Rebecca Solnit on the Value of Nonlinear Narratives

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At Literary Hub, Rebecca Solnit discusses her latest work, Orwell’s Roses, a reflection on George Orwell’s life, politics, and passion for gardening and nature.

Solnit examines how depth in meaning can be acquired by meandering, detouring, and lingering in the details, and cites notable works of nonfiction that have non-chronological structures, including her own book, which moves from a range of topics related to the natural world, the meaning and purpose of art, Stalinism, climate, feminism, and slavery.

Its structure, “is akin to taking seven walks from the same starting point…I learned from labyrinths that to get to the center you turn away from it again and again as you follow the windings that will, in the end, take you to the center,” Solnit says. “There are subjects you can better understand through analogy, context, parallels, the view from the distance, rather than via direct and dogged pursuit.” 

Children’s Books from the Margins of Life with Maurice Sendak

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At Electric Literature, Michele Kirichanskaya delves into the ways Maurice Sendak’s experiences as a queer, Jewish writer influenced his innovative children’s books. “Rather than patronizing his young readers, painting an illusion of childhood ‘innocence,’ he respected them by acknowledging the terrifying reality of what it meant to be a child,” Kirichanskaya writes, “someone who existed on the margins of life, who possessed both intense vulnerability and incredible insight, unfiltered by adult biases. Sendak, along with literary innovator and legendary editor Ursula Nordstrom, created a book that would become emblematic of the richness and depth of children’s picture books.”

Embracing Tackiness with Rax King

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At Electric Literature, Calvin Kasulke speaks with Rax King about her cheeky and deeply personal debut essay collection, Tacky: Love Letters to the Worst Culture We Have to Offer, which explores pop culture in the 2000’s and the joys of “bad taste.”

They discuss what tackiness means, who gets to decide what’s tacky, icons of tackiness, sex, go-to Cheesecake Factory orders, shoplifting techniques, and writing advice. Kasulke praises King for her ability to move readers with the most minuscule details, and King responds with insight into her essay writing process “The little stuff is usually where I do start actually,” King says. “Those moments are the ones that stick, I think. Big picture stuff fuzzes out over time, but I’m always going to remember the color of the tracksuit that my dad wore all the time—stuff like that. The stuff that colors in memories is what I think is most important for coloring in a story.”

The Coming-of-Age Stories That Made Charlie Jane Anders

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At Clarkesworld Magazine, Charlie Jane Anders discusses the coming-of-age stories that shaped her award-winning science fiction and helped her confront the world in front of her. “What I love in a coming-of-age story is a character who is discovering their identity at the same time that they’re learning how the world works,” she says. “There’s something super powerful and also heartbreaking about realizing that the world wasn’t what you thought, while also claiming your own selfhood and your own power. I sort of think of Empire Strikes Back as the great coming-of-age story, alongside the Earthsea books. And more recently, Binti by Nnedi Okorafor.”

A History of Resilience, Documented by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim

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At the Margins, graphic novelist, painter, and translator Keum Suk Gendry-Kim discusses her newest book, The Waiting, inspired by her mother’s family separation and reunion in the midst of war. “I speak about the violence that took place in Korean history,” she says. “But with these stories, I am able to show the resilience of the people who lived through these hardships. The themes of all my books are connected. My parents lived through these events—sometimes intimately, sometimes just by being alive—and I come from them.”

The Benefits of Bilingualism

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At Literary Hub, Masha Rumer discusses the enduring stigma of speaking a language other than English in America, despite proof of its advantages, such as how it helps with better communication and creative thinking.

Rumer breaks down the correlation between bilingualism and advanced executive function and cites her discussion with Ellen Bialystok, a renowned cognitive neuroscientist at York University in Toronto.

“What bilingualism is really doing is it’s shaping up the attention system to be more selective, more responsive, and to be better at picking up important information in the first year of life,” Bialystok explains. “These executive function skills predict long-term academic success and well-being.” Bialystok also adds that switching between languages stimulates the brain, builds up cognitive reserve, and “can delay the symptoms and diagnosis of dementia.” Bialystok adds, “Although bilingualism doesn’t stop Alzheimer’s in its tracks, it empowers the brain with better coping skills and gives the attention networks more resiliency, protecting against neurodegeneration.”

In Rumer’s forthcoming book, Parenting with an Accent: How Immigrants Honor Their Heritage, Navigate Setbacks, and Chart New Paths for Their Children, she spotlights various experiences of immigrant families across the country and provides essential insight into the nuances of multicultural parenting.

Ghost Stories and Haunted Histories, as Told by Louise Erdrich

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At Oprah Daily, Pulitzer-Prize winning author Louise Erdrich discusses her new novel, The Sentence, a ghost story that follows Tookie, a bookstore employee and handles serious topics with nuance and dark humor. “Who doesn’t want to write a ghost story?” asks Erdich. And it’s not only about a haunted bookstore; it’s about how we are haunted by history and how that alters the present. And the humor is Tookie’s—she has a way with words.”

The Story Behind Penguin Modern Classics’ Iconic Cover Designs

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At The Guardian, Killian Fox takes a closer look at Henry Eliot’s The Penguin Modern Classics Book, which contains everything you need to know about the most acclaimed literature of the past century, the era-defining Penguin series, and the stories behind their book jackets. “Eliot’s new book opens with a section on how the cover design has evolved, and you can see the carefully considered but striking changes that were introduced by successive art directors over the decades,” Fox writes. “Dominant colours (orange, dove grey, eau-de-nil) drop out, only to creep back into later iterations. Typefaces get axed, after much agonising, to be replaced by more modern-looking counterparts. Grid layouts are imposed – many 1960s covers were designed according to the so-called Marber grid, which sectioned off the publisher’s logo, the title, the author’s name and the image—only to drift after a few years or get overhauled completely.” 

Trying Anything on the Page with Kiese Laymon

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At the New York Times, Tressie McMillan Cottom interviews fellow author Kiese Laymon on the fear and willingness to try anything that fuels his writing process. “When I get on that page, I’m scared, but like that fear just kind of like is always met with something,” Laymon says. “And often, that fear is met with my trying to use an assemblage of languages I haven’t seen before. I just think if I can write, it’s because I’m unafraid to fail in that medium. I’ll try anything. I’ll write anything. And that doesn’t mean — that doesn’t mean you’re going to see it, but it means that I will try anything on the page.”

The Climate Crisis and the Exclusion of Non-White Voices

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At Literary Hub, Ugandan climate justice activist Vanessa Nakate discusses her experience as the only non-white advocate at the World Economic Forum and the Associated Press’s decision to crop her out of a major news photo. 

“The AP’s director of photography insisted that cropping me out hadn’t been a deliberate act of erasure but was done on ‘composition grounds’ by a photographer under intense time pressure,” Nakate says, “I’d been cut because the building behind me was distracting. But, aside from the fact that the cropped photo still contained two other buildings, the question is, distracting from what or whom? The Alps in the distance? My four white, European colleagues who were standing in front of the mountains? Or Greta herself?” 

Nakate speaks about her passion for and commitment to raising awareness about the climate crisis and reporting stories from all parts of the world in her memoir-manifesto, A Bigger Picture: My Fight to Bring a New African Voice to the Climate Crisis.