Zaina Arafat Recommends...

“In the midst of a global pandemic, raging wildfires, police brutality, and a deeply unsettling, mind-boggling political reality, the urge to write can be nearly subsumed. Before all of this, I turned to—what else?—books for inspiration. Sometimes the same ones over and over. But in my post debut novel world slump, my normal go-tos haven’t sufficed. That is until Intimations: Six Essays (Penguin Books, 2020) by Zadie Smith, which contains a series of essays written during the early months of quarantine (who else but Zadie could put together something so artful in a time of panic?). The collection contains an unconventional essay in the conventional category of ‘why I write’ pieces. ‘Something to Do’ undercuts all the preciousness around writing. Smith writes, ‘There is no great difference between novels and banana bread. They are both just something to do.’

I’ve found that letting go of this pressure to be profound in an already pressure-filled time—of considering the writer’s life as something sacred rather than profane, and of the writer’s identity as a distinct, defined, and necessary precondition—has allowed writing to happen once again.”
—Zaina Arafat, author of You Exist Too Much (Catapult, 2020)