literature

THESE 3 NOVELS DETAIL THE PAIN OF SEPARATION FOR MIGRANT FAMILIES

Never before have so many people fled their homes. According to the United Nations, the number has reached 68.5 million, with only about 100,000 of them resettled. Millions have left behind war, violence, and famine only to face new challenges: children separated from their parents in the United States, extended stays in squalid camps in Greece, and migrant ships turned back by Italian officials. These three writers account for the difficult decisions and hard realities families face when they gamble everything they know to search for something better.

 

Inspired by the story of an undocumented Guatemalan woman whose 5-year-old son was adopted away from her by an American couple in Missouri, writer Shanthi Sekaran follows two immigrant mothers in her novel Lucky Boy. One crossed the U.S.-Mexico border without papers, the other followed her husband to Silicon Valley from India. Their stories cross around one “lucky boy.”

In Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, writer Laila Lalami follows four people who, like many thousands in recent years, risk their lives on a rubber dinghy on the Mediterranean in hopes of a new life in Europe. They each have their own reasons for craving an escape -- abusive marriages to demeaning work to troubled children -- and each are driven by hope for a life that will be better, just as soon as it isn’t so foreboding.

 

Writer Jenny Erpenbeck captures the diversity of migrants streaming into Germany in her Go, Went, Gone. The book follows a retired academic, Richard, who happens upon a group of migrants camping out in a park only to make their lives the focus of a new study that is as much about the individual men he encounters as it is about the treatment of the “other” in Western Europe. Erpenbeck makes clear in this work that resilience is no one’s first reason for living.

PRESIDENT OBAMA WANTS YOU TO BE EMPATHETIC LIKE ATTICUS FINCH. DON'T.

PRESIDENT OBAMA WANTS YOU TO BE EMPATHETIC LIKE ATTICUS FINCH. DON'T.

In his farewell address, President Obama invoked the glorified version of To Kill a Mockingbird's Atticus Finch who has been incorrectly read as a civil rights hero for decades. 

FOR ZADIE SMITH, THE CLOUDS HAVE ROLLED IN OVER MULTICULTURALISM

FOR ZADIE SMITH, THE CLOUDS HAVE ROLLED IN OVER MULTICULTURALISM

“On November 10 The New York Times reported that nearly seven in ten Republicans prefer America as it was in the 1950s,” Smith said, “A nostalgia of course entirely unavailable to a person like me, for in that period I could not vote, marry my husband, have my children, work in the university I work in, or live in my neighborhood.” 

TRUMP, TRUTH, AND ALL THE KING'S MEN

TRUMP, TRUTH, AND ALL THE KING'S MEN

Like the rising demogogue at the heart of Robert Penn Warren's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, All The King's Men, Trump understands that he is liberated from the burden of fact just so long as he continues to depict a reality that renders as True. 

HOW A STEINBECK NOVEL FORETOLD TRUMP'S AMERICA

HOW A STEINBECK NOVEL FORETOLD TRUMP'S AMERICA

The Winter of Our Discontent is marked by the same sort of nationalism that has been given pride of place on the electoral stage. At the close of the first black president’s tenure, there has been a heightening of hate. The staggering reinvigoration of white supremacy--let’s call it like it is--is a response what some commentators have observed as a pushback against President Obama as a symbol for racial advancement. The racist underpinnings of presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign are, for some, a way to set back the “rightful” order of this country -- you know, to “make America great again.” 

PEAK OF GREATNESS: ON THE AFTERLIVES OF OLYMPIANS

PEAK OF GREATNESS: ON THE AFTERLIVES OF OLYMPIANS

With so much focused on the time between the opening ceremony and the podium, how could becoming a regular person again feel like anything but failure? 

FOR QUEER MUSLIMS, ISLAMIC POETRY REPRESENTS SOLACE AND ACCEPTANCE

FOR QUEER MUSLIMS, ISLAMIC POETRY REPRESENTS SOLACE AND ACCEPTANCE

Given the prevalence of queer perspectives and homosexual references in Islamic poetry, it’s hugely ironic that LGBTQ Muslims around the world struggle to live out their sexual and gender identities.

JOY HARJO, NATIONAL PARKS, AND THE 'BEGINNING AND END' OF RECOGNIZING TRIBAL HISTORIES

JOY HARJO, NATIONAL PARKS, AND THE 'BEGINNING AND END' OF RECOGNIZING TRIBAL HISTORIES

Although every National Park was once inhabited or used by Native people, their stories are glaringly absent in this year's centennial celebrations of the National Parks Service as “America’s best idea.” Poet, musician, and member of the Mvskoke Nation, Joy Harjo takes the United States' limited account for tribal histories to task in her poem, "Someone Talking." 

5 NOVELS THAT SHOW WHY ATTACKS ON GAY CLUBS ARE SO DEVASTATING

5 NOVELS THAT SHOW WHY ATTACKS ON GAY CLUBS ARE SO DEVASTATING

The attack on the Orlando, Florida gay club Pulse was not just a violation of a safe space, but a desecration of a place of celebration for a community still engaged in very real battles against marginalization, discrimination, and all out violence. These five novels show the importance of such venues to the LGBT community and offer a glimpse of just what was lost along with 49 lives in the most deadly mass shooting in U.S. history.

(3+7) (Q&A) ON A FRENCH MEMOIRIST WHO BELIEVED THAT 'TO WRITE IS TO PROSTITUTE ONESELF'

(3+7) (Q&A) ON A FRENCH MEMOIRIST WHO BELIEVED THAT 'TO WRITE IS TO PROSTITUTE ONESELF'

Although a new film and documentary about Violette Leduc’s life have added to her popularity in recent years, the groundbreaking writer remains largely unread outside of France. THE ALIGNIST’s Beenish Ahmed called up New York University professor Elisabeth Ladenson to talk about Leduc’s troubled life and unsung legacy -- but mostly, about her unsparing prose. 

'I STILL CHASE THE LIGHT,' A PALESTINIAN POET APPEALS HIS DEATH SENTENCE IN SAUDI ARABIA

'I STILL CHASE THE LIGHT,' A PALESTINIAN POET APPEALS HIS DEATH SENTENCE IN SAUDI ARABIA

"I forgot to tell you...that in the practical sense of the word/ I've grown used to your absence/ and that my wishes have lost their way to your desires/ and my memory has begun to corrode/ And that I still chase the light, not because I want to see...the dark always frightens/ even when we're used to it." 

FIVE NOVELS THAT HELPED MAKE SENSE OF THE WORLD IN 2015

FIVE NOVELS THAT HELPED MAKE SENSE OF THE WORLD IN 2015

2015 saw more than a million migrants land on the shores of Europe, the launch of a reconfigured campaign against terror, a shocking array of mass killings, and far more. Here are five books which shed light on some of those events and more. 

FIVE BOOKS TO REMIND YOU WHY NOTHING IS SIMPLE IN PARIS

FIVE BOOKS TO REMIND YOU WHY NOTHING IS SIMPLE IN PARIS

“Paris was a very old city and we were young and nothing was simple there, not even poverty, nor sudden money, nor the moonlight, nor right and wrong nor the breathing of someone who lay beside you in the moonlight," Hemingway wrote in A Moveable Feast

(3+7) (Q&A) WITH NOVELIST JENNIFER CLEMENT ON MEXICO'S MISSING

(3+7) (Q&A) WITH NOVELIST JENNIFER CLEMENT ON MEXICO'S MISSING

Jennifer Clement's latest novel, Prayers for the Stolen, maps the landscape of violence wrought on the people of Guerrero, Mexico by the drug wars and traces the story of some of its "stolen." THE ALIGNIST spoke with Clement about her response to the disappearance of 43 teaching students from the state last year and asked her how her work came to be one of social protest.