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Posts from the ‘essays’ Category


#Non-fiction How To Do Nothing


What are the two lessons in the book?

  1. Doing nothing is hard.
  2. It requires resistance:
  3. refusing the frame of reference
  4. which value is determined by productivity
  5. maintaining the importance of nonverbal communication
  6. …and the experience of life as the highest goal.


  1. Doing nothing is hard.
  2. It requires rootedness:
  3. being firmly established, connected to ancient roots
  4. …the present grows out of the past.


What is the structure?

  1. Chapter 1 – disruption is more productive that work of maintenance
  2. Chapter 2 – to head for the hills?..or remain and escape from commercial social media
  3. Chapter 3 – create a space of refusal: “I would prefer not to.”
  4. Chapter 4 – how can art teach us new scales/tones of attention
  5. Chapter 5 – pop the filter bubble around us and how we view others
  6. Chapter 6 – utopian social network, more private communication



  1. It was a collection of ramblings of Ms Odell
  2. hoping to come across as philosophical.
  3. I couldn’t get through a single chapter.
  4. I started each one, hoping it would be
  5. …less awful than the last, to no avail.
  6. The book was OK…
  7. ….but I would not have included
  8. it on a best books list!
  9. #DisappointedObama !

#Essays Just Us



  1. A book of essays, poems and images that confront White privilege and White silence.
  2. Just Us: An American Conversation….explores whiteness and white supremacy in a series of everyday conversations, at the airport, dinner party, theatre and voting booth.
  3. Truly…a #MustRead


TITLE:    very subtle : Just Us = (…justice)

What if (poem) – needed to read this a few times…I even typed sections on paper for another perspective….a different layout that I hoped would help me understand the poem’s message.

Liminal spaces i – firstly I looked up what ‘liminal spaces means. Then searched the table of contents and see that 2 other essays are named: Liminal spaces ii and Liminal spaces iii (last chapter). So I hope after I finish the book I will discover the importance using these 3 chapters …perhaps as way to divide the book.

Evolution – short essay that no real impact on me. Quote about white people:
“…their socialization in a culture that is set up to keep them ignorant of their ignorance of violence committed against people of color.”

Title: reference to Beyoncé’s album
this is a very short essay. Ms Rankine reveals her battle with breast cancer and her struggles within an interracial marriage.
Strong point: quote that made me think….
“The threat of imminent death had built a mansion in my mind where before there existed only a motel for passing fears.”

Outstretched – EXCELLENT!!
Title: refers to British photographer’s photo “Woman with Arms Outstretched” (Memphis, Tenn)
Photo of the woman is veiled by a white haze due to overexposuring the image…she is difficult to see. This veil is the ‘white gaze’ confronting a black figure. Seeing but not seeing….Graham forces us to squint into racial politics.
Quote: Ms Rankine includes a message from Graham: “…you have to choose to overcome your own blindness.”

Title: describes Ms Rankine’s thoughts while attending a parent-teacher
meeting with her husband at her daughter’s predominantly white high-school.

Notes on the state of whiteness:
Title: …with a wink to Notes on the State of Virginia: by T. Jefferson
…his vigorous argument about the nature of a good society.

Tiki Torches: refers to torch-lit Unite the Right rally Charlottesville march in 2017)
Title: …recalling a cross-burning 1981 the fall before Ms Rankine arrived a college.

Study on white male privilege: ….short observation.
Title: Is this phrase ‘white male privilege’ extremely offensive police Capt. Arendt?
Quote:”…Surely, police Capt. Arndt must understand himself as white and male,
…so perhaps it’s the noun ‘privilege’ that enrages him?


Tall: 1 page…narrative method that attempts “to depict the multitudinous thoughts and feelings which pass through the mind of Ms Rankine.
Title: TALL refers to a conversation the author has with a man in a hallway. He thinks his height is greatest privilege….Ms Rankine does not agree. “I think your whiteness is your greatest privilege.
The conversation continues…..


Social contract: …what is the proper etiquette?
Title: To create discomfort by pointing out the facts….is seen as socially UNacceptable.
Quote: “A white woman ends the conversation…turning her gaze to a silver tray of brownies. Hers is the fey gesture… a white woman. It’s so blatant a redirect.
I can’t help myself and ask ALOUD the most obvious question:
Am I being silenced?
WOW!….don’t underestimate Claudia Rankine!!


Violent: interview with Ms Rankine’s friend about
how whiteness is talked about in her home.
(Ms Rankine is writing about this topic for her work)
Title: Child is told he ‘ruined’ Goldilocks and 3 Bears…by colouring her with brown skin.
Ms Rankine includes interesting notes on the text….don’t forget to read them!

Sound and Fury ( poem)
Title: Knowing that this is a portrait of the Trump voter as a cast-aside worker
helps the reader interpret the poem.
Quote: “…harden into fury” “…white’s right to righteous rage.”

Big Little Lies: EXCELLENT !!
Title: Touching analysis of a 30 year long friendship between college friends: Ms Rankine and unnamed girl coming from northeast USA with wealth going back the Mayflower.
Quote: “Her kind of security is atmospheric and therefore not transferable. It’s what reigns behind the term white.”
“How do we keep the differences on the table and still call that friendship?”

Ethical Loneliness
Title: another analysis of a friendship….so good.

Liminal Spaces ii
Title: The term “liminal spaces” refers to places between destinations that aren’t meant to be existed in as much as passed through.
Think of an airport….or a train station along the railroad tracks!
Quote: “ To converse is to risk the unraveling of the said and the unsaid.
“To converse is to risk the performance of what’s held by the silence.

José Martí (…one of the longest essays)
…..this essay started out so well…..then I just lost interest. Sorry.
Title: Oh this essay is filled with so many insights about race, racism, whiteness.
Quote: “How can white Democratic and Independent candidates have black people’s humanity in mind on a policy level…..when they themselves exhibit or condone racism with whatever apologetic language comes to mind?”

Boys Will Be Boys
Title: expression “boys will be boys” attempts to explain away aggressive behaviors that a small number of children exhibit.
It creates an easy excuse to fall back on so adults don’t have to examine other reasons for such aggressive behaviours.
Ms Rankine comments on two situations: verbally abusive man towards his wife in line at the airport
Brett Kavanaugh hearings in Washington D.C.
Quote: “Something feels lost…something with a beating heart.”

Complicit Freedoms – long essay…worth the reading time, and photos hair (blond)
by John Lucas (Ms Rankine’s husband)
Title: Modern hair-coloring technology has allowed people to dye their hair virtually any shade. So why is one hue in particular so popular?
Quote: Not in the essay….but I cannot get this out of my head:                                                            “…Only her hairdresser knows for sure.”

Title: An interesting look at skin-whitening an why it is valued.
Quote: Naomi Osaka’s Japanese mother was estranged from her parents for 15 years because
of her love for a Haitian man.” Grandparents met Naomi when she was 11 years old. How sad is that… turn your back on a daughter, a granddaughter just for the color of a man’s skin.

Liminal Spaces iii
Title: A liminal spaces/experience is the feeling of transition. They may be brief.
Think of a ‘coming of age’ story…passing from teen to adulthood
Think of divorce or a job transition
Quote: “Why aren’t all people actively involved into our present American struggle against a nationalist regime?
Have so many become so vulnerable to white dominance that the pathways to imagined changed are wiped out or our brains….”
“Is it possible to live E pluribus unum?


Photographer John Lucas (husband) and writer Claudia Rankine (wife) have collaboratively captured photographs of dyed blonde hair, as seen on the heads of strangers and acquaintances.

John Lucas reveals photographs of people of all races who bleach their hair. If white supremacy and anti-black racism continues to govern by blondness…might this be our most passive modes of complicity?

This photo is framed as still image and also transposed onto real postage stamps. The stamp, a form of currency with inherent mobility, becomes a metaphor for questioning: What do we attribute to blondness? Where do we think it will take us?


#Essays The Fire This Time



Introduction: Jesmyn Ward

  1. Ms Ward tells us James Baldwin inspired her as a wise father.
  2. His essay Fire Next Time is the basis of the title of this book.
  3. Baldwin was the widest read African American writer of his time.
  4. Baldwin’s  essay The Fire Next Time sold more than a million copies in 1963.
  5. The staying power of this essay, even after 57 years
  6. ….is his writing style.
  7. He personalized the large conflicts which made it a fascinating read.
  8. Not preachy…but straight from the heart!
  9. If you haven’t read this essay, please do.
  10. ….I’m sure you will not forget it.


Kima Jones (1982)

  1. Homegoing, AD  (poem, prose)
  2. Title is taken from an old African-American belief that
  3. death allowed an enslaved person’s spirit to travel back to Africa.
  4. I loved the humorous observation  that
  5. …indicates
  6. “Here’s the down south story we didn’t tell you…”
  7. “When did everybody stop eating pork
  8. “…when all women become Nefertiti bangles and headwraps
  9. …and all us named like Muslims.”


Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah (1982)

  1. Essay The Weight  is  about James Baldwin.
  2. Ghansah writes of her decision to visit James Baldwin’s
  3. …former home in the south of France.
  4. She is one of the most brilliant essayists writing in America today.
  5. Take the time to READ her Pulitzer Prize winning essay for feature writing:
  6. The Most American Terrorist: The Making of Dylann Roof


Wendy S. Walters (??)

  1. Lonely in America (essay)
  2. Ms Walters remarks on how little she considers the reality of slavery.
  3. Her avoidance, in fact, comes from denial of slavery’s ugly truths
  4. …and its existence throughout America,
  5. Ms Walters ends the essay with her investigation of an African
  6. burial ground recently found in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
  7. There is a sharp sting in her words….


Isabel Wilkerson (1961)

  1. Where Do We Go From Here?
  2. This is a very short piece of prose…not even an essay.
  3. Wilkerson describes the “continuing feedback loop”
  4. ….that sees progress for civil rights, followed by
  5. …a great downtrend, and repetition of these trends.
  6. It feels like no matter where African Americans live….
  7. geography could not save them.


Honorée Fanonne Jeffers  (1967)

  1. The Dear Pledges of Our Love: A Defense of Phillis Wheatley’s Husband
  2. This essay describes Ms Jeffers research.


Daniel José Older

  1. This Far: Notes on Love and Revolution  (letter form)
  2. …this is Older’s letter to his wife (Natassian) and future child.
  3. Natassian wants Older to explain to their unborn children why he writes


Natasha Trethewey 

  1. Theories of Time and Space 
  2. The speaker begins with the expression, “You can get there from here”
  3. but warns that the journey will always take the reader to unfamiliar places.
  4. This idiom is  used by persons being asked for directions
  5. …to a location that cannot  be accessed without complicated directions.


Edwidge Danticat

  1. Message to my Daughters
  2. Edwidge Danticat’s essay begins with her trip to Haiti.
  3. Danticat and her friends survey the dusty refugee camps.
  4. She reconsiders this idea of refugee
  5. in light of a housing project in her Brooklyn neighborhood.
  6. That residence and  the school she attended,
  7. operated like a refugee camp by treating people as temporary.


Garnette Cadogan

  1. Black and Blue
  2. This was so interesting!
  3. As a preteen, Cadogan  developed his after-dark walking habit
  4. and sometimes stayed out until sunrise, to his mother’s dismay.
  5. He describes walks in his hometown of Kingston, Jamaica
  6. …his college town on New Orleans.


Emily Roboteau

  1. Know Your Rights –  essay on urban murals
  2. After the Charleston shooting in 2015 Ms Roboteau
  3. ...takes her children to see the recently reopened
  4. …High Bridge in New York City.
  5. The bridge connects the Bronx with Harlem
  6. …and was closed for over forty years.
  7. She tell her kids to notice and enjoy the
  8. ….world around them when they leave home.


Kiese Laymon

  1. Da art of Storytellin
  2. Laymon has one of the best ‘hooks’ in all these essays:
  3. Kiese Laymon’s essay begins by describing Catherine, his grandmother,
  4. enacting her morning routine before
  5. …working as a “buttonhole slicer at a chicken plant”.
  6. Laymon wants to find his ‘voice’ in his writing.


Mitchell S. Jackson

  1. Composite Pops
  2. This hits the reader ‘right between the eyes’.
  3. Jackson’s essay begins by asking how boys without fathers
  4. …spell the word father.


Clint Smith (1988)

  1. Queries of Unrest
  2. Picture this…I’m walking in the morning sun
  3. …taking photos and minding my own business.
  4. When this one sentence stopped me in my tracks:
  5. “Maybe that’s because when I was a kid
  6. a white boy told me I was marginalized
  7. and all I could think of was the edge of a sheet of paper
  8. …how empty it is –“
  9. Wow, what an observation…what a gut punch.
  10. I immediately looked up ‘Clint Smith’ and
  11. I had book credits to burn.
  12. His collection of poems “Counting Descent” is just 1 hr 2 min.
  13. But once I heard his voice….so intense.
  14. I knew I had to have this book and take Clint with me on my walks.


Kevin Young

  1. Blacker Than Thou about Rachel Dolezal‘s blackface.
  2. …this is a hilarious essay



  1. This book is an excellent introduction to so many
  2. young African American writers 
  3. writing themselves into the world and
  4. into the future and being committed to a future.


  1. Ms Ward explains why she edited this book.
  2. Highlights a few of the selections and
  3. ….hopes with her book
  4. “…a reader might see those like me anew.”
  5. Ms Ward:
  6. “All these essays give me hope. I believe there is power in words. .
  7. Maybe someone who didn’t perceive
  8. ….us as human will think differently after reading this book.”


Last Thoughts:

  1. I listened to the audio book
  2. but felt I was missing so much
  3. …of these excellent essays.
  4. I ordered the Kindle book….and that is the best way
  5. ….to savour these  talented writers.
  6. #MustRead….you won’t regret it!



#Non-Fiction Surrender

  • Author:  Joanna Pocock
  • Title:  Surrender  (360 pg)
  • Published: 2019
  • Genre:  non-fiction (memoir)
  • List of Challenges 2020
  • Monthly plan
  • #WorldFromMyArmchair ( North American West)


  1. Joanna Pocock is writing realism in her essays
  2. about nature, environment and herself (memoir)
  3. ..but not in the traditional style.
  4. She details the the damage done to the environment (mining)
  5. ….that made me shudder.
  6. She details information about the people
  7. …in her life (family) and who she met in Missoula Montana
  8. …and on her road trips.
  9. Shock: Wolf trappers…Ms Pocock is on the side of the wolves!
  10. The Three Percenters…”3%-ers ” militia movements are growing.
  11. She shares her feelings during her adventure.
  12. “I was aware …that the land in the American West was not mine.”
  13. “…I felt at first lost and had no real concrete reason to be here.”
  14. But she did know that the West…had changed her.
  15. She would seek to give herself over to wilderness however she could.
  16. Best chapter:
  17. Joanna’s experience at the Ecosex Convergence in Washington state!
  18. Goal: make sex less shameful and environmetalism more sexy.
  19. Truly, this was a terrific section of the book.
  20. Ms Pocock stood among the other attendees, dressed in jeans and
  21. a warm fleece…surrounded by people
  22. in gauzy  “I Dream of Genie” numbers…!
  23. Joanna was open to the tribal approach at this jamboree
  24. …but ” I slipped out before the cuddle circle got going”.
  25. #Hilarious



  1. Montana has been the “last best place” for so many people.
  2. Ms Pocock’s book goes far beyond the pristine wilderness.
  3. She stands between youth and old age (52 yr.)
  4. There are moments Joanna does not want to be back in London
  5. …but does not know what to do about it.
  6. Marriage and children are ties that bind,
  7. …yet sometimes the ties can chafe – and strangle.
  8. Sometimes….all you can do is  Surrender
  9. …to your circumstances.
  10. #BrilliantWriting
  11. Chapeau au bas  for Joanna Pocock!


Feedback to Word By Word:

Claire, every memoir is different and it depends on the level of openness the writer dares to achieve especially concerning very personal thoughts. Joanna Pocock had the perfect balance: personal issues, feelings for nature and skepticism about some cultural practices in the American West. I learned so much from this book!


Feedback to WhatsNonFiction:

I’m sure you will love this book! Joanna Pocock has done her homework and she incudes many reference to the books she read about the American West, evironmentalism and essays by other authors she admires…for instance Rebecca Solnit “A Book of Migrations”. Trivia: Did you know the Appalachian Mountains is the second most biodiverse region in the world after the Amazon? I did not know that!



#ReadIreland 2020 Irish Theatre

Set Design by Francis O’Connor  for  play “The Big House” (Abbey Theatre)




  1. There is so much to learn from Helen Lojek’s essays.
  2. I have selected a few ideas to share with you.
  3. I learned to think more about the title of a play.
  4. You would be surprised what the author had hidden in it!
  5. I learned to look carefully at the setting.
  6. Who knew you could compare a bar (pub) with purgatory!


The Gates of Gold by Frank McGuinnes

  1. Setting: the domestic interior
  2. Stage: divided in “living room” and bedroom (“dying room) – EMPHASIS ON THEMES
  3. Title: explore meaning ‘The Gate’ is the theatre the partners founded in Dublin.
  4. On a metaphysical level the title frames Gabriel’s looming death.
  5. Stage directions: Silence: there is a definite significance of silence and lack of action
  6. Silence and lack of motion can be just as powerful as dialogue and action
  7. Irony: characters… Conrad  is teaching Gabriel how to die
  8. …and Gabriel is teaching  his partner how to live!!
  9. Dialogue: overlapping it is a
  10. …challenge to read or follow but provides a reflective commentary.
  11. Major threat: inescapable biological reality of death
  12. Ireland: the Irish future has arrived with
  13. …neither priest nor colleen nor greenfield in sight.




The Weir by C. McPherson

  1. Setting: local bar
  2. Bar = sacred place or even purgatorial where people
  3. can tell the truth b/c no one will return here.
  4. People ease their loneliness by sharing their interior lives.
  5. Stage: aging photos on the wall, barflys are male, the fire is peat and
  6. …the preferred drink is Guinness.
  7. Titel: is a metaphor The Wier for damned up emotion/feelings
  8. that will spill out in their stories…
  9. “on one side it is quite calm on the other side water is being squeezed through.”
  10. Lots under the surface is coming out.
  11. Stage directions: Silence: TV and radio are present but not turned on.
  12. Patrons  would rather tell stories.
  13. Irony: Valerie….the ‘intruder’ is  leaving the city for rural Irish landscape
  14. ….while other characters are rushing to the city!
  15. Dialogue: no indication that is bar has a window so exterior space
  16. …is only what the characters describe.
  17. Major threat: never-seen-but-often-discussed toerists (modernity)
  18. Ireland: rural area…a place for lonely bachelors and nonworking bathrooms
  19. …where Valerie comes to heal.






#AWW 2019 True Stories



  1. Yet again, another Helen Garner book
  2. …that I did NOT want to end!
  3. She is a magnificent wirter and I am
  4. glued to the page with the vivid details she  provides.
  5. I kept this book under my pillow (IPod audio book)
  6. to transport me to the ‘reading room’ between
  7. being awake ….and asleep.
  8. Some stories I had to listen to twice
  9. …fell asleep before the ending.
  10. Who does not wake up at 3 am sometimes for no reason?
  11. This audio book was the perfect ‘sleeping pill’.
  12. Helen Garner’s voice is soothing and you drift off quickly.


Last thoughts:


  1. Selections about her sisters
  2. Cruising on  Russian ocean liner
  3. Five train trips in the region of Melbourne
  4. Stories about authors, Patrick White and Elizabeth Jolley
  5. The Insults of Age
  6. Marriage
  7. Death
  8. Labour Maternity Ward, Penrith
  9. These are only a few that really impressed me.
  10. One story I started but could not finish:
  11. Killing Daneil.
  12. Garner is known for her true crime books
  13. …and this story was just too distressing (child abuse)
  14. So, you are warned….you can just skip it…as I did.


  • Helen Garner delves deeply into a crime
  • so vivdly it is impossible to read….and I imagine
  • just as hard to put on paper.
  • It is an extraordinary way of writing.
  • She has to take care that
  • ..she is not “drawn into the darkness”
  • …of the subject she is writing about.
  • Her books,  for example This House of Grief
  • have taken an emotional an
  • physical toll on Helen Garner.



  1. A book to read leisurely….
  2. that stays with you for a lifetime.

#RIP XIV The Afterlife of Edgar Allan Poe



The Man That Was Used Up: Poe’s Place in American Literature

  1. Reading time 1 hr 15 min
  2. Discussion: about Poe’s character by biographers in the the late 19th C
  3. his alcoholism, inability to sympathize, fickleness, ugly humor, ill- tempered
  4. Paradox: Poe was unappreciated, rejected….but
  5. …this aura of mystery was good for business (bookselling)
  6. Why is Poe considered the most characteristic American poet?
  7. — he was beaten down by American materialism
  8. — he did not copy the English literary tradition
  9. — he explored the pathological side of American temperament
  10. — he was curious, interest toward the most strange and odd mysteries
  11. Conclusion: Poe was torn to pieces by many biographers but in
  12. 20th C  he has been rebuilt into an ever more fascinating public figure



A Dream Within a Dream: Poe and  Psychoanalysis

  1. Reading time 1 hr 15 min
  2. Discussion: Psychoanalysis could inspire new,
  3. inventive ways of reading Poe.
  4. Helicopter view…
  5. of several writers who have psychoanalyzed
  6. Poe’s writing:
  7. L. Purette, D.H. Lawrence, Marie Bonaparte, J. Robertson, J. Krutch
  8. …J. Lacan and many more.
  9. …looking at the anatomy of Poe’s unconscious.
  10. Conclusion:
  11. Basically this essay is about  ‘What made Poe tick?
  12. Some insights made by Bonaparte sounded a bit
  13. far-tetched “…when Poe was tempted by living women, drink
  14. cleared the way for ‘flight’ and kept him faithful to his dead mother.”
  15. Honestly, this essay was more about the analysts
  16. ….pages and pages about Lacan,
  17. …then Poe himself!


Out of Space, Out of Time: From Early Formalism to Deconstruction

  1. Reading time 1 hr 02 min
  2. Discussion: is about 1950s New Criticism
  3. ….the deficiencies and limitations of Poe’s work.
  4. Not every critic feel Poe’s works  should
  5. allowed into the temple of high literary art.
  6. Critics Brooks and Warren state:
  7. “…when you learn to read more carefully you’ll see
  8. that he’s (Poe) only a little better than pulp fiction
  9. …you read for pleasure.”
  10. Emerson had famously called Poe “the Jingle Man”
  11. because his poems sounded jingly, gimmicky!
  12. Conclusion: The critics want to teach me how to
  13. read Poe….I wish they would just let me enjoy his
  14. writing instead of  trying to dissect Poe with structuralism,
  15. Post structuralism, and Deconstructism mumbo jumbo.
  16. The essay was filled with themes and philosophical issues.
  17. #Challenge


The Man of the Crowd: The Socio-Historical Poe

  1. Reading time 1 hr
  2. Discussion: In 1980s placing Poe’s text 
  3. in question to other texts in the
  4. same period with emphasis on
  5. representations of race, gender and class.
  6. Conclusion: Again critics who insinuate the
  7. The Black Cat is  figure for the abused slave
  8. …seems far-fetched.
  9. #IAmNotBuyingIt


Lionizing: Poe as Cultural Signifier

  1. Reading time 50  min
  2. Discussion: The pop-culture Poe
  3. Why has Poe proved so resilient over
  4. …150 years after his death?
  5. Peeples reviews books, plays, films and comics
  6. …entertainment derived from
  7. …Poe and his works.
  8. Conclusion:  readable



  1. We all know the uses of research material is
  2. a vital component to writing.
  3. Scott Peeples has cited  about 350 works to
  4. create these essays.
  5. That feels a bit excessive
  6. for 5 essays with reading times of 1 hour 15 min.
  7. Great thoughts yes, but there is  much
  8. ….cutting an pasting of direct quotes throughout the essays.
  9. This results in a confusion of voices and disrupts
  10. the flow of information.
  11. The writer must do more than parrot information!
  12. I did cherry pick some good insights about Poe and
  13. his writing but it was a laborious task.
  14. #NotWorthMyReadingTime
  15. …but you may enjoy this book!



#Essays Best American Essays 2017



  1. I’ve reviewed the first 5 essays
  2. …and will let you discover the rest.
  3. The BEST essay was by Rachel Ghansah.
  4. “The Weight”
  5. Try to read anything by this Pulitzer Prize winner
  6. ….you won’t be disappointed.


Last Thoughts:

  1. Personally I was  NOT impressed with the selected essays.
  2. They lacked creativity, insight and
  3. there were too many long personal essays.
  4. I’m not interested with your family relationships!
  5. I’ve read other collections that are WELL worth your reading time:
  6. Zadie Smith – Feel Free

  1. Ashleigh Young – Can You Tolerate This?

  1. Fiona Wright – Small Acts of Disappearance: Essays on Hunger

  1. Best Australian Essays 2016

  1. Best Australian Science Writing 2018


My notes:

  1. Two Shallow Graves  C+
  2. Jason Arment…
  3. served in Operation Iraqi Freedom
  4. as a Machine Gunner in the USMC.
  5. He’s earned an MFA in Creative Nonfiction
  6. from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.
  7. Arment is a warrior as witness who writes down things we don’t want to know.
  8. Reading time: 22 minutes
  9. Conclusion:
  10. This is not an essay
  11. …it is probably a chapter from
  12. Arment’s published book in 2017  Musalaheen (memoir)
  13. Arment writes vividly
  14. …but I’m not interested in war literature.


  1. The Weight  A++++++
  2. Rachel K. Ghansah…
  3. is an American award-winning essayist.
  4. She won a Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing in 2018 for her profile of
  5. white supremacist and mass murderer Dylann Roof
  6. who killed nine black people at a church in South Carolina.
  7. Gahnsah writes about her past reluctance
  8. to revere James Baldwin in this essay.
  9. She wants to provide a model others can build upon so that they
  10. …do not buckle under “The Weight” of Baldwin’s legacy.
  11. The man can finally rest in peace.
  12. Reading time: 38 minutes
  13. Conclusion:
  14. This essay is absolutely stunning!
  15. I suggest you read anything you can find
  16. by Rachel K. Ghansah!


  1. White Horse     D- 
  2. Elise Goldbach...
  3. She writes  a courageous personal essay about  a
  4. campus sexual attack and its aftermath.
  5. After 6 minutes I realize this is not the
  6. …essay I want to spend time reading.
  7. Reading time:   — minutes
  8. Conclusion:
  9. This essay is difficult to read….so DNF!


  1. The City That Bleeds  D-
  2. Lawrence Jackson…
  3. is a professor of English and history at
  4. Johns Hopkins University.
  5. He is a  literary critic and compelling biographer.
  6. Essay starts out as a description of police officers
  7. on trial for brutality…and suddenly is a essay about
  8. L. Jackson’s ancestors in Baltimore.
  9. Reading time:  15 minutes
  10. Conclusion:
  11. This essay is makes valid points on
  12. the state affairs in Baltimore
  13. …the city that bleeds
  14. …but it did not hold my interest.
  15. It felt like Jackson shifts words here and there
  16. and tells me things I read in the news.
  17. The essay lacks depth.


  1. We Are Orphans Here   C+
  2. Rachel Kushner…
  3. is an author of several novels
  4. The Flamethrowers (2013) and The Mars Room (2018)
  5. Ms Kushner spends a weekend in the Shuafat Refugee
  6. Camp in East Jerusalem.
  7. The essay is probably not simply about a place or a journey,
  8. but rather is about what she may discover
  9. about people, life on that journey and in that place.
  10. Reading time:  15 minutes
  11. Conclusion:
  12. This essay is travel essay
  13. The hard part was trying to find
  14. Kushner’s quest…
  15. …the reason for writing this essay.
  16. I think she wanted to confront the image
  17. that the international media uses to depict
  18. Shuafat Camp…
  19. ” …as the most dangerous place in Jerusalem”
  20. with her personal experience pg 66
  21. “…how wonderful it was in Shuafat Camp…how safe I felt.”
  22. The essay was….average.
  23. Unfortunately, it did not appeal to me

#Non-fiction August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle



  1. August Wilson understood the power of the theater.
  2. He used it to its full potential by
  3. …inserting honesty and realism into every play.
  4. Some consider August Wilson “America’s Shakespeare”.
  5. August Wilson was an American playwright
  6. …who did the unheard of- penning ten plays.
  7. …one for each decade of the 20th C.


  1.  Wilson received two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama:
  2.  Fences (1987), The Piano Lesson (1990)
  3. These 10 plays gives a glimpse into
  4. …American history through the
  5. …lens of the Black experience.
  6. August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle is a
  7. …series of critical essays about the plays.
  8. I have reviewed the first 5 essays
  9. …you can discover the rest of the book yourself!



  1. Essays 1-6 were interesting
  2. Essays 7-13 …seemed to repeat many thoughts
  3. about two plays: Gem of the Ocean and Joe Turner’s Come and Gone.
  4. Weak point: the essays do  NOT explain all 10 plays
  5. One of the most famous play is Fences  NOT reviewed!
  6. It is considered  the African-American version
  7. ot The Death of a Salesman
  8. A few essays were very instructive about…
  9. Seven Guitars, The Piano Lesson, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
  10. ….but still feel  that the book
  11. does not live up to my expectations.
  12. #Disappointed





1. The  emancipated century – J.H. Scott  ( 2 plays discussed) – easy to read

  1. Play: Joe Turner’s Come and Gone 
  2. Set in 1911… the play is about African Americans cut adrift  by
  3. The Great Migration to the North and by slavery from their African past.
  4. The  characters meet in a boarding house
  5. They represent a cross-section of  African Americans.
  6. The boarders are  in the midst of a
  7. …massive search for their “song,” or identity.


  1. Play: The Piano Lesson
  2. Set in 1936…this is a …
  3. Family conflict between Bernice and her
  4. …brother Boy Willie about the family piano.
  5. For Boy Willie the piano is a way to get some quick cash to buy land. 
  6. For Bernice, the piano is a source of strength.
  7. It reminds her of the courage and endurance shown by her ancestors.
  8. Boy Willie looks to the future
  9. …while Bernice looks to the past.


2. Situated identity in The Janitor (J. Zeff):  short essay about a play that is NOT in the cycle.

  1. The Janitor is a 1985  4 minute play.
  2. A janitor is someone society ignores.
  3. He is left to sweep the floor.
  4. The janitor gets an idea.
  5. …sees a microphone in an empty hall
  6. …and just starts talking.
  7. Messageidentity is a work in progress which is in your control,
  8. “…but what you are now ain’t what you gonna become.”


3. Two Trains Running (S. Saddler, P. Bryant-Jackson) – This essay did not appeal to me. SKIM!

  1. This was a  comparison of two books by
  2. American scholars Living Black History, M. Marable and
  3. The Archive and the Repertoire, D. Taylor.
  4. Where is the play?
  5. I noticed they referred to the play
  6. Two Trains Running  but do NOT review this play at length
  7. …so I decided to skim this essay and
  8. …investigate the Pulitzer Prize 1992 play on Wikipedia.
  9. I learned more on Wiki…than in his essay!


4. World War II History (E. Bonds) – excellent essay,  I learned a lot about the difficult period just after WW II.  Black men struggle to move on after the war. They feel they are not benefiting from the post WW II economic boom.  They feel like…they are still fighting.

  1. Play: Seven Guitars
  2. Set in 1948…
  3. …The play begins and ends after the funeral of one of the main characters.
  4. Events leading to the funeral  are revealed in flashbacks.
  5. The essay explains the 7 characters (7 guitars) and their
  6. individual out-of-tune chords (life experiences).
  7. What I did not realize was how important the boxer
  8. Joe Lewis was for the African American community.
  9. Wilson uses Lewis’s fame and downfall as an essential part of the play.
  10. It is so sad to read that  African American GI’s were fighting
  11. …on two fronts:
  12. the enemy overseas….and racism at home.


5. Stereotype and Archetype in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (M. Downing) – best explanation difference stereotype vs archetype I’ve ever read.  Excellent essay, lucidly-written, logically-structured, and convincingly argued.

  1. Play: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
  2. Set in 1920s…the historic exploitation of
  3. black recording artists by white producers.
  4. The essay explains how August Wilson started with
  5. stereotypes assigned by whites to blacks in the play.
  6. Then he remakes them into archetypes.
  7. I would have missed this
  8. …completely by just reading the play!
  9. Wilson places the stereotype (ST) at the beginning of the play
  10. …adds monologues…adds POV of African American characters
  11. …draws the original ST (evokes criticism, suspicion, scorn)
  12. …into an archetype (evokes empathy, understanding, compassion)
  13. Example: Ma Rainey is introduced as
  14. ST: chaotic, unreasonable, difficult, a risk with the law
  15. Wilson breaks this ST into components and rebuilds Ma as
  16. AT: mother, queen, goddess

#AWW 2019 Ashleigh Young






  1. This would not have been my choice to start an essay collection.
  2. Topic was not a good hook...not funny or emotional
  3. …just a bit strange.



  1. Story took me back to the carefree summer days on a beach.
  2. I can’t remember the last time
  3. …I jumped into the ocean….how sad is that?


The Te Kūiti Underground

  1. Absolutely enchanting…author’s memories of her father.
  2. “…he became in my eyes more and more eccentric,
  3. …and I became  more narrow-minded.”



  1. Just a story that leaves the reader
  2. with a message from an eccentric French postman:
  3. “ …how wonderful it is if we just keep going
  4. …a simple stumbling block…can change
  5. the entire story of out lives and deaths.”
  6. #SmileOnMyFace


On Any Walk

  1. Once I start a walk…I never turn back.
  2. I just remember how far I’ve come
  3. .How much distance would be wasted
  4. …if I turn back?
  5. Once I’m home …the coffee tastes so special!
  6. Ashleigh Young will…
  7. #NeverGiveUp


Big Red

  1. I’m speechless….
  2. We are introduced tp author’s family
  3. …mom, dad and 2 brothers.
  4. Ashleigh Young is an amazing talent
  5. … of the BEST essays.


Window Seat

  1. We’ve all been there
  2. …on a plane with a talkative passenger next to us.
  3. Only this passenger….could she be and angel?
  4. #Spooky


Black Dog Book

  1. What you possess…you loose.
  2. Happy family dog story….but sometimes 
  3. Mom has to make the difficult decision
  4. …and call the vet.
  5. #HardToSayGoodbye


Katherine Would Approve

  1. Anecdotes about the period when
  2. Ashleigh Young was director of 
  3. Katherine Mansfield Birthplace House
  4. …in Wellington, New Zealand.
  5. #Job



  1. What to do when a harmless comment stings?
  2. #ThinkBeforeYouSpeak


Can You Tolerate This?

  1. After reading this essay I had to close my Kindle
  2. take off my glasses and close my eyes.
  3. #PowerfulWriting
  4. …one of the BEST essays


Seas of Trees

  1. Eye-opener about a disturbing
  2. …social trend in Japan: hikikomori.
  3. Creative young people becoming modern-day hermits.
  4. #PTSS


Bikram’s Knee

  1. If you are determined to find a way back to strength
  2. nothing is unfix-able.
  3. This is a very, very personal essay about Ashleigh’s
  4. Struggle to accept the awkwardness of her body.
  5. She keeps waiting on the  gym bench, elbows on her knees
  6. head in her hand
  7. .…waiting for transformation.
  8. #Yoga #Running
  9. .one of the BEST essays.



  1. The author visits a Maori ritual
  2. …unveiling a headstone of a family member.
  3. She will write a story to
  4. accompany the photographs her friend is taking.


On Breathing

  1. So funny about a simple decision
  2. ,,,author decides to breath noisily
  3. …when she feels puffed 
  4. during a taxing bike ride.
  5. #Quirky


On Going Away

  1. Insightful look at relationships…
  2. Going away and then coming back together
  3. …this surge of
  4. anger and relief is toxic.
  5. Solution:  compress it into one moment
  6. …like stepping into a manhole.
  7. A sharp, pure accident with a beginning and an end.
  8. #Insightful



  1. Heartwrenching…to try to reach into the past
  2. and hold on to some one…
  3. …to try and stop time.
  4. #Depression



  1. Heartwarming observations and anecdotes
  2. about a woman who decides
  3. …to write a book  about her life.
  4. The story is clearly referring to
  5. Ashleigh Young’s mother.
  6. #Hysterical
  7. of the BEST essays.



Last thoughts:

  1. Extremely well-written set of essays
  2. …in quiet, elegant joy-to-read prose.
  3. External circumstances
  4. …family, job, body shape or where you live..
  5. cannot determine your happiness.
  6. Ashleigh Young shows us
  7. happiness depends on what we are given.
  8. This a book  best read ‘slowly’…
  9. I was not ready to say goodbye…
  10. Ashleigh Young’s beautiful writing.
  11. I’m anxiously waiting for her next book!
  12. #MustRead