First, I want to thank Grace Talusan, who judged our Michael Steinberg Nonfiction Prize. Talusan is the author of The Body Papers, which won the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing and went on to win the Massachusetts Book Award for Nonfiction. The Body Papers was a New York Times Editors’ Choice selection. Of her choice, Allen M. Price’s, “How Much Time Do You Want For Your Progress?” Talusan writes:
I chose Price’s essay because it would not leave me. Price weaves together his lived experiences of racial trauma and structural violence with the words of other writers, such as Toni Morrison, Cornel West, and James Baldwin, and locates himself along the swinging pendulum of American anti-Blackness and its pervasive impact on his life with candor, clarity, and sharp insight. He conveys directly and movingly the impossibility of making progress in a society that does not actually want it for everyone. Despite the writer’s academic credentials and career excellence, “all the achievements I poured my blood, sweat, and tears into weren’t enough, aren’t enough, will never be enough.” And yet, there is this essay: the writer’s attempts to resist, to keep on trying, and to tell his story.
And about our runner-up, “Double Incision Diary” by Jendi Reiter, she writes:
In addition to the powerful writing about the body, I appreciated the form and structure of Reiter’s account of their surgery and the way that time circles around the profound event. I also admired the final image and sentence of the essay: “The enormous strawberries smell like summer, red as a kiss.”
These two essays set a tone of serious inquiry that holds all the essays in this issue in a kind of dynamic tension, our finalists and editors’ picks rounding out a compelling portrait of the ways we live now, the struggles we face, the resources we depend on, the hope that sustains us.
As always, reader comments are welcome. Enjoy!