Personal Essays Archive

Visiting Haworth

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From childhood, the Brontë siblings held each other’s intellects in high esteem and together made a web—a story-catcher—out of their own disparate interests, their ideas acting as warp and woof, their mutual love and respect a catalyst for their later works.

Garden Journal of a Death Foretold

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The garden is a riot. Tiger lilies stifling the mailbox, butterflies on pink milkweed blooms, pansies in baskets. Standing on the front porch drenched in this splendor, I welcome the celebration and fear the powerful spirits that bring such life. What is most alive is also very close to

Reading Edna O’Brien

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In 1976, I sat in a Dublin bookshop, taken hostage by Caithleen, her Dada who drank and hadn’t come home, and her poor Mama off on a fateful row in the lake. In the Country Girls trilogy, Edna O’Brien’s boisterous prose grabs and never lets go.

Parenthood Fear in Orange World and Other Stories and Small Animals

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I love my son in a way that is so deep and fierce to be fundamentally at odds with the assumption that I’d be careless with him. I would breastfeed the devil, appease the wolf. But I know that even if I do, I am powerless against so much.

David Grossman’s Ode to a Lost Child

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From the moment children are conceived, we become acutely aware of the fact that they could also die.

Reading bill bissett

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bill bissett’s 1971 collection is about the narrator’s experiences with escapism.

Language of the Diaspora

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Although none of the characters in Isabella Hammad’s new novel are diasporic themselves, her intricate use of Arabic instills the mixed language of diaspora with a fresh purpose.

The Othering Power of Fatness

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Although Raymond Carver’s “Fat” was written several decades ago, fat people are still often limited to existing and being written as metaphor and spectacle—fatness is a trope, a qualifier, a literary device. Fat characters are fat first.

Edward Albee’s “The Teaching Emotion”

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Albee believed deeply in education. He thought theatre’s job was to teach us something, and he carried that mission into other aspects of his life, like his exacting presence as a director, his occasional stints as an instructor, and his foundation, which offers time, space, and quiet to artists.

The Lives of Women

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Mariateresa Di Lascia’s modern classic, which won the Strega Prize (the Italian equivalent of a Pulitzer)—but is only now forthcoming as an English translation—is incredibly pertinent to the way our society is grappling with how a woman’s life is often marked by an endless series of hidden indignities.