The Best American Essays 2020

Edited and with an Introduction by André Aciman
Robert Atwan, Series Editor

"AN ESSAY IS THE CHILD OF UNCERTAINTY," André Aciman contends in his introduction to The Best American Essays 2020. "The struggle to write what one hopes is entirely true, and the long incubation every piece of writing requires of a writer who is thinking difficult thoughts, are what ultimately give the writing its depth, its magnitude, its grace." The essays Aciman selected center on people facing moments of deep uncertainty, searching for a greater truth. From a Black father's confrontation of his son's illness, to a divorcée's transcendent experience with strangers, to a bartender grieving the tragic loss of a friend, these stories are a master class not just in essay writing but in empathy, artfully imbuing moments of hardship with understanding and that elusive grace.

Copyright © 2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
Introduction copyright © 2020 by André Aciman
ISBN 978-0-358-35991-3


Foreword       xi

Introduction       xxv

RABIH ALAMEDDINE   How to Bartend   1
       FROM Freeman's

ELVIS BEGO   Ghost Museum   14
       FROM Agni

RACHEL CUSK   Driving as Metaphor   19
       FROM The New York Times Magazine

BARBARA EHRENREICH   The Humanoid Stain   31
       FROM The Baffler

GARI FINCKE   After the Three-Moon Era   44
       FROM Kenyon Review Online

RON HUETT   Cosmic Latte   67
       FROM The Normal School

LESLIE JAMISON   A Street Full of Splendid Strangers   85
       FROM The Atlantic

JAMAICA KINCAID   A Letter to Robinson Crusoe   96
       FROM Book Post

JOSEPH LEO KOERNER   Maly  Trostinets   100
       FROM Granta

ALEX MARZANO-LESNEVICH   Body Language   116
       FROM Harper's Magazine

CLINTON CROCKETT PETERS   A Thing About Cancer   129
       FROM Boulevard

SUSAN FOX ROGERS   The Other Leopold   138
       FROM Michigan Quarterly Review

MATTHEW SALESSES   To Grieve Is to Carry Another Time   148
       FROM Longreads

PETER SCHJELDAHL   77 Sunset Me   156
       FROM The New Yorker

A. O. SCOTT   Under the Sign of Susan   180
       FROM The New York Times Magazine

LIONEL SHRIVER   Semantic Drift   192
       FROM Harper's Magazine

MARK SULLIVAN   Ode al Vento Occidentale   199
       FROM The Gettysburg Review

MARK SUNDEEN   Holiday Review   215
       FROM Virginia Quarterly Review

ALISON TOWNSEND   My Pink Lake and Other Digressions   221
       FROM Cimarron Review

DAVID L. ULIN   Bed   228
       FROM Another Chicago Magazine

JERALD WALKER   Breathe   233
       FROM New England Review

STEPHANIE POWELL WATTS   The Unfound Door   239
       FROM Oxford American

PHILIP WEINSTEIN   Soul-Error   245
       FROM Raritan

ELIZABETH WINKLER   Was Shakespeare a Woman?   256
       FROM The Atlantic

Contributors’ Notes   273

Notable Essays and Literary Nonfiction of 2019   279

Notable Special Issues of 2019   292

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