“To mail a letter is to send something out in the world with a faith that it will reach its destination. Writing is the same way. We write with hope that our work, like a letter, will find its way to where it needs to go.” Lauren Markham muses on the magic of the U.S. Postal Service.
“People tend to speak of South Central Los Angeles as a homogenous neighborhood, an undifferentiated community of African Americans wracked by poverty, gang violence, drug use, and general social disorder. In actuality, South Central is not a neighborhood at all, but a massive swath of the city settled by black migrants in the 20th century. It’s a radically horizontal post-industrial landscape where buildings rarely exceed two or three stories and pedestrians find little shelter from the sun. Down Slauson, decommissioned train tracks that once carried freight from the Port to the inner city call to mind the region’s formerly robust economy.”
“No matter how hard he worked in school, how many A’s he earned, or how kind he was, he had little influence over how strangers on the subway and on the streets thought of him.”
For years, Professor Melissa Febos hid her politics—and her tattoos—from her red-county Jersey students. After the election, she found common ground with them in “an earnest desire for the safety and freedom of other humans.”
LitHub executive editor John Freeman’s interview with author Colson Whitehead, who this week won the National Book Award for The Underground Railroad. The two discuss the genesis of the book, the ridiculous notion that we entered a “post-racial” world after Barack Obama was elected, and the lingering relevance and effects of slavery.
On the occasion of the French author’s 145th birthday, LitHub invites six authors to sing his praises, and explain why his work remains essential reading. Siri Hustvedt, Edmund White, André Aciman, Francine Prose, Aleksandar Hemon, and Daniel Mendelsohn all weigh in.
Advice for journalists, from Rebecca Solnit’s 2016 commencement speech at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.
An essay by the late Chinese dissident Fang Lizhi. Once China’s leading astrophysicist, Lizhi’s activism helped inspire the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.
A brief history of twins in literature.
A new collection of stories awarded the 2015 O. Henry Prize.