Rachel Kushner Immerses Herself in the Unknown World

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At the Paris Review, Rachel Kushner shares the process behind her new collection of essays, The Hard Crowd, which she wrote through a direct, hands-on approach. “If one were to divide writers into two crude categories, I believe that some face inward and some face outward,” Kushner says. “To know themselves, some writers look inward. Others, in order to have a sense of themselves as bounded entities, need to be immersed in the unknown world. I believe this is a basic orientation that you’re probably born with—which way you face. I face outward. Even when I was very young, I gravitated toward worlds of knowledge and people, subcultures, that had to be learned directly, through experience, as if this process of immersion in the unknown would help me to understand myself.”

Mary H.K. Choi’s Hidden Joy in Not Being Translated

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At AAWW, Mary H.K. Choi discusses her new novel, Yolk, and why she is partially relieved it has not been translated into Korean, the language spoken by her parents. “As a writer, as someone who reveals their innermost selves linguistically, it’s lonely not to speak the same language as your parents,” Choi explains. “Then again, the fact that my books haven’t been translated into Korean is incredibly freeing. I don’t know that I’d want to be swayed in any way, or feel as though I’m aiming for a version of work that would gain the most approval. I think it wouldn’t even be intentional but I’d feel the weight of it and can imagine it would be stultifying.”

Reading Rainer Maria Rilke’s Poetry During a Pandemic

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At Ploughshares, Elizabeth Gonzalez James reflects on why she finds herself reading the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke in the midst of lockdown and how it’s a salve to her feelings of confusion and frustration. “I’ve found myself turning to these poems again and again over the last year,” James writes. “Rilke’s longing for God mirrors my own longing for meaning amid so much tragedy. And though in this last year I have often, or more likely have been always filled with some mixture of condemnation, anger, and doubt, Rilke’s words give me space to release myself from the prison of my own feelings, and offer an alternative, even curative, way to live in the world. ‘Let everything happen to you,’ he writes, ‘beauty and terror. / Just keep going. No feeling is final. / Don’t let yourself lose me.'”

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.”