The Virtues of Patience

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By nature an impatient person, I have found that the two states I’ve always wanted most for my life—writerhood and motherhood—can demand more than I comfortably have in reserve.

Big Picture, Small Picture: Context for James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues”

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James Baldwin’s short story, “Sonny’s Blues,” is published in the summer 1957 edition of the New York City literature magazine, Partisan Review. The story’s narrator is a high school teacher from Harlem struggling to reconcile his relationship with his younger brother, Sonny, a jazz pianist hooked on heroin.

Thich Nhat Hanh: A Literary and Spiritual Inspiration

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One of the gifts Thich Nhat Hanh has in common with some of my other favorite authors is that when I read him I feel as if he is letting me and me alone in on a secret.

Where Zadie Smith’s “Getting In and Out” Misses the Mark

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Despite Smith’s powerful and undeniable ability to employ and maneuver language the way she does, “Getting In and Out” comes up short for two very vital reasons.

“How Do You Make the Face for Yay?”

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Traditional storytelling often minimizes the intersection between internal and external experiences, but graphic novels rely on this to fully tell the story. These narratives can show in words and pictures the complexity of disability and its various intersections: with visibility, with race, gender, sexuality.

Round Up: Greenpeace, Declining Sales, and the National Endowment for the Arts

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From publishers urged to address the practices of a logging company to $84.06 million dollars in NEA grants, here's the latest literary news.

George Saunders, Alice Munro, and the Opposite Poles of New Yorker Fiction

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The New Yorker has published more than fifty short stories by Alice Munro and more than twenty by George Saunders. Munro first made the cut in 1977. Saunders began publishing short fiction in the magazine in 1992.

A Word for Blue

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Across languages, cultures, and time, blue is humanity’s most novel color.  As far back as we can track human words for colors and their appearance in art and artifact, black and white were first, then red, yellow, and green.

In Remembrance of Brian Doyle

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When the prolific author Brian Doyle passed away last month, American Letters lost not only a talented writer in Doyle, but also a waning parochial worldview.

Stories Strangely Told: Denis Johnson’s “Car Crash While Hitchhiking”

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When I was twenty and thought I had just about figured out what a story was when my fiction teacher walked me to the oven-sized scanner outside his office to copy onto legal paper the first twelve pages of Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son.