E.B. Bartels

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Category: Opinions

“How I Stopped Being Afraid of My Own Brain” on Electric Lit

For the full piece, see it on Electric Literature.
Published on May 8, 2019.

My grandmother, Genevieve Beckers Bartels.

Writing nonfiction is always personal, in my opinion. You are putting your thoughts, feelings, and point of view out there, even if you are hiding behind the safety of research or criticism. This essay that I published today on Electric Literature is, at its core, a book review, but it is also the most personal thing I have published to date.

Thank you for reading it, and for your thoughtfulness and your care with this subject matter. A special thank you to my editor, Jess Zimmerman, who helped me so much with shaping this piece and clarifying my ideas, and, of course, thank you to my dad who helped me with this essay, and with so many other things, more than he realizes.

But if you only take one thing away from this piece, it better be that you need to go out and buy and read Marin Sardy‘s book The Edge of Every Day ASAP!

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2018 Reading Round-Up

Happy first day of 2019, everyone! You know what that means: time for my annual reading tally for the past year. So, as is tradition, here is the breakdown of what I read in 2018, my top 18 books that were published 2018, plus some of my reading resolutions for 2019.

Thanks for the graphics and stats, GoodReads. Shocking that no one else has read “My Pet Died” by Rachel Biale.

 

WHAT I READ:

THE GENRE BREAKDOWN:

  • Fiction: 19
  • Nonfiction: 43
  • Graphic novels/comics: 9
  • Graphic memoirs/nonfiction: 7
  • Poetry: 15
  • Drama: 1
  • Young adult/middle grade: 6
  • Picture books: 37*
  • Books that I had already previously read: 6**

*Most of these were for research. I swear.

**Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, Playing Dead by Elizabeth Greenwood, Black Mass by Dick Lehr & Gerard O’Neill, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

THE DEMOGRAPHIC BREAKDOWN:

  • Books by women of color: 39
  • Books by white women: 50
  • Books by men of color: 14
  • Books by white men: 26
  • Books by non-binary people of color: 1
  • Books by non-binary white people: 1
  • Books by LGBTQ folks: ~26

THE REASON-FOR-READING BREAKDOWN:

  • Books for research purposes: 30
  • Books by Non-Fiction by Non-Men authors: 14
  • Books for the Nobles English curriculum: 9
  • Books for my true crime book club: 10
  • Books for fun/other reasons/just for the hell of it: 74

E.B.’s TOP 18 BOOKS PUBLISHED in 2018:

I am really glad that I am doing this tradition of my top [xx] books published in 20[xx] because it means I get to add one more book to my list each year. HOWEVER: narrowing my list of books read this year down to only 18 was still brutal, so please appreciate the pain I went through to bring you this blog post. Now, without further ado, my top 18 books published in 2018, organized alphabetically by author’s last name.

  1. Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (October 23, 2018)
  2. How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee (April 17, 2018)
  3. All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung (October 2, 2018)
  4. How To Sit by Tyrese Coleman (September 1, 2018)
  5. My Own Devices by Dessa (September 8, 2018)
  6. Freshwater by Awaeke Emezi (February 13, 2018)
  7. Movers and Shakers by Hope Ewing (October 9, 2018)
  8. Tango Lessons by Meghan Flaherty (June 19, 2018)
  9. This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jerkins (January 30, 2018)
  10. Sick by Porochista Khakpour (June 5, 2018)
  11. If You Leave Me by Crystal Hana Kim (August 7, 2018)
  12. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara (February 27, 2018)
  13. How to Be a Good Creature by Sy Montgomery (September 25, 2018)
  14. Open Mic Night in Moscow by Audrey Murray (July 24, 2018)
  15. The Friend by Sigrid Nunez (February 6, 2018)
  16. There There by Tommy Orange (June 5, 2018)
  17. Good and Mad by Rebecca Traister (October 2, 2018)
  18. My Dead Parents by Anya Yurchyshyn (March 27, 2018)

E.B.’s READING RESOLUTIONS for 2018:

  • I want to continue reading more and more books by people of color, and my goal for 2019 is to read a majority books by people of color. (This year, of 137 books, 80 were by white people and 57 were by people of color.)
  • I also want to keep reading more and more books by nonbinary people and LGBTQ folks. This year I read work by two nonbinary individuals and 20% of the authors I read were LGBTQ, which is okay, I guess, but could definitely be better.
  • I want to make sure my true crime book club reads more diverse writers as well! (So many white people love to write about true crime.)
  • Like last year, I need to keep paying attention to who is writing the books I am reading for research and diversify the voices I am quoting in my own writing.
  • And, as always, I want to continue to remind myself that if I don’t love something I am reading… I don’t have to finish it!!!! This is a reminder for you, too!

Here’s to more amazing books in 2019!

Catwalk Art Residency!

My desk at Catwalk.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed that I just spent the better part of two weeks at my very first writing residency. I was lucky enough to be granted a residency at the CATWALK Institute in Catskill, New York, where I was given the time and space to work on my book — and only my book — for twelve days.

The art residency program at CATWALK is really special. The artist studios and residences are located in and around the historic home of Hudson River School painter Charles Herbert Moore. The 1865 house is surrounded by 65 acres of trees, meadows, ponds, deer, chipmunks, turtles, hawks, coyotes, and sweeping dramatic views of the Hudson. Being in a new place was inspiring, productive, and invigorating; the Catskills are an excellent place for going for walks when you hit a wall while writing.

Me on a hike to the appropriately-named Inspiration Point.

Plus, the best part of CATWALK is they give you a studio and then they leave you alone. It is a highly self-directed residency, which means you can structure your days however you want: yoga in the morning, writing midday, a hike in the afternoon, reading during dinner. Or maybe you prefer to sleep in, go for a walk during lunch, and then stay up all night writing. It’s up to you, and it’s goddamn lovely.

Oh, and did I mention that my writing studio was located in the TOP OF A TOWER? Yeah, no big deal, just my literal childhood dream coming true.

Yes, my writing studio was in there.

However, none of this would have been possible without certain individuals, and I want to thank Purcell Palmer, founder and owner of CATWALK, along with residency manager May Beattie and property manager Chuck Irwin, for inviting me to be part of this magical residency program, and for everything they did to make my stay in Catskill so comfortable and valuable.

Also, I want to encourage all Columbia School of the Arts, NYU Tisch School of the Arts, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and Vassar alumni to apply! Take advantage of this incredible opportunity. You won’t regret it, I promise.

View from my writing studio. Did I mention it was in the top of a tower?

“Sy Montgomery Wants Us to Embrace Our Inner Animal” on The Millions!

For the full piece, see it on The Millions.
Published on September 18, 2018.

I am really excited to have this essay up today on The Millions because I am absolutely obsessed with Sy Montgomery’s new memoir. Her book, How to Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals, comes out on September 25th, and everyone should buy it, read it, and follow its advice. (Don’t worry, there will be plenty of copies available at Newtonville Books, where How to Be a Good Creature also happens to be my most recent staff pick!)

 

“How Reading True Crime Stories Helps Us Face Our Own Fears” on Catapult!

For the full piece, see it on Catapult.
Published on August 9, 2018.

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In general, having an essay on Catapult is a dream come true, but I am especially excited to share this piece about my inherited anxiety and love of true crime. Shout out to my grandfather, who does not read my blog or use the Internet! Thanks, Puppy, for passing on both your obsessive worrying and your passion for dark and depressing reading material!

2017 Reading Round-Up

Happy new year, devoted blog readers! While 2017 was a total disaster in a lot of ways, it was, at least for me, a great year for books. Here’s the breakdown of what I read this past year, my top 17 books that were published 2017, plus some of my reading resolutions for 2018.

WHAT I READ:

THE GENRE BREAKDOWN:

  • Fiction: 11
  • Nonfiction: 29
  • Graphic novels/comics: 5
  • Graphic memoirs: 9
  • Poetry: 8
  • Drama: 2
  • Young adult/middle grade: 6
  • Picture books: 40*

*Most of these were for research purposes. There are a lot of kids’ books out there about how to cope with pet death, FYI.

THE DEMOGRAPHIC BREAKDOWN:

  • Books by women of color: 22
  • Books by white women: 56
  • Books by men of color: 4
  • Books by white men: 28
  • Books by LGBTQ folks: 18

THE REASON-FOR-READING BREAKDOWN:

  • Books for research purposes: 52
  • Books for the Nobles 9th grade English curriculum: 4
  • Books for fun: 54

E.B.’s TOP 17 BOOKS PUBLISHED in 2017:

I would just like to say that a lot of really great books were published in 2017. Narrowing it down to 17 was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do in my life. This list could have easily been twice as long, but “34 books published in 2017” didn’t have quite the same ring to it. But, ugh! Making choices is so hard! Sigh. Anyway, let me present to you, my top 17 books published in 2017, in alphabetical order by author’s last name.

  1. The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
  2. How To Fall in Love with Anyone by Mandy Len Catron
  3. From Here to Eternity by Caitlin Doughty
  4. Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro Memoirs by Beth Ann Fennelly
  5. Hunger by Roxane Gay
  6. Fetch by Nicole J. Georges
  7. Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett
  8. Mozart’s Starling by Lyanda Lynn Haupt
  9. Alfie (The Turtle that Disappeared) by Thyra Heder
  10. We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby
  11. One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul
  12. Reading with Patrick by Michelle Kuo
  13. Yawn: Adventures in Boredom by Mary Mann
  14. A Surprise for Mrs. Tortoise by Paula Merlán
  15. Animals Strike Curious Poses by Elena Passarello
  16. A Girl Walks into a Book by Miranda K. Pennington
  17. After the Eclipse by Sarah Perry

E.B.’s READING RESOLUTIONS for 2018:

  • I need to pay more attention to who is writing the books I am reading for research and try to diversify the voices I am quoting in my own writing. (Turns out there are a lot of white ladies who like to write picture books about pets dying.)
  • I need to continue to read more books by people of color and LGBTQ folks. (Especially men of color. That 2017 statistic was shameful.)
  • I didn’t tally the exact numbers, but I know that most of the books I read this year were by American writers (Scaachi Koul was one of the most “exotic” as she is, gasp, Canadian) and I want to try to read more work by international authors.
  • And I want to continue to remind myself that if I don’t love something I am reading… I don’t have to finish it. I’m going to die before I get to read everything on my To Read list on GoodReads, so, live it up. Life is short. Read what you want to be reading.

Here’s to a 2018 full of even more great books!

 

Review of Fen by Daisy Johnson

For the full essay, see it on The Rumpus.
Originally published on May 9, 2017.

I woke up at 3 a.m. to pee the other night. This was not unusual. I like to drink tea before bed, and I usually wake up at least once in the night to relieve myself. What was unusual was that before falling asleep, I read a story by Daisy Johnson. I dreamt of deep pools thick with eels, of lips dripping with human blood, of an albatross standing on the kitchen table. This time, when I got up to use the bathroom, I was not fully awake, so heavy pressed the dreams. My shadow seemed to move on its own; the walls of my apartment appeared to be breathing. And when I heard a rustling on the other side of the bedroom door, never did it occur to me that it was just my boyfriend, puttering around the apartment after a late bartending shift. I stared at the door certain that a pack of violent foxes was clawing at the other side. I gasped and screamed and, finally, woke myself from the dreams.

Remember

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You are loved. You are not alone.

Review of So Sad Today by Melissa Broder

For the full essay, see it on The Rumpus.
Originally published on May 23, 2016.

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I used a prayer card from a wake as my bookmark while reading So Sad Today by Melissa Broder. It happened accidentally—I went to a memorial service for someone I cared about, and, in wanting to keep her close, slid her prayer card into the book I was carrying with me at the time, which happened to be So Sad Today. But it feels fitting.

2016 has been a bad year for people dying. A lot of people whom I love and admire have left this planet, and we are only one-third into the year. It makes me sad, and it makes my heart beat too fast at night as I think about who will go next. I try deep yoga breathing, I try counting backwards from a hundred, I try taking a swig of NyQuil, and, when none of that works, I get up and read So Sad Today. Reading about Broder’s own anxiety and depression makes me feel better and less alone. I’m writing this review in the middle of the night because I couldn’t sleep because I was thinking too much about death. That also feels fitting.

Review of 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad

For the full essay, see it on The Rumpus.
Originally published on February 18, 2016.

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A friend posted a picture of me from her wedding, and all I can see is my stomach. I’m with friends, wearing goofy hats for the photo booth, having fun, but I don’t care. Something about the way my body is contorted, or how that slinky polyester is the most unforgiving, or how the waistband of my nylons cut across my middle, but there it is: the bright blue fabric rippling like thick waves over the uneven surface of my bulging gut––an oozing, distorted potato.

Wow, I think. You’re fat.

Mona Awad’s fiction debut 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl is a novel in thirteen vignettes about the experience of being a woman dealing with body image issues or simply put: The experience of being a woman. At the time I saw that wedding photo of myself, there were probably thousands of women online at the same time, also looking at photos of themselves, also thinking the same thing––no matter what those women actually weigh.

AllisonandAJontheAT

Together hiking the Appalachian Trail from April to October, 2015!

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