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Such is the sentence-level virtuosity of Aleksandar Hemon—the Bosnian-American writer, essayist, and critic—that throughout his career he has frequently been compared to the granddaddy of borrowed language prose stylists: Vladimir Nabokov. He can also be damn funny. Hemon grew up in Sarajevo and left in to study in Chicago, where he almost immediately found himself stranded, forced to watch from afar as his beloved home city was subjected to a relentless four-year bombardment, the longest siege of a capital in the history of modern warfare.

There are stories about relationships forged and maintained on the soccer pitch or over the chessboard, and stories about neighbors and mentors turned monstrous by ethnic prejudice. As a chorus they sing with insight, wry humor, and unimaginable sorrow.

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Of every essay in my relentlessly earmarked copy of Braiding Sweetgrass , Dr. So many in my generation and younger feel this kind of helplessness—and considerable rage—at finding ourselves newly adult in a world where those in power seem determined to abandon or destroy everything that human bodies have always needed to survive: air, water, land.

Asking any single book to speak to this helplessness feels unfair, somehow; yet, Braiding Sweetgrass does, by weaving descriptions of indigenous tradition with the environmental sciences in order to show what survival has looked like over the course of many millennia. One of the shifts of that book, uncommon at the time, was how it acknowledges the way we inhabit bodies made up of variously gendered influences.

He is easily the most diversely talented American critic alive. He can write into genres like pop music and film where being part of an audience is a fantasy happening in the dark.

There are also brief memoirs here that will stop your heart. This is an essential work to understanding American culture.


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We move through the world as if we can protect ourselves from its myriad dangers, exercising what little agency we have in an effort to keep at bay those fears that gather at the edges of any given life: of loss, illness, disaster, death. It is these fears—amplified by the birth of her first child—that Eula Biss confronts in her essential essay collection, On Immunity.

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As any great essayist does, Biss moves outward in concentric circles from her own very private view of the world to reveal wider truths, discovering as she does a culture consumed by anxiety at the pervasive toxicity of contemporary life. As Biss interrogates this culture—of privilege, of whiteness—she interrogates herself, questioning the flimsy ways in which we arm ourselves with science or superstition against the impurities of daily existence.

Five years on from its publication, it is dismaying that On Immunity feels as urgent and necessary a defense of basic science as ever. Vaccination, we learn, is derived from vacca —for cow—after the 17th-century discovery that a small application of cowpox was often enough to inoculate against the scourge of smallpox, an etymological digression that belies modern conspiratorial fears of Big Pharma and its vaccination agenda.

But Biss never scolds or belittles the fears of others, and in her generosity and openness pulls off a neat and important trick: insofar as we are of the very world we fear, she seems to be suggesting, we ourselves are impure, have always been so, permeable, vulnerable, yet so much stronger than we think.

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It would also come to be the titular essay in her collection published in The Mother of All Questions follows up on that work and takes it further in order to examine the nature of self-expression—who is afforded it and denied it, what institutions have been put in place to limit it, and what happens when it is employed by women.

Solnit has a singular gift for describing and decoding the misogynistic dynamics that govern the world so universally that they can seem invisible and the gendered violence that is so common as to seem unremarkable; this naming is powerful, and it opens space for sharing the stories that shape our lives. The Mother of All Questions, comprised of essays written between and , in many ways armed us with some of the tools necessary to survive the gaslighting of the Trump years, in which many of us—and especially women—have continued to hear from those in power that the things we see and hear do not exist and never existed.

Luiselli interweaves a grounded discussion of the questionnaire with a narrative of the road trip Luiselli takes with her husband and family, across America, while they both Mexican citizens wait for their own Green Card applications to be processed. It is on this trip when Luiselli reflects on the thousands of migrant children mysteriously traveling across the border by themselves.


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  • Amid all of this, Luiselli also takes on more, exploring the larger contextual relationship between the United States of America and Mexico as well as other countries in Central America, more broadly as it has evolved to our current, adverse moment. Though I believe Smith could probably write compellingly about anything, she chooses her subjects wisely.

    She writes with as much electricity about Brexit as the aforementioned Beliebers—and each essay is utterly engrossing. Tressie McMillan Cottom is an academic who has transcended the ivory tower to become the sort of public intellectual who can easily appear on radio or television talk shows to discuss race, gender, and capitalism.

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    I had wanted to create something meaningful that sounded not only like me, but like all of me. It was too thick. A finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction, Thick confirms McMillan Cottom as one of our most fearless public intellectuals and one of the most vital. In The Possessed Elif Batuman indulges her love of Russian literature and the result is hilarious and remarkable.

    Each essay of the collection chronicles some adventure or other that she had while in graduate school for Comparative Literature and each is more unpredictable than the next. In the panic that ensued, Allied troops were slowly evacuated from the beaches, though [ However, prior to, and following those films, [ Jordan Jr.

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    If a news station discovers there have been two local shootings, but they only have the resources to send one team at that precise moment, how do the producer, assignment editor, and reporters decide which murder to prioritize? How does the [ Leave a Response. Submit Your Book. Blog Menu. Featured Interviews Columns Sponsored Reviews.

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