Author Archive

The Boat’s Interrogation of “Ethnic Literature”

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Questions about "ethnic literature," its place, and its limits permeate Nam Le’s 2008 short story collection. As he interrogates the term as a sweeping generalization for many kinds of writing, he also explores the conflict around what it means to be Vietnamese and a writer but not necessarily a

The Meaning of Home

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In her 2016 memoir, Tsering Wangmo Dhompa travels to Tibet after a lifetime away. As a refugee, Dhompa has lived in Nepal, India, and San Francisco, but it is her return that leads her to consider what home means to an exile—it is the center of loss, rediscovery, and

The Value of the Third-Person Perspective in Evicted

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The problematic nature of evictions has come to greater prominence in recent weeks. Such attention is gratifying and long overdue, and in this context, Matthew Desmond’s 2016 book offers an important example of how writing can speak on complex social problems while being respectful of the subject matter and

Oliver Sacks’ Whole-Person Approach

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When telling stories of his patients, Oliver Sacks is clinical while also remaining deeply compassionate in his approach. His dual perspective allows him to see both patient and person, and treatment is never the end of the story.

James Alan McPherson’s Masterpieces

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I am inevitably an outsider to the worlds McPherson wrote about and can only understand them as such, but for me his writing cut across race, culture, age, and geography to reach the most ignorant of audiences, and to show me what a real “masterpiece” looked like.

The Language of Domestic Violence

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Rachel Louise Snyder’s 2019 book demonstrates how even imperfect language can be powerful and why word choice is especially important when speaking about this complicated crime.

Friendship and Redemption in Veronica

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In contemporary literature, Mary Gaitskill stands out for her unapologetically sexual and taboo themes. Her work is easily characterized as gritty and explicit; it also, however, offers nuance and heart while considering questions of how people pursue pleasure and at what cost.

The Layers of Skylark

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Dezső Kosztolányi’s 1924 novel makes a point of subverting expectations; in it, actions as outwardly mundane as packing, eating, and walking become fertile ground to investigate the discrepancy between how things look and what they are.

Qiu Miaojin’s Groundbreaking Notes of a Crocodile

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Qiu was daring enough to be the first to portray queer relationships in Asian literature, and her first novel has become something of a cult classic due to its transgressive nature. Its literary merit does not, however, merely rest on its ground-breaking laurels.