Beach Reads and Other Things: VCL Staff Summer 2021 Recommendations

Clair Dunlap, Poetry Editor

In summer I really love a long poem: something feels right about taking a long poem outside to the backyard or a park or the river and living in it for a while. I’m planning to revisit Tommy Pico’s book-length poems, and I also recommend putting the new Ross Gay x Bon Iver collab for “Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude” on your headphones and taking a walk. 

In the summer I also usually like to wander in the air conditioned quiet of art museums (and maybe this year I can do that again, finally), but I also love sculpture parks. From the little sculpture loop about a ten-minute drive from my apartment, tucked into the city, to a sprawling 43-acre prairie studded with enormous work that’s a two-hour drive away, I will take any and all of them.

Summer Farah, Review Writer

June Jordan and apricots: My birthday comes right at the end of Spring, and so I treated myself to We’re On: A June Jordan Reader from Alice James Books to do a co-read with a few friends for a pseudo book club; I’ve admired June Jordan’s work for quite a while and realized I needed to give her the time and study she deserves! To accompany my reading, I will be eating lots and lots of apricots as this stone fruit season continues to unfold.

 Ola Faleti, Creative Nonfiction Editor

Sassafras, Cypress & Indigo – Ntozake Shange: I’m always especially driven to vivid, mood-invoking, electric books in the summertime. Sassafras, Cypress & Indigo tells the story of three Black sisters from Charleston, SC in the mid 20th century. Sassafrass is the weaver and textile worker; Cypress the dancer; Indigo a natural healer in training. This is a book about roots, womanhood, and what it means to carve your own place in the world. 

Shandies: I thought beer and lemonade sounded disgusting until the first time I tried it; this was finals week sophomore year of college. My friend and I mixed PBR with lemonade and watched The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975  in her room. It’s perfect for keeping a buzz going without getting totally sloshed.  To take things up a notch, swap out lemonade for lemon italian soda.


Molly Gunther, Interviews Editor

A literary thing: I was in such a good reading groove in April and then I went home to Oregon for the entire month of May. Most of my family I hadn’t seen in over two years. My mother in over a year. I soaked it all in, and did not do any reading. Unless you count the guidebook for Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Having lost momentum, I turned to one of my favorite podcasts, Talk Easy. Two recent episodes in particular have got me buzzing again. The Ocean Vuong and Jhumpa Lahiri episodes are so vivid and lovely. Both writers reflect on the loss of their own mothers, who often show up in their work. I immediately put Lahiri’s new novel, Whereabouts, on hold at the library. Only 86 more people to go.   

A non-literary thing: Sunshine Music for Night Time People is a monthly ambient and experimental radio show created by my friend Lewis—an absolute sparkling dream of a person. He made it after people kept asking him what he listens to when he is working. If you’re looking for music and soundscapes for focus or to write to, I can’t recommend this enough. Each episode is an hour. They’re all very different and each one has Lewis’ very soothing voice throughout. He signs off by telling listeners to enjoy the night time, but I am almost always listening to these mixes while I do yoga in the early morning—when the light is best. 

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Jefferson Lee, Reviews Writer

Book: Though it takes place in summer, Lydia Millet’s A Children’s Bible isn’t exactly a beach read. It follows a group of children who are trapped at their parents’ booze-soaked college-friend-reunion when a massive storm hits. While the parents are preoccupied making sure they’ve procured enough alcohol to last through it, the situation becomes increasingly dire and the children must fend for themselves. The pace of the story is quick, and the cast of teenagers is charming. But the book also carries a fury in its larger metaphor, a sort of indignance at the current state of affairs. It’s easy to read, but not always easy to sit with.

Non-book: Japanese Breakfast’s new album, Jubilee, has given me a lot of joy recently. I knew it was going to be great off of the singles – “Savage Good Boy,” is hilarious and “Be Sweet” is a straight bop – but it’s even better than I’d thought it be. I love the brass on “Paprika,” and the lyrics on “Posing in Bondage,” and “In Hell.” Also, I love the lyrics on “Paprika.” I’m looking forward to finally going to live shows again, and am incredibly excited to see her in October.

Bob Sykora, Editor-in-Chief

Small abundances: Last month, I asked everyone on the VCL team to recommend one literary thing and one non-literary thing they’d want readers to check out this summer. Then when I finally got around to it, I quickly found myself overwhelmed by the assignment. I work on the academic calendar, so summer always feels like a time to catch up. And while things are “opening back up,” I still don’t know how ready I feel to “open back up” myself after such a long, difficult year. So this summer, I’m trying to find small abundances wherever I can. So far that means buying the chapbooks I’ve been meaning to buy, reserving too many books from the library (two of these below are overdue), grabbing multiple La Croix flavors when I’m doing groceries, splurging on a three pound bag of pistachios (that I finished before taking this picture), and spending at least some of every pleasant day on my porch.


Vagabond City Literary Journal

Founded in 2013, we are a literary journal dedicated to publishing outsider literature. We publish art, poetry, and creative nonfiction from marginalized creators.