Critical Essays Archive

Philomath and Lyric Knowledge

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Do the people of Devon Walker-Figueroa’s 2020 collection love to learn? Do we watch them learn in change while reading this book, and do we, in the process of reading these poems, learn anything?

Capitalism, Racism, and Misogyny in Natasha Brown’s Assembly

Brown’s debut novel is a slow-motion tragedy, all the weight of four hundred years coming to bear on one woman and the heartbreaking clarity with which she narrates exactly what that feels like. It is a story of all the ways capitalism, racism, and misogyny inflict violence on the

The Imagery of the Vernacular in Salvage the Bones

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Jesmyn Ward connects her Black characters to climate change, present in the shape of Hurricane Katrina, by using the sound of the storm to explore their lived experience. It is the oral tradition alive on the page.

The Prophecy of Raymond Carver’s “Errand”

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Two years before his death from lung cancer, Carver wrote a story fictionalizing the death of Anton Chekov, from tuberculosis.

The Refusal of Boundaries in Etel Adnan’s Surge and Time

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Adnan’s rejection of boundaries of time, geography, and standard logic echoes the very nature of two of her works: one written in English, one translated from French, one intentionally written as a collection, one pulled together from many years of disparate writing.

Acceptance in Love

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Books by Sally Rooney, Anat Levit, and Daniel Sloss show us how to triumph over tension in relationships: rather than be at war with each other’s pet peeves, lovers share the pain—and perhaps a laugh—when admitting that love is anything but simple.

Storytelling in New York, My Village

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Uwem Akpan’s story of an Annang narrator working in the “white bubble” of New York publishing is a story about storytelling—and not just the stories that make it past the gatekeepers to publication, but also the stories that are passed along in the conversations, letters, phone calls, photographs, and

Water, Stars, and Home in Things We Lost to the Water

So many refugees who are separated from their homes by seas and oceans and rivers, gravitate towards water; so many of them look up at the stars and wonder about the stories we don’t know. Reading Eric Nguyen’s novel, I think about how water can both separate you from

The Power of Love in A Little Devil in America

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Hanif Abdurraqib bases much of what he writes on the things he loves, whether that be music or literature, basketball or sneakers. It's through his love that he is able to reveal insights into artists and performers themselves, as well as the way that history links to the present—both

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.