Olin Unferth in Cagibi Issue 10, April 7. Unferth is the author of five other books of fiction and nonfiction. She lives in Austin and is an associate professor of creative writing at the University of Texas at Austin.

OPINION: Thank You Oprah. American Dirt — Is Getting too Dirty

James Baldwin said, “Perhaps I did not succumb to ideology … because I have never seen myself as a spokesman. I am a witness.” Oprah understood that sentiment when she stood by Jeanine Cummins, author of American Dirt. When a writer is attacked, all writers need to raise the bar. We should protect fellow writers whose safety is compromised, especially when we’re responsible for instigating necessary conversations that have become hostile. If we don’t, who will? American Dirt, is the story of a

INTERVIEW: "Interview with Helon Habila" by LaVonne Roberts

Helon Habila‘s fourth novel, Travelers, is a novel about African Diaspora in Europe. Told through a series of interlinking narratives, an unnamed Nigerian scholar’s experiences with migrants in transit, the real question Travelers asks is: what is home? Originally from Nigeria, Habila lives and teaches creative writing in the US at George Mason University and is the author of Waiting for an Angel, Measuring Time, Oil on Water, and a nonfiction book, The Chibok Girls.

INTERVIEW: "Travelers" by LaVonne Roberts

What is it like to be a refugee? Around the world, 70.8 million people have been forcibly displaced. It’s hard to fathom the terrible extent of the refugee crisis, but Habila captures the humanity of his characters in a way that newspapers can’t. Travelers comes at a time when Americans are being forced to reckon with what our country is becoming, what values we truly hold dear. Habila’s stories parallel anti-immigrant narratives being espoused in the U.S. and globally today.

REVIEW: Sigrid Nunez’s “Chang” and “Christa” by Lavonne Roberts

Write Right — notes from an MFA candidate To read Sigrid Nunez’s “Christa” and “Chang” feels like the theme of identity has taken seed and is germinating. The narrator’s German mother, Christa, always wanted to go back home, although finally, she said she couldn’t go back, that Germany was no longer her home. At first, I felt Sigrid took so many turns in her storytelling that I couldn’t find a thread to connect because I look for an arc without knowing I do. Once I let go and gave myself the f

REVIEW: "Another Take On Why The New Yorker’s 'Cat Person' Went Viral" by Lavonne Roberts

Another Take On Why The New Yorker’s “Cat Person” Went Viral Write Right — notes from an MFA candidate The New Yorker’s “Cat Person” went viral overnight signaling something everyone wanted to quantify. It was timely. The #Me Too movement took off shortly after the story went viral and jumped on the bandwagon. Maybe what hit a chord with readers was the author’s voice, which spoke to what many women don’t like to admit — the frequency with which they have sex when they don’t want to...
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