Arts & Culture

Book Reviews: October 2018

The latest from Kondwani Fidel and Marion Winik.


Hummingbirds in the Trenches

Kondwani Fidel (self-published)

Kondwani Fidel’s raw, brutal, and unabashedly honest account of growing up in Baltimore and losing family and friends to murder, drugs, and gang violence is painful to read but also refreshing, uncompromising in its integrity to tell the truth as he sees it. There’s a sensitivity and a fire to the voice of this 25-year-old, who has already traveled the country and world to give lectures and readings. His new collection of memoir-esque essays, one-liners, conversation excerpts, and rhythmic poetry—referred to as “The Tracklist” in the table of contents—encompasses the writer’s ruminations and research. Here, he reflects on the repercussions of slavery and systemic racism in America: the toxic lead paint study on black youth; kids suffering in public schools without air conditioning or heat; and general poverty, depression (including his own), suicide, drugs, and blood on the streets of East Baltimore. If you’re not aware of what growing up in a rough neighborhood is like—what it’s like to be a hummingbird in the trenches—this book will pry your eyes wide open.

Read our full interview with writer Kondwani Fidel.


The Baltimore Book of the Dead

Marion Winik (Counterpoint)

Rarely does the subject of death feel so light and playful as it does in this collection of prose poem elegies by Baltimore writer and longtime All Things Considered commentator Marion Winik. To be clear, the title is somewhat misleading; this is not a historical account of people who have lived and/or died in Baltimore but rather a collection that honors the lives of the people who stayed on Winik’s mind over the years—from David Bowie to close family members and friends, many of whom do have ties to our city. In this sequel-of-sorts to her 2008 book The Glen Rock Book of the Dead, Winik pays her respects not in a traditional format, like you might find in a eulogy, but through levity, idiosyncrasies, and crisp scenes of the people who shaped her. Each piece is a remembrance that celebrates who they were and what they left behind, if only in the selective, and sometimes random, memories of those who knew them.