Poets and Writers - - Contents - By melissa faliveno

De­but lit­er­ary non­fic­tion of 2018.

IT’S a good time to write non­fic­tion. Not just in terms of its pop­u­lar­ity—though it’s ex­cit­ing to see so many de­but es­say col­lec­tions and lit­er­ary mem­oirs be­ing pub­lished by small and large presses alike—but be­cause it’s a genre that can serve as some­thing of a torch­light in an in­creas­ingly dark world. In a time of un­cer­tainty, anger, and fear, of di­vi­sive dis­course and trou­bling pol­i­tics—the kind that takes ready aim at the marginal­ized among us—es­says and mem­oirs are forms that writ­ers, not least those on the mar­gins them­selves, are turn­ing to­ward more and more. And that makes sense: The best non­fic­tion writ­ers know dark­ness and aren’t afraid to dig into it. They tun­nel be­neath the sur­face; they in­ves­ti­gate and ex­plore, open to and ex­cited by the pos­si­bil­i­ties they might find there. And when the world is at its most be­wil­der­ing, they do what they do best: They turn in­ward to look more fully out­ward. They mine the depths of their own lives in the hopes of un­cov­er­ing some kind of greater truth, or even just to ar­tic­u­late a ques­tion that hasn’t yet been asked. Some­times they sim­ply try to stay a while in that space of be­wil­der­ment, in that dark­ness, to see what kind of light be­gins to emerge. In do­ing so they be­come the light them­selves.

The five writ­ers fea­tured here—each of whom was asked to write about the sto­ries and mo­ti­va­tions be­hind their books and their paths to pub­li­ca­tion—are grap­pling with ideas that are fun­da­men­tal to the hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence: iden­tity and self­hood, be­long­ing and home, and what it means to ex­ist on this planet right now. And maybe this is the great­est hope. Telling our own sto­ries, after all, is the best way to reach out to one an­other from the space that sep­a­rates us: to search for a hand in the dark­ness, to im­part em­pa­thy, to con­nect. As Sarah Viren puts it, lit­er­ary non­fic­tion is a “genre of re­sis­tance.” It’s a genre that seeks, that ques­tions, that pushes against the sta­tus quo, that at­tempts to un­cover. It in­hab­its the un­known and keeps its eyes open. Ul­ti­mately, es­say­ists and mem­oirists say things aloud that might oth­er­wise go un­said. They lift up the voices—their own and oth­ers—that we all need so badly to hear.

MELISSA FALIVENO is the se­nior ed­i­tor of Po­ets & Writ­ers


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