Introduction

Introduction

We are witnessing a war—multiple wars—whose scale and devastation are overwhelming. Every day, pictures of maimed or murdered children, carried in the arms of their grieving families, flicker on our social media timelines. Nearly every post asks the same questions: Does our suffering not matter? Who will bear witness to our loss? To lose a…

Introduction

When Lou Reed departed in 2013, I stopped what I was doing and spent a few minutes listening to “Sweet Jane” and “Pale Blue Eyes.” When I heard about Prince a few years later, I turned to “1999” and “Raspberry Beret.” These private memorials were a reflex of gratitude on my part—a small protest against…

Introduction

Some people say there are only five possible plots. A stranger comes to town, a person falls in love with a stranger, a stranger’s true identity is revealed to themselves or to others, a war is fought in a strange land, and then—full circle—a person leaves town for a strange land. There are many variations…

Introduction

In his essay “Cante Moro,” Nathaniel Mackey describes a kind of singing that has “a sound of trouble in the voice. The voice becomes troubled.” The quality he identifies here, via the Spanish poet Federico García Lorca, “is something beyond technical competence or even technical virtuosity. It is something troubling. It has to do with…

Instead of Introduction

Time doesn’t move, we move, says Tolstoy, but I am standing still in a trolley as it moves through a provincial city in the USSR—a country that no longer exists—in which two old ladies, who look just like my deceased mother, are speaking a strange mash-up of Yiddish, Ukrainian, Russian (and another language I cannot…

Introduction

On the first day of my graduate workshop, sometimes I will ask the writers to draw an undersea creature and put it on the chalkboard. They do it willingly, and some are surprisingly good artists, making convincing jellyfish and eel out of chalk. Another might draw a blob of a whale, someone makes the classic…

Introduction

In Lost Children Archive, Valeria Luiselli writes: “I suppose that documenting things—through the lens of a camera, on paper, or with a sound-recording device—is really only a way of contributing one more layer, something like soot, to all the things already sedimented in a collective understanding of the world.” I’m writing this introduction in the…

Introduction

This is a letter from the past to the future. All writing is, of course. In our moment in time, we put words on paper and hope that later someone will read them and recognize the people and the feelings we’re describing. No matter how many miles or years separate us from our readers, if…

Introduction

One evening early in the new year, my ten-year-old confided that she was worried about something. Between the demands of school and the dynamics of friends, let alone all the changes dawning around and within her, I wasn’t surprised to learn she might be nervous about something. But her fear caught me off guard. “I’m…