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The Breaks

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A profound meditation on race, inheritance, and queer mothering at the end of the world.

In a letter to her six-year-old daughter, Julietta Singh writes toward a tender vision of the world, offering children’s radical embrace of possibility as a model for how we might live. In order to survive looming political and ecological disasters, Singh urges, we must break from the conventions we have inherited and begin to orient ourselves toward more equitable and revolutionary paths.

The Breaks celebrates queer family-making, communal living, and Brown girlhood, complicating the stark binaries that shape contemporary U.S. discourse. With nuance and generosity, Singh reveals the connections among the crises humanity faces — climate catastrophe, extractive capitalism, and the violent legacies of racism, patriarchy, and colonialism — inviting us to move through the breaks toward a tenable future.

About the Author

Julietta Singh is a writer and academic whose work engages the enduring effects of colonization, current ecological crisis, and queer-feminist futures. She is the author of two previous books: No Archive Will Restore You (Punctum Books, 2018) and Unthinking Mastery: Dehumanism and Decolonial Entanglements (Duke University Press, 2018). She currently lives in Richmond, Virginia, with her family.

New York Public Library, "Best Books of 2021"
Literary Hub, "Most Anticipated Books of 2021"
Book Riot, "Best Genre-Bending Nonfiction of 2021"
Seminary Co-op Bookstores, "Notable Books 2021"
Ms. Magazine, "September Reads for the Rest of Us"
New Pages, "New and Noteworthy"
Lambda Literary Review, "September's Most Anticipated LGBTQIA+ Literature"

"​​A tale of queer homemaking and expansive kinship--of deciphering family pasts, shaping domestic presence, and imagining unknown futurities of belonging. . . . An honest and unassuming illustration of making thought public, of finding praxis in the quotidian--and daring to linger there." --Christopher Schaberg, Los Angeles Review of Books

"In a kind of spiritual successor to the genre-defying No Archive Will Restore You, Singh reveals the most intimate details of her life and politics. . . . She exquisitely links theory and poetics to her own fears, insecurities, and certainty that one day her child will need to break away from her. This is a stunning work." --Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Singh's clarity of thought, vulnerability, and passion for social justice all render this well-structured essay a pleasure to read. . . . Her anxieties, fears, and triumphs will resonate with parents of all identities and backgrounds." --Kirkus

"Piercing and profound. . . . For all the breaks and fractures, there are also the continuities and the flows. The Breaks is a gift for posterity--for others who may treasure it and take its vital, urgent message to heart." --Sana Goyal, Brixton Review

"The climate crisis, state-sanctioned racism, the long coils of colonialism . . . These are among just a few of the harsh realities Julietta Singh confronts in The Breaks, a book-length epistolary essay written to her 6-year-old daughter, that also interrogates what it means to be a queer, brown parent in contemporary America. But despite myriad catastrophes, both personal and political, Singh finds reasons for hope in the possibility of community." --Jonny Diamond, Literary Hub

"Singh contemplates how she and her daughter can live ethically in our current social and political systems, and how they can change them. Taking up race, physical vulnerability, queer parenting, and more, The Breaks is a wide-ranging, invigorating mix of memoir and cultural critique." --Book Riot

"The Breaks, addressed to Singh's daughter for her to read (at six years old) and re-read throughout her lifetime, meditates on the rupture between mother and child that will be necessary for her to inherit and transform this world. . . . [Singh] knows she must give her daughter other stories and other ways of understanding those stories. Yet fundamental to The Breaks is Singh's desire to be taught 'against [her] own teaching.'" --The Arts Desk

"The book feels committed to honesty and clear-sightedness above all else. I thought it was extraordinary." --Rebecca Hussey

"The Breaks is amazing--I read the whole thing through in one sitting. It's got the heft and staying power of Baldwin's 'A Letter to My Nephew.'" --Lauren Berlant

"This is a lens-shifting book. Julietta Singh's meditation to her daughter is an immeasurable gift. It takes you into the experience of coming of age as a Brown girl who stands in the shadow of a society that fails to tell its whole truth and tries to hide its ugliness. With poignant, aching, beautiful and deeply loving prose, Singh brings brown girls into the sun, and makes you want to change the ways of the world for our young people and for us all." --Imani Perry

"If a book can be a hole cut in the side of an existence in order to escape it, or to find a way through what is otherwise impassable, then this is that kind of book. Singh attends to the revolutionary prospects of 'an act of breaking through, a transgression, a disruption.' How will we live in the new space that we keep making, through refusal but also adjustment, the necessary accommodations to the 'nowhere and nothing' that this space also is? The Breaks leads us through such moments, questions, and scenes, with tenderness. And deep care." --Bhanu Kapil

"With The Breaks, Julietta Singh charts a path toward a better future, through an intimate address to her young daughter. Singh writes with a delicacy and dexterity entirely her own, and the work strikes a remarkable balance between realistically portraying our shared reality and encouraging, envisioning, and helping to clear at least one path to a better future. She outlines the threats to her daughter"s adult existence that lie before us all, from deeply ingrained institutionalized racism to climate change. Throughout, Singh demonstrates an extraordinary elasticity of thought, one matched and outpaced only by that of her daughter, who embodies the boundless, limitless potential of youth. This is a breathtaking, stunning text, one that encourages and makes tangible breaks from convention, and I look forward to watching its impact unfold." --Meghana Kandlur, Seminary Co-Op

Praise for No Archive Will Restore You

Finalist for the 2019 Lambda Literary Award in Bisexual Nonfiction
Finalist for the 2019 Firecracker Award for Creative Nonfiction

"Julietta Singh troubles the boundaries that we imagine in and through the body, recuperating it as a porous site marked by flows between the internal and external, the self and others." --Los Angeles Review of Books

"[Singh] speaks with rare candor about the material conditions of her labor as an academic within a system that churns out legions of 'underpaid adjunct laborers without access to healthcare, facing our mid-30s without a clear sense of what it had all been for.' . . . A portrait of the body as not so much vulnerable as permeable, continuously exchanging signals and material with the world around it." --Lambda Literary

"[A] brilliant and thought-provoking combination of memoir, poetry, and theory." --Largehearted Boy

"No Archive Will Restore You is poignant and beautiful, bringing all areas of discussion into academic focus." --The Chicago Maroon

"I am in love with this book. It is so smart, so lucid, so necessary, so honest, so compelling, so edifying, so terrifying, so poignant, so wise. No archive may restore us, but Julietta Singh is exactly the kind of company I want for the ride, to bear witness to the pains and pleasures of our being here, in these bodies, in these times." --Maggie Nelson

"If Gramsci proposes the task of archiving--and analyzing--the detritus that history has deposited in us, Julietta Singh has a counter-proposition for what to do with that depository. What to call her method: Anarchivist? Gynarchivist? Though steeped in theory, it's adamantly corporeal, and deeply moving. Returning to various crime scenes, she examines the traces left upon her body by ravages historical, political, physical, and sentimental. But she also courageously accounts for the shit she herself produces: 'I want to be responsible to and for my body, for everything it yields.' Attending carefully, even lovingly, to all that's come into and out of her body--food, pain, flesh, life, feces, feral moans, poetry--she invites you, reader, to take stock of the fecundity of your own dis-ordered archive." --Barbara Browning

Publisher: Coffee House Press
Pub date:
168 pages
Format: Paperback