Critical Essays Archive

Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning’s Exploration of Solidarity

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Though published in 2020 before the advent of the pandemic and the racial unrest that marked the year, Cathy Park Hong’s collection of essays explores the complexities of Asian American identity in ways that speak to the conversations around racial identity and solidarity that continue into 2021.

The Importance of Writing About Art

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In the face of urgent calls for social action, Olivia Laing’s 2020 collection of criticism makes a case for art’s slow, subtle efficacy. And in her acuity as a critic, she demonstrates that not only art, but writing about art, can be a powerful agent of social change.

Sacredness in the In-Between

Sergio Troncoso has chosen to situate his latest anthology in an in-between place. Through fiction, poetry, and nonfiction by Mexican American authors, it explores families living along the U.S.-Mexico border and how being in the middle of worlds impacts their lives.

The Monolithic, Unforgiving Group Narrator

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“A Rose for Emily,” by William Faulkner, and “The Little Widow from the Capital,” by Yohanca Delgado, both feature the first-person-plural point of view. In both stories, the group narrator is insular, one-directional, one-dimensional, monolithic, and unforgiving in judging a woman.

Ludmilla Petrushevskaya’s Scary Fairy Tales

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In Petrushevskaya’s stories, mothers often struggle to protect their children against the malice and indifference of a harsh reality. Only sometimes are they successful.

The Lingering Effects of Trauma in A Chronology of Water, Something Disguised as Love, and Smadar

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Our new understanding of how trauma lingers inside and outside of the body has expanded to include not only relationships between peers of the same age group, but seems to have grown over time to include a discussion of how adults teach children about their place in the world,

The Danger of Unbound Women in Toni Morrison’s Paradise

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But even in this racial utopia, promising freedom and prosperity for Black people, women are still oppressed by notions of conformity, domesticity, and propriety. The chains of racial domination may be loosened but those of gender domination are stronger than ever.

Katie Kitamura’s Explorations of Separation

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Katie Kitamura’s most recent novels are like mirror images: though their titles suggest that their subjects are opposing themes—separation in one and intimacy in the other—both novels show how our lives are bound up in the lives of others, including those from whom we wish to separate.

Memory and Selfhood in Confessions

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In his remarkable 2008 novella, Rabee Jaber merges the cinematic image and affective response to investigate the paradox of memory and imagination, the polarization of Beirut, and the irretrievably fractured sense of self left behind by the thousands of disappeared civilians during the Lebanese Civil War.

The Power of Oral Stories in The Distant Marvels

Keeping the stories, the myths, the facts, and the losses of the Cuban people alive is important. Telling these stories is an act of active resistance against the washing away of the Cuban people who have toiled under colonizers and dictators.