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After the Old City

Lahore is Lahore, the saying goes. For the twelve million who, until recently, made their way through its streets every day, that is all that needs to be said. For the others—the foreign, the displaced—it is an idea, resisting definition. Before the pandemic emptied the streets, I landed in a city I could still move through freely.

<i>Luster</i>. By Raven Leilani. FSG, 2020. 240p. HB, $26

Sex in the City

We are in the midst of a publishing renaissance of novels about blackness; of literary novels with black protagonists; of novels about race and of novels published by black authors. This wave of publications follows a similar black-literature boom in [...]

Night City

What happened to the city that made us 
promises, promises we had the luxury 
to believe or not?
Night caved its streets, 

Fort Reno Park, Chesapeake St. NW. Photo by María Luz Bravo.

Literary Life in a Plague Year

It is rare to walk through empty streets in downtown Washington, DC, in broad daylight. Yet this past spring, when it seemed as if every living thing had leapt into a void, I learned that what you see and how you see it changes in a relatively unpeop [...]

Mime Magnet

I wonder. Yes, I’m looking up as I say this,
I wonder if I do have a superpower. Maybe
I have more than one aspect of attraction,
this knack for drawing others in close, almost
touching me.

Hi 

There’s a brother who sits over on North University. 
Looks like James Baldwin in a do-rag. Sings.
Is he homeless? People give him money

Illustration by Kelsey Dake

The Curse of Cool

In the fall of 2005, at the shuttle terminal of New York’s LaGuardia airport, I entered the security line and noticed, in front of me, a slight and slightly stooped older woman. After a couple of blinks, I recognized Joan Didion.

To wear a vigorous shirt. At See-See Coffee

       in the bathroom, a sticker on the hot-water tank 
 says, It only takes one or two 

seconds to become 
 helpless in flowing grain, or among flowering graves, 
            down where the boats are being unloaded. 
   It happens so swift, that one 

 Photo by Allison Shelley.

They Call It Canaan

In the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, the most crowded city in one of the most densely packed countries in the Western Hemisphere, class and elevation are inextricably linked. The city was founded on the coast, at the foot of the Chaîne de la Selle mountains, and over the centuries spread upward and outward from the sea. And as the city grew, so did its economic disparity. Now the coast is home to blighted sectors like La Saline and Cite Soleil, where some of Haiti’s poorest scrape together a living on streets that fill with trash after a heavy rain. Just above that is Delmas, a middle-class district of cinderblock houses and a main boulevard where pedestrians weave through perpetually gridlocked traffic. Above them all is Pétionville, where Haiti’s wealthiest citizens and foreign-aid contractors live amid upscale hotels and well-tended parks, with sprawling markets and grand villas that overlook the city and the sea.

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