Activities of Daily Living by Lisa Hsiao Chen. How do we take stock of a life–by what means, and by what measure? This is the question that preoccupies Alice, a Taiwanese immigrant in her late thirties. In the off-hours from her day job, Alice struggles to create a project about the enigmatic downtown performance artist Tehching Hsieh and his monumental, yearlong 1980s performance pieces. Meanwhile, she becomes the caretaker for her aging stepfather, a Vietnam vet whose dream of making traditional Chinese furniture dissolved in alcoholism and dementia. As Alice roots deeper into Hsieh’s radical use of time–in one piece, the artist confined himself to a cell for a year; in the next, he punched a time clock every hour, on the hour, for a year–and his mysterious disappearance from the art world, her project starts metabolizing events from her own life. Moving between present-day and 1980s New York City, with detours to Silicon Valley and the Venice Biennale, this vivid debut announces Lisa Hsiao Chen as an audacious new talent. To learn more, check out this San Francisco Chronicle review and this NYT review.
Noisy Autumn: Sculpture and Works on Paper by Christy Rupp. Christy Rupp emerged as an American artist and activist in Manhattan in the late 1970s, using commodified materials to construct three-dimensional, sculptural works imbued with a dynamic sense of life. Noisy Autumn contains her recent sculptures and works on paper anticipating the dawn of late capitalism, and the Anthropocene. Rupp is primarily concerned with humans’ perceptions of nature: where do the borders of the “natural” emerge? The work aims to deconstruct harsh divisions that separate humans from our environment, while addressing the intersection of geopolitics, culture, and economics, as they impact the vulnerabilities of ecosystems. Her sculptures and works on paper alike leave readers pondering human engagement with the natural world amid rampant consumption–and how they may take action. Check out her website to learn more about Christy Rupp.
Don’t Cry for Me by Daniel Black. As Jacob lies dying, he begins to write a letter to his only son, Isaac. They have not met or spoken in many years, and there are things that Isaac must know. Stories about his ancestral legacy in rural Arkansas that extend back to slavery. Secrets from Jacob’s tumultuous relationship with Isaac’s mother and the shame he carries from the dissolution of their family. Tragedies that informed Jacob’s role as a father and his reaction to Isaac’s being gay. But most of all, Jacob must share with Isaac the unspoken truths that reside in his heart. He must give voice to the trauma that Isaac has inherited. And he must create a space for the two to find peace. With piercing insight and profound empathy, acclaimed author Daniel Black illuminates the lived experiences of Black fathers and queer sons, offering an authentic and ultimately hopeful portrait of reckoning and reconciliation. There’s an interesting review in Southern Review of Books. You might also be interested in this video from the Georgia Center for the Book that shows a conversation between Daniel Black and Julian Winters.
Unprotected: A Memoir by Billy Porter. “This is not a coming-out story. It’s not a down-low story either. I never could have passed for straight, even if I’d wanted to, and so I never had the dubious luxury of living a lie.” From the incomparable Emmy, Grammy, and Tony Award winner, a powerful and revealing autobiography about race, sexuality, art, and healing It’s easy to be yourself when who and what you are is in vogue. But growing up Black and gay in America has never been easy. Before Billy Porter was slaying red carpets and giving an iconic Emmy-winning performance in the celebrated TV show Pose; before he was the groundbreaking Tony and Grammy Award–winning star of Broadway’s Kinky Boots; and before he was an acclaimed recording artist, actor, playwright, director, and all-around legend, Porter was a young boy in Pittsburgh who was seen as different, who didn’t fit in. At five years old, Porter was sent to therapy to “fix” his effeminacy. He was endlessly bullied at school, sexually abused by his stepfather, and criticized at his church. Porter came of age in a world where simply being himself was a constant struggle. Billy Porter’s Unprotected is the life story of a singular artist and survivor in his own words. This audiobook is also narrated by Billy Porter himself!
The Invisible Kingdom : Reimagining Chronic Illness by Meghan O’Rourke. Drawing on her own medical experience as well as fifteen years of interviews with doctors, patients, researchers, and public health experts, O’Rourke’s incisive new work speaks to an urgent subject: the epidemic scale of autoimmune disease in America (even greater with the advent of ‘Long Covid’) and where we go from here. O’Rourke reveals crucial, subtle complexities about the American struggle with chronic illness and autoimmune conditions, and offers new reasons for hope, as well as a new framework for thinking about infectious disease and autoimmune response going forward. You can read reviews in Slate and the Los Angeles Times.