cover image The Best American Essays 2018

The Best American Essays 2018

Edited by Hilton Als and Robert Atwan. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $15.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-544-81734-0

In a personal and moving introduction to this thoughtful entry in the long-running series, Als (White Girls) writes of being attracted to essays that “have something unfinished about them,” as they reflect an increasingly “broken world” where people fight to establish themselves as “I.” In responding to the current political and social climate, his selections emphasize feelings of “otherness,” empowerment, and disempowerment amidst a wide variety of experiences. The #MeToo movement receives its due in Edwidge Danticat’s haunting memoir piece on sexual abuse, while Leslie Jamison gives a euphoric but complicated account of the 2017 post-inauguration Women’s March in Washington, D.C., and Steven Harvey reflects on race and privilege in connection to the African-American celebrity with whom he shares a name. Less obvious kinds of difference and selfhood are also eloquently exposed: in David Wong Louie’s account of how throat cancer has robbed him of the sensuality of food and altered his physical self as he loses the ability to swallow, and in high-wire artist Philippe Petit’s rumination on fear and how to confront it. The works in this year’s collection are a mix of the disconcerting, the probing, and the self-reflective, and well-suited to challenging times.[em] (Oct.) [/em]