A monthly roundup of writers past and present that we just can’t read enough of.
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Welcome to our monthly blog series in which we share some of our favorite writers, past and present. The Writers of the Month we feature are those writers who we always return to and no matter how many times we read them they make us feel something new. The ones who, when they announce a new book or film or television series, we go straight to the preorder page or queue it up. The writers whose Instagram stories we always watch and whose tweets we always retweet. The writers who feel almost like a real friend.
This series is not meant to determine the Best Writer, but rather to highlight the writers each of us at the American Writers Museum are particularly fond of in a given month, a day, a moment. We hope to introduce you to writers you’re unfamiliar with or inspire you to revisit a writer you haven’t read in a while. Perhaps you’ll see your favorite writer on one of our lists!
Edited by Nate King
Ever since a coworker first recommended Abdurraqib’s 2017 essay collection They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us to me, I have been a huge fan of his work. His essays are incisive and imaginative and are full of love, pain, despair, happiness, and hope—all the ingredients that make human life equally miserable and wonderful. In addition to essays, he also writes poems, music reviews, and even hosts podcasts! This year especially, I’ve also enjoyed his presence on social media, in which he often talks about basketball, ice cream, his dog Wendy while at the same time advocating for social and racial justice initiatives and sharing resources. His new book, A Little Devil In America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance, just recently arrived on my doorstep and I can’t wait to get into it!
One more thing. I’ve turned to his essay “Surviving on Small Joys,” written in June 2016 after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, multiple times this past year to find comfort and remind myself of the power of joy, if even a brief, tiny joy. In the essay Abdurraqib grapples with overwhelming grief—a feeling familiar to all of us today— and writes: “I know nothing that will get us through this beyond whatever small pockets of happiness we make for each other in between the rage and the eulogies and the marching and the protesting and the demanding to be seen and accounted for. I know nothing except that this grief is a river carrying us to another new grief, and along the way, let us hold a space for a bad joke or a good memory. Something that will allow us to hold our breath under the water for a little bit longer.”
—Nate, Content & Communications Coordinator
Star Wars Day was this week (May the Fourth be with you) and I’m an unashamed Star Wars nerd, but you don’t need to be to appreciate Dave Filoni’s amazing screenwriting (and directing). I first heard of Filoni years ago watching Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which is an animated show set between Star Wars Episodes II & III. It feels almost ridiculous to say so, but it is one of the best written shows I’ve watched. It can be enjoyed as a full evolving story, through season arcs, or episodically. Filoni was not the only writer on the show of course, but his is the name that I associate with so many great things that have happened for Star Wars in the last decade. Filoni is not only responsible for The Clone Wars, but also Star Wars: Rebels, Star Wars: Resistance, The Mandalorian (how can you not love the man who gave us Baby Yoda, seriously?), and the forthcoming Ahsoka series.
—Ari, Data Operations Coordinator
John Hughes’s screenplays cover a range of genres: kid adventures, family comedies, the buddy comedy and teen comedy/dramas. A regular contributor to National Lampoon magazine, one of his first published stories was “Vacation ’58” inspired by his family road trips. He adapted the story into the screenplay for National Lampoon’s Vacation. This film and Christmas Vacation are full of memorable lines, and are by far, my favorite family comedies. I have a sentimental love for Hughes’s teen films. Films like The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, and Weird Science showcased teen leads that were considered the weird ones. They were full of awkwardness, confusion, angst and dealt with issues of being othered. His selection of just-off-the-mainstream music blended seamlessly with the characters and story lines. But one of his teen films also featured Ferris Bueller, the ultimate cool kid who gets away with everything. It’s great to escape into Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, featuring many Chicago landmarks. It captures the beautiful architecture and fun spirit of the city.
—Cristina, Guest Services & Operations Supervisor
Viet Thanh Nguyen
We are big fans of Viet Thanh Nguyen here at the American Writers Museum. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sympathizer has served on our National Advisory Council since before the museum opened and he has continued to provide his guidance and expertise. He was instrumental in arranging our special exhibit My America: Immigrant and Refugee Writers Today in which he is one of more than 30 leading contemporary writers who discuss themes of home, community, language, what it means to be American and more. Just two month ago he published his new novel The Committed, the sequel to The Sympathizer, and I highly recommend you pick it up this month. Since it does involve espionage I won’t go into too many details, just know you won’t be disappointed. You can read more about Nguyen’s story on our blog here.
Over on Google Arts & Culture we recently launched Hisaye Yamamoto: An American Story, an extension of My America, that honors the incredible life, work, and legacy of Hisaye Yamamoto. Yamamoto was a powerful, but perhaps underappreciated, writer who defined a generation of Japanese Americans as she also sought to expose injustices and give voice to the voiceless. Her and her family were imprisoned by the U.S. government during the 1940s in an internment camp in Poston, AZ where she wrote for the camp paper. She writes with incredible subtlety and deep humanity. Think of Steinbeck, or Hemingway, but from the female point of view. She conveys cultural differences and understandings in a matter-of-fact style without losing any emotion, and perhaps actually highlighting the emotion by what is unstated. I will also be hosting this month’s Nation of Writers podcast about Hisaye Yamamoto, so be sure to subscribe so you’re notified when it is available later this month!
—Christopher, Director of Operations