Essays

In the Moment, On the Edge

What was literary impressionism? It is not an easy question to answer, since literary impressionism was less a movement than a sensibility. The impressionist writer ...

Exile by the Bay

Imagining home is an inescapable preoccupation of disinherited people. Of all the possessions lost or denied, none is more precious than the security and feeling of belonging that a genuine home ...

Translation’s Burden

A book is a strange vessel of expectation. A published book imagines a reader, for a published book without a reader is a book that loses someone’s money. And a book about translation seems to have ...

Acts of Mothering

Back in 1976, Adrienne Rich described what she called the “institution of motherhood.” When biological motherhood was turned into a social and historical institution, she explained, the potential ...

The Breaks of History

Ralph Ellison once suggested that “living with music” provides us with “an orientation in time.” Music, in other words, helps us locate and anchor ourselves within a history that exceeds us. Living ...

Trump’s “Radio Machete”

This year, Rwanda commemorates the 25th anniversary of the genocide against the Tutsi. Americans would do well to consider the sobering similarities between the Rwandan “hate radio,” or “Radio ...

Building Utopia in Space

Utopianism is having a moment. Everything from the box office success of big-budget science fiction films like Interstellar and The Martian to the groundswell of support for the Green New Deal ...

Jewish Fragility

When I receive appeals from Jewish organizations exhorting me to fight antisemitism—which, they claim, is on the rise here and abroad—I tend to toss them away. During many periods of time, and in ...

Africa “Without Amnesia”

Responses to the idea of a “post-racial” society usually follow a certain script. In most progressive circles in the US, the notion is dismissed as fantasy or delusion. In southern Africa, and ...