Eleven years ago, I left New York for Abu Dhabi. I didn’t travel light: I brought a husband, our two little kids (6 & 10), nine carry-on bags, and twelve giant suitcases. We landed in the middle of August in the middle of Ramadan, (not) ready for our Year of Big Adventure. 

A Therapy Love Letter

I went to my first shrink under duress, which is perhaps not that remarkable: don’t all therapeutic forays start in moments of duress? In this instance, however, the duress was not mine but my mother’s, who had run out of ideas for how to cope with my increasingly alarming behavior.


Absent Babies and Cosmopolitan Bananas

Kate Chopin’s first novel, At Fault, seems initially like a nostalgic homage to rural Louisiana life in the aftermath of the Civil War. My essay suggests that in fact, the novel is deeply concerned with questions of modernity—including intercontinental commerce and the role of women in professional life.

The Magic of “So What?”

“I’m going to ask you a hard question,” I warn my students when we’re talking about writing. “And sort of a mean one.” The students look worried. What am I about to do?

The Auxiliary Verb of Guilt

The holidays are behind us and with them go the season of “should”: should send holiday cards, should bake festive treats, should go to worship services. Even though the pandemic may have altered some of our plans, I would imagine that for most of us, there were still “shoulds” ringing loud and clear in our minds.

“You Like to Have Some Cup of Tea?” and Other Questions About Complicity and Place

“We need to do more, Mom,” my son tells me. He’s fifteen, supports the Kurdish resistance and fancies himself an anarcho-socialist (“It’s not like being an anarchist, Mom, okay?”). The Young Socialist lives in a state of perpetual indignation about the state of the world.

What Would Hannah Gadsby Do?

Ever since I watched Nanette, her one-hour comedy show that everyone you know is probably telling you to watch (they’re right; you should), I haven’t been able to get Hannah out of my mind.

Discovering Feminist Students in the Middle East?

Over and over during the semester, I heard “you, too?” as students discovered points of connection that bridged their distinct cultural experiences. We all found common cause with Sor Juana, a 17th-century nun from what is now Mexico, who avoided marriage and motherhood by taking religious vows, thus freeing her to write and study. A student from Pakistan remarked wryly that Sor Juana had the right idea because once she became a nun, people probably stopped introducing her to eligible bachelors.

How First-Year Comp Can Save the World

At least once a semester, I have a conversation that goes something like this: a colleague looks at her students’ essays and moans, “They just can’t write.” When I ask how much class time she spends talking about student writing, I’m told quite sharply that “there is way too much material to cover to spend time on that, so I just give them a handout. I mean, aren’t they supposed to learn this stuff in first-year comp?”

Finding a “teachable moment” in the Kavanaugh Hearings

I hadn’t expected the Trump administration to offer me such a golden opportunity—such a ready-made set of evolving “teachable moments”—about power, patriarchy, and privilege, as evidenced in the Brett Kavanaugh hearings.

Witches, Monsters, and Questions of Nation:

Humans and Non-Humans in Akata Witch and Trail of Lightning

Many scholarly considerations of the post- or trans-human in YA fiction concentrate on how technology has altered human society; the novels I discuss here, however, are more concerned with relationships between the human body and the natural world – or whatever is left of the natural world in the aftermath of the destruction caused by climate change.