Happy new year, friends! I ended the miserable year by starting a weekly newsletter called Dollface on Substack. It’s a place to record some of my reading and writing life — ideas, dreams, opinions. You’ll find book reviews and other literary ruminations, thoughts about writing, publishing, art, sex, feminism, motherhood, and more. I link to some of the most interesting things I’ve read on the internet. I also hope to include conversations with some of the writers and artists I love.

I hope you’ll subscribe!

And if you want to catch up, read on.

So far I’ve published three letters:

These principles are about so much more than sobriety

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Photo: MundusImages/Getty Images

Recovering alcoholics often say they’re lucky. To a newcomer hearing this uttered in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, it can sound ridiculous. “Lucky to be here,” one might scoff, sipping weak coffee in a bleak church basement, surrounded by disconcertingly cheerful drunks? “Ha.”

But if you follow the suggestion to keep coming back, it starts to make sense after a while. That’s because 12-step recovery doesn’t just help people to quit drinking. It offers a “blueprint for living,” a set of tools and strategies that, when practiced daily, slowly transform our lives from feeling unmanageable to something we can deal with…

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This is the sober-curiosity canon — created almost entirely by women

Recently, when a friend asked me why I thought so many people we knew had stopped drinking, I responded with, “Um, maybe because the pandemic is one of the biggest challenges humans have ever faced, and it’s the only way we can exert a modicum of control over our existence?”

That’s all true, but there’s also the fact that once we’ve quit, many of us discover a new vitality. Even if it’s not a full-on lifestyle change, getting a little dry time under our belts seems to catalyze creativity.

For adherents of 12-step recovery programs like me, there is no…

Sobriety gives you a foundation for handling random difficulty, including the end of the world

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Photo: Jose A. Bernat Bacete/Getty Images

There was already so much to drink about.

We’ve been in a climate crisis for years. American voters have narrowed the most diverse field of presidential contenders ever down to three elderly white men. And now, here to bring the majority of human activities to a screeching, expensive halt is COVID-19, in all its apocalyptic glory.

Standing in my kitchen, reading the latest disorienting, overwhelming news about the virus, I hit “send” on a tweet asking whether it’s dumb to stay sober now.

I had split a cucumber-flavored seltzer, gussied up with simple syrup and lime slices, with a…

The underappreciated — and often feminized — labor that undergirds everyday life is essential to true creativity

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Illustration: Ruohan Wang

When I crossed the 100,000-word mark in a draft of my first book, I paused to briefly mosh in the kitchen while brewing more coffee.

I had 13 days left to go, and I was riding the kind of stress-high I hadn’t experienced since my days as a student. The wave of feeling cresting in that moment was just as I remembered it: a frenzied sense of smug purpose so familiar it was almost soothing.

As the deadline neared, I felt crazy, but in a good way. Anticipatory excitement, restlessness, and the powerful fear of fucking up combined to form…

Roosevelt’s effort to help came at the end of the war, but still spared a thousand lives

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Jewish refugees arriving at at Fort Ontario, Oswego, New York on August 5, 1944. (AP Photo)

Morice Kamhi’s family was in Sarajevo when World War II broke out. The situation for Jewish families turned dire quickly. “First there was the yellow arm bands, you were forbidden to go to public places … and then, little by little, they started taking people away,” he told an interviewer for an oral history. The project, an initiative of the State University of New York at Oswego, captures the stories of the survivors who spent a rare year living in America’s only refugee camp during World War II.

At the time, many Jews were trying to get from Sarajevo to…

The People’s Park was supposed to be a fun project, until Reagan sent almost 800 police officers to stop it

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Volunteers break ground on People’s Park in April, 1969. Their efforts were soon disrupted when the University of California attempted to reclaim the formerly unused parcel of land in Berkeley. (Robert Altman/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

“A park will be built this Sunday between Dwight and Haste,” read a short piece in the Berkeley Barb on April 18, 1969 with the headline “Hear Ye, Hear Ye.” It described the patch of land where the park would be as a “swamp” owned by the University of California, Berkeley. In a year, the university planned to build a “cement type expensive parking lot.” The paper invited people to keep that from happening: “On Sunday, we will stop this shit. Bring shovels, hoses, chains, grass, paints, flowers, trees, bull dozers, top soil, colorful smiles, laughter and lots of sweat.”

Solita Solano and Janet Flanner, bored with American patriarchy, created their own path

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Gerda Wegener’s “The Paradise of Women,” illustration for le Sourire, Paris 1925. The French capital in the '20s was home to a burgeoning literary lesbian scene.(Fototeca Gilardi/Getty Images)

“The Hotel Napoleon Bonaparte was perfect for our purposes,” wrote theater critic Solita Solano of the Parisian establishment where she and her partner Janet Flanner made their home in the 1920s. “It cost a dollar a day, and was near the Seine, the Louvre, and the auto buses.” The pair had come to Paris, according to Solano, to “learn all about art and write our first novels.” But their choice of accommodations wasn’t simply economical. …

Armed with nothing but a toothbrush, a typewriter, and a revolver, Clare Hollingworth became a pioneering war reporter

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British journalist Clare Hollingworth, at the age of 97, in 2009. (Mike Clarke/AFP/Getty Images)

Twenty-seven year old Clare Hollingworth was not yet a week into her job as a reporter for Britain’s Daily Telegraph when she arguably broke the story of the century.

On August 28th, 1939, she was driving a short distance from the town of Gleiwitz, then in Germany, to Katowice, Poland, when a gust of wind blew a tarpaulin up, revealing that German troops had amassed on the border. She later wrote that she saw concealed there “large numbers of troops, literally hundreds of tanks, armored cars and field guns.” …

With this act of defiance, Ali was stripped of his title, his passport, and the right to fight in the U.S.

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Heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali leaves Federal court in Houston after a federal judge tossed out his legal effort to avoid being drafted into the Army on April 27, 1967. (Bettmann Archive via Getty Images)

On April 28, 1967, Muhammad Ali refused induction at the Armed Forces Examining and Entrance Station in Houston, Texas, with a line that would become famous: “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Vietcong,” he told reporters. The boxer declared conscientious objector status that day, though it wasn’t really a surprise. He’d become outspoken about the vicious racism black Americans faced and saw their conscription as an absurd addition of insult to injury. “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform,” he said, “and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in…

Nina Renata Aron

Work in NYT, New Republic, LARB, and elsewhere. Author of Good Morning, Destroyer of Men’s Souls: A Memoir of Women, Addiction, and Love.

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