We’re celebrating Thanksgiving week with another installment of What We’re Reading. As Anne Lamott writes, “Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die. They are full of the things that you don’t get in life … wonderful, lyrical language, for instance. And quality of attention: we may notice amazing details during the course of a day but we rarely let ourselves stop and really pay attention. An author makes you notice, makes you pay attention and this is a great gift.”
Space, in Chains vibrates with memories of Kasischke’s youth, coupled with wrenching poems about her father, to form a narrative of both celebration and grief. The surprising image in “Hospital parking lot, April,” for example, tells us everything we need to know: “These seagulls above the parking lot today, made of hurricane and / ether, they // have flown directly out of the brain wearing little blue-gray masks, / like strangers’ faces, full // of winged mania, like television in waiting rooms.”
Kasischke’s quick, intimate movements on the page are undeniably personal, but she welcomes the reader in—as if she doesn’t mind me listening through a partially open door. Objects in her poems are often portals, and she courageously leaves the hardest questions unanswered. I’m left in a state between dark and light, each complementing the other. I’m reminded of life’s grasp on even our best laid plans. In the end, Laura Kasischke’s poems help me realize that maybe this is just how things are, how they’re meant to be—and thank goodness.
On Immunity: An Inoculation inspired me to get passionate about the vaccination debate. In this disarming work of nonfiction, Biss probes the history and ethics of the practice in a voice that is at once humane and needle-sharp. In a recent conversation with Karen Shimmin and Willy Nast in their podcast “All Write Already,” Biss says, “I think that this conversation, particularly the conversation about vaccination, is hugely important, hugely complicated, and hugely relevant to many different social issues.”
In a compelling endnote—read them, friends—Biss clarifies why she addressed her book specifically to mothers, rather than to parents, and in the same podcast, reiterates her motivation: “I was interested in how much of a women’s issue this seemed to be … My lived experience was of this as a conversation between women. And I wanted to both honor that and extend it … One of the things that I’m reacting to when I insist on saying ‘mothers’ rather than saying ‘parents’ is the way that conversations between women have been belittled and minimized.”
As a thinker, community member, cultural critic, feminist, and mother, Biss continues to inspire.