Though, on the whole, I’m a bigger fan of the 2007 edition of The Best American Nonrequired Reading mostly for its inclusion of such raw essays as “Where I Slept” by Stephen Elliott and “Ghost Children” by D. Winston Brown (worth going back to if you’ve missed them), I was taken with the recently published 2009 edition for a few reasons. Namely
for Eula Biss’s essay “Relations,” which begins with the story of a woman who gave birth to twins—one white, the other black—and becomes an attempt, using both anecdotal and researched associations, to understand what it really means to be related to someone else.
for this observation from Matthew Power’s essay “Mississippi Drift” about his joining a band of “boat punks” in steering a homemade watercraft (term used loosely) the entire length of the Mississippi River:
“One can bemoan the death of the American downtown at the hands of exurban big-box stores, but to truly understand the phenomenon, try reaching one without a car.”
and for this insight from K.G. Schneider’s essay “Outlaw Bride” about her marriage to her partner, Sandy and, about that marriage’s invalidation by the state of California:
“Marriage is not a simple square of fabric, a one-time event to hang on the wall, but a process slowly knitting lives together, a gradual weaving, row by row, that begins when we are able to set aside enough of ourselves to create a third entity from the union of two: I becomes the warp, and we becomes the woof. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay; and under the comfort of one garment, we will be redeemed. By that standard, Sandy pointed out on a winter evening, deconstructing a dark green afghan while a fire crackled, we have been married for well over a decade. We do not know the exact date, but there are many moments that could serve us well: the afternoon I took the PATH train from Manhattan to New Jersey, a cat hidden in my gym bag, to move into Sandy’s home; the time I chose not to live in Michigan; the time we each had a stiff shot of vodka in the garage before Thanksgiving dinner to fortify ourselves in advance of my mother’s political diatribes; the many times we have forgiven one another for the sulks and storms and minor transgressions of any relationship. I could continue to be angry that our legal marriage had been invalidated, and I could enjoy the brisk salt air of the realization that we were worthy of this social contract; yet I could not deny we were married.”
Bio: Katherine Dykstra is the nonfiction editor at Guernica. Her interview with author and Pulitzer Prize-winner Sheryl WuDunn appeared in Guernica’s January 15th issue. Read her last recommendation of the Tim Burton exhibition at MoMA “here”:https://guernicamag.com/blog/1502/rec_room_katherine_dykstra_tim/.