Reading Recommendations for April 2020

by DW McKinney

Reading a book is a common suggestion on many social distancing activities lists. Reading has always provided an escapist outlet in stressful times, and it’s no surprise that a number of libraries have made their digital catalogues more accessible as we remain inside for the foreseeable future. But, reading for entertainment is not that simple now. Our collective focus has shifted. It’s difficult to stay engaged or even muster the interest to open a book with so much going on in the world around us. If you’re like me, you may want to read but have become selective of your reading material—aiming for more of a happy medium than anything that is too emotionally taxing.

Picking through my to-be-read pile (and my bookshelf), I’ve chosen a few books that may be of interest to you as well. Perhaps these recommendations will help jumpstart your reading interests or at least provide a moment of reprieve.

Families Among Us by Blake Kimzey
Black Lawrence Press, September 14, 2014
40 pages (paperback) // Black Lawrence Press

Families Among Us is a short story collection about six different families and the transformations that they undergo. It won the Spring 2013 Black River Chapbook Competition for a reason. The tales are strange but innovative and stunning. The landscapes are so richly constructed and the situations unnervingly real that each story grips you to the last word on the page. It’s both beautiful and bittersweet.

Dichotomy by Mikhayla Robinson 
Nightingale & Sparrow Press, March 24, 2020
32 pages (digital) // Etsy

Dichotomy is a quick flash of sunlight on a grey day. This poetry collection is a reclamation of the self as Mikhayla Robinson explores her pain as well as her joy. The poems present her perspective as a Black woman and confront the notion that Black women have historically been unable to express their full selves. But Dichotomy is Robinson’s declaration of wholeness. Despite depicting topics that would be perceived as negative, such as heartbreak or death, Robinson’s poems guide us to the other side of those experiences. We taste just a bit of her sorrow, but we feast on the acceptance that accompanies each poem.

Umma’s Table by Yeon-sik Hong
Drawn & Quarterly, expected May 2020
360 pages (paperback) // Bookshop

Umma’s Table is a delightful read about Korean food, love, and culture that takes place through the life of Madang, an artist, husband, and new parent. The graphic novel highlights the critical transitions in our life—the ones where we leave childhood and enter adulthood and the jarring change when we stop being the recipient of our parents’ care to becoming their caregivers. It’s a hefty read that flies by due to the humor, pacing, and Yeon-sik Hong’s fun art style, which brings joy to every page. Oh, and the main characters are cats!

You Can Do All Things: Drawings, Affirmations and Mindfulness to Help with Anxiety and Depression by Kate Allan
Mango Media, November 30, 2018
212 pages (hardcover) // Barnes & Noble

You Can Do All Things was given to me as a gift when I moved a few years ago and struggled to adjust to several major life changes. It has seen become a welcome read in moments when I need a bit of encouragement. The book is inspired by Kate Allan’s personal mental health struggles that began in her childhood. You Can Do All Things is a lighthearted and more accessible way for people to manage depression, anxiety, and hopelessness, among other mental health issues. The chapters include affirmations and mindfulness exercises accompanied by playful drawings of whimsical creatures that bring a smile to your face. The book is about “accomplishing things when you feel like you can’t.” I think that’s the type of motivation we all need right now.

DW McKinney is a writer based in Las Vegas. Her work is featured in Bitch MediaLinden Avenue Literary Journal, Stoneboat Literary JournalTAYO Literary Magazine, and others. Her essays have appeared in HelloGiggles and Elite Daily, and she currently serves as creative nonfiction editor at The Tishman Review. She holds an MA in Anthropology from Texas State University and a bachelor in Biology from Dominican University of California. She has essays forthcoming in Narratively and Road Grays. Learn more about her at or follow her on Twitter @thedwmckinney.