Tongue Untied

August 8, 2016

In a Room Full of Voices by Heather Havrilesky 

Young writers often ask me how I found my voice as a writer. This is the question they’ve been taught to ask, the appropriate, million-dollar question, the one M.F.A. programs and English teachers and writing instructors set up as the Holy Grail, over and over again. But as a writer who’s supported herself for twenty years by writing essays, cartoons, TV criticism, radio commentaries, a memoir, book reviews, reactions, recaps, rants, and riffs of every stripe, I find the notion that you have to locate your one true writerly voice patently absurd to me. “How did you find your voice as a writer?” feels like a skin-deep outcropping of self-help culture, theWhat Color Is Your Parachute? of the literary world. And just as no human being over the age of seven should be expected to pick one favorite color, no writer should be expected to choose a single, bulletproof “voice” and write in that voice forever and ever...

Things We Mean to Say by Isabella Kwai

I am always trying to find the right word for things. It bothers me when I say annoyed instead offrustrated, or tired instead of exhausted. Perhaps this is a remnant of my childhood, growing up in hot Australia, the place my Chinese parents had settled on for its good education and weather...

The Chatbots Are Coming by Cade Metz

Facebook can now identify the faces in your photos. Apple can recognize commands you speak into your cell phone. And if you point your phone at a sign printed in a foreign language, Google can instantly translate it into your own...

Love Beyond Language by TuanDat Nguyen (online-only content!)

When I speak with my grandfather, my voice stutters as I translate English thoughts into broken Vietnamese. Often, I cannot understand what my grandfather is saying, so I just smile sheepishly and mutter some incomprehensible reply—pretending that it is his hardness of hearing and not my linguistic incompetence that impairs our communication. But on the morning of the day I was to leave my Seattle home to study a nation away in Durham, my grandfather was my final goodbye. He held me and told me he loved me in a voice softened with age: Ông yêu con nhiều lắm...

Peace and Quiet by Bryan Rahija

The dining hall was packed. Forks clinked at plates piled with lentils and rice. Wooden benches creaked. Someone occasionally cleared his throat. But amid the bustling of seventy-five men, not a single word reverberated off the rafters...

When Bodies Speak by Lawrence Toppman (online-only content!)

“We didn't need dialogue,” exclaims Norma Desmond. “We had faces!” She’s halfway to lunacy at that moment in Sunset Boulevard, remembering a glorious past before movies added soundtracks, but she has a point...