This can be read as a collection of essays, or as a diagnostic look at how individuals, communities, and countries can work with one another. Known and Strange Things might be, at its core, a series of travel essays focused on the social and political. Cole’s duty is to question what it is we think we see: in one essay, “Blind Spot,” Cole worries a waitress might think he is illiterate, not knowing about his eyesight. The idea here, as in the rest of the collection, is being misread. Cole is aware of both how he might be seen, but also how others are seen without context. In Known and Strange Things, Cole is inviting you to take a journey of discovery; a trip around the world without a passport. Just know, when you arrive, you might see terrible, beautiful, or strange things.
“I would say that there exist a thousand breakable links between each of us and everything else, and that our dignity and our chances are one,” so writes Mary Oliver in an essay on the hope that lies within winter’s darkness. It is a sentiment expressed everywhere in Mary Oliver’s deceptively simple poetry. And so too in her deceptively simple prose, as is clear in her collection of essays, Upstream. In meditations on the natural world and on the everyday sensibilities contained within daily life, she notes those breakable links as well as the underlying bonds of oneness. Oliver explores this further in critical essays on writers who serve as her forerunners—Emerson, Whitman, Wordsworth—and in an essay on Poe whose pessimism might seem to stand opposite the affirmation that defines her work. But in his work she sees the same transcendental linkages between life and death, despair and hope, the same striving to overcome the artifice of writing by grasping the real. She continues in the passage quoted above:
“The farthest star and the mud at our feet are family; and there is no decency or sense in honoring one thing, or a few things, and then closing the list. The pine tree, the leopard, the Platte River, and ourselves -- we are at risk together, or we are on our way to a sustainable world together. We are each other’s destiny.”
This is the one adult coloring book that stands out from the rest. Part poetic exploration of self, and part surrealist coloring book, Avie’s Dreams captures, in brief, powerful, statements and wildly exploratory woman-centered drawings, a mesmerizing narrative about race, gender, sexuality and body image. Dedicated to exploring Afro-centricity, gender dynamics and Black womanhood, Makeda Lewis’s Afro-feminist coloring book is a must have.