Reviews and thoughts, March edition

ICFA concluded today. I was not there, but hope to be next year. I heard it was a great con, and I heard that my poetry book Marginalia to Stone Bird was mentioned, as a Crawford finalist. Still really honored by this.

I do not know if the timing was accidental or not, but Ada Hoffmann featured a lengthy review of Marginalia to Stone Bird at her Autistic Book Party today. It is a tremendous, detailed review. Here is an excerpt:

Lemberg’s poetry is very socially aware. The first third of the book, mainly magic realism, is centered firmly in the experience of oppression in the real world: immigration, faith and doubt, war, a failing marriage. The middle section translates these oppressions to the fantasy realm: its heroes are exploited peasants, abandoned women, unwanted people whose surroundings and cultures never treat them particularly well. (At least one is trans.) The Journeymaker Cycle, in the final third, makes this awareness both larger and more inward. It’s a winding story that unfolds across multiple lifetimes, in which its reincarnated heroes struggle with the use and abuse of their power, taking refuge in powerlessness and then eventually needing to reclaim power; in which they try to use their power to help, and help many, but also run up dramatically short against the limits of that ability. […] The shorter, more magical realist poems of the final third also play off of these themes, presenting a narrator who is afraid of their own power, afraid to speak or create, and yet who feels inevitably drawn to creation.

I am also really grateful for a new review of “The Desert Glassmaker and the Jeweler of Berevyar” from Strangely Charmless:

It is a slow love story, performed in words and gifts. It’s so tentative, so respectful, so beautiful, that my knuckles whitened as I read, fully expecting something to go wrong and break my heart.

But that’s not Lemberg’s style.

I’ve never before or since written something so unambiguously joyful as Glassmaker/Jeweler, but it’s not my style to offer the reader no hope. I often wonder if this is a detriment in the field of SFF, or in general, in this present moment. In the end, though,  I do not want to break. I want to unbreak – something perhaps more viscerally necessary for those of us who feel broken by the world and by their reading experiences in the world. I am good with that.


  1. […] question of whether your work empowers the people you’re writing about. Another approach is Rose Lemberg’s model of “unbreaking the reader”. What would make your portrayal of (your fantasy equivalent of) China healing, satisfying, and […]

  2. […] on writing in ways that don’t just “tread lightly” over moral minefields but that unbreak the reader, to use R. Lemberg’s wonderful phrase. There are other choices you can make and other paths […]


R.B. Lemberg is a queer, bigender immigrant from Eastern Europe and Israel. Their work has appeared in Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Unlikely Story, Uncanny, and other venues, and has been a finalist for the Nebula, Crawford, and other awards.

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