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TriQuarterly – 2008

Guest editor Henry S. Bienen’s theme is “the other,” the “real or presumed differences” between us, which he categorizes, by way of partial example, as: race religion, language, country of origin or birth, region, geography, clan, tribe, caste, family, class, social status, income, occupation, age, gender, sexual preference, style of dress, or hairstyle. He has selected nine essays, four stories, the work of three poets, a powerful portfolio of photos by Fazal Sheikh, and additional photos by Jeremiah Ostriker, all of whom convert these categories of identity into work that reflects these definitions’ inadequacy when it comes to knowing the real people and circumstances of which our diverse world is comprised.

Guest editor Henry S. Bienen’s theme is “the other,” the “real or presumed differences” between us, which he categorizes, by way of partial example, as: race religion, language, country of origin or birth, region, geography, clan, tribe, caste, family, class, social status, income, occupation, age, gender, sexual preference, style of dress, or hairstyle. He has selected nine essays, four stories, the work of three poets, a powerful portfolio of photos by Fazal Sheikh, and additional photos by Jeremiah Ostriker, all of whom convert these categories of identity into work that reflects these definitions’ inadequacy when it comes to knowing the real people and circumstances of which our diverse world is comprised.

In typical TriQuarterly fashion, there isn’t a failed effort in the bunch. The work is mature, intelligent, and as thought provoking as Bienen predicts in his introductory essay, a wise assumption, given the volume’s contributors, which include Jeffrey Herbst, Richard Sobel, Lan Samantha Chang, Reginald Gibbons, and Paul Muldoon, among many others.

Fouad Ajami reconsiders the pivotal historical moment of 1492; Herbst explores the ruin of Zimbabwe; Dwight A. McBride reflects on sexual politics in his own work; E. Patrick Johnson analyzes the meaning of home in terms of “self” and “other”; and Elie Rekhess looks at the relationships between Arabs and Jews living in Israel. Fiction stars Lan Samantha Chang, Stuart Dybek, Reginald Gibbons, and Joyce Carol Oates contribute four short, powerful stories that couldn’t be more different from each other, which makes them all the more appealing. It’s almost hard to focus on the fiction, with so much solemn historical material, but these are masters whose work can stand up to anyone or anything, I think. The poetry is equally powerful and capable of meeting the issue’s intellectual rigor. Jana Harris contributes a series of exceptional “historical” poems that demonstrate remarkable agility with historical material yet never lose sight of a poem’s need to move us in the present.
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