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Lauren Graham is perhaps best known for her acting, particularly her role as the young, headstrong single mom Lorelai in the television show “Gilmore Girls.” But Graham, who has a bachelor’s degree in English from Barnard College and master’s of fine arts in acting performance from Southern Methodist University, is also the accomplished author of a novel (Someday, Someday, Maybe), a collection of personal essays (Talking as Fast as I Can) and a book of advice for graduates (In Conclusion, Don’t Worry About It). 

Graham’s second book of personal essays, Have I Told You This Already?: Stories I Don’t Want to Forget to Remember, is composed of 15 insightful pieces relaying impactful moments and life lessons that have shaped who she is. She explains how her creative outlook was molded by people and experiences from her youth. For example, although her mother was largely absent from her upbringing, Graham sees a positive side to this fact: “I think not growing up with my mom means I didn’t have any preconceived notions of what a mom is supposed to be!” 

Graham takes the reader on a behind-the-scenes tour of Hollywood, sharing acting jargon such as “pumpkin” (the term for when child actors have to be done working for the day) and “sold it in the room” (getting backing from someone with clout). She’s candid about the demands of show business, too, and the acrobatics that actors have to perform to fit into the Hollywood mold. In a chapter aptly named “Forever 32,” Graham reflects on aging, comparing her recollections of being a 20-something to when, at the age of 32, she realized “I had a sense of myself I’d never had before.” She also muses about her days as a young actor, hustling to various jobs while trying to make it. These stories and anecdotes are especially raw, real and humorous.

Graham’s writing is fresh, sharp and very funny, with fast, staccato sentences that evoke what it must be like to have a conversation with her. Her voice invites the reader in, emanating a refreshing openness that will make them want to be her best friend. Have I Told You This Already? is an enjoyable, amusing revelation.

Actor Lauren Graham’s second collection of essays is fresh, sharp and very funny, with staccato sentences that evoke what it must be like to have a conversation with her.
Interview by

It’s difficult to have a conversation with Ross Gay and not think of a moniker he’s picked up over the years: “the happiest poet around.” Gay is relaxed, genial and clearly excited about his second essay collection (and sixth book overall), Inciting Joy. With its 14 chapters, or “incitements,” covering subjects as disparate as death and losing one’s phone, Gay hopes his new book is proof that he can write—and in fact has always written—about subjects other than delight. “I feel like this book could also be called The Book of Rage,” he explains over our Zoom call. “Connection and holding each other through each other’s sorrow, to me, feels like an inciting force.” This is the premise of Gay’s powerful book, which begins with an imagined party for people and their sorrows, then segues into an exploration of sites where joy and solidarity defiantly abound.

Read our starred review of ‘Inciting Joy’ by Ross Gay.

In many ways, Inciting Joy feels emblematic of Gay’s most pivotal works in both poetry and prose, highlighting the beauty of everyday experiences such as communal gardening and enjoying music and the arts. For instance, Luther Vandross’ cover of Dionne Warwick’s “A House Is Not a Home” gets some well-deserved space, as does the comedic genius of Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor and Gay’s late father, Gilbert, affectionately known as “Poochie.” Meanwhile, other chapters explore equally familiar subjects but in surprising ways. For example, in “Insurgent Hoop (Pickup Basketball: The Ninth Incitement),” Gay discusses the necessarily anti-capitalist nature of the neighborhood court, which can only be reserved for one game at a time and where you might find yourself on the same team as someone you beat only moments before. “There’s never a spot or a time or a reason to have a fixed enemy,” he tells me. “We’re just here together for now. How do we decide at this moment, this group of people, how we’re gonna be together?”

Inciting Joy by Ross Gay

This question serves as a throughline for the book, manifesting itself in some of the most inhospitable places, such as the author’s father’s hospital room as the elder Gay was dying from untreatable liver cancer; on the makeshift skating ramps of his youth, where skaters were expected to share tools and protect one another from the wrath of cops and property owners; and most surprisingly, in the football locker room, where off-color jokes were plentiful but so, too, was tenderness. Players often shaved and administered balms to broken (and broken-out) bodies, even as they hurled insults and sexually violent threats to their opponents and to one another. In the longest and perhaps most moving chapter, “Grief Suite (Falling Apart: The Thirteenth Incitement),” Gay explores both the brutality and the brotherhood made possible in such spaces, and he doesn’t shy away from his own complicity in toxic masculinity as a young man.

“How do we decide at this moment, this group of people, how we’re gonna be together?”

These transparencies, says Gay, are not only par for the course but sit at the heart of what he hopes to achieve in Inciting Joy. It was only a few years before the publication of his first collection of essays, The Book of Delights, that Gay realized prose writing could be pleasurable for him—as long as it wasn’t about showcasing some sort of absolute wisdom. “Instead, it could be about leaving an artifact of my thinking and making that as beautiful as possible,” he says. “But ultimately, [I wanted to see] if there was some way to make the residue of my thinking available . . . the residue of my thinking also being the evidence of my changing.”

As a poet, Gay has always been keen on taking the reader on an ever-evolving journey of thoughts and images, and this feat is prominently displayed in the footnotes that populate Inciting Joy. Some of them are so carefully written that Gay himself describes them as “discrete essays.” He says he understands if folks are reluctant to read them, but he insists that readers will miss quite a bit of information if they choose not to. In fact, he likens the footnotes to pauses in conversations between friends, where one person stops the other to ask for more information, or where the storyteller pauses to offer information they feel is crucial to understanding what’s being said. In other words, the marginalia of Inciting Joy share communal knowledge by offering the bounty of the backstory, much in the way gardeners might share seeds or skateboarders might share bolts from their personal buckets of spare parts. “The footnote is like, I’m serious about this,” says Gay. “I want us to know something about each other.”

“Books that I love make me feel regarded. If anyone feels that way, I would be very happy.”

Perhaps the highest praise I can offer for Inciting Joy is that, for Gay and for me, it sparked a delightful conversation about the wealth of stories, characters, memories and subjects the book undertakes, building upon one another to create such a rich biodiversity on the page that I often found myself reading passages multiple times just to make sure I’d absorbed every detail. We chatted about everything from my anxieties about teaching and house hunting in a new city to the generosity of Mr. Lau, the father of one of Gay’s childhood friends who is briefly mentioned in the book and whose donation of clippings from his backyard garden in Pennsylvania now live as fully grown fig trees in Bloomington, Indiana, where Gay lives and teaches. 

As we end our call, Gay admits that he’s curious about how Inciting Joy will be received, but his hope for it is a generous one. “Books that I love make me feel regarded,” he says with a grin. “If anyone feels that way, I would be very happy.”

Headshot of Ross Gay © Natasha Komoda

The bestselling poet says his second collection of essays could have just as easily been called The Book of Rage.

Using the well-worn adjectives elusive and idiosyncratic to describe Haruki Murakami may be clichéd, but if ever a writer embodied these sobriquets, it is certainly the internationally beloved Japanese author. His fiction can be hard to classify—is it science fiction? dystopian? satire?—so it stands to reason that a nonfiction work wherein he shares his thoughts on writing would be equally hard to categorize. Novelist as a Vocation, part memoir and part informal advice guide, offers a glimpse into a personal life Murakami has long kept guarded. Originally published in Japanese in 2015, it has now been translated by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen into straightforward English prose that captures Murakami’s unadorned, conversational style and self-deprecating wit.

Murakami declares up front that he should be viewed as a regular man who happens to write hugely popular novels. “If I do say so myself, I’m the type of ordinary guy you’ll find anywhere,” he writes. “Not the type to stand out when I stroll around town, the type who’s always shown to the worst tables at restaurants. I doubt that if I didn’t write novels, anyone would ever have noticed me.” In his telling, his path to writing was accidental. While in his late 20s, working long days and nights running a jazz club, he went to a baseball game one day (jazz, baseball and running, we learn, are his three great passions) where he spontaneously decided to write a novel. In six months he produced Hear the Wind Sing, which went on to win a prestigious Japanese prize, launching his literary career.

Such fairy-tale serendipity, sadly, does not supply the magic formula aspiring writers might be seeking, but it does underscore the unpredictability of success. Murakami makes many good points, especially as he praises the welcoming embrace of the writing community, where novices can take up a pen or laptop and call themselves a writer without much resentment from established practitioners. But he is quick to emphasize that long-term durability as a writer is more challenging than that initial success, requiring not only discipline and luck but continuing inspiration and originality. 

Is Murakami’s claim at ordinariness genuine? Certainly, the everyday details he reveals in Novelist as a Vocation seem pretty conventional. Meanwhile, the advice he doles out to acolytes is—here’s that word again—idiosyncratic and highly personal, methods that work for him but probably won’t for everyone (which he would be the first to admit). But you don’t become an international literary superstar by being ordinary, no matter how “mundane” your daily life is. A deeper dive into Murakami’s singular mind would be devoured by his millions of readers, but one senses he is not willing to fully breach the wall of privacy he has carefully erected. Still, fans will come away from Novelist as a Vocation with a clearer idea of what makes this elusive writer tick.

Haruki Murakami’s collection of essays about his life and writing provides a tantalizing peek into the famously secretive writer’s world.

Poet Ross Gay’s powerful sixth book and second collection of essays, Inciting Joy, opens with an imaginary house party to which people bring their sorrows as plus-ones. Soon the living room becomes a raucous dance floor, and in the middle of this unexpected mirth, Gay poses two central questions: What incites joy? And more importantly, what does joy incite in us?

Early on, Gay offers his own hypothesis that joy is “an ember for or precursor to wild and unpredictable and transgressive and unboundaried solidarity.” By holding each other through a range of emotions—grief, anger, curiosity and even hilarity—we co-create manifestos for survival, and we refuse to allow capitalistic ills like proprietorship and unbridled ambition to make our lives narrower and lonelier. During an interview with BookPage, Gay explained that the book’s goal is essentially “to study the ways and the practices by which we . . . care for one another. Probably with a sort of firm conviction that institutions do not do that.” He also mused that Inciting Joy could just as easily have been called The Book of Rage for its exploration of his own life at desperate moments, from the impending death of his father from liver cancer in 2004, to a period of deep emotional and physical distress that Gay, often called “the happiest poet around,” feared he wouldn’t survive.

Ross Gay shares how he hopes ‘Inciting Joy’ will make readers feel.

Yet, in the final chapter, joy reigns supreme, and the book ends with a very different kind of party: a potluck attended by members of the Dessalines Brigade, a group of Haitian farmers who, in the wake of the devastating earthquake in 2012, burned seeds donated by the agrochemical company Monsanto. These farmers’ joyful refusal of the gift, because it could have potentially introduced harmful chemicals into Haiti’s food supply, also speaks to the heart of Inciting Joy: that by regarding one another, and considering not only one’s own good but that of the greater community, we do more than incite joy. We save ourselves.

Poet Ross Gay’s powerful sixth book poses two central questions: What incites joy? And more importantly, what does joy incite in us?
Review by

Alice Wong’s memoir is a moving addition to her celebrated body of work as an activist, community organizer, media maker and editor of the 2020 anthology Disability Visibility. In Year of the Tiger, Wong creates a collage of blog posts, artworks, interviews and other ephemera with disability at its center, seasoned generously with her quick wit and fierce calls to action. 

Wong emphasizes connection with others as a generative, necessary force in her life, and she incorporates a chorus of voices in these fragments to illuminate the experiences of people who are constantly confronted with a world built without disabled people in mind. In seven thematically distinct sections, Wong collects conversations with artists, activists and thinkers, each offering new perspectives and delights. She chats with W. Kamau Bell about disability representation in the 1999 film The Bone Collector and riffs on reframing ideas of beauty and attraction with the artist and author Riva Lehrer. Though they are often brief, these dialogues and excerpts come together into a kaleidoscopic image of Wong’s life, illuminated by her revolutionary ideas of interdependence and care. Access is love, she says, and love for the disabled community resounds throughout.

Wong’s thoughtful use of multimedia elements—cheeky cat-themed graphics, photographs from her Indiana childhood and a clever crossword puzzle, to name a few—adds playfulness and dimension to Year of the Tiger. She maintains the compelling conviction that pleasure and joy are crucial to activism and liberation, and these offerings demonstrate that belief. They also imbue the book with the scrappy spirit of zine-making, and others looking for creative encouragement will certainly find it here. 

In “No to Normal,” Wong writes, “Every day I experience the very real distance between myself and the nondisabled world, which, by the way, is the default we all exist in,” and this notion is the undercurrent that moves through the entire book. As this stylish memoir demonstrates, each person, disabled or not, can demand more from a world that is largely built without access in mind. Wong wants better for us all, and she will stop at nothing to get there.

In Year of the Tiger, Alice Wong creates a collage of blog posts, artworks and interviews about disability, seasoned generously with her quick wit and fierce calls to action.
Review by

Though Nuar Alsadir set out to write a book about laughter, Animal Joy is a far deeper study of how we express and understand our most powerful emotions, told through meticulous psychoanalytic research and Alsadir’s own experiences.

Animal Joy opens at a clown school where Alsadir enrolled to explore laughter. The only nonactor of the group, Alsadir sought to understand a specific laugh: the spontaneous outburst. “Spontaneous outbursts of laughter express meaning outside of reason and . . . unveil a whole dimension of being and bodily aliveness that short-circuits logic,” she writes. Alsadir explores a wide variety of social outbursts, including the laughter Christine Blasey Ford recalled hearing from Brett Kavanaugh when he allegedly sexually assaulted her, the tradition of professional mourners and the fake laughter purposefully generated in a laughter yoga class. This research provokes an intimate examination of impulsive and unconscious communication in all of its “savage complexity.”

As a poet and psychoanalyst—readers might recognize her as one of the counselors from the Showtime documentary series “Couples Therapy”—Alsadir is uniquely positioned as an excavator of human emotion and the things that evoke those emotions. She draws a constellation of interactions, with points made out of Anna Karenina’s doomed love affair, Blade Runner‘s obedient replicants and Dick Cavett’s 1985 interview with Eddie Murphy. These references are not tangential or tacked on but essential components of her thinking. “Other people’s speech, like it or not, lives inside us, buoys us, metastasizes,” she writes. “We are quantum entangled with our universe and everything in it.”

Rather than feeling dated or overly niche, these deeply specific references only heighten the intimacy Alsadir offers. There is plenty of serious academic analysis to admire in Animal Joy, with her detailed discussions of Sigmund Freud and Roland Barthes, but what is more spectacular is how she entangles theory with the tender anecdotes about her two daughters that ground the book. Though the terrain Alsadir covers is vast and often feels tenuously connected, the resonant beauty of her prose helps guide the reader through a deliberately cluttered and complicated narrative. 

Animal Joy is a challenging and deeply rewarding meditation on laughter and communication that will stand up to multiple readings; as Alsadir herself reminds us, “Understanding often occurs retroactively.”

Though Nuar Alsadir set out to write a book about laughter, Animal Joy is a far deeper study of how we express and understand our most powerful emotions.
Review by

In Africa Is Not a Country: Notes on a Bright Continent, Dipo Faloyin contends with an issue he summarizes this way: “For too long, ‘Africa’ has been treated as a buzzword for poverty, strife, corruption, civil wars, and large expanses of arid red soil where nothing but misery grows. Or it is presented as one big safari park.”

Faloyin, a Nigerian currently living in London and writing for Vice, is a smart, often scathingly funny writer. In a chapter on Hollywood movies about Africa, he offers a brilliant sendup of the persistent stereotypes needed for a film to seem “realistic”: open savannahs where lions roam, rather than cities like Lagos, Nigeria, with its 24 million residents, “loud and plagued by joy.”

In another chapter, Faloyin mocks “white saviour imagery” such as crying superstars pleading for donations while holding Black children with flies in their eyes. Yes, the impulse is kind and worthy, Faloyin acknowledges. But the assumptions carried by these well-meaning “White Men In Khakis,” out to save a failed continent, are demeaning.

Where did these assumptions come from? One point of origin was an 1885 conference in Berlin where European and Northern American powers met to divvy up the wealth and resources of Africa without resorting to war among themselves. At the time, 80% of Africa was independent and self-governing. Yet these great powers drew new borders around their areas of interest on a large map, ignoring the religious, ethnic and cultural differences of the locals. No African governments were invited, of course. The American representative wondered aloud if what they were doing was illegal and unethical, which it was, but that was ignored. And in short order, beginning with horrendous brutality in the Belgian Congo, colonization began.

While much of the history of Western involvement in Africa is sordid and depressing, Africa Is Not a Country is not. It brims with the sort of outrage that speaks of hope, of change. Faloyin points to the younger generation of Africans: educated, business-savvy, united by Afrobeat and Nollywood, moving toward a leaderless revolution. In a late chapter, Faloyin writes about the friendly competition among African nations about who has the best Jollof rice, “a proxy for national identity and regional status” and, through enslaved Africans, the basis for America’s Southern cooking. Throughout, the continent of Africa—home to 1.4 billion people in 54 countries where more than 2,000 languages are spoken—comes alive as a diverse, creative and complicated place.

While much of the history of Western involvement in Africa is sordid and depressing, Africa Is Not a Country is not. It brims with the sort of outrage that speaks of hope, of change.

Thirty writers consider the myriad ways a human body can exist in the world in Body Language: Writers on Identity, Physicality, and Making Space for Ourselves. The thoughtful essays in this anthology, brought together by Catapult editors Nicole Chung and Matt Ortile, touch on everything from death, eating disorders and racism to sex and taking self-portraits while transitioning, but one theme connects them all: how these writers celebrate the existence of their bodies, and what these revelations can tell us about ourselves.

In the opening essay, “The Crematorium,” the late poet Nina Riggs gently folds soft waves of grief and perceptive humor into the details of preparing her mother’s body for cremation. In “Smother Me,” essayist and fiction writer Natalie Lima describes her sometimes funny, sometimes harrowing experiences of dating as a fat woman, including the particular desire her body arouses in men—and the power she has over them. In novelist Bryan Washington’s essay, “View From the Football Field,” readers are rewarded with an intimate look at what it’s like to grow up playing football in Texas as a Black teenager. Poet and novelist Destiny Birdsong serves up a blistering critique of medical racism in “Karen Medicine.” Author Jess Zimmerman begins her essay “It Doesn’t Hurt, It Hurts All the Time” by exploring the sensation of pain before pivoting to a powerful depiction of the ways our society has been traumatized by the COVID-19 pandemic.

All of the essays in this collection are poignant, and readers will find its diverse list of contributors especially refreshing. That, coupled with the sharp quality of the writing, makes Body Language a standout work. Its dedication to showcasing a multitude of voices and perspectives adds excitement to the reading experience; as you turn the pages, you never know what you’ll read or learn about next.

In writer and editor Hannah Walhout’s essay, “Attack of the Six-Foot Woman,” she explains how being a tall woman has defined her life. She writes, “This exhausting state of being perpetually noticed often made me not want to be noticed at all.” This theme—taking up space, perhaps more than society allows—underpins many of the essays throughout Body Language, which work together to present the central contradiction of life in a physical body. As Walhout puts it, “We do not have inherent control over our own bodies. In fact, human bodies are sometimes not what they appear and have endless potential for change.”

One theme connects the 30 sharp essays in Body Language: celebrating the existence and challenges of the human body.
Review by

Isaac Fitzgerald grabs readers’ attention with the title of his memoir—Dirtbag, Massachusetts: A Confessional—and never lets go. He’s a mesmerizing storyteller who deploys unexpected delights from his very first line: “My parents were married when they had me, just to different people.” Not only that, but they “met at divinity school, which is a pretty funny way to start an affair.”

Fitzgerald’s raucous life started in low-income housing in Boston’s South End. In the soup kitchen that he frequented, he was “surrounded by stories of the highest comedy and the deepest tragedy, by the sounds of pealing laughter and suffering silence.” True to that upbringing, he fills the 12 essays in Dirtbag, Massachusetts with heaping helpings of humor, joy, pain, sorrow, grace and insight. Throughout, Fitzgerald writes in carefully chosen prose that reveals “just enough that you know it wasn’t pretty.” The topics range from his upbringing in the Roman Catholic Church to life in an old mill town in central Massachusetts where he endured his father’s violence and his mother’s mania. Despite all of this, his parents instilled him with a deep love of literature, and his education continued when he applied to a nearby boarding school as a means of escaping his home life.

Throughout his gritty life, Fitzgerald has filled an incredible variety of roles: an often drunk, high, shoplifting teenager; a biker who found happiness working in a San Francisco bar; a relief worker in Myanmar; an actor in porn movies. More recently, he has talked books on the “Today” show and written the children’s book How to Be a Pirate. Indeed, this is a man who writes equally well about Sara Crewe, the heroine of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess, and Gavin McInnes, the founder of the neo-fascist group Proud Boys.

With Dirtbag, Massachusetts, Fitzgerald joins the ranks of some of the very best memoirists, including Tobias Wolff, Tara Westover and Dani Shapiro. This entertaining and thoughtful book reveals Fitzgerald’s talents as a master craftsman of unusual insight and will leave readers eager for more.

The 12 essays in Isaac Fitzgerald’s Dirtbag, Massachusetts offer heaping helpings of humor, joy, pain, sorrow, grace and insight.

Climate change is now ingrained in our daily lives. Newscasts almost always have a climate-related segment, whether it’s about a new science report on the status of the world’s temperatures or about natural disasters such as wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes and droughts. Most of today’s children will not know what life was like before the world began to change so drastically, but for now, many still remember the world as it used to be.

There are a huge number of books on the scientific aspects of global warming, from pleading calls to action to sustainability guidebooks. But what about essays and memoirs from everyday people? Stories about how climate change is personally affecting us and about its emotional impact on our lives? In their new book, The World As We Knew It: Dispatches From a Changing Climate, editors Amy Brady (executive director of Orion) and Tajja Isen (editor of Catapult magazine and author of Some of My Best Friends) have pulled together a diverse, impactful set of essays that explore the climate crisis from these more intimate angles. Kim Stanley Robinson, Melissa Febos, Lacy M. Johnson, Omar El Akkad and 15 other writers from around the world share how familiar landscapes are becoming unrecognizable and how the rhythms of their daily lives are being forever altered.

Each author brings a unique style and focus to their topic, with prose that is in varying degrees lyrical, reflective and urgent. Some relay extreme weather events, such as Mary Annaïse Heglar in “After the Storm,” about the blatant systemic racism that emerged in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. “Structural racism and inequality collide with fearsome extreme weather to reveal the grotesque unnaturalness of disaster,” she writes. This concept is continued in Rachel Riederer’s “Walking on Water,” which covers the displacement of people, usually people of color, that’s happening more and more as sea levels rise.

It’s not only deadly weather events that are highlighted in The World As We Knew It. Chronicling the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, “How Do You Live With Displacement” by author Emily Raboteau discusses the parallels between COVID and climate change. In “Leap,” journalist Meera Subramanian writes wistfully about how the nature she loves most keeps changing, especially as ticks carrying Lyme disease keep multiplying in the Northeast as temperatures and carbon dioxide levels climb.

As Subramanian writes in her essay, “We used to be a story in nature. Now we are the story.” This statement reverberates throughout all the essays in The World As We Knew It, providing one example after another of the ways climate change has affected every region of the Earth. It is a warning that commands the full attention of every reader.

The 19 lyrical, reflective and urgent essays in The World As We Knew It command the full attention of every reader.

Ten days after ending her engagement, CJ Hauser (Family of Origin) joined a scientific expedition to study cranes. She felt like a fraud: Should a person take such a trip days after a relationship’s end? Should a writer—a novelist, no less—take up space on a scientific excursion?

As she wrestles with these questions in the titular essay of The Crane Wife, which received over one million views after its July 2019 publication by The Paris Review, Hauser compares the dissolution of her relationship with her ex-fiancé to the tale of the crane wife. In that fable, the bird wants so desperately to be with a man that she spends every night plucking her feathers, tricking him into seeing her as a human woman. She withers, ignoring her own needs, but succeeds in becoming what she thinks the man wants.

The 16 other pieces in Hauser’s memoir-in-essays likewise explore love’s many forms with frank, raw honesty, charting an artful path through one woman’s experiences. Hauser often draws from both myth and the mundane as she seeks to understand her relationship to the world. She explores the aftermath of romantic relationships, particularly those in which she lost her connection to not only a partner but also his child, as well as an array of her particular fascinations, such as with The Wizard of Oz and with the romance between Mulder and Scully in “The X-Files.” Hauser’s wry, introspective investigation of her assumptions about love will likely free readers to examine their own personal narratives as well.

Sometimes Hauser intentionally peels apart commonly intertwined ideas. For example, in “Uncoupling,” she challenges her ideas about parenthood and her body. Hauser separates the ideas of being a parent, giving birth and dating someone she might want to parent alongside. As she examines these desires, Hauser also interrogates her body: What are her tits (her word of choice) for if they aren’t for feeding someone or giving someone else pleasure? She explicitly rejects the idea that her body exists to serve other people and asks, “Who told you these things went together? What stories were you told, and not told, about the shape of love, the shape of yourself, the shape of a happy life?”

When her writing students claim that Hauser dislikes happy endings, she turns the whole idea of happy endings on its head. “The rare happy ending I appreciate is one that makes room for the whole painful fact of the world at the same time it offers the reader some joy,” she writes. The Crane Wife embraces this philosophy again and again as Hauser excavates her past loves and losses, thoughtfully examines them and declares the pain of love to be worth the risk.

In this collection of essays, CJ Hauser excavates her past loves and losses, thoughtfully examines their aftermath and declares the pain of love to be worth the risk.

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