American Writers Museum staff picks April 2022

AWM Staff Picks: April 2022

Reading Recommendations from the staff of the American Writers Museum.

We can’t recommend these books highly enough! Check back every month for more reading recommendations, from classics that we reread over and over to new favorites. If you’re looking for your next book, you came to the right place.

Our April staff picks are also available on, which benefits independent bookstores. We also strongly encourage you to support your local bookstore by ordering through them online directly.

Deaf Republic: Poems by Ilya Kaminsky book cover

Deaf Republic: Poems by Ilya Kaminsky

I don’t read much poetry, but now that we’re in National Poetry Month, I thought I’d try to expand my reach. I could not have picked a better collection to begin with. After a young deaf boy is killed by occupying soldiers, “the gunshot becomes that last thing the citizens hear — they have all gone deaf, and their dissent becomes coordinated by sign language.” Ilya Kaminsky attempts to tell an epic story of resistance and rebellion, and he does so amazingly well. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to get into poetry, it is a great first step to discovering the genre.

–Matt, Social Media Coordinator

The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives edited by Viet Thanh Nguyen book cover

The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives edited by Viet Thanh Nguyen

From the publisher: “Viet Thanh Nguyen brings together writers originally from Mexico, Bosnia, Iran, Afghanistan, Soviet Ukraine, Hungary, Chile, Ethiopia, and others to make their stories heard. They are formidable in their own right—MacArthur Genius grant recipients, National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award finalists, filmmakers, speakers, lawyers, professors, and New Yorker contributors—and they are all refugees, many as children arriving in London and Toronto, Oklahoma and Minnesota, South Africa and Germany. Their 17 contributions are as diverse as their own lives have been, and yet hold just as many themes in common.”

–Ari, Assistant Director, Operations & Exhibits

Diving into the Wreck: Poems 1971-1972 by Adrienne Rich book cover

Diving into the Wreck: Poems 1971-1972 by Adrienne Rich

From the publisher: “In her seventh volume of poetry, Adrienne Rich searches to reclaim―to discover―what has been forgotten, lost, or unexplored.

“I came to explore the wreck. / The words are purposes. / The words are maps. / I came to see the damage that was done / and the treasures that prevail.”

These provocative poems move with the power of Rich’s distinctive voice.

–Christopher, Director of Operations

How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones book cover

How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones

From the publisher: “Haunted and haunting, How We Fight for Our Lives is a stunning coming-of-age memoir about a young, black, gay man from the South as he fights to carve out a place for himself, within his family, within his country, within his own hopes, desires, and fears. Through a series of vignettes that chart a course across the American landscape, Jones draws readers into his boyhood and adolescence—into tumultuous relationships with his family, into passing flings with lovers, friends, and strangers. Each piece builds into a larger examination of race and queerness, power and vulnerability, love and grief: a portrait of what we all do for one another—and to one another—as we fight to become ourselves.”

–Ari, Assistant Director, Operations & Exhibits

Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart book cover

Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart

From the publisher: “‘Peopled with the kinds of characters most novelists only dream of’ (Christian Science Monitor), this classic account of American frontier living captures the rambunctious spirit of a pioneer who set out in 1909 to prove that a woman could ranch. A series of letters make for a fascinating narrative and descriptive journal of Mrs. Stewart’s life, moving from the city to a Wyoming homestead, marrying and still having the determination to homestead on her own. Stewart’s captivating missives bring to full life the beauty, isolation, and joys of working the prairie.”

–Cristina, Guest Services & Operations Supervisor

The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post by Allison Pataki book cover

The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post by Allison Pataki

From the publisher: “Bestselling and acclaimed author Allison Pataki has crafted an intimate portrait of a larger-than-life woman, a powerful story of one woman falling in love with her own voice and embracing her own power while shaping history in the process.”

–Catherine, Signature Events and Donor Relations

Maus by Art Spiegelman

Maus by Art Spiegelman

From the publisher: “A brutally moving work of art—widely hailed as the greatest graphic novel ever written—Maus recounts the chilling experiences of the author’s father during the Holocaust, with Jews drawn as wide-eyed mice and Nazis as menacing cats. Maus is a haunting tale within a tale, weaving the author’s account of his tortured relationship with his aging father into an astonishing retelling of one of history’s most unspeakable tragedies. It is an unforgettable story of survival and a disarming look at the legacy of trauma.”

–Ari, Assistant Director, Operations & Exhibits

The Memory Librarian by Janelle Monáe book cover

The Memory Librarian and Other Stories of Dirty Computer by Janelle Monáe

From the publisher: “From groundbreaking musician, actor, fashion icon and futurist Janelle Monáe and an outstanding group of collaborators comes The Memory Librarian, a collection of short fiction, bringing to the written page the rebellious and Afrofuturistic world of Monáe’s critically acclaimed album Dirty Computer.

As much as I am excited for this book I am even more excited to see Janelle Monáe in Chicago this month! We are hosting a special event at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance on April 22 at 7:00 pm Central. Monáe will be joined in conversation by collaborating writer Sheree Renée Thomas, moderated by Theaster Gates. Each ticket includes a copy of the book, so get your tickets here before they’re gone!

–Nate, Digital Content Associate

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo book cover

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo

From the publisher: “Once, in a house on Egypt Street, there lived a china rabbit named Edward Tulane. The rabbit was very pleased with himself, and for good reason: he was owned by a girl named Abilene, who adored him completely. And then, one day, he was lost…Kate DiCamillo takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the depths of the ocean to the net of a fisherman, from the bedside of an ailing child to the bustling streets of Memphis. Along the way, we are shown a miracle — that even a heart of the most breakable kind can learn to love, to lose, and to love again. Featuring black-and-white illustrations and a refreshed cover by Bagram Ibatoulline.”

–Karie, Director of Marketing

No Doors, No Windows by Harlan Ellison book cover

No Doors, No Windows by Harlan Ellison

From the publisher: “Gathered together for the first time in a book guaranteed to make your life seem sweet and sensible by comparison, these shuddery thrillers introduce you to: a mad bomber, a hangman, a corrupt PR man, the guy who drives the nitro truck, the demon-god of street violence, assorted murderers and their victims and, in a brand-new story done especially for this collection, an encounter with the tired little old man who wasn’t there. Harlan Ellison, winner of the Mystery Writers of America 1974 award for Best Short Story (included in this book), shows you a frightening world of paranoia and panic, fear and fantasy…with no way out!”

–Cassidy, Storyteller

The Song of Achilles: A Novel by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

From the publisher: “A tale of gods, kings, immortal fame, and the human heart, The Song of Achilles is a dazzling literary feat that brilliantly reimagines Homer’s enduring masterwork, The Iliad. An action-packed adventure, an epic love story, a marvelously conceived and executed page-turner, Miller’s monumental debut novel has already earned resounding acclaim from some of contemporary fiction’s brightest lights—and fans of Mary Renault, Bernard Cornwell, Steven Pressfield, and Colleen McCullough’s Masters of Rome series will delight in this unforgettable journey back to ancient Greece in the Age of Heroes.”

–Catherine, Signature Events & Donor Relations

To The Boys Who Wear Pink by Revan Badingham III book cover

To the Boys Who Wear Pink by Revan Badingham III

From the publisher: “High school reunions were always a bitch. Especially if you’re one of the boys invited to Ryan’s party. Do you live it up with King and the Trouble Twins? Are you still cool enough to chug beer with basketball jocks Si and Badger? Or do you cower in the corner with mild-mannered Reyes and Angelo, the social outcast? Also, who hired the stripper? The night is endless. Watch twenty-four stories tangle as the boys reconnect, fight, reminisce, fall in love, fall out of love, get drunk, get high, get laid, and deal with a shared tragedy in their past.”

–Matt, Social Media Coordinator

Visit our Reading Recommendations page for more book lists.

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