Enter your email address:


Leanne Brown

Sage Cohen

Bette Husted
What Divides Us

Sarah Sloat
Without Category

Patricia Weaver Francisco 

Roberta Ulrich
American Indians

Peter Rock

Robin Rinaldi
Self Knowledge

Ruth Madievsky
Medicine & The Arts

Franny Choi
Body Language

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

Ebony Stewart
Sexual Health

Sonja Livingston
Hidden Lives

J.I. Kleinberg

Barbara Crooker

Shawnte Orion
Pop Culture

Amber Keyser

Yolanda Sanchez

Diane Lockward

Nahshon Cook

Maxine Sheets-Johnstone

Shawna Lemay

Fran Kimmel
Troubled Childhood

January Gill O'Neil
Marriage & Divorce

Erin Block
Wild Places

Currie Silver
The Art of Being

Paulann Petersen
Nature Inside & Out

Scott T. Starbuck
Activist Poetry

Shirley McPhillips
Poetry in the Everyday

Rick Campbell
Industrial Cities & Workers

Sandy Longhorn
Midwestern Rural Life

Sharon Bond Brown
Women's Ordinary Lives

Jeff Düngfelder
Absence & Silence

Valerie Savarie
Art Books

Valerie Wigglesworth & Ralph Swain

Ann Staley
Past & Present

Reb Livingston
Oracles & Dreams

Eduardo Gabrieloff
Latino Writers

Lisa Romeo
Personal Essays by Women

Mari L’Esperance
Mixed Heritage

Lee Lee
(Un)Natural Resources

Henry Hughes

Tracy Weil

Penelope Scambly Schott
Strong Women

Allyson Whipple
Roadtrips & Realizations

Hannah Stephenson

Blog Index
The journal that this archive was targeting has been deleted. Please update your configuration.

When we read, creativity is stirred.

And when we create, our lives expand.

3 Good Books invites writers & artists to share their favorite books on a given theme.


Ruth Madievsky on Medicine & The Arts

Ruth Madievsky blends the mind of medicine with the heart of art. She is a doctoral student at University of Southern California's School of Pharmacy and a research assistant at an HIV clinic specializing in maternal care. Born in Moldova, she now lives in Los Angeles.

These unique experiences electrify her debut poetry collection, Emergency Brake. "This is a new voice made of sunlight, knives, emergencies, heat, honesty, bottles of vodka, and a tanker full of talent," says poet Matthew Dickman.

For guidance and support, Madievsky often turns to literature. "In her essay Illness as Metaphor, Susan Sontag writes, 'Illness is the night side of life, a more onerous citizenship. Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place.' "

"As a healthcare provider," says Madievsky, "I spend a lot of time thinking about that other place — how to avoid it, how to escape it once you’ve landed there, and how to live within it.


My kidneys are leaning into the wall of my back
like a pair of boxing gloves,
the way my grandfather is leaning
into the idea of an operating table,
a paralytic agent, his body
a space station for someone else's hands.
I work in the hospital where it will happen.
I work and wait for the part
where the lungs I keep wanting this month to be
stop huffing propane, stop threatening
to make like my patient's veins
and collapse. Inside
the sterile compounding room,
I shoot drugs,
down an IV bag's gut. I listen
to the outer-space hum of machines
that eat the air out of the room.
There is nothing sexy
about incision.
There is nothing about the phrase
nasogastric tube
that makes me want to look
both ways before crossing the street.
I want to hold him
like he is something other
than a mucus membrane.
Like maybe the planet inside him is Pluto,
like it's not really a planet at all.

— Ruth Madievsky

Ruth Madievsky shares three of her favorite books on Medicine & The Arts:

What the Living Do
by Marie Howe

I’ve re-read What the Living Do so many times that the pages are barely married to each other. What the Living Do is a book of intimacy and of bearing witness, a rumination on the body and its vacillations between the kingdom of the well and the kingdom of the sick. In some ways, the book is a love poem to loss — the loss of a brother to AIDS, the end of a marriage, the close of an abusive childhood — and a celebration of survival, of the dailiness of being a human in the world.

One of the most striking things about What the Living Do, which I am always trying to capture in my own work, is how it gives voice to moments that pass in silence. In “Watching Television,” Howe writes:

I have argued bitterly with the man I love, and for two days
we haven’t spoken.

We argued about one thing, but really it was another.
I keep finding myself standing by the front windows looking out at the

and the walk that leads to the front door of this building,
white, unbroken by footprints.

Anything I’ve ever tried to keep by force I’ve lost.

What the Living Do pulses with grief and with joy. Marie Howe is a master at putting into words the unspeakable and imbibing a holiness to the everyday. Take, for example, the opening of her poem “The Gate”:

I had no idea that the gate I would step through
to finally enter this world

would be the space my brother’s body made

and the close of her poem “Late Morning":

A little breeze through the open window, James’s warm cheek,
a brightness in the windy trees as I remember, crumbs and dishes

on the table, and a small glass bottle of milk and an open jar of
raspberry jam.

On Immunity: An Inoculation
by Eula Biss

It’s 2013, my third week of pharmacy school, and my classmates and I are learning how to give immunizations . . . by practicing on each other. Since earning my immunization license, I have become increasingly interested in cultural perceptions of immunity and their implications. If you are a human being who lives in any kind of community, you should read this book. Our rhetoric around immunity sheds light on everything from the anti-immigrant sentiment of late to issues of race, class, and gender, to the inner workings of and barriers to public health.

A few standout moments:

We resist vaccination in part because we want to rule ourselves.

In the case of Pakistan, the CIA actually used a fake vaccination campaign to try to locate Osama bin Laden, so now vaccination is associated with espionage.

If our sense of bodily vulnerability can pollute our politics, then our sense of political powerlessness must inform how we treat our bodies.

Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric
by Claudia Rankine

Don’t Let Me Be Lonely was my gateway drug into lyric essays. It’s a gorgeous meditation on human health and loneliness, on the bodily and the political. The hybrid form shifts between prose and poetry, text and image, into a whole that is so much more than the sum of its parts. Claudia Rankine’s definition of loneliness is the best I’ve come across: “It’s what we can’t do for each other.”

Don’t Let Me Be Lonely is a thrilling read for anyone interested in the language of the body, really anyone who loves language at all. Early on, Rankine recounts working on a book about liver failure and justifying it to an editor: “Why do I care about the liver? I could have told her it is because the word live hides within it. Or . . . the fact that the liver is the largest single internal organ next to the soul, which looms large though it is hidden.”

Rankine is skilled at finding an image’s pulse, at peeling back its layers and showing the reader its still-beating heart. Halfway through the book, she writes, “Mr. Tools, for a while the only person in the world walking around with an artificial heart, said the weirdest thing was being without a heartbeat. He was a private and perhaps lonely singularity. No one else could say, I know how you feel. The only living being without a heartbeat, he had a whirr instead. It was not the same whirr of a siren, but rather the fast repetitive whirr of a machine whose insistent motion might eventually seem like a silence.”



Franny Choi on Body Language

"For some, discussing the body is an aesthetic choice," says Franny Choi, a poet, teaching artist, and author of Floating, Brilliant, Gone. "For those of us whose lives have been shaped by difference or violence, turning to the body is something closer to necessity, or responsibility."

Choi has earned awards from the Poetry Foundation and the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts. Her work has appeared in PoetryRattle, Indiana Review, and other literary journals. She lives in Rhode Island and is a VONA alumna, a Project Voice teaching artist, and a member of the Dark Noise Collective.

"I am most drawn to work that places me in my body, work that awakens me to the heartbeat, to breath, to muscle and bone," she says. "And I am most moved by writers who are able to transform the body from a site of violence into a site of contemplation, knowledge-making, and love. By 'body language' I mean not only speaking about the body, but asking how our (strange, ruined, rotting) bodies would speak if we let them."

The Well 

Franny Choi

One day, she wakes up
buried in a well.
The well is

her heart beat. It rings
the stones. The stones
are crumbling too slowly
for anyone to notice.

The sky is a distant moon,

a memory. She forgets

her own name. Her name

is Dark-Drinker. Bone-Wife.
She marries the dust.

The dust is a boy who fell.

A boy is like a memory

but heavier. Memories

crawl over her hands.

She has too many hands.

She is all open mouth

asking for night. The night
is asking her to stay.

She stays.

Franny Choi offers three good books on the topic of body language:

by Fatimah Asghar

I have always been in awe of the bravery with which Asghar speaks of the body, and in After, that bravery soars. Simply put, After is the story of a young woman learning and surviving violence, beginning as a child playing with her Barbies and ending as a woman picking through the debris of a sexual assault. But it is also the story of finding joy in the body, in both its honest messes ("microwaved pussy under sheets") and its glories ("I'm queen of the dignified clapback"). See, for example, this excerpt from the title poem, After:

It would be easy to say he ground my bones
to road kill, limbs splayed for show.

But this is the way I always sit. My spine
incongruent, a mountain road

I choose not to follow.

Asghar praises equally the bruise and the eyeliner "so crisp it could kill a bitch." Nothing is sacred, and so everything is. This is a story of a woman of color learning to love herself, and in this world, there are few things braver than to declare, as Asghar does in the final poem, "I am not afraid of the colors / my body dreams to produce."

by Cameron Awkward-Rich

Like its title, Transit is full of jokes, most of them tragic. "Get it?" prods the speaker early in the book, "Gender is a country, a field of signifying roses you can walk through, or wear tucked behind your ear."  In Awkward-Rich's book, the (black, transgender, boy) body is one in — or, better, of — perpetual motion. Like the essays that form the book's spine, Transit offers no easy answers, and any resting places that appear soon shift out of focus or vanish altogether. A girl disappears into language; reflections morph in the mirror; a bird (or is it a boy?) thrashes against the surface of a lake. Here, the body undergoes many shades of violence but finally resists, at least, the violence of categorization by giving itself a multitude of names. "& in the end, isn't that what we all want?" says Awkward-Rich in the The Child Formerly Known as ____, "... To carry an image of ourselves / inside ourselves & know exactly what we mean / when we say I --  I --  I -- ?"

This Sex Which Is Not One
by Luce Irigaray

I think some theorists are just poets who like to speak in complete sentences — or maybe some poets are theorists who don't seek out neat conclusions? In any case, I read 1970s feminist psycho-analyst Luce Irigaray's book when I was 19, and it continues to inform the way I think about the relationships between language, gender, and sexuality. While it's helpful to have at least a working understanding of Freud's theories of sexuality before diving into her more explicitly psychoanalytic work, I think everyone should read the title essay, This Sex Which Is Not One. By reframing female sexuality outside of patriarchal and heteronormative parameters (and, by extension, feminine speech outside of masculine logic), Irigaray opens new realms of possibility and pleasure. The female sex turns from one defined by lack into one defined by plurality and autoeroticism — and suddenly there is power in my "contradictory words, somewhat mad from the standpoint of reason.." Irigaray's work is a key to finding pleasure and strength in the body, especially in the body called Illogical, Unnameable, Other; in the questions and fragments it dreams to produce.



Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer on Yes

"For many years now, I have been in a love affair with yes," says Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, poet laureate of Colorado's Western Slope. "It began, I suppose, with an invitation from my teacher, Joi Sharp. She asked me, Can you say yes to the world as it is? I haven’t lived my life the same ever since."

On her website Trommer explains her approach:

"Yes. And. These are two of the most powerful words in the English language, and when used together, they can produce more magic than abracadabra. . . . Perhaps the most transformative application, however, is to use Yes, And when we don’t like what’s happening in our lives or in the world. I’ve noticed a human impulse to say NO! when we are hurt, frustrated or angry. No to terrorism. No to accidents. No to pain. No to war. But no doesn’t get us very far. When we scream No! as the glass vase is falling, it does not prevent the shattering."

"More productive (and honest) is to say Yes to the world as it is. It doesn’t mean we approve what is happening, we just acknowledge that it is happening," she explains. "From that real, grounded place comes the And. The And is how we move our own story (and the world’s story) forward."

The author of several poetry books and recordings, her latest collection is The Less I Hold. Her poetry has appeared in numerous print and online publications, including O Magazine and A Prairie Home Companion. She’s taught poetry at Craig Hospital, Ah Haa School for the Arts, Weehawken Arts, and Camp Coca Cola. She's winner of the Rattle Ekphrastic Challenge, leader of Talking Gourds, and curates Heard of Poets, an interactive poetry map of Western Colorado poets. For over 10 years she's written a poem each day, and shares them on her blog, A Hundred Falling Veils.

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer recommends three good books on Yes:

Spontaneous Evolution: Our Positive Future (and a way to get there from here)
by Bruce H. Lipton and Steve Bhaerman

It’s easy to find stories of how we’re destroying the earth, easy to point to all the ways we’re doomed, but not many people can articulate a cohesive, inspiring comprehensive and believable road map for healing the planet and its inhabitants.

The first time I “read” this book was in my car on CD, and I remember cheering out loud for this remarkable account of biology and evolution and where we might go from here. The main premise: In the same way that a body can experience “spontaneous remission”—a near miraculous healing that occurs when an individual makes a significant change in their beliefs and behaviors—so, too, might humanity, which is basically a body of people.

“We are the answer to our own prayers,” write the authors. Though it is part science, part history, and part investigative journalism, this is most undeniably a love story, as they say right up front,  “for the entire Universe: you, me and every living organism.”

Love Poems From God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West
translated by Daniel Ladinsky

With ecstatic poems from Sufi, Hindu and Christian mystics, this is a collection of invitations to fall more deeply in love with the world, with your life, with what is possible. In the face of grief, longing, despair, isolation, and doubt, these poets across centuries, continents and cultures find a remarkably similar redemption in devotion, love and radical compassion. Ladinsky’s renderings are playful and contemporary. I’ve memorized dozens of poems from this collection and carry them with me everywhere. They’ve become like good friends I can lean on, partners to dance with when I don’t know where to step next. 

On a day
when the wind is perfect,
the sail just needs to open and the world is full of beauty.
Today is such a

— Rumi

The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have
by Mark Nepo

In the intro to this book, essentially a daybook, Wayne Muller writes, “Be willing to be surprised. Life may already be more miraculous than you ever imagined.”

I was indeed surprised by this book. I received it from a friend when I was going through a difficult time. Little did I know then how much more difficult life was going to get! And during those days when I wanted to say no to life, no to the choices I had made, no to the ways I felt I’d been mistreated, no, no, no, no, no, no, this book helped me to say yes. In fact, it became a lifeline. Every morning I would read the passage for the day and consider the suggestions for meditation. Every day, I felt the wisdom and beauty infuse me. Every day, this book seemed to meet me exactly where I needed to be met. A book written with remarkable vulnerability, it allowed me to say yes again, to meet each day with vulnerability and courage of my own.  


Ebony Stewart on Sexual Health (sex, love & above)

"Sex is never just about the plumbing," says Ebony Stewart, a writer, performance artist, and sexual health instructor. "Sure the act of having sex on the surface level is easy. But what of feelings, the way we love, the way we learned to love . . . and not just the person but ourselves."

"Sex often times has a background story, the one we haven't fully told or even observed," she notes. "Therefore, when we teach or learn about sexual health we have to dissect the emotional, physical, and social parts. Or the heart, the brain, and the genitals. Or the poem, the prose, and memoirs."

Stewart is a leader in the slam poetry and theater arts community of Central Texas, and a three-time Slam Champion in Austin, Texas. She's author of The Queen’s Glory & The Pussy’s Box and Love Letters To Balled Fists. In 2015, her one-woman show, Hunger, earned accolades and awards. Her works appears on YouTube, and has been hailed by audiences across the nation. "Ebony Stewart is a bad ass and gives standout performances," the Austin Chronicle says.

Ebony Stewart recommends three good books on the theme of sexual health:

The Vagina Monologues
by Eve Ensler

Saying the word I was not supposed to say is the thing that gave me a voice in the world. Revealing the very personal stories of women and their private parts gave birth to a public, global movement to end violence against women and girls called V-Day.

In the introduction, we get an idea of what secrets this book might hold. And so, if the title didn't intrigue you or cause you some embarrassing discomfort, Eve Ensler gives you a little bit more rope to hold on to. Maybe you've seen the staged play of The Vagina Monologues or someone told you crude lines from its script because that's all they could remember, and your eyes widened with curiosity and you vowed to see it the next time a organization produced the show. Whichever came first, nothing is like reading the book. Sitting with the words. Alone. On your own time. The book is an ocean, like a woman, wet, engulfing, dangerous, mysterious, forgiving, and calming. If you are a woman or girl, it strengthens you. If you are a man or boy, it humbles you. If you are non-gender conforming, it comforts you.  

Our stories only exist inside our heads
Inside our ravaged bodies
Inside a time and space of war
And emptiness

The Vagina Monologues is generously brave in the way it helps us know and explore the hard and beautiful sexualities of women.


For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf
by Ntozake Shange

i loved you on purpose / i was open on purpose / i still crave vulnerability & close talk

For Colored Girls is the woman of color's bible. It's not for everyone, but in fact, specific in its grit. Written in plain English, but in a dialect that only women of color can fully understand its true meanings, For Colored Girls is layered with so many jewels on how to navigate the body, the heart and soul of being a forgotten woman in this world. While reading, you find yourself in the mouth of these women. For Colored Girls gives us an opportunity to laugh and cry. We get a front row seat of how we come to love and hate our body. What compromises did you make today? What lies did you tell yourself about your worth today? It's not enough to just make love, Ntozake Shange reminds us of its responsibility, the way we lose ourselves and are forever gaining ourselves too. She keeps us close but pushes us away.

my love is too complicated to have thrown back in my face

Magical Thinking: True Stories
by Augusten Burroughs

Augusten Burroughs is a witty and hysterical and brutally honest writer. I can appreciate anyone who writes exactly what they're thinking in the exact ways they would speak it. Magical Thinking holds nothing back. These short stories have wide range about our sexual insecurities, parental curiosity, and domestic capabilities. This book forces you not to take yourself so seriously. I laughed out loud at how many poor sexual encounters I've had and how awful relationships can be in general. There is no How To guide or This Is The Way It Goes book for every single romantic, sexual, dating instance. In this memoir,  Burroughs helps us realize we're all trying to figure it out, whatever IT is, pertaining to sex, love and above.

Back at the escalator, I see the "down" side is working. Of course, this would be the case. The "down" side always works. You can always slide down with ease. It's going up that sometimes takes extra effort.


Sonja Livingston on Hidden Lives

"I’m drawn to people and places that have been stereotyped or even worse, not seen at all. From rural farm towns, Indian reservations, to gritty urban neighborhoods," says Sonja Livingston, an award-winning author teaching at the MFA program at the University of Memphis.

Livingston is author of Queen of the Fall, a memoir of girls and goddesses, and Ghostbread, a story of growing up in poverty that earned the Association of Writers and Writing Programs prize for nonfiction, and is taught in classrooms around the country. Her essay collection, Ladies Night at the Dreamland, blends memoir and biography to provide poetic profiles of little-known American women.

"Memoir often gets a bum rap as a self-involved genre, but the irony is that when it’s done well, a memoir is an exploration of one person’s life that illuminates the lives of many," she says.

"But it’s not enough merely to describe hidden or misunderstood lives. The best memoirs don’t settle for simply shining a light. They hold that light steady enough to look closely and deeply enough to stop time and return to the wonder of running water after years spent living in houses without plumbing, to remember the flame-blue eyes of the prettiest girl on the street, to try and understand the desperate optimism of a girl leaving her loved ones to head North where she hopes to pass as white. What captivates me as both a reader and a writer is the way that by paying close attention to a few lives, I rediscover the weight and majesty inherent to all our lives."

Sonja Livingston offers three books that explore (and exalt) hidden lives:

Ecology of a Cracker Childhood
by Janisse Ray

"I carry the landscape inside me like an ache," Janisse Ray says in her introduction to Ecology of a Cracker Childhood. The book describes growing up poor and white in a junkyard along US Highway 1 in Georgia. While her surroundings are rough and certainly anyone who’d left the highway long enough to see them might pity her, Ray’s imagination is rich. “A junkyard wasn’t a bad place to grow up,” she writes. “It was weird enough to stoke any child curiosity, a playground of endless possibility.”

An environmentalist and poet, Ray’s voice is magnetic and her lyrical writing intersperses her wonderful storytelling and childhood memories with chapters on the vanishing longleaf pine. The result is a book that gorgeously demonstrates how our places and people are inextricably interconnected and a memoir worth its salt is also a study of culture and place.

The Speckled People
by Hugo Hamilton

The Speckled People makes use of a child’s perspective to describe an unusual German Irish childhood in 1950s Dublin. The result is writing that’s both immediate and poignant. Hamilton’s Gaelic-speaking Irish nationalist father rules at home, forbidding the children from speaking English or playing with children who do (which is nearly everyone in Ireland at the time) while his German-speaking mother plies her children with cakes and stories of her own struggle against Nazi Germany. Hamilton’s trying to make sense of a world of haunted pasts and strange cultural divisions is fascinating, but it’s Hamilton’s voice that snags me:

When you’re small you're like a piece of white paper with nothing written on it. My father writes down his name in Irish and my mother writes down her name in German and there's a blank space left over for all the people outside who speak English. We wear Aran sweaters and Lederhosen. We are forbidden from speaking English. We are trapped in a language war. We are the speckled people.

Mount Allegro
by Jerre Mangione

This 1943 account of a Sicilian-American neighborhood in Rochester, New York is a feast of characters. Using his own family and childhood as an anchor, Mangione describes the squabbles and struggles and celebrations of those living in the same six-block neighborhood. Never known as ‘Little Italy’ because of the Eastern Europeans also inhabiting the same streets “on the grimy banks of the Genesee River” near the looming optical factory and tailor shops and New York Central train station, the Sicilians call it “Mount Allegro” and everyone lives there, except for his Uncle Luigi, a renegade who becomes a Baptist and move several miles away. This is one of my favorite memoirs, not only because it’s set in my hometown, but because of the way Mangione serves as a cultural ambassador, acting not only a participant, but as an astute observer of the people he describes: 

"When I grow up I want to be an American," Giustina said.

We looked at our sister; it was something none of us had ever said.

"Me too," Maria echoed.

"Aw, you don’t even know what an American is," Joe scoffed.

"We’re Americans right now," I said. "Miss Zimmerman says if you’re born here you’re an American."

"Aw, she’s nuts,” Joe said. He had no use for most teachers. “We’re Italians. If y’ don’t believe me ask Pop."