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Jesmyn Ward on living in Trump's America; On defending free speech after Charlottesville

Jesmyn Ward

Claire Messud remembers the fiction of her mother’s library, and how it formed her literary life. “For a long time I believed that the books I read were more or less universally known,” she writes. “It didn’t occur to me that by borrowing and devouring books selected by my mother, I was being shaped by her predilections, thoughts and desires.”

The Stranger’s Rich Smith looks into the controversy behind PEN Literary Award nominee John Smelcer, who Marlon James recently referred to as a “living con job” due to his falsified credentials and questionable claims of Native American heritage.

At The Millions, Chris Kraus and Jarett Kobek discuss their respective new books, After Kathy Acker and The Future Won’t Be Long.

Time talks to Jesmyn Ward about Faulkner, family, and her new book, Sing, Unburied, Sing. Ward says that the election of Trump and the increase in hate crimes that followed have difficult experiences for the residents of DeLisle, Mississippi, where Ward grew up and now lives with her family. “We’ve been reminded once again that we live in the South,” she said, “that we live in a place where throughout the centuries and throughout the decades, our lives have been considered worthless.”

In the New York Times, Adam Kirsch and Francine Prose reflect on the right to free speech. Kirsh feels that the right to free speech is necessary for a functioning democracy. “Without it,” he writes, “politics becomes a war of all against all, and as we have learned since last November, there is no guarantee that the right side will win.” Prose argues that “the law doesn’t ban words that wound egos or hurt feelings,” but it does protect citizens from speech that incites violence.

After defending the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally in court, the ACLU is internally debating whether all speech is worth defending. After Heather Heyer was killed by a white nationalist, members of the group are questioning whether a line should be drawn at defending groups that plan to protest while armed. But the ACLU will continue protecting the right to free speech for citizens on all sides. “If you can’t stomach respecting the First Amendment rights of people you despise, you don’t work here,” said associate director Stacy Sullivan.