Novellas in November: Nonfiction


The theme for Novellas in November week two (hosted by Rebecca at Bookish Beck) is nonfiction novellas. I didn’t realize novellas could include nonfiction as well. That word always insinuated “fiction” to me. But it turns out, there is room for the word “novella” in the nonfiction world. It’s a way to describe nonfiction that’s longer than an essay, but not quite the length of a book. There’s a thought-provoking post about it over on the Brevity blog from way back in 2009. Regardless of what terminology we use, this week’s topic fits in perfectly with Nonfiction November, and I’m excited to share some shorter nonfiction works I’ve enjoyed and recommend.

On My Way To Liberation by H. Melt (28 pages) – This short chapbook contains some truly powerful nonfiction poetry about being trans in the United States. I loved the order in which these poems appear in the collection, because the last two wrapped everything up so well.

Citizen Illegal by José Olivarez (80 pages) – Another collection of nonfiction poetry, this describes the author’s experiences (in everyday language) as a Mexican American and first generation immigrant. Olivarez shares a whole range of emotions here, from humor and joy to sadness and frustration, and everything in between.

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli (96 pages) – The way Rovelli talks about physics incorporates all the beauty that language can possibly provide. I think the Italian language especially lends itself to the kind of playfulness and artistry we find in this book, so huge shout-out to translators Simon Carnell and Erica Segre for getting this across in English. Science nerds, this is a must-read.

Feminism for the 99%: A Manifesto edited by Cinzia Arruzza, Tithi Bhattacharya, and Nancy Fraser (96 pages) – I really enjoyed this take-down of liberal feminism. This book is a fantastic explanation of why liberal feminism fails us, and how it plays into capitalism and perpetuates oppression, even when it seems “progressive.”

How To Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America by Kiese Laymon (146 pages) – Laymon’s writing is so commanding. He’s never writing about “just” anything; he digs in far beyond the surface and creates connections people often miss (due to privilege, lack of interest, white supremacy, or any number of reasons). The way he sees others, and the way he reflects inwardly, is powerful stuff. [my review]

The Transgender Manifesto by Ian Thomas Malone (160 pages) – Malone succinctly knocks down a wide swarth of talking points anti-trans activists use to attack trans folks. Her perspective is unique and refreshing, brutally honest, but ultimately hopeful. You know those tracts fundie Christians leave in bookstores, bathrooms, pretty much everywhere? If Malone’s brief chapters were printed as individual tracts, I’d be leaving them all over the place for cis people to find. This is a fantastic little book.

What books would you recommend that fall in the “nonfiction novellas” category?

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