Caroline Fraser’s most recent book, Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder, received the Pulitzer Prize for biography. Her first book, God’s Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church, was reissued last fall. (May 2020)

IN THE REVIEW

When Will We Care About Domestic Violence?

Käthe Kollwitz: Mothers, 1919

No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us

by Rachel Louise Snyder
As countries around the world have tracked Covid-19, they’ve seen a sharp spike in another scourge, one of far longer duration and with no known cure: domestic violence. But as Rachel Louise Snyder reveals in her invaluable, deeply reported book No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us, the prevalence of domestic violence is nothing new. Household barbarity is not only a “global health problem of epidemic proportions,” according to the World Health Organization, it is also the bare twisted root from which other violence in American society stems, from school shootings to mass murder.

Warren in the Trap

Elizabeth Warren; drawing by Anders Nilsen
Since Elizabeth Warren’s formal announcement of her candidacy on February 19, 2019, the narrative about her has had little to do with her actual qualifications. From initially low poll numbers, she rode a brief upswing in October to the top of some national polls, immediately drawing a backlash, in part over concerns that her Medicare for All plan was too far to the left. After the debate on January 14, 2020, when Bernie Sanders denied having told her, at a private meeting in 2018, that he did not believe a woman could be elected, it was clear that the issue of “electability” swamped all else. To anybody paying attention, however, that issue has been central since the beginning.

The Road Taken

Pete Buttigieg at a presidential campaign event, Exeter, New Hampshire, May 2019

Shortest Way Home: One Mayor’s Challenge and a Model for America’s Future

by Pete Buttigieg
Pete Buttigieg’s campaign memoir, Shortest Way Home: One Mayor’s Challenge and a Model for America’s Future, introduces the candidate by heavily emphasizing his hometown ties. In it, he seems bent on leveraging his midwestern values, giving the strong sense of being almost radically wholesome. He does this by presenting, in an astounding act of compression, a life packed like a Marie Kondo underwear drawer full of neatly folded accomplishments, all achieved with apparent effortlessness.

‘Our Bodies Were Born into Hard Labor’

An abandoned farmhouse, 2005; photograph by Eugene Richards from The Run-On of Time, the catalog of a recent exhibition that originated at the George Eastman Museum and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. It is distributed by Yale University Press.

Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth

by Sarah Smarsh
Of herself, Sarah Smarsh writes, “I was the proverbial teen pregnancy, my very existence the mark of poverty. I was in a poor girl’s lining like a penny in a purse—not worth much, according to the economy, but kept in production.”

‘A Strange, Bloody, Broken Beauty’

Dear Husband,

by Joyce Carol Oates

Little Bird of Heaven

by Joyce Carol Oates
“What are Americans like today?” John Steinbeck set out to answer that question in Travels with Charley, his 1962 travelogue, but it had been a theme of his fiction, as it had been a theme of many works by American writers loosely labeled naturalists. It was not a query of …

Confidence Games

The Silver Screen

by Maureen Howard
“The novel became my game,” writes Maureen Howard in an essay in The New York Times. “We are in this game together,” she goes on, defining “reading, real reading” as a “strenuous and pleasurable contact sport.” The theme of reading and writing as a game is pervasive in her work, …

Heart of Darkness

The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art

by Joyce Carol Oates

Rape: A Love Story

by Joyce Carol Oates
Joyce Carol Oates, author of some forty novels (nine written under an assumed name), twenty short story collections, six novellas, eight volumes of poetry, seven of plays, and nine of essays, may be our most prolific contemporary writer. She may also be our most critically confounding. Hosts of reviewers have …