As 2018 winds down, we wanted to take a moment to share our gratitude for some of the incredible things we've read this year. Some new, some finding us at the right moment, and each providing us with a light in its own unique way.
Amy Rossi, managing editor: There are two essays I've read this year that I've continued thinking about months later: W. Todd Kaneko's March Shredness winner about the song "Crazy Nights" by Loudness, and Alexander Lumans' "This Feels Like Never-Ending" in The Paris Review. Though in some ways these pieces are about music, these writers remind me that it is never just a song. And the book I am most grateful I read this year is An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. It's a beautiful book, one that honors the complexity of human relationships and is both devastating and hopeful.
Chris Gonzalez, contributing editor: Pulse/Pulso: In Remembrance of Orlando, edited by Roy G. Guzmán and Miguel M. Morales. For two years I didn't know how to process the grief, sadness, fear and heartache I carried after the Pulse nightclub shooting. I found solace in these poems.
Leta Keane, web editor: Space Opera, by Catherynne M Valente. It was a reminder that life and people are messy and destructive, but also beautiful and sparkly and ridiculous, and that art and glitter aren't just pretty distractions - they're the point, the only thing that matters.
Anna Vangala Jones, editorial assistant: Kindred by Octavia Butler. The ongoing questions it raises and wrestles with about interracial relationships in the US as well as intergenerational love, pain, trauma, and hope, especially passed down and forward among black women, make it an enduring work that everyone must read. Almost as icing on top, it’s told through a brilliant, inventive premise with beauty of prose to delight in, too. Can’t wait to reread and discover it all over again.
Maureen Langloss, flash fiction editor: How to Sit by Tyrese Coleman because it taught me so much as a writer and as a person. Tyrese dives straight into the heart of the most vulnerable, intimate places. With a voice that is unafraid and entirely her own, she crosses all sorts of boundaries, blurring the line between fact and fiction. Tyrese’s book got me thinking in new ways about race, gender, sexuality, humanity, humility, motherhood, and my own privilege.
Kendra Fortmeyer, contributing editor: How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, by Alexander Chee. This book is an enormous kindness. Reading it, I felt I was at the knee of a beloved teacher, one who has observed the decades of his life intently and offers up with compassion his reflections on writing as an art, a profession, and a tool for healing. It's a gift to the writers (and humans) of the world.
Marianne Chan, poetry editor: “Let America Be America Again” by Langston Hughes. This poem started to show up a lot this year on my social media news feeds, and now, I keep coming back to it. The poem in its entirety feels like a counterargument to the rhetoric that surrounds politics today. It is a poem that gives voice to the poor and marginalized. In a time when so many people—in all parts of the political spectrum—feel defeated and afraid for the future, this old poem offers an image of this country that we can continue to aspire to, and so, I am thankful that it exists, especially this year.
Becky Robison, social media and marketing coordinator: Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. It’s one of those books that I always meant to read, but I never got around to it until this year—and it’s still easily my favorite book I read this year, even though that was way back in March. The prose was so lush—I kept thinking I’d found the best sentence ever, only to discover that the next sentence was the best sentence ever, and on and on. And in terms of the plot, Janie’s quest for love and independence and fulfillment was just so very human. It completely gutted me.
Clancy McGilligan, reviews + interviews editor: Naomi Alderman’s The Power — for the way it turns things on their head. Mario Vargas Llosa’s The War of the End of the World — for its brilliant, tragic, kaleidoscopic portrait of a forgotten revolution.