Meet Room collective member and book reviews editor Leah Golob
Meet Leah Golob, Room’s reviews editor. Leah edited Room’s Queer and Canadian Gothic issues.
With so many user-generated reviews out there, why do you think it’s im
portant for publications like Room to continue publishing book reviews? As CWILA [Canadian Women in the Literary Arts] shows, at least with literary and news publications, there’s still a gender bias in reviewing—men typically want to review other men. Only in very recent years have many of these publications even begun to give equal attention to men and women in their review sections. I think reviews in Room, in particular, are important because we make space each issue to showcase marginalized authors—and, often, new authors—reviewed specifically by other marginalized writers. I’m not sure that user-generated book review platforms (depending on the site) are always cultivating a feminist lens to evaluate contemporary writing in the same way a publication like Room historically has.
What makes a good book review? I think a good review doesn’t exist in a vacuum, meaning that it connects to bigger issues occurring within contemporary culture.
Another piece of advice that was a huge “aha” moment for me as a reviewer is that the critic should avoid focusing on what they expect or hope the book to be, and instead evaluate the text based on what the author is trying to accomplish. For instance, this means a reviewer doesn’t dismiss a particular style just because they’re not fond of it.
Lastly, a good review should be concerned with clarity of thought above all else.
Have you read anything good this year? In preparation for the Queer issue, I re-read some of my favourite CanLit poetry books, which include Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha’s Bodymap and Amber Dawn’s Where My Body Ends and the World Begins.