The Best American Essays 2015

The Best American Essays 2015

The year 2015 has rushed out the exit door, but no worries, this wonderful mix of essays is not time-centric.

My favorite in the collection I randomly chose first. Sorry, editor, Ariel Levy, I just dive into these collections and start reading wherever my finger lands. Tim Kreider’s “A Man and his Cat” describes a single fellow’s devotion for his cat.  How one small nonhuman creature fills his home with love and his life with a sense of purpose.

On the other hand, in the humorous sounding essay “My Grandma the Poisoner” John Reed makes a strong case that the early deaths of several relatives and the upset stomachs and inertia of certain houseguests were not accidental. Reed found himself comatose for fourteen hours several times after eating a Grandma meal.

The sweet and spot-on “65” describes how aging has affected one boomer’s life.  Mark Jacobson milks the slowing down and aches and pains of age for all they are worth. The tone is light but the sentiments serious, especially when he ponders the overarching question, how did this happen to me.

In “Know Your Beach” Zadie Smith presents new motherhood through the lens of windows in a Manhattan window. Particularly, paramount is the giant, garish ad glaring at her. She also discusses seeing another mother of a newborn across the abyss between high rises, holding her own child, a mirror image to Smith’s own.

Kate Lebo tackles the problems of hearing loss in “The Loudproof Room.” She can handle a constant buzzing in her ear but when she can no longer communicate with other people, even when leaning in close and reading their facial expressions, she decides to have a medical procedure that will restore most of her hearing without risking losing it all. But while she bemoans not often understanding people and missing key parts of communication, she also notes that hearing things “slant” has made her writing more poetic and creative.

In “It Will Look like a Sunset” Kelly Sundberg shares the horror of being a victim of spousal abuse—the lies she has told about falling and banging into things. The vain believe that her husband will treat her better soon. That the love he showed for her at the beginning of their relationship will become central.   But for far too long, she has followed her mom’s misguided advice, “I have seen it on the other side. It is not better on the other side. Try hard. Try hard before you give up.” Luckily, she knows mothers don’t always know best.

Margo Jefferson gives an unusual take on being raised African American in a wealthy Chicago neighborhood in “Scenes from a Life in Negroland.”  “We thought of ourselves as the Third Race,” she remarks because her and her family members’ lives were so different from those of most African Americans. But she also comments on how their life of privilege was always threatened by the mainstream culture. At any moment they could lose what they had. At any moment, some whites would mistreat them because they had a different skin color.

Every one of these essays is thought-provoking and well-written.  Check out the author list of some other contributors: Anthony Doerr, David Sedaris, Malcolm Gladwell, and Cheryl Strayed.  The best thing about this book: you can start anywhere. Imbibe one or two pieces a night and learn so much about our complex and amazing world.