“Brothers and Sisters Around the World,” by Andrea Lee

It is clear that we are breathing the same air, now, that we have taken each other’s measure. Both girls look straight at me, no longer bridling. All three of us know perfectly well that the man—my European husband—was just an excuse, a playing field for our curiosity. The curiosity of sisters separated before birth and flung by the caprice of history half a world away from each other. Now in this troublesome way our connection has been established, and between my guilt and my dawning affection I suspect that I’ll never get rid of these two. Already in my mind is forming an exasperating vision of the gifts I know I’ll have to give them: lace underpants; Tampax; music cassettes; body lotion—all of them extracted from me with the tender ruthlessness of family members anywhere.

— “Brothers and Sisters Around the World,” by Andrea Lee. Hear the New Yorker podcast here.

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After reading this story, I couldn’t help but feel incredibly excited. Don’t you love it when you discover another writer who seems to know everything you feel and can paint everything that is inward with such vitality and visceral prowess–all of this with only her words? I purchased her short story collection, “Interesting Women,” after I read it. I tend to do this a lot. When I discover a writer, I instantaneously feel this connection, this unbridled bond between me and her voice, and I am left more hungry, ravenous, for more. I end up buying the writer’s books, one after the other. I still have this immense mountain of books I have to read, but I can’t help it. When I find a new writer who speaks to me, speaks to me like this, I feel like I’m walking through water, through an ocean, reaching out to the sky with my palms upward, feeling as if I’m finally here, I’m finally recognized in darkness, in an open plane of blue. This is how Andrea Lee makes me feel. This is how Jamaica Kincaid makes me feel, how Edwidge Danticat makes me feel. It’s as if we’re all sisters in this big, vast ocean, all born out of the ribcages of a foreign land, all “flung by the caprice of history half a world away from each other.” And yet, I feel like I’m still standing in the same ocean as they are, whatever ocean, and feel as if someone finally knows who I am. It’s as if I’ve found another soul who can see me, like I don’t have to walk around in pretense, clumsily splashing water about me, as if I can finally be okay with who I am, with what makes me me because they see it. They see me, fully.

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On the short story

“A skillful literary artist has constructed a tale. If wise, he has not fashioned his thoughts to accommodate his incidents; but having conceived, with deliberate care, a certain unique or single effect to be wrought out, he then invents such incidents—he then combines such events—as may best aid him in establishing this preconceived effect. If […]

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