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Narrating My Audiobook Felt Like Doing an Impression of Myself

Even the most authentic voice on the page is a translation, a refraction, an altered version of the author’s actual speaking voice. Finding the right balance of refining the voice without losing its character took me years—polishing a sentence until it gleamed and then tweaking it just enough to make it feel real again. Swearing just enough that I still sounded like myself, but not so much that it would be distracting.

Coming Home to Somewhere Unfamiliar

I was exuberant with the freedom I’d found, the friends I’d made, the neighborhood where I felt at home for the first time since the blurry memories of early childhood, but just under the surface was a depression that felt like panic. I felt everything, all at once. So I drank and got high so it made sense for me to laugh hysterically until tears ran down my cheeks and then sob until I was red in the face and choking. That turning point between laughter and tears was where I lived all the time, and inebriation was a convenient excuse to let it out.

Misadventures in J-School: When Grad School is the Wrong Thing

I never thought of it as compensating, I just thought of myself as someone who’d gotten her shit together after an untethered adolescence spent running around the East Village, getting drunk in Tompkins Square Park instead of learning algebra. But then I got accepted to Columbia, the stamp of institutional approval I didn’t realize I’d needed so badly, and I imagined the sweet vindication of becoming a high school drop-out with an Ivy League master’s degree.

Don’t Use My Family For Your True Crime Stories - What it's like to watch true crime as the relative of a murder victim.

This summer, my cousin Sabina would have turned 30 years old. Instead, it will mark nine years since she was murdered. Though it’s been almost a decade, I’ve just very recently started writing about her, and her death. It always felt too raw, too sacred to pull apart for story fodder—even if I’m the one doing the telling. The thought of someone who didn’t even know her using the horrible, violent way she was taken from my family as “material” is unfathomable to me. This is what I think about whe

How I Learned to Stop Judging And Love Insta-Witches

When I was thirteen, I discovered witchcraft. More accurately, I started paying attention to it. It had always been around me, in the silk-wrapped tarot deck on my mother’s dresser, and the sage she burned every time we moved into a new apartment. But when I was thirteen, I dove in and studied with a hunger and dedication I had never applied to anything before, and one that I never quite matched again; not even when I went to graduate school ten years later.
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Journalism and Criticism

"Lolita" Belongs to the Girls Who Lived It

Alisson Wood’s high school English teacher told her that Lolita was a beautiful story about love. She believed him—after all, there were so many similarities between Vladimir Nabokov’s famous novel and the relationship she and the teacher were forming, which she believed was true love. It wasn’t until college that she started to understand that Nabokov’s Humbert Humbert is an unreliable narrator and a sexual predator—and that her teacher was, too.

The Author of The Collected Schizophrenias Has More Questions

In her Graywolf Nonfiction Prize–winning essay collection The Collected Schizophrenias (out February 5 from Graywolf), Esmé Weijun Wang combines research and reporting with personal storytelling to examine some of the biggest questions and challenges in the way society views, treats, and talks about mental illness — specifically the widely misunderstood and misrepresented category known as the schizophrenias. Wang was originally diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and later with schizoaffective dis

The Author of Maid Doesn’t Want to Be Called a Success Story

After leaving an abusive relationship and moving into a homeless shelter with her toddler, Stephanie Land began working as a house cleaner for minimum wage. In her debut memoir Maid (out earlier this week from Hachette), Land details the grind required to survive living below the poverty line in America — working as many hours as she could and still, at one point, relying on seven different kinds of government assistance. Some of Land’s cleaning clients are friendly, while others don’t bother t

What Happens When an Adoptee Looks for Answers

Born to Korean-immigrant parents and adopted by a white couple, Nicole Chung grew up in a predominantly white town in Oregon, subject to what she didn’t know to call racist bullying until much later. Following the advice they’d been given, her parents didn’t talk to her about race or how she was different from the other kids at school — or the rest of her family. All they told her was that her birth parents loved her and wanted her to have the best life possible. She accepted that story as the s

Q&A: A Queer Porn Director Takes on Mainstream ‘Lesbian’ Porn

During most of a recent trip to New York, Courtney Trouble — the director and performer SF Weekly called “the Queen of ‘Queer Porn’” — stayed with friends in Brooklyn. But on the last night in town, Trouble rented a swanky room at the Gramercy Park Hotel — not for the comfort, but for its potential as a porn set. When I met Trouble at the hotel, shooting had just finished. Porn stars lounged on the bed, with clothing and dildos strewn all over the room.
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