Best of Across The Margin 2021, Nonfiction

As 2021 comes to its close, Across the Margin takes a look back at some of its most treasured moments in Nonfiction…

We are thrilled to present a look at our choices for the finest Nonfiction stories of the year at Across The Margin, and an excerpt from each to wet your whistle…

Before Lunch” by Dianne Blomberg

A deeply moving work, inspired by a twenty-five-year marriage to an older man, celebrating the joys inherent when one leaps at the opportunity for love in exchange for a later life alone…

“A fall breeze escorted the smell of saltwater and vacation into the dining room from a nearby open window. Memories of vacations by the ocean flooded back and my eyes clouded with tears. The boys held linen napkins against their mouths to hide teenaged silliness. Their muffled laughter tried to fill the room. Not joke laughter, nonsense laughter to protect themselves from public grieving, a gift the mind offers because some grief is too heavy to carry while others watch.” READ MORE!


Fear and Ammunition : Reflections on the 20th Anniversary of 9/11” by Jen Grow

“I like to think it’s possible that bombs have the potential to disperse love as well as fear.” On the 20th Anniversary of 9/11, a deeply affecting personal essay which explores the relationship between love and fear in Americans reaction to the devastating events of 9/11 and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic…

“That fateful sunny Tuesday, the sky was bright blue, the weather perfect. In the midst of the chaos — with sirens blaring, smoke rising, fighter planes overhead — I felt a strange sense of peace. It came in the form of generosity toward strangers. A shift is happening, I remember thinking, and simultaneously contemplating that I had no idea what that meant. I spent the afternoon at Turtle Pond in Central Park alone, surrounded by strangers. All of us quietly mesmerized by the turtles, swimming as they do with those camouflaged helmets they wear. It amazed me how well turtles float despite the weight. I envied them, their ability to hide if they need to under those helmets, under those mini-bomb shelters they carry on their backs.” READ MORE!


Halo of Locusts” by Jennifer Worrell

“When art so brazenly embraces darkness, I take notice.” An essay which celebrates the dark themes and imagery of Scott Walker’s avant-garde music which helped one writer strengthen their craft and pursue their niche…

Photo by Dezo Hoffman/REX/Shutterstock 

“Artists who experiment outside trends and popular tastes, whether in literature or music, have always triggered my imagination. I’m fascinated by fiction that plays with form and derails expectations.

My admiration likely stems from lifelong imposter syndrome, always the novice despite years of experience. How can I recreate the magic expressed by my influences? What exactly will capture an editor’s eye? Deviations from the norm are much better received — and marketed — than escapes into unexplored tangents. But those tangents have a delicious allure. Cryptic narratives intrigue me. The spontaneous and indefinable seduces with a call I can’t ignore, imploding the typical and erasing the borders of what the human mind can produce.” READ MORE!


Eye of the Storm” by Doug Greco

An essay by a grassroots organizer, whose group who sprung into action, providing direct relief to those affected by the freeze that brought Texas to a standstill, and a biting examination of the lessons learned from the absence of a state response to the disaster.

“We knew something was brewing. On Valentine’s Day, the night before the storm hit, I rushed into a liquor store and was encountered by an angry cashier who hoped to make it home early. I wanted a bottle of Scotch, thinking we would have to hunker down for a day or two. Texas doesn’t deal with ice that often, so I figured our cities would surely be shutting down.    

The next day, President’s Day, the power went out across Austin and the state, for millions of customers. Power plants of all types froze, and because most of Texas has a self-contained energy grid, critical shortages statewide forced mass outages. I didn’t lose power because I lived across from a nursing home which most likely spared my neighborhood from an automatic shutdown, so I invited a few friends who had lost power to stay with me. The focus those first few days was getting the most vulnerable to safety. Seeing as I owned a four wheel drive Jeep, I offered as many rides as I could to shelters with power to folks in my personal and church networks.” READ MORE!


Little Spear of Destiny” by Sean Jacques

“The bulls were gods themselves.” A personal, and comical, journey into the dynamic world of bullfighting, a union of sport and performance art brimming with a poetic and oftentimes religious sentiment… 

“When I was a little boy growing up in the backwoods of Missouri, I found a small spear tucked inside my dad’s tool shed. About the size of a cheerleader baton, its entire length was adorned with frilly blue-and-red paper, and on one end was a two-prong blade. I didn’t know what my dad used it for or why he had it, I only knew that he had picked it up at a bullfight in Juárez, Mexico, so in my mind it was a knight’s spike or Comanche war stick or some fashionable weapon of whatever role I was playing on any given day. I would whip it in the air. Dart it at tree trunks. Jab it into ant mounds. My favorite was to sling it like a javelin across the yard. But then, as I grew closer to my teenage years, my amusements pivoted toward motorcycles, cars, and girls, and consequently, I lost track of the little spear before ever learning what it was called, or its genuine purpose.” READ MORE!


Goodbye Poppy” by Allie Burke

An honest, heart-wrenching story about loss and the unexpected traumas of life that functions as an ode to those that lift us up in our darkest hours…

“I’m in a single public restroom. 

I’m naked, except for the hospital gown that doesn’t close in the back. I have to remove my headwrap and replace it with a weird, stretchy disposable hospital cap. I look down at the package of the brown socks with the grips on the bottom. 

I inhale a deep breath. 

This is not a psychiatric hospital, I tell myself. It’s just a surgical center. You get to leave today, after the operation. You get to leave in three hours.” READ MORE!


Lessons From The Coronavirus” by Arthur Hoyle

In the midst of an America experiencing a collective breakdown, and in contemplation of a year spent secluded and struggling against a deadly virus, an article focused on the potential that isolation offers for self-renewal and growth….

“The coronavirus has been with us for a year, and while it has been devastating in scope, it has provided many lessons and laid many truths bare. We have learned that the virus is deadly and hard to control. We have learned that large swaths of the American people distrust science (doctors, it must be noted, are scientists) and are vulnerable to quack conspiracy theories and bald-face lies. We have learned that many Americans place their “personal freedoms” (i.e. their right to do as they please no matter how stupid it may be or dangerous to others) above all considerations of the common good, even if the common good is cooperation in the face of a deadly disease. We have learned that our health care providers, just by doing their jobs, are heroic. We have learned that our federal government, as presently constituted, prefers engaging in partisan warfare to serving the people it is paid to represent when they are in desperate need.” READ MORE!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *