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Best American Essays 2012 Online

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The Best American Essays 2012

Edited by David Brooks, series editor Robert Atwan. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Mariner, $14.95 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-0-547-84009-3
A creature from an alternative universe arriving in the United States in 2012 wanting to understand what is on the American mind should rush to the nearest bookstore and buy a copy of this distinguished anthology, now in its 27th year. The 24 selected by New York Times columnist Brooks arrive after publication in a wide range of journals and magazines. Highlights include Lauren Slater’s “Killing My Body to Save My Mind,” a brave and disquieting discussion about the extreme side-effects of various psychopharmaceuticals on her body. The volume’s range of styles include the sharp and coolly intellectual (Alan Lightman’s “The Accidental Universe”) and the acutely personal (David J. Lawless’s “My Father/My Husband.” From Wesley Yang’s fascinating exploration of racial identity, “Paper Tigers,” to Francine Prose’s critical reminiscence of her experience during the emergence of second wave feminism in the 1970s, “Other Women,” there is not a dud in the bunch. As Mark Edmunson writes in one of the two essays about the plight of education, “Who Are You and What Are You Doing Here?”: “In reading, I continue to look for one thing—to be influenced, to learn something new, to be thrown off my course and onto another, better way.” This year’s exhilarating collection is just that reading experience. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/10/2012
Release date: 10/01/2012
Paperback - 464 pages - 978-1-285-06827-5
Open Ebook - 304 pages - 978-0-547-84054-3

I have worked so long with children fighting cancer [because] they have drawn me in, they have invited me, they have accepted me into their fierce and fragile worlds. I feel proud because they have. For some reason that I realize, finally, doesn’t matter much at all, I stagger under the weight of the losses I have encountered with these children, but, miraculously, I haven’t fallen. –from “You Owe Me”

I was speechless to find out, earlier this spring, that the most important essay I have written was selected for inclusion in Best American Essays 2012!

The essay “You Owe Me” was first published by Michigan Quarterly Review, and is about my experiences teaching for Writers in the Schools at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. I worked there during a very magical period, when there was a classroom full of teachers and kids pulling each other through the obvious difficulties of living in a cancer hospital. I couldn’t write a word about any of this work during almost a decade of teaching, but when it came out, it flowed non-stop. I am so proud the essay was noticed (and astounded and thankful).

The series editor, David Atwan, told me it fit well with the other people who will be in the book: but I don’t know who they are yet!  I was too shy to ask, and now I’m not going to look until I get the book, but I’m really excited to find out. It sort of feels like I’m at a surprise party, hiding in the dark with a bunch of strangers who might turn out to be not strangers, after all, but my literary heroes.

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