Best of ATM 2016, Nonfiction

As 2016 comes to its close, Across the Margin takes a look back at some of its most treasured moments in Nonfiction…

The word Nonfiction written in vintage wood letterpress type.

It’s been another exciting year at Across the Margin, and we would be remiss if we didn’t render the air with thanks for all those who spent time within our pages and for all the talented authors who have so gallantly shared their words with us. We have, once again, been humbled by the response to our efforts to furnish our readers with a dynamic and eclectic mix of stories, articles, and poetry that explore the current state of the world around us, and the depths of our human nature. So to commemorate a year brimming with activity we have compiled a few lists of our “favorites.” Throughout the week we will be sharing our picks for the “Best of Across the Margin, 2016,” and that begins right here with a look at our choices for the finest Nonfiction articles of the year, and an excerpt from each to wet your whistle…

What Now? by Michael Shields

How to move forward, now that America has spoken…


“One of the things I cherish so much about this country, and the primary reason I chose to live and work in New York City, is my deep appreciation for diversity. It is impossible to learn anything new from someone who is just like you, and I believe that the more we come together, the more we will grow and become stronger. Ultimately, I believe this is the only way the country, and our world, will work, through acceptance and understanding. And I feel that the election of Donald Trump spits directly in the face of this idea. Plainly, the premise of “Making America Great Again” doesn’t simply have bigoted undertones – but is blatantly racist and harkens back to the darker days in American history.”

To Breathe You In by Allie Burke

“[The water] gains speed so quickly. It inches across the sand like the speed of time during depression, and all of the sudden you’re soaking wet. You can’t outrun it. Like life. You can’t outrun life.”


“I had a rough day. I have paranoid schizophrenia and my delusions are packing me into this body I’ve never seen, securing me shut, and my arms are not long enough to reach the zipper. Somebody took advantage of my best friend’s kindness, and set her soul on fire. I said something I will regret for the rest of my life.

All in a day’s work.”

Whiskers Beyond the Pot by Melissa Hunter Gurney

Power or empowerment? A youth removed from a world of love because of the blinding powers of those trained in the invisibility of white privilege…


“In and out of whiteness all day long. In and out of privilege. In and out of power versus empowerment. As a young girl I missed out on an entire world of love because those trained in the invisibility of white privilege trained me not to see. They didn’t know what they were doing and neither did I. People are people, they said. People are equal, they said. People are racist, they said. People don’t have to be racist, they said. People don’t have to oppress, they said. We are privileged, they said. Privileged because we aren’t poor. Privileged because we aren’t living in a broken home. Privileged because our parents love us. Privileged because nature surrounds us. They never said privileged because we are white. They never said privileged because he was a boy. They never said privilege came with skin and genitals. But privilege does. They said privilege came with work. So I worked – harder than the rest – captain of three teams – only virgin on the block come graduation.”

Why Can’t We Argue Like Adults by David Raney

Problems need solutions, which require smart arguments, and unfortunately that’s something we don’t know how to do any more…


“To understand what our neighbors are saying, never mind global warming or the Middle East, is much harder and we’re untrained for it, and fighting our own brains, and generally too lazy to try. But we’d be so much better off if we could make argument not just another noisy diversion but the central project in our lifelong education. It would dispose us more kindly toward other humans, in both senses: to feel more of a kind, and to act more kindly. (which may be only one sense.) If we can’t manage that, our species will continue to strike any dispassionate observer as a pack of idiots driving clown cars toward extinction.”

Virtual Strangers by Jessica Zucker

When the unyielding burn of loss seeps into your love, and changes everything…


“She looked into his eyes with the fierceness of a lion, dead set on schooling him. She pictured screaming at the top of her lungs that nothing would “make things better” and the fact that he even asked such a question made her despise his shortsightedness. He wasn’t living through this in body as she was. Nor in mind in a similar way. He got to traipse off to work, muddied in distraction and accolades, while she sat there in a seemingly pregnant body, now hollow.”

Living Remnant by Patrick J. Dalton

A journey into a life of chaos, one that needs to be fueled, fed, and even shared with others…


“Serenity is a never ending snipe hunt, often intangible and best considered imaginary for the sake of sanity. When your thoughts, memories, fears, dreams, anxieties, and nightmares have congealed and amplified into an internal echo chamber, with the handles missing from every known escape hatch, best of luck to you. Today I possess a Zen-like balance of prescribed neutrality and fucking vertigo. But in those days, through the deafening maelstrom raging behind my fixed, staring eyes, I could hear an apparition blink in the cold marble and oak shrine of the goddamned enemy. And very little else. This was their circus, not mine.”

The Colin Kaepernick Dilemma Deconstructed by Frederick Foote

In protest, do we not honor and reinforce the rights necessary to create a more equitable union?


“A national anthem should honor protest as critical to the development of a free nation and its peoples. In this view, it is not disrespectful to protest police violence against, and the killing of, the people they are sworn to protect. I believe that a protest during the anthem is a salute to the processes and struggles that have made the United States a more humane place. In protest, we honor and reinforce the rights necessary to create a more equitable union.”

Gijon by Ian Johnson

“Europe was as abstract as college had become familiar.” From Davidson to the shores of Spain: A Basketball Tale…


Each country on the map was a different color, Espana a shade of orange, the color of a basketball. The map was big enough to include lesser-known cities like Gijon, and I rested my finger on the tiny black circle that marked the spot where I would soon launch my career. Just like you don’t have to be religious to imagine heaven, you don’t have to be in Spain, or know anything about it, to imagine Gijon. I could imagine it any way I wanted, and I imagined it as validation. Going on fifteen years of my life had been dedicated to basketball. It was time I got paid for it.”

Safe Spaces by Krissy Trujillo

Already living with a certain level of fear most people never have to face, a senseless tragedy strengthens a community’s resolve to push back…


“I understand that everyone has fears. I understand that, especially in recent years, with more and more mass shootings and attacks, places many think of as safe –  churches, movie theatres, schools – have become soft targets, where you suddenly find yourself on high alert. I understand that everyone is affected to some extent by this, but you see, as a Queer person, I already live with a certain level of fear my heterosexual counterparts never have to face.”

Campaign Finance Reform & The Climate Crisis by Angela Vincent

How campaign finance reform can help solve the climate crisis…


“Solving the climate crisis is no easy task. However, getting to the root of the problem might even be more challenging. Solutions can be put in place to mitigate the effects, but if the underlying problem is not addressed, no real progress can be made. We can fight for climate change legislation at the state and federal level, but until we get special interest money out of the pockets of our politicians, we are facing an uphill battle.”

Only Then, Can The Healing Begin by Frederick Foote

A meditative essay about race, violence and law enforcement in America today…


“It is my assumption that there are systems of repression, degradation, and profit masquerading as criminal justice systems in this country. Law enforcement, judicial systems employees, attorneys, prison construction and management industries, and state and local governments each have a vested interest in keeping these invidious systems in place, if not growing. I further assume that these counterfeit justice (or injustice) systems target black, brown and poor communities. Furthermore, I believe we all have a moral and legal obligation to oppose such systems.”

Dear Dad by Tiffany Yu

A reminder of the fragility of life, and of the connectivity of kinship that yearns to define us…

dead plant with dry leaves closeup isolated on white

“I can’t remember if I had to go back to the hospital after your funeral. I had broken two bones in my left leg that left me in that place for three weeks and in a wheelchair for months afterward until I could walk again. At your funeral – the first and only one I’ve been to up until now – I didn’t know how to act. Should I be sad? Should I be crying? I started playing with Peter’s walker until Uncle told me to stop. I just wanted to distract myself from acknowledging the reality that you were gone.”

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