Best Nonfiction Essays

Best Nonfiction Essays-30
Coates’s ease in presenting West’s cross-generational relevance also presented an important point of connection between my students and me.

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What magazines and journals are punching above their weight class?

The big surprises for me were that River Teeth and Southwest Review were ranked so highly, and also Guernica and Normal School made amazing showings.

This year, I read several different essay collections, and dozens of essays online, but this is the piece I keep returning to, the one I’ve thought about most. The intimate details of the rituals of faith and grief, an inventory of the things a family sends for sustenance, when clearly it is love that sustains them. In the last five years, Michelle Zauner lost her mother and aunt to cancer.

Crying in H Mart is her emission of grief, an act of collecting memories of these women, “evidence that the Korean half of my identity didn’t die when they did.” She walks through the aisles of this asian grocery store telling us the Korean words for the sundries she picks up and then — more importantly— the memories of her childhood that they ignite.

Some differences between this ranking and my Best American Short Stories ranking: the fiction list concentrates on the top journals, while this literary nonfiction one is much more democratic, spreading the wealth of mentions and publications across a far broader span of publications. It could be because the Best American Essays lists far more special mentions than the Best American Stories, letting them highlight lesser known publications.

(If you’re into travel writing, please check out my Best Travel Writing Markets list).The ranking covers the last five years (2011 – 2015), and a certain number of points are awarded for an essay appearing in the anthology, and a lesser amount is awarded for the Special Mention in the back of the journal.The Special Mentions are only tallied up for the last two years, though (2014 – 2015) because they run 10 – 15 pages and contain multitudes.I read Zauner’s essay a few months after giving birth to my son in New York City.My own mom had just flown back to California after living with us for two months so that she could show me how to be a mother while also mothering me.2018 was chaotic, mournful, elegiac, with a seemingly unending avalanche of losses and disorienting highs and lows. In America, our moral crisis may have been years in the making, but right now, it is all especially noisy, and pronounced, with no real end to the nastiness in sight.At the start of the year, Trump slurred Haitians while rescinding deportation protections put in place after the 2010 earthquake.It’s a remarkable model for what the personal essay can accomplish.How Coates ties the personal to the societal to the universal is hard to match.After I assigned this personal essay by Ta-Nehisi Coates during week one, most, if not all, of them changed their minds.Coates dissects the celebrity of Kanye West by interweaving personal narrative, meticulous research, and deft cultural and political commentary.


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