I had been talking about the Two Spirit and queer authors and characters, the Indigenous settings and perspectives, the prefatory material which lay out the history and politics and which argue the need for stories like these—the important context surrounding these stories—and my friend noticed I wasn’t talking much about the stories themselves. Thus, his question.
I fumbled a bit to answer. Yes, some are good, a few excellent, some just OK. I voiced my belief that there’s benefit to reading stories like these even if they’re not good: I appreciate these works because of what they can teach me, how they challenge my assumptions and show me very different experiences and understandings of the world.
But the truth is also this: I don’t always know whether the stories I read are any good. I’m not always qualified to assess the quality of these works.
This review was first published by Booklist on October 15, 2019.
**STARRED REVIEW** Medieval Bodies was a Sunday Times History Book of the Year when published in Britain last year, and it is now coming out in the U.S. Hartnell, a professor of the history of art and visual culture, brings together his vast knowledge of medieval art and writing to examine how European and Middle Eastern peoples of the time understood the workings of their own bodies. He starts with medical texts and illustrations, explores the legacy of classical Greek and Roman teachings, and surveys the general practices of medicine and healing during this period. But he doesn’t stop there. The body becomes a metaphor for medieval culture overall that informs our understanding of everything from the politics, religious beliefs, and class structures of this swath of Western history to the arts and interpersonal relationships of those who peopled it. Armed with Hartnell’s telling, readers will reassess their traditional view of the Middle Ages. Far from a Dark Age of superstition and ignorance, this was a time of curiosity, inquiry, and experimentation—a collision of the legacies of the past and the realities of the present. His knowledge and insight are impressive, and he shows uses [sic] with wit and humor.
This review was first published by Booklist on October 1, 2019.
**STARRED REVIEW** The works in this annual anthology are lyrical, emotional, moving, and insightful—proof that long-form science journalism boasts some of our best writers. Many selections offer dreary outlooks for the future: the effects of climate change, the rise of infectious diseases, species extinction. Despite this, many are uplifting—science will always carry a sense of wonder and the joy of discovery, and awe for our ability to look deeply into existence and grapple with what we find. The strongest theme of this collection is the humanity of science. These articles all focus to some degree on the human nature of scientific endeavor. Science is work done by people seeking to understand our world; it’s passionate and flawed, subject to whim and error, driven by socioeconomic pressures and cults of personality. Science impacts real people, and these outcomes must be accounted for. For all its vaunted objectivity, science cannot be separated from its human components. Nor should it be, as series editor Green argues in a fiery foreward about the inescapable political nature of science. These pieces challenge us to look deeper and to understand better, to see the beating human heart in the soul of science.