Welcome to the fall issue of Radcliffe Magazine—21 essays by contributors ranging from Pulitzer Prize–winning authors and journalists to artists, scholars, students, scientists, and supporters of the Institute. In the age of COVID-19, George Floyd, and another outbreak of devastating wildfires, as a polarized nation closes in on Election Day, we wanted to explore the chaos, unrest, and loss of 2020 in deeply personal terms. A digital format was a must, allowing us to keep pace with the times, but there were no strict requirements in our requests to the current and former fellows, students, and alumnae who make up our list of contributors. Tell us what you learned, we asked. What’s changed? What’s next? Their essay-length answers—ranging in topic from grief, politics, and race to engine repair, neutron stars, and family—amount to a varied expression of Radcliffe Engaged and an affirmation of the Institute’s commitment to cross-disciplinary inquiry.
The essayists featured in this special issue of Radcliffe Magazine provided contributions without remuneration. In gratitude and as a means of responding to food insecurity in our community, the Radcliffe Institute is making a donation to the Greater Boston Food Bank, the largest hunger-relief organization in New England and one of the largest food banks in the country. The nonprofit Feeding America projects that one in eight people in Eastern Massachusetts will experience food insecurity in 2020 as a result of COVID-19.
Finally, our work on this issue was interrupted by sorrow over the death of Pat Harrison, who served 18 years as editor of Radcliffe Magazine before retiring from the Institute in 2018. We dedicate the fall issue to her memory.Read about Our Contributors
Letter from Dean Tomiko Brown-Nagin
These are extraordinary times.
The Sound of Lockdown
Warpland RevivalEvie Shockley
“I hold space for my deeply felt and necessary grieving, but I will not let it consume my work and my joy.”
Old Masks, New FaceJunot Díaz
“Maybe what’s happening is that after all these years my real face is finally emerging.”
Angst, Flour, OrderIman Lavery
“It’s lonely to be isolated, but it’s lonelier when human interaction is right there, just across the street.”
Hacksaw TherapyWill Mackin
“If I am feeling tolerant of the disorder that surrounds me, I sit at my desk and write. If not, I start fixing stuff.”
READ ESSAYS BY Diane McWhorter | Laurence Ralph | Gish Jen | Kavita Kacholia Mishra | Lizabeth Cohen | Ben Miller
The Sound of Lockdown
The Letting GoLauren Groff
“My stasis wasn’t amnesiac—I still felt the overwhelming melancholy of the world—but rather a kind of surrender.”
Time Is of the EssenceLinda Greenhouse
“All of us will emerge from this period having pushed some kind of personal reset button, from the superficial to the profound.”
We Could Have Been FriendsIvelisse Estrada
“One of the things that makes me feel most alive—winning over a new friend—has been taken away.”
“Do not think of the abyss, I say to myself, like St. Augustine before the city of god.”
READ ESSAYS BY Suzanne Mettler | Miriam Pawel | Jonathan Guyer | Ruben Reyes Jr. | Nina McConigley