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genre: essay genre: essay

ALLISON WILLIAMS Courtesies

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The balky knobs on a Czech stove, the quirky signage on a Prague building, or the smile of a stranger on a train: these are the starting points for Allison Williams' essay about decoding the mysteries of life abroad. But more than geographical foreignness, Williams writes of the potential estrangement from one's partner and from certain crucial parts of one's identity. In "Courtesies," she explores how we navigate as we try to turn the right way.

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COLLEEN HOULIHAN Are You An Animal Lover?

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"Are you an animal lover?" is the innocent question that precipitates the soul-searching rendered comically here by Colleen Houlihan. Squirrels, a video store, and a healthy amount of risk-taking and imagination feature in Houlihan's essay, in which an encounter with an unusual customer leads the writer into new and potentially taboo territory.

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BARRINGTON SMITH-SEETACHITT Sunday Afternoon With Buddha and Spider

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A woman, a spider, and a small space. These are the elements of Barrington Smith-Seetachit's essay "Sunday Afternoon With Buddha and Spider." With comic flair, Smith-Seetachit leads us through a high-intensity meditation on fear, power, and mercy.

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CHRIS WIEWIORA Sleeping Over

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Chris Wiewiora's essay "Sleeping Over" explores the many complications of exactly that, when the people in question are teenagers, and one of them is presided over by his father. Trust, the truth, and independence are just some of the issues at stake not just in the event but in the messages surrounding it.

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ANNIE DAWID Dome Life

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Annie Dawid's "Dome Life" describes a life under a figurative dome, on the margins of conventional society. Set in the world of pot-growers in 1970's Mendocino County, Dawid's essay tracks a descent into drugs and violence, and other dangers hiding in plain sight.

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JEAN RYAN What We Are Given

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In "What We Are Given," Jean Ryan recounts the experience of taking in her mother-in-law despite the older woman's condemnation of Ryan's and her partner's sexuality. Ryan's essay asks us to consider the limits of obligation, and offers a moving exploration of the challenges of allegiance and commitment.

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