Reading List: Leslie Jamison, Author of ‘The Empathy Exams’

“When people ask what kind of nonfiction I write, I say ‘all kinds,’ but really I mean I don’t write any kind at all: I’m trying to dissolve the borders between memoir and journalism and criticism by weaving them together.” – Leslie Jamison

This week, Choose Your Own Adventure with Leslie Jamison. I’ve compiled a collection of interviews with and essays and short stories by the author of The Empathy Exams. But the way you approach this list is up to you. Ready? Let’s begin.

To read Jamison’s interview with the Virginia Quarterly Review, proceed to number 1 (this is a good introduction to the author, if you’ve never heard of her or only know her a bit).

To read Jamison’s interview with Flavorwire, proceed to number 2 (best if you’ve already read The Empathy Exams, or are about to).

To read Jamison’s interview with The Paris Review, proceed to number 3 (best if you love the particular flavor of Paris Review interviews and have not read The Empathy Exams yet, because a version of this interview appears there).

Want to get to know Jamison through her writing first? To skip these interviews altogether, proceed to numbers 4 or 5.

1. “An Interview with Leslie Jamison.” (John Lingan, VQR, April 2014)

 

2. “‘The Empathy Exams’ Author Leslie Jamison on the Empathy of the Internet and the Limits of Opinion.” (Elizabeth Donnelly, Flavorwire, March 2014)

 

3. “Nothing is Alien: An Interview with Leslie Jamison.” (Merve Empre, The Paris Review, April 2014)

Jamison attended the Iowa Writer’s Workshop for fiction. In fact, she’s the author of a novel, The Gin Closet. If you’d like to read more about her time in Iowa, you’re covered. Proceed to number 4.

4. “Midwest, Redux.” (The Nervous Breakdown, May 2011)

What makes Jamison tick? Well, she’s inspired by  James Agee and writes beautifully about the consequences of her empathetic tattoo.

Elon Green of Longform & The Awl praised Jamison’s storytelling, particularly in “Fog Count,” which he called “the best piece I read all of last year.” They discuss subjectivity in journalism, getting to know your human subject and the blending of genre.

To read “Fog Count,” proceed to number 5.

To read “Fog Count “with Jamison and Green’s annotations, proceed to number 6,

5. “Fog Count.” (Oxford American, April 2013)

 

6. “Annotation Tuesday! Leslie Jamison and the Imprisoned Ultradistance Runner.” (Elon Green, Nieman Storyboard, July 2013)

After reading one of the preceding pieces, you may want to dive even deeper into these empathetic essays. Do you start with the eponymous essay, published to acclaim in The Believer? If you’re interested in medical acting, imagining the lives of other people, and the author’s personal experiences, proceed to number 7.

Perhaps you’d rather sit down and deconstruct the wounded woman in Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain. If so, proceed to number 8. If you’d like to read the short story referenced in Grand Unified Theory beforehand, proceed to number 9, then to number 8.

7. “The Empathy Exams.” (The Believer, February 2014)

 

8. “Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain.” (VQR, April 2014)

 

9. “Quiet Men.” (A Public Space, Spring 2007)

Want some practical advice about including real-life people in your writing? Proceed to number 10. How about the poetic bones of writing a personal essay (perhaps my personal favorite on this list)? Proceed to number 11.

10. “Is It O.K. to Mine Real Relationships for Literary Material?” (New York Times, April 2014)

 

11. “How to Write a Personal Essay.” (Publishers Weekly, March 2014)