Our Most-Read Stories of 2021

In a year that was haunted by the continuing pandemic, The Yale Review saw a lot of change. We launched a new website, where we now regularly publish online pieces, along with slideshows by visual artists and audio of our poets reading their poems. Through the ups and downs of these past twelve months, we have felt lucky to be able to publish a host of powerful stories and essays in both our print journal and on our new website.

For your enjoyment over the winter break, we have collected our most-read stories of the year. They include a short story that skewers white progressive hypocrisy around race; a sharp, moving re-reading of the poet John Ashbery; a meditation on the complexities of being a twin; and an essay that interrogates the ways that photography shapes our views of protest and racial violence. We hope you’ll find much on this list to linger with over the coming weeks, and we look forward to bringing you more great writing next year.

–The Editors

Colonial Conditions” by Brandon Taylor
Taylor’s short story takes place at a Covid-era Halloween party where the protagonist—queer, Black, and raised in rural poverty—finds himself in uneasy conversation with progressive white guests.

The Wild, Sublime Body" by Melissa Febos
Febos recounts how she developed contempt for her body in early puberty but eventually regained the self-love she'd known as a young girl.

There I Almost Am” by Jean Garnett
This portrayal of being a twin grapples with envy in its many forms.

Stalking” by Becca Rothfeld
Rothfeld plumbs the depths of social media stalking in an essay about our desire to see without being seen.

Picturing Catastrophe” by Rizvana Bradley
Bradley argues that photography has historically functioned as an anti-Black medium, and looks at the way that a dominantly white media covered racial protests after George Floyd’s death.

The Wrong Daddy” by Jeremy Atherton Lin
Lin tells the story of his love for—and then disillusionment with—the musician Morrissey in a reflection on fandom and identity.

How to Come Back to Life” by Emily Ogden
Ogden considers what it means to reach middle age, lyrically weaving together readings of Ovid’s Orpheus and Eurydice and Federico Fellini’s Le notti di Cabiria.

The Brink of Destruction” by Edward Hirsch
Hirsch writes a love letter to the poet John Ashbery.

Olga Tokarczuk's Radical Tenderness” by Marek Makowski
Makowski reflects on Nobel Prize winner Olga Tokarczuk’s genre-defying body of work.

Going to Lvov” by Ilya Kaminsky
Kaminsky remembers the gentle profundity of the late Adam Zagajewski, who died in 2021, and explains why he was one of the most important poets of our time.

Originally published:
December 21, 2021


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Merve Emre


Renaissance Women

A new book celebrates—and sells short—Shakespeare’s sisters
Catherine Nicholson

Fady Joudah

The poet on how the war in Gaza changed his work
Aria Aber


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