Critical Essays Archive

Writing While Biracial

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Leila Chatti’s poems subvert the expectation that she, as a Tunisian American writer, write as "just" Tunisian or "just" American—or just as the Tunisian American writer for whom mixed identity itself is the chief subject and source of conflict in her work.

The Case for Revolutionary Love

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Valarie Kaur’s vision for change gathers up opponents into a story, refiguring them as members of one human family.

Fear and Selfishness in The Dangers of Smoking in Bed

In Mariana Enriquez’s most recently translated story collection, people are afraid: afraid of poverty, afraid of solitude, afraid of confronting the grotesqueness of their own mistakes. One of the strings binding the collection is that again and again fear pushes the characters into committing craven acts of selfishness.

Long Poems, Long Sentences

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After almost fifty years of his poetry, Muldoon has prepared his readers for a journey not through our own predictable circles—these syntactical maps rule out one’s own choice between right or left—but to arrive somewhere comfortably unexpected.

How Do You Fictionalize the Experience of Social Media?

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Lauren Oyler’s debut novel is an audacious, mordant, and frequently hilarious sendup of internet culture at the turn of the decade, and a likely harbinger of how books about the internet will read in years to come.

The Handmaid’s Tale and the Silencing of a Woman’s Voice

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While many have praised the book’s feminist themes, none have noticed that the Hulu adaptation highlights Atwood’s special warning intended for women writers, historians, artists, and documentarians. In a patriarchal society turned radical and violent, a woman’s voice will be stifled by taking away the written word.

Remembering the Future

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Since reading Natalia Ginzburg’s 1963 novel last year, I have wanted to identify and investigate my own family lexicon, the basis of our unity in the pressure of our semi-quarantine in a two-bedroom Brooklyn apartment with no yard and not much of a view.

Luster, A Lover’s Discourse, and the Portrayal of Whiteness

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The protagonists of recent novels by Raven Leilani and Xiaolu Guo dwell on a cross-racial gaze, othering the white men who are the objects of their physical affections. In this, they attempt to reverse the gazes of centuries by paying an anthropological attention to their partners’ bodies, speech, and

This Land Made You

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Melissa Faliveno’s 2020 essay collection’s genius, and tenderness, comes from a deep understanding of the language of home: the haunting, often unacknowledged pull place has on us, and how leaning towards and pushing against this pull shapes our identities.

Jack London’s Visionary 1912 Pandemic Novel

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London’s book is impressive not just for its correctly intuited factual predictions, but also for those related to the way the inequities of his world would only grow exponentially as its population did, and the way those inequities would define the events that took place during and after the