Critical Essays Archive

Solidarity and Differentiation in Detransition, Baby

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In teasing out the nuance in discussions about how people of all gender identities can relate to one another, showing solidarity while still acknowledging their differences, Torrey Peters manages to, as she states in her 2020 novel’s acknowledgements, present “trans feminine culture in the new millennium.”

Milk Blood Heat’s Dreams Lost

Dantiel W. Moniz’s stories explore characters dealing with the loss of the people they share a home with; we see how their subsequent isolation and retreat to the worlds in their heads forms a connective tissue with the loves they’ve lost—and can result in the losing of oneself.

Cassandra at the Wedding’s Economies of Sisterhood

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The relationship between Cassandra and Judith, in Dorothy Baker’s 1962 novel, shows the ease with which siblings in general, and sisters in particular, continually create roles for each other—roles that are difficult to escape.

The Living Sea of Waking Dreams’s New Ways of Writing the Dying World

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Richard Flanagan’s latest novel shows us how a writer can tell the story of our anxious, disturbed world in a meaningful way.

The True Cost of Labor

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It is well understood by now the heavy toll that coal mining takes on geographic landscapes, their local populations, and the climate, despite practices of environmental remediation. There is also, however, another toll that mining takes—that all labor takes—on our individual bodies and lives.

Mundanity Among Tragedy in How High We Go in the Dark

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Published two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, Sequoia Nagamatsu’s debut novel is in some ways comforting, and in others a brutal reflection of our current moment. Through the course of the tragedies and mundanities explored within, every facet of every person’s life is altered; Nagamatsu explores how people handle

A Trick of the Light

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Macbeth’s failures are failures to understand the interplay of perspective and perception in interpretation.

What is A Ghost in the Throat For?

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Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s 2020 novel is a conversation between women, one of whom has the freedom to speak her long and impassioned set-piece in her famous keen but perilous little more, and another who is—by facing squarely that seductive, obliterating control that could empty room after room—creating herself.

Jana Prikryl, From the Fields of a Calendar

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The poems that imagine photographs, the making and distribution of images to one or many friends, to strangers, revisit a figurative injection posed in Jana Prikryl’s first collection: a poem is not functional, a poem is something to be experienced in time.

The Fanfiction of A Little Life

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Fanfiction pummels its readers with emotion, nearly overdosing us on joy, love, sex, and sorrow until we are left feeling exposed. It’s this rawness that fanfiction readers crave, and it’s this same rawness that Hanya Yanagihara brings to the literary world with her 2015 novel.