Critical Essays Archive

Alice Sheldon’s Unveiling of Humanity

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In “The Girl Who Was Plugged In,” a futuristic society has found a loophole in a law forbidding commercial advertisements—the use of “gods,” young, beautiful, pre-programmed, and mechanically-engineered celebrities whose lives are a series of opportunities for product placement. In this world, where perfection has been manufactured, the flawed

The Meaning of Food in Eat Joy

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In this 2019 anthology, Natalie Eve Garrett collects short essays by 31 different writers, each with a recipe linked to it. The essays reveal how foods hold the shape of memories and people and places, nourishment intertwined with the forces that shaped it.

The Other Wes Moore’s Exploration of a Life’s Trajectory

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In 2010, Wes Moore published his memoir, a unique take on the genre that recounts his history with another Wes Moore. In it, he offers a truthful portrait of his life and the “other” Moore’s, showing as he does so the impact that role models and support can have

Revisiting, Revising, Reimagining Home in How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America

Revisiting his 2013 essay collection has strengthened Kiese Makeba Laymon’s voice and allowed him to truly build a home in the space he keeps.

The Reimagined Tales of Where the Wild Ladies Are

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The stories in Matsuda Aoko’s 2016 collection encourage us to change how we understand stories—whether that be the folktales we tell children or the larger national myths we hold on to as adults—and to see where we can break away from received narratives into new futures.

Samanta Schweblin’s Experiments in Agency

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Schweblin's voyeuristic robots and continuously shifting perspective guides us through an extended meditation on personal agency that is both bleeding edge and timeless: when do we defend and when do we willfully forfeit our autonomy? How is it taken from us and how do we erase it from others?

Herman Melville and the Desolation of Solitude

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I’d never felt the urgency to see Arrowhead, Melville’s historic home in the Berkshire Mountains of Western Massachusetts, but suddenly robbed of my own social life, it was time for me to go and see why a writer, like Melville, would actually ask for such isolation.

The Dawn of the Queer Ecological Novel

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The need for a queer ecological novel is increasingly apparent, as it becomes difficult to imagine any story, any life, unaffected by the reality of climate change.

Complicating the Domestic

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In this moment, it’s difficult to view any domestic arrangement without its undercurrent of uncertainty or instability. Two poems written in a fairy-tale register—Jane Hirshfield’s “Amor Fati” and Kiki Petrosino’s “Nursery”—capture this sense of pervasive menace, and complicate the idea of home as the ultimate refuge from a threatening

Hybridity and Indigenous Identity in the Work of Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

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Betasamosake’s work exemplifies the brilliant possibilities of hybrid forms. Hybridity in genre allows Indigenous literature the freedom to shape-shift, to tell a story the best way it can be told, and to let that story live among its relatives, whether they be short story, memoir, or song.