Feature

Daniel Borzutzky's book recommendations

The National Book Award winner recommends works by Valeria Luiselli, Cecilia Vicuña, and more

Daniel Borzutzky's 2016 poetry collection, The Performance of Becoming Human, won a National Book Award. His new book, Lake Michigan, is a set of lyric poems about a fictional Chicago prison camp inspired by a clandestine police facility. Here, he picks his favorite books about exile, migration, and resistance.

Discourse on Colonialism by Aimé Césaire (Monthly Review, $16).

In powerful and poetic prose, Césaire's 1955 book offers blasting indictments of Europe, its relationship to its colonial subjects, and the hypocrisy of its labeling those subjects barbarians.

Hardly War by Don Mee Choi (Wave, $18).

Choi is a distinguished poetry translator and one of our most important thinkers about the politics of bringing translated anti-colonial work to America. Hardly War is unlike any other book I know. It uses poetry, photography, opera libretto, interview transcript, and more to address last century's wars in Korea and Vietnam.

Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera (& Other Stories, $14).

This novel moves across borders and across languages as its protagonist, Makina, embarks on a quest to find a Mexican family member who's disappeared in the U.S. The story is so rich and intelligent that it offers a meditation on how writing can save lives.

Tell Me How It Ends by Valeria Luiselli (Coffee House, $13).

Luiselli, a former court interpreter, structured this book using the 40 questions that are asked of migrant children who arrive in the U.S. without parents. Poignant storytelling adds emotional force to Luiselli's analysis of geopolitical power structures, and the book's sense of communal resistance is inspiring.

Saborami by Cecilia Vicuña (Chain Links, $16).

Possibly the first piece of dissident Chilean literature produced during the brutal dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Vicuña, a poet, artist, and performer, created this beautiful artist's book just months after the 1973 coup that put Pinochet in power. In its pages, we see the idealism of a woman who believed in what Salvador Allende's election promised and her heartbreak in watching her country and loved ones be destroyed.

The Uncomfortable Dead by Subcomandante Marcos and Paco Ignacio Taibo II (Akashic, $16).

Marcos, a masked spokesperson for Mexico's revolutionary Zapatista movement, teamed up several years ago with Taibo, a novelist and historian, to create this rollicking, riotous whodunit. It is as much about Mexico in 2018 as it is about Mexico in 1968.

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