Required Reading (8/28/17)

My column Required Reading will uncover works – in both print and online – that I think should be required reading (or at least deserving of more attention). 

I apologize for my absence. The summer has been so incredibly busy and I’ve barely had any time to sit down at my computer, never mind with this blog. I’ve been reading a lot (10 books since the start of summer) and hoarding articles I haven’t been able to read yet. In the meantime, I did find a few pieces that I thought are worth your time so here’s this week’s “Required Reading.”

1. Where We Write: The Merits of Making Do

I didn’t need a private desk and the talismanic power of special objects surrounding me. All I needed was a warm cardigan (summer temperatures can be freezing) and the ability to ignore certain trivial rules (no drinking in the reading room; I’m very discreet with my coffee), and I had everything I needed to work effectively.

If you are a writer, you have at one time or another asked the question: “how does one become a successful writer?” Is it a desk or a space or a special notebook? This wonderful personal essay from The Millions answers that question. It’s exactly the simple answer you expect it to be.

Photo by Flickr User waferboard licensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)).

2. The Trash Heap Has Spoken

So when sun set on the heralded third day, she let the spell break. Not just the one that gave Ariel legs and Ursula a slender waistline, but also the one that everyone had been drifting under. She cackled and showed a boat full of aristocrats what they’d been missing. Her body split through her wedding gown, unmoored; a dam that could no longer contain the river of her.

Wow. Wow, wow, wow. This essay could not be more gorgeous, spanning, or thought provoking if it tried. It’s truly an incredible piece of work about size, power, and being a woman who wields both.

Photo by Flickr User Bob Mical licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

3. Talking to My Daughter About Charlottesville

Here she is, learning norms, feeling her way through fear, wondering if she’s next. She’s six, you know. Her school supply list still calls for blunt-tip scissors. I heard the terrorists hid weapons in bushes.

Taylor Harris wrote one of the most beautiful, heart wrenching, and necessary pieces after the horrific events that unfolded in Charlottesville two weeks ago. It’s about racism, America, innocence, family, and the intersection of hate and love. It is an essay that does not demand, but evokes, empathy with every single line. I’ve recommended it countless times already and will continue to do so.

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What is “Required Reading” for you? What should I absolutely read and why? Leave it in the comments and I’ll read it as soon as I can! 


FRESH INK (6/14/17)

All the links you need to see before the fresh ink dries. 


Meet our new U.S. Poet Laureate, Tracy K. Smith | Los Angeles Times

A poem, necessarily, sits at a register that’s different from our usual conversational voices. You have to listen more actively to get to the heart of what’s being said, what you as a reader or listener are being asked to feel, or notice.

As of today, the Library of Congress has announced that Tracey K. Smith would be the 22nd Poet Laureate. It’s a huge honor that could not have been given to a more talented person – Tracey K. Smith is poetry personified (also, oh my god, she’s only 45 !!) The Los Angeles Times has a Q&A in their books section with Smith and it’s a lovely look into her life, her craft, and what she hopes to do with her new position.

Roxane Gay Promotes New Book and Calls Out Podcast for ‘Fat-Phobia’ | The New York Times

During the phone interview on Tuesday, Ms. Gay said: “I want people to be thinking about the book and judging the book on its own merits. I wrote a book about fatness in the world, and I wanted to expand the conversations that we have about different kinds of bodies.”

If you’re like me, you love, respect, and will read anything Roxane Gay writes (including her amazing tweets). If you’re like me, you also watched as an Australian website’s horrifically fat-phobic interview tried to overshadow Gay’s publication day for Hunger, her memoir about her body and the way it exists in this world. It was an extremely upsetting to see this story be THE story of the day and not Hunger, but it also seems inevitable that a book that discusses her size would provoke this type of ignorant (and cruel) reaction. Nevertheless, Roxane Gay is a rockstar and I can’t wait to read (and weep over) Hunger this weekend.


Ta-Nehisi Coates unveils cover for Obama-era book We Were Eight Years in Power | Entertainment Weekly

Coates posted the image — which features navy blue text, a partially torn off-white cover, and a red background — Monday afternoon on Twitter, while also quoting a Kendrick Lamar lyric: “I got so many theories and suspicions …”

When I saw Ta-Nehisi Coates’ tweet of his new book cover, I quite literally said “Yeah!” outloud. His new book, due out October 3rd, We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy is a collection of essays (both new and old) about the Obama era. Coates has written some incredible essays about Obama for The Atlantic, where he works as a national correspondent, so I’m greatly looking forward to a book that grew out of those essays.

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What have you read this week? Any articles, essays, or news stories that I have to check out? Let me know before the ink dries! 

Required Reading (June 11, 2017)

My new weekly column, Required Reading, will uncover works – in both print and online – that I think should be required reading (or at least deserving of more attention). 

This week has been one of those weeks where I feel like my reading appetite cannot be satiated. I’ve been squirreling away whatever time I can get to read Pamela Paul’s My Life with Bob (which I loved! Review to come) and have been saving so many article links in my “To-Read Later” list. I also bought two more books (used!) from a little record/bookstore in my college town – Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall – but I had to talk myself down from buying the other four or five titles I was eyeing. I have bought a lot of books the past month or so.

So this week I have three essays that I think are worth reading. All three are wildly different in style, tone, and structure, but they all feature beautiful writing and observations. Without further ado, here’s this week’s “Required Reading.”

1. Learning The ABC’s of Grad School Jargon| By Deb Werrlein at Creative Nonfiction (Issue #63, Spring 2017) [Reprinted at LitHub]

Ameliorate. I relished showers. I stood under the hot water each morning for thirty shameful minutes of wordless bliss.

This essay originally appeared in Creative Nonfiction’s Spring 2017 Issue in the Exploring the Boundaries section under the title “Concatenate.” It’s a lovely piece about a writer’s experience in graduate school – including impostor syndrome – which could be a trite subject, but the structure of the piece makes it unique. Werrlein centers short anecdotes/vignettes around “words” she discovered and jotted down during her English studies. The piece has a nice arc but, like I said, the structure makes it feel fresh and new.

Photo by Flickr User Rory licensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).

2.  “On Political Change, Climate Change, and the Choice to Not Have Children” | By Kate Schapira, Catapult (June 6, 2017)

Four months later, James and I went to my parents’ house for our family Seder. Everything was in bloom or leafing out as my mom and I walked around the yard together, and every moment was a moment I hadn’t told her yet.

Wow. That was my first thought when I read Kate Schaperia’s essay in Catapult last week. It is a beautiful, heartbreaking, and candid piece about the environment, politics, aging parents, and giving up on what we always thought (and perhaps still think) we want. The sense of loss Schaperia feels after choosing to not have children is palpable throughout and it is easy to empathize with her fear, anger, and sadness. It’s a stunning essay that I cannot recommend enough.

Photo by Flickr User PROPublic Domain Photography licensed under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).

3. “Things Seen in the Dark: A Triptych” | By Mary Heather Noble, Hippocampus Magazine (June Issue)

Then, without explanation, the morning would bring calm; the offenses of the previous night seemingly forgotten. We would immerse ourselves in the routine of a Saturday morning as if nothing had happened at all. The smell of bacon, the waffle iron greased and heating on the stove, orange juice poured into plastic yellow cups, and me and my little brother circling the table, placing forks and spoons beside empty plates. Circling, circling. Like quail pecking at the sand.

This essay was posted this morning in a Facebook group I’m part of and I knew immediately I would be recommending this to all of you. First of all, I love Triptychs as a form. Second of all, this essay is gorgeously written – landing somewhere between poetry and prose. Third of all, I am clearly in the mood for personal essays this week. This piece is all about family: the love that suffocates and denies; the touch that goes unanswered; the doors that are slammed; the quiet that settles; the yells that reverberate. Please read this one.

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What is “Required Reading” for you? What should I absolutely read and why? Leave it in the comments and I’ll read it as soon as I can!