OnFreedom 160bd

Two New Essay Collections, “Sometimes I Trip On How Happy We Could Be” and “On Freedom,” Examine American Culture and If Freedom Truly Exists

by BUST Magazine

As we step into fall, we can’t think of anything better than cosy up at home with a good book with a cup of hot chocolate. Need some recommendations on what to read? Check out our reviews below on books by Maggie Nelson and Nichole Perkins.

On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint

By Maggie Nelson

(Graywolf Press)

There are few cultural critics with as much name recognition as MacArthur “genius” grant recipient Maggie Nelson, author of nine books, including 2015’s New York Times bestseller, The Argonauts. Her latest, On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint, wades into the cultural discourse around what we are and are not free from. With clear purpose and without hesitation, she tackles freedom through four main lenses—art, drugs, sex, and the environment. Within these broad topics, Nelson asks and answers probing questions, including: Can we ever be free within a patriarchy? Does freedom of expression include all art, or just good art? Why do we do drugs? And what are we freeing ourselves from when we do them?

This fast-paced collection will leave readers with a lot to ponder, to learn, and to unlearn. It might even prompt one stay up late blowing up her group chat. Nelson remains respectful of her complex subject matter, never dismissing or oversimplifying what is quite possibly the most important question of our era: Can we ever be truly free? 

-Brianne Kane

 SometimesITrip 87871


By Nichole Perkins

(Grand Central Publishing)

Nichole Perkins isn’t afraid to shoot her shot. She hilariously lusted after celebrities as the former co-host of the Thirst Aid Kit podcast, and in her new essay collection, she delves into the pop-culture passions that shaped her sexuality. Some fixations are universal (Prince’s eroticism), while others are very specific. (She believes she idolized Miss Piggy for all the wrong reasons, writing, “I was used to seeing someone use love to send the object of their affection through walls.”)

Perkins’ ability to drift between hilarity and sincerity is her greatest skill as a writer. Even as she pokes fun at her love of white boys and gently drags her teen self for writing a poem about losing her virginity (it’s a feast of food imagery), she honestly contends with the repercussions of the messaging aimed at young BIPOC women. Most poignantly, in her essay “Scandalous,” she starts by describing “auntie songs”—R&B tracks about cheating lovers—before revealing how she became the “other woman” herself. Perkins’ candor might just encourage readers to be a bit more upfront about their own desires.
–shannon carlin

These reviews originally appeared in the Fall 2021 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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