How They Disappeared: A Reading List

Disappearance takes many forms. It can be self-imposed (going off the grid), a medical metaphor (dementia, amnesia or Alzheimer’s) or an act of violence (kidnapping, murder, conspiracy).

Last week, Longreads brought you Grace Rubenstein’s “The Vanishing: What Happened to the Thousands Still Missing in Mexico?” This week, I wanted to share five more stories about what it means to disappear—either against your will or by your own volition.

1. “On Vanishing.” (Lynn Casteel Harper, Catapult, April 2016)

What does it mean to vanish well? This is the crux of Lynn Casteel Harper’s essay on “self-disappearance.” She brings in discussion of assisted suicide, Alzheimer’s disease, seances, and shame. It is, to put it frankly, one of the finest essays I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. I look forward to Harper’s upcoming book, from which “On Vanishing” is excerpted.

2. “The Savior of the World Watched as These Trans Women Disappeared.” (J. Lester Feder & Nicola Chávez Courtright, BuzzFeed, December 2015)

There is a legend told by trans El Salvadoreans, particularly the trans women sex workers. A group of trans women were “disappeared” by an unmarked government cabal in the midst of El Salvador’s civil war. Only one of their number survived to tell their story; there is no record of their arrest or presumed murders in any of the remaining archives or museums. How do you advocate for the lives (and deaths) of people the government wishes never existed in the first place?

3. “A Super Strange True Love Story: My Disappearing Fiancé.” (Annalisa Merelli, Narratively, June 2015)

He was a nomadic artist, and she loved him. He was wild, and she believed in him. Then their relationship imploded. Follow with “A Second Super Strange True Love Story: I Was The Other Woman.”

4. “Ghost Boat.” (Eric Reidy, Medium, October 2015)

An important, harrowing, ongoing multi-part series about a missing boat of over 200 Eritrean refugees.

5. “Disappearing Dad Disorder.” (Alexandra Kleeman, Electric Literature, August 2015)

Disappearance feels like a classic trope of fiction at this point (think kidnappings, or the Rapture, even Gone Girl), but Alexandra Kleeman turns disappearance on its tired, balding, middle-aged head in this short story from her latest collection, You Too Can Have A Body Like Mine.