Helen Oyeyemi on Defying Categorization

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At Vulture, Helen Oyeyemi is interviewed by Helen Shaw and discusses her latest novel, Peaces, which continues her streak of fantastical fiction that eludes easy categorization. “I’m just such an avoidant thinker,” Oyeyemi says, “possibly in every social category, but even in literary categories. When people talk to me about what I’ve written and try to tell me what it is, I just can’t understand what they’re saying.”

Morgan Jerkins on Letting Your Mind Run to the Surreal

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At Time, Morgan Jerkins discusses her new novel, Caul Baby, a story set in Harlem that has elements of both the fantastical and the familiar. “I think it’s helpful to work on fiction in the pandemic, because I want to escape,” Jerkins says. “I want my mind to run free as it can—and a lot of times that stretches right into the fantastic, right into the surreal.”

Kaitlyn Greenidge on Seeing Past the Dominant History

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At the New York Times, Kaitlyn Greenidge discusses her new novel, Libertie, and how she sought to tell stories from communities not commonly heard from in history books. “I’ve always been interested in the histories of things that are lesser known,” Greenidge says. “If you come from a marginalized community, one of the ways you are marginalized is people telling you that you don’t have any history, or that your history is somehow diminished, or it’s very flat, or it’s not somehow as rich as the dominant history.”

Elizabeth Acevedo on Reading the Same Way You Eat

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At the New York Times, Elizabeth Acevedo discusses her current reading habits, as well as following the whims of your taste when it comes to reading choices. “I find ultimate delight when a story is matched by equally riveting language,” Acevedo says, “but people read like they eat: Sometimes we want comfort, sometimes we want to work to crack something open. And so I know that the writing pivots I might dislike are someone else’s bonbons.”

Beverly Cleary and the Beauty of Bad Moods

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At Vulture, Kathryn VanArendonk reflects on the life and work of Beverly Cleary, who portrayed children with all their complexities, tantrums, and anger included. “Cleary’s true genius was for the emotional realism she gradually developed alongside that external grounding,” VanArendonk writes. “Her characters are not just kids who play like actual kids; they are people who have problems and desires that readers will recognize. Cleary’s honesty about anger, disappointment, and jealousy, her refusal to excuse those emotions in her characters or try to fix them quickly, her willingness to tell a story about a kid in a bad mood and let everybody see exactly how bad it really is — this is what feels most revolutionary about Cleary’s work. She saw the bad moods and she saw the scarily mundane things that cause the bad moods.”

Ada Limón Makes Sense of the World Through Poetry

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At the Creative Independent, Ada Limón discusses her poetry collection The Carrying and how writing these intimate, bold poems helped her make sense of the world. “I always want to make work that matters, even if it’s just to myself,” she says. “I didn’t know how to really process what I was going through in my own personal life without just writing about it. Writing is how I make sense of the world, so it would be hard not to write the poems.”

Charles Yu on Rejecting the Grand Narrative

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For the Los Angeles Times, Charles Yu reflects on the rise in anti-Asian harassment and violence, and how storytelling can resist the dehumanization that stems from erasure. “Dehumanization cuts across race, sex, gender, religion,” Yu writes. “It has long affected Black and brown and Indigenous Americans, LGBTQ and other marginalized communities. As Asians in America, we should not be satisfied with being part of someone else’s story, some grand narrative handed down to us. I hope we can strive to tell our own stories, and to use whatever platform or ability we have to also amplify the stories of other marginalized people who seek the same thing.”

Hanif Abdurraqib on Writing to Survive the World

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At the Guardian, Hanif Abdurraqib discusses his new essay collection, A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance, a celebration of Black culture through the lens of artists like Josephine Baker, Beyoncé, Whitney Houston, and more. “People have an idea of what a writer is and how someone becomes a writer,” Abdurraqib says, “but you know, I was someone who struggled to not only understand the world but also struggled to fit into the world, and through those struggles often felt very on the outside. I used writing to get to the heart of why I felt that way. I do think that it is miraculous that I am here talking about something that I wrote because for so long writing was a way for me to survive, not in a financial sense, but to survive a world that I felt I was not made for.”

Ottessa Moshfegh on Isolated Characters Growing Anywhere

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At Vox, Ottessa Moshfegh discusses her 2018 book, My Year of Rest and Relaxation, and how it has taken on a life of its own during the pandemic. “Everyone I know has gone through an internal transformation,” Moshfegh says, “And that makes perfect sense. That’s why I write about isolated characters — so they can have a deeper relationship with themselves in the course of the novel. That’s why I’m slightly antisocial to begin with, too. I spend a lot of time having to figure out what’s going on inside. […] In a time where there has been so much trauma and loss, it was a silver lining. Humanity finds purpose where it can. It’s like flowers growing out of the cracks in the sidewalk. People can grow anywhere. That is beautiful.”

Sandra Cisneros on Reaching Non-Readers with Her Books

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For WBEZ Chicago, Sandra Cisneros discusses winning the Fuller Award, an honor given to the city’s greatest living writers. Her most celebrated novel, The House on Mango Street, takes place in Chicago, and she reflects on the book’s enduring legacy. “I think that I was able to reach non-readers as well as book lovers because it’s a small, slender book,” Cisneros says. “It doesn’t intimidate non-readers and it’s written in a language that’s very simple. So even if you grew up in Taipei, Oslo or Chicago, people recognize something of themselves in that story. It becomes a universal story and that’s what I wanted. I never say it’s Chicago in the book. I wanted the reader from Tokyo or Tripoli to read it and say, ‘Oh, I know these people. That’s my street too.'”