An Indie Next Pick for August
One of Flavorwire's 50 Best Independent Press Books of 2015
One of The Root's 14 Best Nonfiction Books of 2015
One of Literary Hub's Best Books of 2015
One of Buzzfeed's 24 Best Literary Debuts of 2015
One of Mosaic Magazine's Best Books of 2015
"Wendy S. Walters' new collection Multiply/Divide contains pieces written over the last nine years, but its themes and motifs personal identity, racial unease, the echoes between historical and contemporary violence are built for this anxious moment."
The Chicago Tribune
“Perhaps the book this year that best aligns itself with Kenneth Burke’s idea of stories as ‘equipment for living,’ Walters’s Multiply/Divide bends the boundaries of fiction, nonfiction, and lyrical essay, while at the same time crossing osmotically through the hyper-realities of American lifeespecially those guiding matters of race and gender.”
Jonathan Sturgeon, Flavorwire , "Ten Must-Read Books for August 2015"
"[I]n the tradition of great American essayists, Walters looks at what frightens hernot just slavery, but also America’s wars in the Middle East and violence against black people in Americaas well as the personal, small joys of motherhood and family. Walters gives us a stunningly beautiful exploration of race, nationhood and identity as she plumbs the depths of the American psyche."
The Root , "14 of the Best Nonfiction Books by Black Authors in 2015"
" I would give much to see the world the way Wendy S. Walters does, even for a day, for an hour. The hybridity of this collectionessay cum poem cum fragment cum diary entryhearkens way back to the continental feuilleton (see: Joseph Roth), a mode of impressionistic observation that can be both broadly political and deeply personal. In Walters supremely talented hands, the one is never far from the other."
Jonny Diamond, Editor in Chief, Literary Hub
"Wendy S. Walters...guides the reader through cities and neighborhoods, articulating nuances with cogent and poetic language, and allows the complexity of the subject matter to unfurl like a map. I regularly revisit these essays, and with each re-read become more captivated, curious, and amazed."
"Powerful and thought provoking."
Shelf Awareness , Starred Review
"The way stories are told and retold, deconstructed and reconstructed, is the major theme of Multiply/Divide. Walters is essaying the story... as she explores how people fit their narratives into their current frame of mind."
Andrew Bomback, The Millions
"In Multiply/Divide, the way truth is stretched and set on fire seems rooted in a desire to undergird what we normally take for granted as the capital t truth of nonfiction footnotes, citations, referenceswith a whispering cluster of smaller truths that reveal the aspects of self that nonfiction writers rarely reveal
.[A] visceral examination of our weird loneliness."
“ Multiply/Divide is the perfect title for this book, in which Wendy S. Walters brandishes not only fierce moral imagination but, even more impressively, profound human complicity. I’m a besotted fan.”
“In these bold, quirky, intimate, experimental essays, the author both fearlessly discloses the personal and embeds her individuality in the larger dilemmas of the historical moment. Wendy S. Walters's sense of humor and sharp intelligence, her ability to move from the micro to the macro, her balance between outrage and wonderment, make for very lively company indeed.”?
“Lyric invention, historical inquiry, elegy, allegory, dialogue, and confession: these essays are astonishing. Wendy S. Walters is a solitary traveler who contains and confronts multitudes. No contradiction goes unexplored; no question goes unasked. Complexities multiply and divide; new possibilities arise. This is a wondrous and uncanny book.”
“An intense longing drives this spell-binding collection from Wendy S. Walters. Exploring the full range of the essay’s forms, Walters discovers and names the often troubling ways race and class inform what it means to belongin a place, a community, even in the bodies we inherit at birth. Alternately unsettling and revealing, Multiply/Divide is an important contribution to a conversation that is long overdue.”
Lacy M. Johnson
A poet's collection of prose that blurs the boundaries of fiction, memoir, and essay. Most of this writing originally appeared in literary journals, and some of the essays work better on their own than others, but the juxtapositions within the collection are formally provocative. In a brief author's note, Walters (Troy, Michigan, 2014) lists which pieces fall into which category but asserts, "the border between nonfiction and fiction—while seemingly as clear as black and white—is often porous enough to render the distinction irrelevant." If she hadn't listed the divisions of titles at the beginning, readers would often have no way of knowing, for both the fiction and nonfiction generally have a first-person perspective. The fiction pieces are often more intimate and revelatory, while what could be considered memoir can seem guarded, reticent, and oddly distanced. "How odd it feels to share a space with strangers, each of us sitting intimately in rows, facing the same direction. Everyone here and somewhere else at the same time," writes the author at the conclusion of "The Personal," which combines sexual history with meditation of the inscrutable "I." Walters' opening comparison to "clear as black and white" proves telling as well, since those issues are by no means clear within the identity of the author, as frequently perceived by others, who identifies as black but is light enough to make her race unclear and who is married to a white Jewish man. "Once I was busy caring for my son, my preoccupations with race shifted away from legitimating my own identity to seeking out a community that would acknowledge his," she writes. In addition to questions of identity and categorization, feelings of love and loneliness pervade this collection, through writing that seeks understanding of person and place through history and geography. A curious collection, as interesting for the way the pieces fit together as for the accomplishment of any one of them.