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Our Year in Review: 2016 at WWB

By Susan Harris

Virginia Woolf famously noted, “On or about December 1910 human character changed . . . When human relations change there is at the same time a change in religion, conduct, politics, and literature.” This turbulent year brought what felt like a decade's worth of once-unthinkable changes across those and virtually all aspects of life and human relations. From the twelve issues we published in 2016, and the many voices and themes we presented, we offer the following highlights—for context and comfort, and as guideposts and illumination to navigate the challenging times ahead.

For insight into the refugee crisis

From our September issue, “There Is No Map: The New Italian(s),” Italian playwright Lina Prosa sets the stage for a stranded asylum seeker in an excerpt from Lampedusa Snow.

For reportage on the deep social entrenchment of racial and gender bias

Italo-Somali journalist Igiaba Scego traces the roots of a racist ditty in “The True Story of ‘Faccetta Nera,’” from April’s “Women Write War” issue. And from our tenth annual graphic novel issue in February, French writer Julie Maroh reports on the year’s greatest international comics scandal in “On Angoulême and Control.”

For a portrait of social change and personal loss in the wake of urban development

Tamil-language writer Latha mourns the vanished Indian immigrant community of Singapore in “There Was a Bridge in Tekka,” from our October issue, “In Those Days, and These: Multilingual Singapore.”


For a sardonic update on the personal journey

From July’s “Brazil beyond Rio” issue, Brazilian poet Angélica Freitas riffs on classic poetry and destinations in “Ithaca.”

For a reminder of the universal delights of urban living

Thailand’s Win Lyovarin marks the hours of a frazzled working man in “Life's Lexicon: Everyman's Bangkok Edition,” from our November issue, “Modernization and Its Discontents: Contemporary Thai Writing.”


For perspective on the entwined notions of language and identity

From our January issue, “Captivity,” Ramiro Pinilla voices Franco’s stifling of multiple forms of speech in “No Euskera.”

For reinforcement of the intrinsic absurdity of politics

Fouad Laroui watches a politician lose his pants but keep his wits in “The Curious Case of Dassoukine’s Trousers,” from our March issue, “Crossing Boundaries: Morocco’s Many Voices.”


For the survivor's perspective on the devastation of war

From “Women Write War,” Ukrainian poet Lyuba Yakimshuk pens a threnody to the lost in “Crow, Wheels.” 

For an insider’s report on the changes in Cuba

From our May issue, “On Cuban Time: New Writing from the Island,” Rubén Gallo reflects on the US president’s visit and more in “Obama in Havana.”


For historical context on religious conviction

Polish playwright Jerzy Lutowski dramatizes the Spanish Inquisition in Love Thy Savior, from our December issue, “The World on Stage: Micro-Plays in Translation.”

For an unearthly tale of devotion that transcends a world of distance

From our seventh annual Queer issue in June, Jeon Sam-hye tracks a space trainee launched into love in “Genesis.”


For a demonstration of the power of poetry in the face of disaster

From our January feature, “The ‘Arab Spring,’ Five Years On,” Libyan poet Hawa Gamodi announces her defiant “resistance to the ruin” in “Awaiting a Poem.”

Back in January 2010 we published José Eduardo Agualusa’s “If Nothing Else Helps, Read Clarice,” in which a Brazilian fisherman swears Clarice Lispector appeared to him in a vision. Although we can’t claim the same, this year we’ve taken Agualusa’s title as our mantra, swapping authors’ names in and out as needed. Or for that matter dropping the author and simply declaring, “If nothing else helps, read.” 

Published Dec 29, 2016   Copyright 2016 Susan Harris

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