October Staff Picks

Dominic Loise
The Saint of Second Chances 

This past baseball season has not been the best for fans of either of Chicago’s two major league teams. The new documentary The Saint of Second Chances reminded me of another White Sox season, which did not end well: 1979. That season saw the end of era for both owner and fan’s connection to the team and was the last one played in the classic Comiskey Park before it was torn down. For a while now, the concept of ego death is something that I have been working on in therapy and I feel the topic is portrayed rather well in this baseball documentary. The documentary deals with the legacy of the Veeck family, their relationship to the sport and most importantly their connection to the fans and each other.

The hook for most viewers will be the seventies Chicago White Sox era, when Michael Veeck worked for his father Bill Veeck. Bill was the last of an old breed of owners, who could operate a team without their own financial independence. It also meant that Bill  had to think outside of the box and make every dollar stretch to run the team. He could not compete with free agency salaries for big money players so the White Sox had to fill the stadium with promotions. One promotion which filled the seats but turned out to be a historic blight on baseball was Disco Demolition Night.

Many people have reflected back on the night when Steve Dahl, a local stock jock blew up a crate of disco albums and his young, mainly male fans stormed the field and destroyed both a double header and the stadium. The people who packed the stands this night were not baseball fans but listeners of a rock station. When you hear the announcer Harry Caray say “This is a sad day for baseball”, that statement is underscored by owner Bill Veeck on the field pleading with thousands of young adults and kids running past him in disorderly conduct.

Recently, that night has been looked through the lens of a book burning that had white youths destroying and the words & work of black, latin & queer artists of the time and demanding that this music not be played on radio station airwaves. Dahl is not in the documentary except for archival footage but would go on to talk about the event for decades throughout his long standing radio career and write a book about it. Mike Veeck does reflect back on that night, as he was head of promotions for the team. He also reflects on how it affected his father’s career in baseball, how his father sold the team afterwards and how the stadium was torn down to then be rebuilt.

The remainder of the documentary is about Mike Veeck being lost, facing his demons, finding new opportunities with a newly formed baseball league. The documentary focuses on the clarity he finds by focusing on his family, creating a fan community & the love of the game before his preconceived career goals.

Maribel Leddy
The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

I recently read The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang, the first of an epic grimdark fantasy series that follows main character Rin. I picked up and finished the book in one day. The world that Kuang created, the characters, and the way its plot draws on real life events from twentieth century China made it an undeniable page-turner for me. Kuang is a Marshall Scholar, Chinese-English translator and an award-winning author. Outside of the Poppy War Trilogy, she’s also written Babel and Yellowface, both of which made the New York Times bestseller list.

In The Poppy War, we follow war-orphan Rin who is desperate to escape a fate of being married off by her relatives. To do so, she focuses on acing the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies. She does so, and is expectant for her new life, but finds herself facing many more challenges than she anticipated at Sinegard, the most elite military school in Nikan. This book explores things like colorism, class, and war in nuanced ways that made me think and learn a lot. Rin herself is an extremely intriguing main character who brings nuance to the idea of a “hero” in literature and whose thirst for power may be her downfall—or the thing that saves everyone she cares about. 

Valerie San Filippo
The Hurricane Book

I’ve waited so long for Claudia Acevedo-Quiñones’ debut, The Hurricane Book! Part history, part lyric memoir, it tells of the history of Puerto Rico and the lives on one family through six hurricanes. It is INTENSE. Acevedo-Quiñones echoes the stark reality of Puerto Rico’s struggles under colonial oppression with the ebb and flow of her own family history. On every page her family seems to grow in scale and importance, their personal stories and small quirks overriding cold facts to form a new kind of living, breathing history.

This book is not for the feint of heart. You’ll probably weep— I certainly did. It’s full of pain, betrayal, and pinprick moments of hope. The language is stunning. It’s a personal and political history seared with a loving anger that stays with you long after you’ve put the book down.

Sara Santistevan

I discovered Cynthia Pelayo’s horror collection Lotería just in time for spooky season, but I’ll enjoy re-reading this book year round! 

Each chapter features a short story, poem, or flash fiction piece based on a card from the Mexican game lotería. As someone who plays lotería with my family every year on Christmas Eve, I was so excited to see how Pelayo would connect each iconic card to her retelling of Latine folklore.

The connections between card and myth ranged from clear to subtle, with some taking me completely by surprise. For instance, the flash piece “La Dama” (“The Lady”) is a retelling of the tale of La Llorona, a wailing woman whose spirit wanders the earth at night in search of children to replace her children she drowned. On the other hand, there is no umbrella in the short story “El Paraguas” (“The Umbrella”); the connection between narrative and card may only be evident to Spanish speakers who can pick up on Pelayo’s clever wordplay. As for the wildly creative retellings, consider “La Luna” (“The Moon”), which blends Guaraní creation legends with imagining the President of Argentina as an employer of werewolf bodyguards. 

With a total of fifty-four chapters, Lotería is an impressive feat, showcasing Pelayo’s dedication to crafting a mosaic of unnerving tales that pay homage to the rich tradition of horror retellings within folklore.

September Staff Picks

Montanna Harling

I have been loving the advanced reader copy of Cassandra Clare’s Sword Catcher, a novel that will be released on October 10th, 2023. Clare, author of the bestselling young adult Shadowhunters series, has entered into the adult fantasy genre with a stunning first installment of a forthcoming epic fantasy series.  

Though I’m still in the process of reading Sword Catcher, I have been thoroughly and wonderfully consumed by the story. Sword Catcher draws the reader into the city-state Castellane, a world that is both vividly beautiful and quietly dangerous. In Castellane, readers meet Kel, a boy who serves as the body double for the royal heir, and Lin, a physician who belongs to the small community of people who can still access magic. As Kel and Lin both find themselves entangled with the criminal underworld of Castellane, secrets begin to unravel around them. I love how immersive the world of Sword Catcher feels; one of Clare’s greatest strengths as a writer has always been her vivid yet accessible fantasy worldbuilding. Combining expertly paced plot and Clare’s almost otherworldly ability to make every setting feel as real as your own city, Clare has written a novel that is sure to enchant readers for many years to come. I highly recommend checking out Sword Catcher here.

Inanna Carter 

Astarion with a side of Baldur’s Gate 3, anyone? I’m a romance lover through and through, so any video game with romance options is for me. That being said, when BG3 came out and I saw the buckets full of beautiful options of course I knew I was going to get it. But it was Astarion in particular who caught my eye. His snark and beauty mixed with my I-Can-Fix-Him mentality clearly made us a perfect match. But I fell in love with his character more than I thought I would, in ways I hadn’t ever imagined. 

He may start off as what seems like an emotionless, uncaring, sex-crazed lunatic, but under all of that is a tortured soul who’s just trying to find out how to start living for himself. What does that even mean? He doesn’t know, but with your help he can find out. And it’s that part of him that doesn’t get enough appreciation, because how terrifying is that? Imagine being subjected to living a certain, torturous way for hundreds of years and then suddenly getting a chance to become your own person? I’ll stop there because I think his story is one that should be experienced first-hand. His character soothes the part of me that believes games and stories will always be unforgettable when they give you someone so raw and so real to care about. 

Zara Garcia

Lately, I’ve been deeply immersed in the dystopian wasteland that Ashnikko has built through their new album, Weedkiller. It’s got a genre-blurring sound with songs about queer love, environmental destruction, self-empowerment, and reclaiming autonomy. The inspiration for the album came to Ashnikko in an unreleased short story they wrote about a fairy utopia being destroyed by robots called Weedkillers.  

Ashnikko plays the main protagonist throughout the album, transmitting a story of rage, revenge, battle, and defeat. With official visualizers for each song and five music videos, the album is also aesthetically stunning. It gives off an industrial, apocalyptic vibe that is simultaneously dark and fun. Think of Mad Max but with witchy forest fairies. The climax of the story is beautifully represented in the title track, “Weedkiller,” where Ashnikko engages in an epic final battle with the Weedkiller. They also offer social commentary on more serious topics throughout the album. “Miss Nectarine” touches on homophobia, and “Possession of a Weapon” speaks on reproductive rights. It’s refreshing to see an artist handle these topics in such a boldly unapologetic way. The album finishes on a hopeful note with “Dying Star,” featuring the otherworldly vocals of Ethel Cain. The song is about maintaining hope for peace and softness in a violent world. I have tickets to Ashnikko’s show on October 6th, and I am so excited to see how the energy and message of the album translate into a stage performance. 

Sara Santistevan

In high school, I was obsessed with Toby Fox’s hit indie video game, Undertale. Visiting any corner of the internet without encountering memes, fan art, or famous YouTubers broadcasting their playthroughs seemed impossible. So, imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered my boyfriend had never heard of Undertale, and I got to watch him play it for the first time.  

In Undertale, you play as a child who has fallen into The Underground, where monsters have lived since humanity banished them from the surface. To make your way back to the surface, you must carefully consider your choices: spare and befriend the monsters…or destroy their lives.   

Undertale is a standout game due to its experimental gameplay mechanics, breathtaking plot twists, infectious soundtrack (which Fox composed entirely by himself), unique humor, and memorable characters. It was also refreshingly progressive, especially for its time—the playable character is non-binary, and multiple main characters are explicitly or implicitly LGBTQ+!  

However, the true magic in Undertale is Fox’s talent to subvert all expectations a seasoned gamer has nurtured over a lifetime. For example, the decisions you make in a previous playthrough can haunt you even after you reset the game entirely; don’t be surprised if certain characters respond to you with déjà vu.  

If you’re still unconvinced, consider Undertale is one of the few games to achieve a 10/10 rating on Steam and a 97% rating on Google—and yes, that’s the current rating eight years after its release.  

Aubrey Unemori

With Halloween right on the horizon (it’s September, which is basically Halloween), I’ve been preparing for the spooky Superbowl by playing a lot of Dead by Daylight (DBD).  

If you’re not familiar with the game, DBD is like hide and seek but with murder. There are two ways to play the game: The first way is to play as the killer. DBD has their own killers, but the game also features characters from well-known horror media, such as Michael Myers, Pinhead, and Pyramid Head. Your objective as the killer is to hook survivors and sacrifice them to the Entity, which is a fun guy that has spider arms and whispers in your ear every so often.  

The second way to play is as a survivor, which is my favorite way play—especially if you’re new to the game. In this mode, you can play with up to four friends, and you can play as characters like Leon Kennedy, Ellen Ripley, and…Nicolas Cage?! As survivors your objective is to complete generators, power the escape gates, and, well, survive. This mode is all about teamwork, communication, and cursing out the killer when you are inevitably hooked. 

If you’re looking for a way to scream your lungs out this October (or any month, really), I highly recommend rounding up a few of your friends and giving DBD a try! Like writing, I believe that games are most enjoyable when you can play without the expectation of needing to be good. So remember: Good luck, have fun!  

Dominic Loise

As a treat for the Fall, we re-signed up for MAX at our home. Some favorite shows now have new episodes. I am going to say up front that my Staff Pick of Harley Quinn is raunchy and violent. It is also one of the smarter shows out now for addressing relationships and mental health on streaming.

This animated series is a good companion to the Harley Quinn comic book written by Stephanie Phillips, where Harley was helping people heal from their trauma from The Joker War. In the MAX series, Harley (Kaley Cuoco) grows and learns to be together with Poison Ivy (Lake Bell). The couple of Harley & Ivy develops from villainous cohorts into two people in a healthy and supportive relationship. This streaming series honors, brings representation and builds dimensions to one of the more iconic queer couples in comics. The third season was about two people in a relationship learning to listen to each other’s needs—and how they can still be a “power couple” even if their personal goals differ beyond “partners in crime”—as we see throughout Season 3 into Season 4, which dropped this Summer.

The series also takes a huge step forward in regards to mental health awareness and two other DC characters. The Season 3 episode Batman Begins Forever has Harley helping Bruce Wayne (Diedrich Bader) literally face the trauma of his parent’s death and focusing not on one moment in Crime Alley. Bruce, not BatMan, then starts to do the work to be present in his current life and bring his best self to assist those around him. Another iconic character, The Joker (Alan Tudyk) challenges himself and changes in this series by growing past the narcissist who created a toxic relationship with Harley and imprinted his identity onto her. In the Season 3 episode Joker: The Killing Vote, this change is shown by his run for Mayor of Gotham not as part of a criminal scheme but to improve the public schools. This episode ties into the multiple season storyline where The Joker becomes a supportive partner to a single working mother and a stepfather to two kids. As a stay at home dad, he puts the spotlight on his wife’s career and nurtures his two stepchildren not by molding them in his image but mentoring them as unique individuals. He is putting in the work, with struggles, to put others needs first, by working on homework, quality family time and being involved in their school to break the pattern of being a narcissist.

For fans of the baseball bat bashing version of the main character, the show still has a lot of capers, bawdy humor and explosive action in every episode of Harley Quinn and all changes to DC’s long-standing heroes and villains are organic and character based. Harley Quinn is a show with strong female characters, heart and a perspective shift on some eighty year old characters from in the DC Universe.

July/August Staff Picks

Amber Sullivan

In August 2021, Esther recommended Link Click. Listen to them; watch it. I need people to join me as I slip back into a fan-crazed madness because season two is here!

But I’m not recommending the show. I’m here for the soundtrack that’s releasing alongside season two. I don’t care if you don’t watch the show (that’s a LIE) but don’t skip the full versions of the music.

白鲨JAWS and 饭卡 return for the ED in “The TIDES.” It’s eerie, it’s melodic; the discordic blend of guitar and lofi beats hits so right, and it escalates to a very different place than where it began. Why start with the ending song? Because we’re time travelling!

And because the ending of “The TIDES” blends pretty seamlessly into the beggining of the OP, “VORTEX,” where 白鲨JAWS not only created a desperate and impassioned melody but one that’s just as emotive when it plays in reverse, which it does–because we’re time travelling.

“Flash” by Gorilla Attack continues the trend of mathmatic tracks with strong narrative structures playing with time. I can’t get enough of the way the hectic beat messes with the time signature throughout the song.

Even though we’re time travelling, I don’t know what’s next for this soundtrack. It could be good, it could be amazing, it could only be these three songs, but I’ll still be listening for the rest of the summer.

Dominic Loise

I am excited for Si Spurrier’s upcoming take on The Flash (DC Comics) in September, but before the writing torch is passed, I would like to celebrate Jeremy Adams’ run on the book. Adams reestablished Wally West, former sidekick Kid Flash, as the title character of the book and reminded readers that the classic Mark Waid Flash in the nineties helped draw comics out of the grim and gritty era of the eighties.

There is a difference between a superhero grinning with superiority and smiling with the joy of living their dream and Wally West was the first sidekick to take the mantle of the hero after Barry Allen sacrificed himself to save the universe in Crisis of Infinite Earths (1985). Wally West was The Flash in comics from The Flash #1 (1987) until Barry Allen returned in The Flash: Rebirth (2009-2010). It felt like DC was treating Wally as a duplicate to the original when Barry returned, instead of red ribbon racing around the DC Universe in a blur that tied everything and everyone together.

Adams got Wally West ties to the DC Universe from his Teen Titans family, to the pantheon of the Justice League and how the Speed Force connected a multiverse of multiple characters to Earth Prime. The Adams’ Flash comic also understood that the character of Wally West was his most powerful when he stopped running and talked to other people.

The Flash wasn’t a comic about urban crime fighting but community engagement even to the point of Wally knowing the Rogues and talking with them.The communities of the twin cities of Keystone and Central City, the people Wally knew and his family have always been at the heart of the books. Wally knew his strength was honest dialogue about his limitations, asking others for help when he needed it and learning to be yourself- not just the hero.

Jeremy Adams wrote all this in his Flash comic which had open conversations about mental health awareness, thrilling action stories and hit the core notes of each character Wally West ran into.

Asmaani Kumar

Revenant (2023)

TW: Suicide, Child Abuse, Death.

I’ve been the biggest fangirl of Kim Taeri and Oh Jungse, and have been amazed by Hong Kyung in Weak Hero Class 1 early this year. So when I heard that all of these brilliant actors are going to lead a drama which cuts across horror, folklore and the vices of mankind, I was gripping the edges of my seat. I could not wait!

With only 4 more episodes to go, this series has been a rollercoaster ride. The attention to detail when building characters, the incredible pacing of the story, it’s stunning cinematography and the twists and turns taken so far has been grounded solidly by this one myth of the Juvenile Ghost. It has been fascinating to watch our leading characters slowly discover the origins of this ghost across decades as they work together to not only free Kim Taeri of her possession, stop her vengeful deaths but to also understand her traumatic past. It isn’t our usual story of exorcising a possession, because there are so many layers to it that slowly get unfolded at times in dangerous ways. There is also a very intelligent insertion of class dynamics done along with a sensitive exploration of disturbing emotions.

Deeply painful at times to watch, but also a very real portrayal of the deep and dark desires people tend to carry, this is a riveting story that leaves you shaken to the core and impresses on your mind for days. You cannot stop thinking about Revenant once you start!

Simon Kerr

Outer Wilds from Annapurna Interactive

Micro-planets you can circle in a matter of minutes, each with its own aesthetic, tricks, and gravitational pull. Quiet yet expansive storytelling, told through ancient spirals of alien writing.A story in fragments for you to discover. This is what the video game Outer Wilds can promise—breathtaking views and a singular experience.

Outer Wilds is best explored contextless, so if you need no more convincing to check it out, spare yourself the following details and go launch.


You live on a planet spotted with geysers, in a solar system so small the surface of other planets is visible to the naked eye. You’re also adorable, and an astronaut. Everywhere are signs of the Nomai, an enigmatic race of visitors that crash-landed in your home system long ago in search of a great mystery. Surrounded by these relics, your people have developed a space program long before the materials to do so. You’re about to launch into space in a wooden rocket.

On your first day, stay in orbit and visit your planet’s moon, with its drifting spiral of campfire smoke. Or investigate the strange image you awaken to by risking the dense cloud cover of your neighboring planet. Or approach the sun to see two planets intertwined in each other’s orbit, trading a column of sand back and forth. Or watch a brittle geode planet collapse in on itself. Or stay well away from that creepy gnarled tree planet, for now.

Then comes your second first day. And your third first day. And your fourth first day. And the supernova that ends them all.


The complete joy of solving the mysteries of Outer Wilds is second to none. Annapurna Interactive is home to other stunning and atmospheric games, stories that grip you the same way the teleportative novels of your childhood did: Stray (yes, the cat one!), What Remains of Edith Finch, Journey, and the upcoming Cocoon.

If your interests include space, archaeology, and the bittersweet awe of feeling like one small speck in the universe, Outer Wilds is yours. (Specifically, on Nintendo Switch, Playstation, Xbox, or PC.)

Nate Ragolia

Blank Check with Griffin & David

As an avid and ceaseless consumer of podcasts, and a lover of movies, my feed overflows with mic’d cinephiles sharing their takes (of various temperatures) about movies new and old. Somehow, only recently, I took a dip in the warm waters of #theTwoFriends, with Blank Check. The podcast is hosted by actor Griffin Newman (Draft Day, The Tick) and film critic and writer David Sims (The Atlantic). The theme of the show revolves around directors and their oeuvres, and the title refers to how auteurs early successes afford them the rare ‘blank check’ from Hollywood to produce passion projects.

To kick things off, the podcast is all about George Lucas’ Star Wars prequel trilogy, and Griffin and David (and producer Ben Hosley) devote multiple episodes to each of those films. The early eps are replete with bits, including our hosts pretending to not know about the existence of the original Star Wars trilogy. Following that series, they pivot toward the aforementioned director-focused course, tackling films by M. Night Shyamalan, The Wachowskis, Cameron Crowe, James Cameron, Christopher Nolan, and more.

Griffin and David are clearly passionate filmgoers who provide thoughtfully hilarious breakdowns of each and every film, and deliver wildly interesting facts and figures along the way. I have been binging this show for two weeks straight and loving every minute of it, and if you love movies, goofy hosts, silly bits, and inside stories… this one might be for you.

Dominic Loise

Paul Giamatti’s Chinwag with Stephen Asma

As a child of the seventies, I was exposed to more of the unexplained than I could wrap my head around. Every year for a while, the same house on our block would be up for sale with each owner having the same ghost story. My older brother once pointed out John Wayne Gacey’s house as our family drove past the street during weekend errands. Saturday afternoons were spent watching Rich Koz (then just Son of Svengoolie) and monster movies on local UHF. And the drive-in where my parents took me to see ET was buzzed by the odd lights from the local naval training base.

With this upbringing, it is a rickety dam against a raging river to see things as a skeptic. It is still a daily struggle especially for someone who works on their mental health. One day that metaphorical dam came down and I went inpatient. Since then, it is best to avoid material on the topic of the paranormal, which can be triggering. But through talk therapy, I also have been doing exposures, which is about watching or listening to anxiety inducing media in a safe environment (like during the daytime on a day off) and processing the thoughts and feelings.

Paul Giamatti’s Chinwag with Stephen Asma is a podcast that has been currently helping me. The podcast is hosted by one of the top actors working today, Paul Giamatti and Stephen T. Asma, author of On Monsters: An Unnatural History of our Worst Fears and a Professor of Philosophy at Columbia College Chicago. The podcast deals with a wide range of topics and takes many divergences and looks at  different perspectives on the topics like aliens. ghosts and cryptozoology. Guests are either researchers in those fields or writers & actors with an interest in the topic.

I like that people are bringing their own research and reading to The Chinwag. The speakers try to cite materials if listeners wish to check them out for themselves. But mainly, I like that, when possible, that people are telling their own stories and accounts of what happened. The Chinwag has an organic conversation style that unfolds as this podcast continues the talk about the topic. And this style of talking about what comes to mind totally works for me.

The hosts and guests will step off the original path of conversation as a new topic comes up but bring it back with a deeper perspective and appreciation for the main themes of each podcast. They know that if you are walking in the woods, you have to stop to see a deer that comes along instead plowing through on the man made forest pathway. The natural conversation is what makes The Chinwag a deep experience, which I find different and comforting each time I listen.

Check out Paul Giamatti’s Chinwag with Stephen Asma on Apple Podcasts or where you listen to podcasts.

Podcasts, K-pop, and Pilots: Staff Picks, Intern Edition

Delaney Heisterkamp

I have been devouring podcasts in the past couple months, to the relief of my daily planner and the poor, beleaguered part of my brain that handles time management. There’s no better way to fill transit, cooking, and cleaning than spicing it up with The Penumbra Podcast, an audio drama that’s part–sci-fi, part-fantasy, and all-around deliciously queer. From Juno Steel, a private eye on Mars, to the Second Citadel, a city protected by a band of emotionally distraught knights, I always travel to a place that leaves me breathlessly in suspense, laughing with delight, and occasionally in tears.

Madison Cotton

One album that will always be special to me is XX by K-pop girl group Loona. I’d known about Loona for a while, but it wasn’t until I went back home and spent the day with my little brother that I began listening to them. He showed me all the members, all their group and solo work, as well as their lore and backstories. I sat through his info session in the name of being a good sister, but once I listened to their music on my own time, I found that I really loved it. There started my obsession. I know all their names, title tracks, and keep up to date with their Loona TVs (their Youtube series) and upcoming releases. After a year-long hiatus, Loona has finally returned with their latest album, #. I am so excited about their upcoming release and can’t wait to listen with my brother as one of our many bonding activities.

‘Aolani Robinson

One song that I have greatly enjoyed has been Desert Rose by Lolo Zouaï. Ever since I first stumbled upon this song in late 2019, I have been absolutely in love. It has a relaxing beat that allows listeners to focus on Lolo’s voice and the lyrics that are sung in three languages (Arabic, French, and English). However, what really connects me to this song is the relatability of its lyrics. At its core, this song is about generational division and familial acceptance. My generation especially feels completely different from our parents in many ways. We think, act, dress, and share divergent beliefs. This has led to strife and turmoil in many families. In some cases, we are made to feel as though we have disappointed our families by not following in their path. Yet at the end of the day we all seek their approval. No matter how different we are, we still want to be accepted for who we are by those we love. I think this song perfectly encapsulates those feelings.

Meg Walters

I recently watched a really great pilot for a TV series on Freeform called Everything’s Gonna Be Okay. The story centers on a man in his mid-twenties who has to take care of his younger half sisters after his father dies suddenly of cancer. Creator, director, and star Josh Thomas also produced Please Like Me, a different series with a similar tone. I was obsessed with Please Like Me, and it remains one of my favorite shows of all time, so as soon as I knew Thomas was making something new, I marked the premiere date on my calendar. So far, I haven’t been disappointed. The show is darkly comedic—light-hearted one second and depressing the next. Thomas balances serious themes with playful tones and quirky characters who come to life in a way I really admire. Here’s a link to the trailer

Craig Hartz

Recently, I’ve discovered podcasts, and I’ve become really engaged by one called The Deconstructionists, hosted by Adam Narloch and John Williamson. Their purpose is essentially to create a space to explore questions and doubt regarding faith. To that end, they’ve hosted an incredibly diverse range of experts from a plethora of fields—theology, philosophy, science, music, and psychoanalysis, to name only a few. What they’ve cultivated is a beautiful place to engage with various viewpoints from all across the spectrum of belief and encourage introspection. I’m fascinated by the nuances and manifestations of faith, and this podcast has been such a wonderful place to encounter people who think radically differently than I do about it, and to learn about how all these different fields inform it. In episodes brimming with grace, humility, and genuine joy, Narloch and Williamson are creating space for dialogue that I think is healthy, raw, engaging, and just plain fun. I’m constantly learning and being challenged, which I think is crucial to growth. If this is an area of interest for you, or you’re a philosophy nerd like me, I can’t recommend it highly enough!

Nuclear Fallout, Strange Science, and Demonic Imagery

Carolyn Janecek

Cherry-syrup blood, homemade flamethrowers, and nuclear fallout. That’s what my favorite franchise, Mad Max, has in common with Netflix’s new original teen drama, Daybreak, where high school cliques form into warring clans when all the adults are killed or mutated by the missiles’ bioagents.

Daybreak’s protagonist is by no means Furiosa (or even a Max Rockatansky). He’s Just Josh––an extra-entitled, straight, white “nice guy” with a skateboard and a katana. I took to calling him “Boring Josh.” When I’m that annoyed with a protagonist, I rarely get past episode two. Daybreak is different though. It’s kitschy and chaotic. Josh speaks directly to the viewer, at first, appearing to be the only “sane” kid left in the world, who isn’t out murdering people for funsies.

But soon enough, even the viewer is questioning reality and most importantly, questioning Josh. The world expands beyond Josh and soon the other protagonists are taking over his narration and presenting this post-apocalyptic setting through their own television tropes––whether it’s a celebrity voiceover or a laugh-track sitcom. Josh sees himself as a knight in shining arming, but the audience gets to see him tarnished.

In comparison, the broken and traumatized minor characters who start out––in Josh’s eyes––as antagonists, have satisfying character arcs. The ten-year-old, genius/pyromaniac Angelica confronts her abandonment issues and finds a her mother figure in a world where all adults are flesh-eating ghoulies. Ex-Jock Wesley Fists seeks his “samurai redemption” and eventually has to face the many personas he’s had to play in his public and private life as a black, gay football player. Even the star quarterback, who is a clear homage to Mad Max: Road Warrior’s Lord Humungus, shows his humanity (just before impaling one of his enemies in a pit of spikes).

In Daybreak, everyone has a story to tell and almost no one is telling the whole truth. The show is tropey, campy, and very extra, but it left me fascinated by the way these high schoolers struggle to create elaborate and flawed ways to cope with loss.

Andrew Jimenez

Lately I’ve been mesmerized by Science is Fiction: 23 Films by Jean Painlevé. Covering topics ranging from diatoms to sea urchins to pigeons, these surrealist shorts seem too artful and abstract to be real, but with them Painlevé—a scientist and inventor who combined those two skills into a career as a filmmaker—ensures that they are serious science. The earliest of his films, covering various sea life, were made in the 1920s and 30s, and were technological feats for their time. But the work modern viewers will find most satisfying were made in the 60s and 70s. With an experimental score by Pierre Anglès, Diatoms, in particular, is a delight. Anyone with a Criterion Channel subscription (or who knows someone who does) can view the films now

Eileen Silverthorn

The spooky season is still going strong in my house! I’ve been watching CBS’s Evil. This show gives you the foreboding creepiness of The Exorcist mixed with the analytical qualities and moral dilemmas characteristic of a crime drama. We follow Kristen, a clinical psychologist, who is hired by the Catholic church to help priest-in-training, David, assess whether miracles and demonic possessions are real, or are just medical anomalies and mental illnesses with a spiritual guise. A true exploration of the overlaps between science and religion, heavily seasoned with chilling demonic imagery (whether you believe or not)!

Witches, Chainmail, and Banned Books

Thomas Chisholm

I watched the 2015 horror film The VVitch a few days ago and was floored. It’s a perfect pick if you’re like me and watch horror movies all October long. The VVitch is not campy, corny, or gory. It’s very slow and a bit like an old school Hitchcock movie with violence usually taking place off camera. The film is set in the 1630’s and focuses on a puritan family in New England that is being terrorized by a witch. My favorite aspect of the movie is how it puts you in that time and place. The family lives on the edge of a mysterious wood. Their lives are being turned upside down and they have no idea what is causing their turmoil. There could literally be anything in those woods, and I find that mystery especially frightening. The actors speak in accents authentic to the period, so I’d recommend turning subtitles on. The VVitch was the debut film from director Robert Eggers; his second, The Lighthouse, just hit theaters a few weeks ago, and I can’t wait to see it.

Venus Davis

Disenchantment, the most recent offering from The Simpsons creator Matt Groening, is a cartoon that premiered on Netflix in August of 2018. The second season was just released this past September. So, naturally, after being devastated by the drama and delighted by the black humor, I decided to binge watch season two this past weekend. At first, I was caught off guard by the fast-paced storyline; everything just felt random to me. However, I am a big fan of when narratives just kind of click at a certain point after throwing the reader or viewer all over the place. Disenchantment did just that! I’m not usually one that goes for stories set in fairytale lands or the middle ages, but this show has me ready to buy chainmail! If you like FuturamaBob’s Burgers, or web toons like Bee and Puppycat, this is the show for you! Check it out so we can scream about the ending of season two together!

Stephanie Molina

This week I want to recommend an oldie but a goodie: The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook, by Dinah Bucholz. It made high school me absolutely jump for joy and I still use it to this day. My favorite recipes are the pumpkin pasties (in the section aptly titled “Treats from the Train”) and the dark chocolate truffles (“Treats in the Village”), and I make the cinnamon breakfast rolls every year for Christmas. Bucholz includes everything from intimidatingly European classics like black pudding or steak and kidney pie to more approachable sweets like Harry’s favorite treacle tart or Hagrid’s rock cakes. Every recipe references the lines that inspired it and it’s the perfect way to go down memory lane while making delicious goodies! I highly recommend it to anyone who loves baking and Harry Potter.

Zoe Nepolello

Suggested Reading by Dave Connis came out on September 17, just in time for Banned Books Week (September 22-28), and oh boy. I think I’m going to have to make it a tradition to read this every year during Banned Books Week. This was a novel that really reminded you about the power of storytelling. It delves deeply into what books truly mean to us, how they shape us, and what happens when they’re taken away.

The novel follows bookworm Clara as her school bans 50 books—many of which shaped who she is. She starts an Underground Library (UnLib), taking the books that were banned from the school library, wrapping them in white paper, and checking them out to students from her locker. With the expansion of the UnLib, Clara interacts with and befriends people who she never thought would speak to her. It’s a bonding over the changes each character faces from this assault on their freedom.

While there are so many fantastic looks at books and how much they impact and connect readers, Connis also shows Clara facing some tough questions as the UnLib grows and a reader feels overwhelmed by one of the books Clara recommends. It makes her question if perhaps the people who banned these books were right. While she may have felt one way about the book, she’s disheartened that someone else had completely opposite feelings. It’s a great look at how books speak to each person differently.

With a great cast of characters, a plot that constantly has you turning the pages, and messages that make you think long after setting the book down, I highly recommend Suggested Reading to anyone who needs a little reminder about how much books truly mean to us and to society.

Mass Extinction, Scandalous Magazines, and Canine Detectives

Emily Brill-Holland

I devoured The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal.

The Calculating Stars follows war pilot and math genius Elma York after a massive meteorite hits the Earth, sparking an extinction event: York quickly figures out that temperatures will plummet for a few years, only to dramatically spike and go on to rise past habitable levels.

I’m a sucker for anything that has a mass apocalypse event in it—and the blinding light that startles York and her husband ticked my boxes. When they rapidly calculated a shockwave half an hour later, I was all over it. When the meteorite slammed into the US East Coast, I wasn’t putting the book down.

Add to that an alternate history space race, intelligent characters who are still human, sexism, racism, anxiety, math, science, history (when not alternate), and a supportive relationship that isn’t the main plot? Yes please.

TCS is a prequel to a piece of short fiction that Kowal wrote; I hadn’t read it and had no idea how TCS ended. The tension provided by sexism and humans who don’t think the world is warming kept me breathless until the end.

One of the best parts for me was that Kowal’s characters knew what they knew. If something was simple to them, like kriah (York is Jewish), the characters mentioned it and moved on—which left me curious and googling everything from religion to history and geography. None of it was necessary to understanding the story, but I wanted to know more. I also really appreciated Kowal’s handling of drama. Secrets were kept, yes. Secrets were discovered. But nothing was handled stupidly because plot required it.

TCS  is an effective remark on our time, with Kowal borrowing common twenty-first-century climate change denial arguments to provide a gentle reminder that while we didn’t face an extinction event when getting to the moon in the twentieth century, we could use some of York’s determination and ambition in the twenty-first.

Kaley Kiermayr

Bitch is an independent quarterly magazine published in Portland, Oregon. Its tagline is “a feminist response to pop culture.” From their scandalous name to their bevy of thoughtful content, Bitch doesn’t pull any punches. Whether you’re looking for independent, feminist, radical thinking in a print magazine, or want to read explicitly political and feminist readings of pop culture on the daily, I think you’ll find Bitch to be critical, mandatory reading. I’ve been reading Bitch Magazine since 2014, and they’re on my mind as of late because they’re in the midst of an enormous fundraiser. Today is the last day to reach their $150,000 goal and #KeepBitchInPrint after 23 years!


Fundraiser link

Stefanie Molina

I recently read Heart of Barkness which is the latest installment in the long-running Chet and Bernie series. Sometimes, after a marathon of dystopias, violent fantasy worlds, fairy tale retellings, and thrillers…you just need something light and happy. Chet and Bernie always provide that for me while also handing out a healthy dose of drama and intrigue. This dynamic duo’s private investigator adventures are narrated by Chet, whose fresh way of seeing the world makes any tale (tail?!) worth telling.

Oh, I forgot the best part.

Chet’s a dog.

Dog lovers everywhere will completely fall for his innocence, his smarts, the simplicity of his day-to-day in the face of danger and complexity. He loves his Bernie (as he calls him) to the ends of the earth, and Bernie, hapless and endearing yet completely capable and badass, returns the favor in spades. You won’t find a more charming voice anywhere. And you won’t find a more loyal friend than Chet the Jet!

Math Destruction, Testaments, and Boarding School Mutations

Carolyn Janecek

Many of us joke about “our assigned FBI agents” watching us through our webcams––an attempt to make light of the pervasive surveillance and data mining of the 21st century. Well, I just finished reading data scientist Dr. Cathy O’Neil’s book Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy and learned about the incomprehensibly terrifying extent of corporate and governmental data mining in the United States. I was aware of many of the injustices laid out in this short, two-hundred-page book: standardized testing algorithms harming K-12 teachers, our country’s history of redlining, and healthcare discrimination based on preexisting conditions. But knowing about such examples in no way prepared me for the sheer proportions that Dr. O’Neil lays out. From fueling the Great Recession to curating our social media feeds, big data has permeated every part of our lives. Weapons of Math Destruction made me anxious about our future, but that’s exactly why I’ll be recommending it to everyone I know.

Eileen Silverthorn

I just finished listening to The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. We follow Theo, a psychotherapist, who is trying to get through to his newest patient, Alyssia, a woman who has been silent for six years following the murder of her husband. She is the only one who knows exactly what happened the night of the murder, and Theo—as he struggles with his own brand of psychosis—begins to unravel the pieces of what Alyssia has been keeping secret all these years. I was at the beach when I got to the super dark and twisty end of this novel (I sat up on my towel, shocked, screeching “WHAT!” and scaring my friends half to death). The writing is great, there are lots of interesting references to Greek tragedy weaved throughout the story, and again, the PLOT TWIST my friends, the PLOT TWIST. Highly recommend for those looking for a good mystery novel!

Ariel Fagiola

I’ve been deeply buried in Margaret Atwood’s new novel, The Testaments, and I’m already grieving it being over. She is one of my all-time favorite authors, and The Handmaid’s Tale (to be as dramatic as possible) changed my life in high school. And now she’s at it again with this long overdue and greatly appreciated continuation. I also only watched the first season of the show, so I felt even more desperate for this return. While I haven’t finished the book yet, and I’m sure I’ll have more opinions then, for now I highly recommend allowing yourself to be whisked away by Atwood’s stressful, beautiful, majorly screwed up, and heartbreaking writing.

Amanda Farbanish

Hi, yes, it is I, the staffer who won the Red, White & Royal Blue Battle of 2019. I’m back to give you another queer rec—this time, a queer feminist YA sci-fi horror thriller. (If you read that description and don’t immediately want to read the book, know that I’m judging you.) Wilder Girls by Rory Powers is everything I’ve ever wanted. You have an all-girl school that’s been infected by a mystery something (disease? alien infection?) they call the Tox, causing their bodies to develop weird and sometimes gross mutations. In fact, the entire island is infected, with a trip through the woods almost guaranteed to be deadly. Though the government promises to help, that help seems to be rather slow in coming.

But despite a horrific premise, what grounds this story and really makes it shine is the characters. The surviving girls and two teachers have to figure out how to survive together, creating a fascinating evolution of relationships. All of the characters are so incredibly realistic, their reactions, thoughts, and feelings in such a dangerous, high-stress environment wonderfully tailored to each character and their personality. Constantly facing death, they have to band together; Hetty, Reese, and Byatt—the trio the story centers on—have to manage their own fears along with their desire to protect and care for one another, a complicated line to walk when you’re constantly facing the creeping reality of death. If you’re in the mood for character-driven queer horror, this is the novel for you . . . what am I saying? No matter what, this is the novel for you.

Staff Picks Special Edition: Solo Dance Parties, Post-Apocalyptic Farmers, and Melodrama

Why is this staff picks a special edition? Well, because…

These very special picks are exclusively from our fantabulous Fall 2019 Interns! Learn even more about these new Brinkeroos in their very own Q&A on Monday.

Ally Geist

Lately, Ralph’s 2018 album, A Good Girl, has been my go-to pump-up music to start off my day. I heard Ralph perform live in Toronto a few months ago, and ever since I’ve been hooked. One of her songs (“Living For Yourself”) was inspired by the lovely RuPaul drag queens, and is the perfect song to have a solo dance party to. The album has a song for pretty much any mood, including some heartfelt songs that may induce a spontaneous sob-fest. But who doesn’t love a good catharsis after a hard day, am I right? I love supporting Indie artists, and Ralph is definitely a badass babe boss who fits the bill! Ralph perfectly demonstrates how you can grow through hardship and find self-love and passion on the other side of it. 

Jaclyn Morken

You know when you read one of those books, the kind that plow right into your heart and nest there forever? Lately, for me, that book has been Leah Bobet’s YA fantasy An Inheritance of Ashes. I read it earlier this summer, and I still think about it all the time. I’m a bit late to the scene—the novel came out in 2015—but it stayed with me for so many reasons.

In a fantasy/post-apocalyptic world vividly realized through lush prose, I found sixteen-year-old Hallie Hoffman, months after a devastating war in the south, trying to convince her sister to take on a hired hand to keep their struggling family farm afloat. It’s a story about family and friends old and new, learning how to face the remnants of the war everyone thought was over—and, most importantly, how to move forward from the darkness of trauma. The characters and relationships are brilliant and beautiful—from the sisters’ mutual need for reconciliation to Hallie’s slowly budding romance based on consent and honesty.

If, like me, you’re looking for a fantasy that focuses on aftermath, that shows the ways love and community can heal, then this book is definitely for you.

Venus Davis

Melodrama is the sophomore album of singer-songwriter, Lorde. To me, this album is mine. Music should feel so personal that it’s like someone is stealing a page from your diary. Melodrama crept slowly into my ears and I haven’t stopped thinking about that haunting feeling of being twenty and not twenty-one or nineteen. I make it sound like this album has made me think negatively of myself, but I want to stress that this album empowered me. When Lorde talks about feeling like a disaster, but still being there for herself to pick up the pieces, as if she’s her own romantic partner in “Liability;” when she calls out romantic interests and lets them know how she would write about them in “Writer in the Dark;” how she creates a chillingly accurate caricature of herself and young adulthood . . . I felt that so much it was like a second skin. I highly recommend listening to this album with a juice box and a journal in hand to reminisce and write about how you feel about growing up and your relationship with the word love.

Abi Mechley

I’m sure many more avid gamers and game reviewers have already said their piece about Horizon Zero Dawn, the PS4 exclusive open-world game that debuted in 2016. Far be it from me to claim that my take is wholly original or groundbreaking; nonetheless I hope that—if you have not had a chance to play it—you might give it a try.

Essentially, Horizon Zero Dawn is a world inhabited by monstrous machines and vast tribes. You play Aloy, a young woman fighting for recognition in a tribe that has left her an outcast since birth for being motherless. The game is deeply and clearly influenced by the power of relationships, and the core of Aloy’s story is one of family, particularly shown in her attempts to unravel her past by searching for the mother she never knew. The worldbuilding, the random notes and letters and interactions with NPCs . . . all of it is intertwined with this idea of the bonds and relationships we have with others. It was an incredibly meditative experience to sit down with Aloy and explore this world, get to know these characters, and confront the mysteries hidden just beneath the surface.

Horizon Zero Dawn—E3 2016 Trailer | Only On PS4

Viengsamai Fetters

I’ll say this up front: podcasts are hard for me. I struggle to focus on auditory input for long periods of time, especially if I’m not doing something that requires the rest of my attention, like driving; often I find myself having to rewind in order to catch key details that I missed the first time around. This podcast isn’t like that, though—I’m enthralled the whole time. The Strange Case of Starship Iris is an audio drama, a tangle of mysteries that keeps getting bigger. It’s sci-fi for those of us who don’t see ourselves in sci-fi. It’s chock-full of queer and trans and Asian representation—voice acted by people who share similar identities—and while that’s what initially drew me in, I binged the show because I love the characters and boy howdy, do I want to know what’s next!

Starship Iris is set soon after Earth narrowly defeats aliens in an intergalactic war; the podcast follows Violet Liu, a sarcastic and dauntless (but also terrified) biologist as she adjusts to life after the title ship is mysteriously destroyed . . . leaving Violet the only survivor. I can’t tell you more for fear of spoilers, but Violet and her newfound allies soon have some major conspiracies to unravel. The episodes are still coming out, albeit with a little distance between them, and I, ever impatient, somehow don’t mind the wait.

Tarot Readings, Magic Princes, and Kickbutt Evil Scientists

Chase Bailey

I’m all about tapping into the mysterious unknown and trying to make sense of the nonsensical, which is why this week I’m sharing my current appetite for pick-a-card tarot-reading videos on YouTube. There are tons of channels that you can choose from, but my particular favorite is Charmed Intuition Tarot. There are readings for all types of things, and I just watched her video “September 2019 Predictions.” You’re encouraged to take a breath, clear your mind, and choose one of three decks, which she’ll then do a reading for in tandem with a charm casting.

Part ASMR, part opportunity for a little self-introspection, I really have come to enjoy watching these videos and seeing how her predictions align with my personal goals (I’m big into manifesting right now). Her voice is super calming, and, if anything, it’s a great way to visualize positivity for oneself. I’m not saying her September predictions are correct (we’re still in August!), but I am saying I’ve latched onto her positive message about as much as I desperately latch onto a good result on a BuzzFeed quiz.

Zoe Nepolello

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a diehard V.E./Victoria Schwab fan. This woman can write anything, and I’m all-too-eager to read it. Her most recent venture is a medium that’s relatively new to me, but that doesn’t make me any less obsessed with it—comics.

With The Steel Prince, Schwab has created a kickass prequel to her Shades of Magic series. And while I absolutely recommend that trilogy (guys, it’s so good), these comics stand completely on their own.

The story follows young prince Maxim Maresh as he’s sent to a violent and unmanageable port city in his kingdom, with orders from his father to cut his military teeth in this lawless environment. As of now, the comics are set to have three arcs (The Steel PrinceNight of Knives, and Rebel Army), and with two of those arcs already being out (and the first bound up as a graphic novel), now’s a great time to get started!

These comics excel in so many ways. The world is built spectacularly, especially for people who have never been introduced to this world’s complicated magic system; the panels are used perfectly to tell the story, nailing the layout, pacing, camera angle, and overall cohesion of each story of Maxim Marersh; and, not least of all, the art here is just fantastic. With these comics, Schwab has really shown her talent and versatility in all manner of storytelling. Whether you’re a comic enthusiast or just starting out, I highly recommend picking up these gems.

Giancarlo Riccobon

A Town Called Panic is a movie for adults that haven’t grown out of playing with toys. After a lot of films that try a little too hard to be photorealistic (looking at you, Lion King remake!), I find it refreshing to see a stop-motion film that makes no effort to hide the fact that it’s stop-motion. It’s designed to look like the animators grabbed some plastic action figures and a video camera and started goofing off. The characters waddle around on their plastic bases like the army men from Toy Story. Here’s the plot (though I use that term loosely here). When Cowboy and Indian realize that they forgot to give a birthday gift to Horse (who is the closest thing to a responsible adult in this world), they mistakenly order 50 million bricks when they only meant to order 50, thus triggering a chaotic chain of events. In any other movie, the nonsensical plot would have been a death blow. Here, it makes perfect sense, as if the story is being told by a six-year-old who is making it up as he goes. Kickbutt evil scientists? An underwater department store? Sure, why not? In fact, “Sure, why not?” is the motto of the entire movie. 

Mutant Genes, Slavery, and Other Colonialist Traditions

Carolyn Janecek

As the Marvel Cinematic Universe churns out blockbusters about despondent billionaire tech giants and actors named Chris with chiseled abs, I find myself turning to different superheroes. Searching for underdogs and character arcs I can relate to, I’ve found C. B. Lee’s YA series, The Sidekick Squad. With protagonists who easily switch between first languages, who have blended families, and welcome new members into their Resistance movement with names and pronouns, this series does the trick. Lee’s world explores a future where a solar flare has caused nuclear reactor meltdowns around the world, fundamentally changing the ecological and political landscape as it activated mutant genes and caused global food insecurity. A hundred years after the Disasters, the protagonists are used to viewing meat as a luxury and solar-power as the norm. But even as the North American Collective overcomes nuclear disaster and frames itself as a utopia, the protagonists quickly uncover depths of corruption in their society and realize super-powered battles between heroes and villains are just distractions to keep the general public from digging deeper. Fast-paced, heartfelt, and with a hint of teenage drama, The Sidekick Squad is a series I’ve devoured this summer, and already I’m looking forward to C. B. Lee’s future books.

Andrew Jimenez

In August of 1619, a ship appeared on the horizon, “near Point Comfort, a coastal port in the British Colony of Virginia. It carried more than 20 enslaved Africans, who were sold to the colonists. No aspect of the country that would be formed here has been untouched by the years of slavery that followed.” So begins The New York Times Magazine’s brilliant The 1619 Project, a thorough examination of the legacy of slavery in the United States. Through a potent mix of poetry, storytelling, personal essays, and traditional journalism, the project explores how slaves and their ancestors both built the infrastructure and economy of this country and embody—more than any other people—the ideals America was founded upon. Of particular interest to me was Matthew Desmond’s essay on the link between the plantation and our nation’s brutal brand of capitalism. It not only challenges the notion that the American way of doing capitalism is a natural and unplanned phenomenon, it also lays to waste the idea that it is the only way to do capitalism. It reminds me of the best parts of Mark Fisher’s 2009 book, Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?. Both Fisher’s book and The 1619 Project are required reading for anyone who questions what we do in America and how we ended up doing it.

Kaley Kiermayr

When I picked up the poetry chapbook Girasol, by Vianney Casas, at AWP, one of the people working the Foglifter Press table said, “You’re going to want to drink a glass of red wine with that.” 

If you’re reading this—oh, how I wish I’d listened to you. This chapbook is so gutsy, so hypnotic, and grapples with so many scary things so bravely that I did feel like I should be reading it with—yes—a large glass of something strong. Instead I read Girasol by the pool under the hot sun, and it was a harrowing experience. I ended up (repeatedly!) reading a few poems and then going to dunk my head in the pool—and not just because it was 110 degrees outside.

In Girasol, the character Friducha “grapples with the question of artistic freedom within a colonialist tradition that exploits and obscures brown, femme bodies, and yet paradoxically draws solace from the suffering depicted therein.” The language in these poems shifts endlessly—between English and Spanish, dream and reality, tenses, boundaries, location, context—and so it manages to somehow be menacing and forgiving at the same time. While reading, I got the distinct image of a dreamlike bubble, trauma suspended inside it—what happens when it bursts?

If work of this caliber and sensitivity is what comes from Foglifter Press stepping forward as a new publisher of experimental and innovative queer chapbooks, sign me up.

Giancarlo Riccobon

At a glance, Wolf Children might seem like just a fluffy anime with adorable werewolf children. It’s definitely got adorable werewolf children, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a serious drama geared more towards teens and adults, and it doesn’t shy away from the struggles of adulting. Watching single mother Hana try to raise two half-wolf children will certainly remind readers that parenthood isn’t easy.

The movie touches on many situations that any parent will relate to, such as watching your kids grow up and choose their own paths. And of course, it has the occasional moment that’s unique to parents of wolf children. (Most kids don’t claw up your furniture!) There’s a clever scene where poor Hana has to decide whether to take her daughter to a children’s hospital or an animal hospital.

It’s got a beautiful score and some spectacular montages, so what more could you ask for? Also, did I mention the adorable werewolf children?

Childhood, Graphic Novels, and Magical Creatures

Zoe Nepolello

In honor of the announcement that there’s going to be three books, I have a mighty need to gush about Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto. This YA fantasy debut simply blew me away in its scope. The world is lush and big, the characters jump off the page with relatability, and the phoenixes—they’re fun and beautiful and I need one now. The political atmosphere intrigued me from beginning to end, the magic system was subtle but complex, and there was a twist that I didn’t even come close to guessing—and I (unfortunately) have a knack for guessing endings.

The story is divided into three separate narratives: Veronyka, Tristan, and Sev. Each individual gives you different access and information to how the world works, but they ultimately all give you themes of community and finding your place in this decimated world. I cannot wait to continue with this trilogy and see where each character goes from here.

If you’re a fantasy fanatic, and you dream of having your own magical creature, this is new series is not to be missed.

Kathy Nguyen

Last week I finished Adrian Tomine’s Killing and Dying. It’s a collection of graphic short stories, and this fact alone is what made me pull it off of the shelves of my local library. While I’ve read short story collections and I’ve read graphic novels, I don’t come across the combination of the two genres as much. Obviously, I need to fix that, because I adored this book! Tomine’s art is impeccable, and his stories accomplish so much with so little. My favorite story has to be “Translated, from the Japanese,” when Tomine cuts down on the high panel density that characterizes most of the stories in his collection, opting instead for a style that gives space to the big, pulsing heart of the narrative. 

Giancarlo Riccobon

The movie “Only Yesterday” has surprised me in the best way. A Studio Ghibli film, it was considered “undubbable” and wasn’t released in North America until 25 years after its release. It’s the kind of story that probably could have been told in live-action but gains so much more from the medium of animation.

It follows 27-year-old Taeko on a life-changing visit to the countryside as she starts to re-evaluate what she wants to do with her life. Woven into the narrative are flashbacks of Taeko’s childhood. The anecdotes are charming and relatable, like the day Taeko first tasted pineapple, and the time she spent weeks rehearsing for her school play even though she only had one line.

Perhaps the most compelling part isn’t the past or the present, but where they each bleed into one another. Taeko is still bothered by all these ghosts from her childhood that have shaped who she is today—her shame at never understanding how to “flip the numerator” in fractions, and the guilt of knowing that a kid from her fifth grade class never forgave her for not wanting to sit next to him.

You’ll definitely want to stick around for the ending. It’s deliciously understated, and it’s sprung on you after the credits start rolling.

Eileen Silverthorn

I recently finished watching The Umbrella Academy on Netflix. SO. FREAKING. GOOD. It’s an adaptation from the graphic novel series from Dark Horse Comics, written by Gerard Way (My Chemical Romance fans, let me hear you!) and illustrated by Gabriel Bá. I must say—and I know this might be sacrilege—but I actually prefer the Netflix series. It’s the story of a dysfunctional family of superpowered siblings who have to navigate time travel, love, the apocalypse (casual), and their own trauma and self-doubt. Highly recommend!