Critical Essays Archive

The Argument over Empathy

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
Studies with children have directly connected reading fiction with the development of empathy, but things get messy when we look at how empathy actually works in the real world. Who are we empathizing with, and who are we leaving out? And will it really lead to moral action, or

Beauty in the Ordinary

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
In James Salter’s 1975 novel, style is a form of truth, or at least one of the more direct means of apprehending truths. In the rhythms of his descriptive passages, one gets a sense that he has conveyed a sense of the world as it really is.

Memory, Mediocrity, and Gentrification in Zone One

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
Combining elegant craft and clairvoyant perspective with tropes of the zombie novel, Colson Whitehead unsettles our conception of what it means to be human, to connect with each other, and how we understand what defines us as individuals.

Desert Myths

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
In his multimedia venture, Desert Oracle, Ken Layne centers preservation, protection, and treading lightly on the land.

Ludmilla Petrushevskaya’s Scary Fairy Tales

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
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.

Alice Sheldon’s Unveiling of Humanity

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
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

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
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

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
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

Author: | Categories: Critical Essays No comments
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.