Side Chick Nation, By Aya de León, 375 pgs.

Hurricane Maria made Caribbean landfall in September 2017, and not two years later Aya de León published Side Chick Nation, a novel with Maria at the center of it. The nation of the title is Puerto Rico—de León quotes San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz as comparing her country to a married person’s under-respected lover, with the United States as the married person.

This excerpt from the back cover captures the spirit of Side Chick Nation: “her formidable Lower East Side Women’s Health Clinic’s heist squad.”

From the novel:

“I have some bad news for you,” Marisol said. “We need you to do the real dirty work.”

“What? Fucking him?” Kim asked.

Marisol nodded.

“If he was Dulce’s sugar daddy, then he likes Latinas with big asses,” Kim protested. “Sounds like a job for you, Marisol.”

“Nope,” she said. “Not only have I met him, but he knows someone who can trace me. Besides, he likes young women. Even his wife is in her twenties.”

“Tyesha’s younger than me,” Kim said. “And has much more ass.”

“Tyesha has a grant proposal due.”

Marisol runs the clinic and the heist squad. Dulce is a former sex worker who flees an abusive and connected boyfriend and ends up trapped during the hurricane.

Side Chick Nation is a novel in the romantic suspense genre, a political novel with an emphasis on feminism, and a character study with a certain amount of modernism; de León peppers the novel with many scenes from a telenovela some of the characters watch.

De León has created a world not quite like any other writer’s. She’ll be writing bestsellers within ten years and reviewers of other books will be using phrases like “in the tradition of Aya de León.”

I have to tell you that I can’t imagine the reader who would not find Side Chick Nation too long—when de León decides to slow her story down, it’s time for the reader to settle in for the duration—though if you suspect you’ll like it, you will like it. –Jim Woster (Dafina Books, kensingtonbooks.com)

Soulside: Washington DC 1986-1989, By Alexis Fleisig, 96 pgs.

This one landed in my mailbox a few days before I started discussing photo essays to my English Comp class. Intentional or not, Alexis Fleisig has put together a textbook example of the photo narrative. Starting with the band’s inception (as Lunchmeat), Fleisig documents the band’s shows and tours. The text here is minimal: just enough to orient readers unfamiliar with the punk scene (and, of course, the Dischord scene which spawned the band). I’m not a Soulside person, but this book was completely engrossing. Fleisig’s photos of tours include DC luminaries as roadies, and band flyers form a snapshot of the band’s connection to the late-’80s scene as the group traverses the country in a rickety van (complete with requisite breakdowns). Thoroughly engrossing, like a fantastic Instagram account before the medium existed. Get in the van! –Michael T. Fournier (Akashic, akashicpress.com)

Way Cities Feel To Us Now, The, By Nathaniel Kennon Perkins, 155 pgs.

This is Nathaniel Kennon Perkins’s first collection of short stories. The book has twenty-two tales, and the majority of them find characters living in the present-day West and Southwest United States. The Way Cities Feel to Us Now is an exploration of what it’s like to be a slacker punk in the desert and mountain states, when there are long periods of time between where you are and where you want to be.

That said, driving plays a big role in these pages. It wasn’t surprising that the influences of Jack Kerouac and Al Burian appear, but often (and especially so in the longer short stories) with a narrative scripted more akin to works by Andre Dubus II. Characters in these stories are looking for answers while trying to find themselves, trying to find drugs, and trying to find their next lay. There’s not a sense of nihilism or hopelessness, just an aspiration for some sense to be made of life. (For some characters this is done in the shadow of Mormonism, which isn’t surprising given the effect it has on those living in Utah and neighboring mountain states.) But until life can make sense, there is drinking, smoking cigarettes, and fighting to be had.

I enjoyed a number of tales, primarily the longer ones. My favorites were: “Pyramid Blues,” a tale of road tripping around the American Southwest; “The Preacher Waylon Jennings,” a case of mistaken identity; “Los huevos del Señor,” a tale of Mormon missionaries in Latin America, and “House Party,” about a brother who disappears from the narrator’s life, only to return years later.

The very short stories—those under five pages—either need to be fleshed out or shouldn’t have been placed in with the rest of the tales to begin with. When the work is strong, Perkins writes very well and it’s captivating. But with the shorter tales, I wanted more. I wanted to see a point or a deeper emotional connection between characters. Often times I felt I was getting an emotional outburst instead of the insightful content that provide meaningful, reflective tales.

Short story collections have always been hit or miss for me. But I felt the amount of interesting, thought-provoking material in The Way Cities Feel to Us Now far outweighs any concerns I may have with the shorter pieces. If anything, I hope they serve as foundations upon which another collection of short stories can be written. –Kurt Morris (Muadlin House, thewaycitiesfeeltousnow.maudlinhouse.net)

Interview with All We’ve Got director Alexis Clements by Billups Allen

“Each bookstore has its own personality, but feminist bookstores have a long history of being super queer friendly. Many of them were started by queer people and they’re gone. They’re just by and large gone. They just can’t make the math work.” –Alexis Clements

Webcomic Wednesdays #407 by Jack Steiger

Click Read More for full size.

ADVENTURES OF PUNK BIRD #2, #3, 4½” x 5½”, 20 pgs.

The whacky hi-jinks of an alcoholic gutter punk bird. As an art piece, it feels cramped. The panels and dialogue hardly have room to breathe. Several panels are stuffed with dialogue to the detriment of the panel composition. The humor is basic, but it doesn’t make bad bathroom reading. The main character has a good design, but I’m not sure there’s really anything of substance in the story itself. Not a complete waste of time, but flawed. –Gwen Static (punkbird352@gmail.com)

ANALOG COMPANION Vol. 4, Issue 3, free, 5½” x 8½”, printed, 30pgs.

Visually, this is one of the nicest zines I’ve seen in a while. The print quality, the paper stock, and the overall layout combine with the content (black and white photos and text), to make something that’s as fun to look at as it is to read. The visual style varies throughout, ranging from the cut-n-paste look of zines of the past, to more skate/snow magazine style looks. It’s appropriate for the content of the zine, with both snowboarding and hardcore punk content on offer. This issue features interviews with Vantage Point and Pummel, as well as photos and reviews of a couple local shows, album reviews, an article on skateboard lifestyle company Heartthrobs, and two articles on snowboarding from two very different spots (Stowe, Vt. and Trondheim, Norway). I thought the interviews were good, but would have liked to see more questions, and perhaps some introductory backgrounds about each band. I loved the quasi-philosophical slant to the article “Resort Resuscitation,” about riding at Stowe, trying to find something new to appreciate even in familiar territory. Definitely a vibe I can relate to as a cyclist. This was my first introduction to Analog Companion, and I’m looking forward to future issues. –Paul J. Comeau (analogcompanion.com)

DEAD IN SAN DIEGO: BETTY BRODERICK, $13, 5½” x 7”, Laserjet, 16 pgs.

There are so many forgotten murder trials that were such impactful moments in the lives of many of us Southern Californians. The ones we do remember involve annoying serial killers like Richard Ramirez, who was that annoying kid who thought he was hard because he listened to Slayer. Unless you were a little older in the ’80s (or alive), you won’t remember Betty Broderick’s murder trial on TV, especially in San Diego. This offshoot of Dead in Hollywood gives a great recount of the moments of Betty Broderick and her train of thought before and after she killed her ex-husband and his wife. A hero to many a pissed wife, and a maniac to most, it’s nonetheless interesting to read about the incident. Jump into this intense zine now… or else! –Iggy Nicklbottum (Castroburger, instagram.com/deadinhollywoodzine)

DITHERING DOODLES #88, #97, #99, #101, free or trade, 5½” x 8½”, copied, 12 pgs.

Hello there again, Dithering Doodles. Have you really made one hundred of these guys? Impressive. I’ve certainly never done anything nearly as impressive. These still read like a mix of verbal diarrhea and sketch books that a middle schooler made. I’m wondering where you find the time. I do want to congratulate you because your drawings are legitimately getting better. Your style has become more your own and you know what you want. You’ll never impress me, the soulless critic, but there is life in these pages—life crammed and suffocating with details of the infuriating world around you. Good job. –Gwen Static (259 East 700 South, SLC, UT 84111)

DOING LINES, 3½” x 4½”, copied, 6 pgs.

Okay, this is weird. I had an incredibly similar premise for a zine that I half got off the ground years and years ago. Several pages of one-line stories, in an attempt to tell a story with as few of words as possible, much like Faulkner’s famous six-word story exercise. If I’m being honest though, few of these entries count as stories. Consider the classic “Baby shoes, for sale. Never worn.” The story has three acts. The first: “Baby shoes,” we know there is a baby, we have established the normality. The second act complication, “for sale.” The climax, “never worn.” Each phrase holds so much purpose. But most of the lines in this zine are thoughts, musings, half-stories. Not enough to really sink your teeth into. –Gwen Static (Don Leach, no address listed)