Critical Essays Archive

Plenty of Pride & No Prejudice?

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A while ago, while browsing the local Barnes & Noble, a friend and I started discussing how we got into LGBTQ literature, and how much reading specifically queer authors had meant to us in times of turmoil, both personal and not. This was in the aftermath of the Orlando

At the Seashore With Rachel Carson

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Under the Sea-Wind takes readers to the ocean and illustrates through the power of words and a few elegant line drawings a fascinating and complex world most of us never stop to consider.

The Virtues of Patience

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By nature an impatient person, I have found that the two states I’ve always wanted most for my life—writerhood and motherhood—can demand more than I comfortably have in reserve.

Thich Nhat Hanh: A Literary and Spiritual Inspiration

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One of the gifts Thich Nhat Hanh has in common with some of my other favorite authors is that when I read him I feel as if he is letting me and me alone in on a secret.

Where Zadie Smith’s “Getting In and Out” Misses the Mark

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Despite Smith’s powerful and undeniable ability to employ and maneuver language the way she does, “Getting In and Out” comes up short for two very vital reasons.

“How Do You Make the Face for Yay?”

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Traditional storytelling often minimizes the intersection between internal and external experiences, but graphic novels rely on this to fully tell the story. These narratives can show in words and pictures the complexity of disability and its various intersections: with visibility, with race, gender, sexuality.

George Saunders, Alice Munro, and the Opposite Poles of New Yorker Fiction

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The New Yorker has published more than fifty short stories by Alice Munro and more than twenty by George Saunders. Munro first made the cut in 1977. Saunders began publishing short fiction in the magazine in 1992.

A Word for Blue

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Across languages, cultures, and time, blue is humanity’s most novel color.  As far back as we can track human words for colors and their appearance in art and artifact, black and white were first, then red, yellow, and green.

In Remembrance of Brian Doyle

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When the prolific author Brian Doyle passed away last month, American Letters lost not only a talented writer in Doyle, but also a waning parochial worldview.

The Poet and the News

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More than ever, I seem to imbibe the news, allow it to become a part of me, choke my obsessive subconscious like invasive kudzu. No wonder then that I feel tempted to write about these events and their consequences.