Personal Essays Archive

Making Space

Moving exposes the true quantity of our stuff: there’s too much. And what story do these objects, and the way in which they inhabit space, tell? Our possessions tell the stories of our changing bodies, our relationships, our jobs, the pandemic, the hobbies we’ve given up on, our privilege.

The Varieties of Black Liberation in The Heart of a Woman

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In Maya Angelou’s 1981 memoir, she travels to New York, London, Cairo, and Accra. Everywhere she goes, she meets people who look like her but do not necessarily think like her. Black skin, she realizes, does not immediately equate to kinship, and in fact can mask conflicting understandings of

Alice Hattrick’s Redefinition of Illness

Alice Hattrick’s new book redefines how we think about the body’s relationship to pain, in the process providing us with a new way to understand what it means to be chronically ill.

Wintering

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In wintering, can I retreat without completely dissociating from the world beyond the walls of my apartment? Katherine May, in her 2020 book of the same name, shows some ways of doing so.

The Distance of Home

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By leaving China, I demonstrated my freedom of choice and a quest for knowledge. Yet physical detachment only heightened my yearning for an emotional homecoming. In the decade since I first boarded a plane to the U.S., distance has lent me both a sharp lens and a soft gaze

The Angel in the Woods

Emily Dickinson knew that modesty and self-confidence, blended together, would disarm her reader and delight and mystify the people around her. Shirking conventionality offered her a modicum of freedom and enlarged her presence simultaneously; she was both eccentric spinster and white-clad angel, depending on how you saw her.

The Joy of Reading Slowly

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I have become a far better reader over the last year and a half because of learning how to read more slowly. Perhaps most importantly, though, I once again love to read.

Contemplating Infinity

Hilary Leichter’s debut novel is a shifting, surrealist tale of a young woman’s search for permanent employment that deftly captures the anguish of living inside such existential uncertainty, and more terrifying, the potential infinity of it.

What a Ghost Sounds Like

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They say that in the right space, a space like a cathedral, that is designed for sound, you can build up so much resonance that the air is thick with it. It tingles on the skin and lingers long after the last note is played.

White Like Me

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Writing for me had always been a release. But every time I tried to write about my experiences as a Black man, the same thing happened: I doubted myself, and wondered if I was Black enough to write about the Black experience.