Women We Read This Week

Women We Read This Week

Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich’s "Towards a Fight" in The Rumpus It’s difficult to summarize Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich’s “Towards a Fight” not only because it is so wide-spanning, but also because it is infinitely quotable. Marzano-Lesnevich writes about gay rights in the North and the South; she writes about New Orleans, a place fraught with challenges ... [Continue Reading]


“Lenin Was Half-Jewish and So Can You”

My grandfather, Israel, always claimed it was my doing. I was nineteen and I was getting restless. My studies at the Moscow Oil and Gas Institute were entering their third year. Thermodynamics was replacing Math, and Pipeline Design was replacing the History of the Communist Party. If it didn’t dawn on me before that I was on my way to becoming an engineer, it was ... [Continue Reading]


Of Bikes and Men

I’ve just completed my first year as a full-time lecturer teaching writing at a state university, and this is, undoubtedly, the most anticipated summer vacation of my life. After nine months of being tied to my desk, of prepping, teaching, reading, and evaluating, of being saturated with fluorescent light and numbed by the institutional gray of my cement surroundings, ... [Continue Reading]

Neither MFA nor NYC

Neither MFA Nor NYC

My favorite story from my college years wasn’t one I heard in a Creative Writing workshop. I didn’t hear it in any lit seminar or poetry reading. I heard it on a Wednesday night in West Oakland, sitting in a metal folding chair at the twelve-step meeting where I clung to my tenuous new sobriety. The story was told by Milton, a teeny-tiny wrinkled old man, ... [Continue Reading]


Women We Read This Week

Nikole Hannah-Jones’ "Resegregation in the American South" in The Atlantic Focusing on the experiences of three generations of Tuscaloosa, Alabama residents, Nikole Hannah-Jones paints a depressing and accurate picture of resegregation in the American South. She addresses the very real fact that, despite Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, segregation is still very ... [Continue Reading]

Photo by Jorge Santiago

The Ism and the Alcohol

A year and a half ago, I published my first essay on addiction. You’d think having gotten sober at age seventeen would have been fodder for plenty of personal essays, but it took me twelve years to start writing about alcoholism and sobriety. Even then, that first piece did not show me drinking or using, or even considering drinking or using. Instead, the piece ... [Continue Reading]


On the Far End of Reality: Jennifer Percy’s Demon Camp

Everywhere he went, he saw them, their burned bodies, watching him. These were the days after the war. Demon Camp is not really about soldiers. Well, okay, it is. Jennifer Percy's debut book revolves around the lives of soldiers who’ve returned from Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD, focusing chiefly on the story of Sgt. Caleb Daniels. But Daniels doesn’t believe his ... [Continue Reading]


In the Form of Birds

The summer my father died I bought a book on Southwestern birds. It was he who had given me my first feeder on my 8th birthday, back when we lived in New Orleans. He’d gotten the bird-feeding bug, I’m guessing, from his mother. At his parents’ house in Springfield, Pennsylvania, there was one of those open platforms—a plywood landing about six feet high. My ... [Continue Reading]


The Writer and the Army Wife

Recently, I published a short essay about saying goodbye to my husband before his first deployment. The piece is, as you might imagine, a crier, and it evinced a pretty strong emotional reaction in some readers: many of them reached out to me, thanking me for reminding them that men and women throughout the country are continuing to endure the sorrow of separation, ... [Continue Reading]


Lives and Past Lives

1. I’ve always loved walking at night. I’ll go anywhere: through the neighborhoods of small towns, through a dozen identical suburbs, through seedy Pittsburgh neighborhoods and seedier Latin American cities. In any location, the impulse is the same: I walk at night to look into the lighted windows of strangers. At night, windows roll by like stills on a film reel, ... [Continue Reading]

Photo: Richard BH

Lilac Stitches

I met my future stepmother in a Leningrad subway when I was eight. Luda was a twenty-year-old transplant from a small Ukrainian town, painted with shiny scarlet lipstick and heavy eyeliner and hanging out with her best friend, prowling for adventure and male generosity. Instead of finding easy fun, she got hit on by a single father in a fake fur coat, thirty-five kopecks ... [Continue Reading]


Goodbye to All This

So, I’m balking on my grad school apps. It’s not because they seem arduous—in fact, they seem surprisingly streamlined. It’s not because I’m unaccustomed to writing 500-1,000-word personal essays. It’s not because I’m unclear on my motivations. It’s not like I’m about to give up a good life in Hanoi and move back to the States and take out *terrifying* ... [Continue Reading]


Women We Read This Week

Amy Wallace's "A Very Dangerous Boy" in GQ The theme of this week's reads for me was Nazism, or rather the insidious way Nazism infiltrates, persuades and is perceived in a culture. Amy Wallace delves deep into the story of Joseph Hall, who shot and killed his neo-Nazi father when he was merely ten years old. Wallace portrays the complexity of the case; of legally ... [Continue Reading]



It was a ritual Biko and I had performed thousands of times over the last five years, so I had no reason to think that December evening would be any different. We had just returned home from a walk when he nudged my knee with his long snout and flopped to the floor, legs akimbo, his white, furry belly turned to the ceiling. Scratch my tummy, please. Since I had first met ... [Continue Reading]


Women We Read This Week

Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah's "If He Hollers Let Him Go" on The Believer How do you write a profile about someone you never get to interview? Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah's smart, articulate examination of comedian Dave Chappelle tells us the answer is to investigate the effects that person has on others, the ripples they make. By looking closely at the cultural influences and ... [Continue Reading]


Women We Read This Week

Larissa MacFarquhar's "Last Call" in The New Yorker Larissa MacFarquhar's profile of Nemoto, a Japanese Buddhist monk who has made his temple a refuge and a place of transformation for suicidal people, contains enough surprising twists and depth to fill a novel. Nemoto's story is phenomenal enough: the suicides of his family members and close friends in childhood, a ... [Continue Reading]

man-o-war photo

An Unwanted Guest

I didn’t see the jellyfish, but I felt it—a searing pain at my ankle that shot up through my leg, bringing me, in a matter of seconds, to my knees in the sand. I looked down and saw its limp, blue body floating away from me down the rivulet I’d stumbled into when the sand along its border collapsed under my step. The creature had gripped me with its tentacles for ... [Continue Reading]


Women We Read This Week

Claire Messud interviewed by Alex Clark in The Guardian I've come late to Claire Messud: I picked up The Last Life on a whim last weekend - it was on a table piled high with paperbacks for sale at the farmers' market, and I brought it home and fell right into it, full of remarkably un-jealous admiration. Here, interviewed by Alex Clark, Messud speaks about her latest ... [Continue Reading]



My grandfather lives among the trees. He is streaked with dirt, brown as a fallen acorn. When he walks, the leaves bend under his feet. Years ago, he kept caged pigeons in his garden. In the morning, he would jangle their cage to announce himself. The garden is his domain, and everything in it his subjects. Out there, we know not to tangle or disturb. We are visitors. ... [Continue Reading]


The Journey in the Song

"But what can be the shared space of meaning and sound?" Jean-Luc Nancy, Listening "All I've got to put in a song is my own experience,” Leonard Cohen once said, speaking about the process of songwriting. But as a listener, you could invert the sentiment, too: all I've got to get out of a song is my own experience. I remember my mother driving me to school when I ... [Continue Reading]