Year-End Reading List

In March I joined Zócalo Public Square as an editor-at-large, and it’s been my privilege to commission many talented writers to share their thoughts with us during these strange times.

If you’re looking for great reads as you hibernate in these long nights, here’s a selection of essays that I can personally guarantee are awesome:

As we in the U.S. grappled with a bizarre election season, Sandip Roy and Elaine Elinson offered international perspectives on the fight for a fair vote

Veterans Rashaad Thomas and Anuradha Bhagwati shared stories about how they’re coping in these times. 

Seth Fischer lost his father to COVID and just weeks later, wrote a poignant tribute about being raised by a scientist whose work on child development influenced a whole field of psychology.

Eileen Tabios wrote about fleeing her home and losing her literary archive in California’s Glass Fire; she filed her essay via iPhone while evacuated.

Larry Blumenfeld riffed on how the jazz community is mourning deep losses and trying to keep the music going. 

I love my scholar friends and am in awe of those who can translate their complex research into fascinating stories for the rest of us, like Thomas Conner on whether holograms can help us grieve and Koritha Mitchell on the Black ambition in Lorraine Hansberry’s most famous play.

I was deeply moved by personal essays by Kim Fellner on her family’s Holocaust history and M.L. Krishnan on her near-utopian adolescence in Chennai. 

Two old Stanford pals (both Colorado-ans!) wrote about their amazing work: Tom Shepard on the LGBTQ asylum seekers caught up in U.S. immigration red tape, the subject of his acclaimed documentary UNSETTLED; and Adrian Miller on how barbecue came to be the favored dish of July 4 (grilled opossum, anyone?). 

Way back at the onset of the pandemic, David Bowles invoked ancient Nahuatl rites for how rulers should respond to plagues (“don’t be a fool,” or the public has the right to behead you!), while Rinku Sen wrote about community activists embracing a broader vision of justice that includes food aid and direct services.

Writers around the world wrote for our “dispatches” series about the pandemic affecting them: editor and literary critic Otosirieze Obi-Young (Nigeria), my Clarion West classmate Eugenia Triantafyllou (Greece), and my Sundance Labs friend Sabina Anzuategui (Brazil) all contributed. 

And in a staff favorite, Himanee Gupta-Carlson wrote about being both a farmer and professor: goats!