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LAURA JONES Death Fears Him

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Mustang Wanted is one of a small group of young men who hang by their bare hands from the tops of skyscrapers. Without ropes. Laura Jones' essay "Death Fears Him" delves into this subculture, exploring the dangerous and fascinating intersection of risk and fame.

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CINDY HOUSE Dear Deer

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A woman, her two sons, her ex, and a deer. Add to this the knife the ex is using to gut the animal and you have a family crisis of compelling drama. Cindy House's "Dear Deer" doesn't skimp on the suspense but finds humor too in this confrontation over much more than one hunted animal.

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HANNAH ONOGUWE The Housewife

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A Nigerian woman's domination by her new husband forms the narrative of Hannah Onoguwe's "The Housewife" as, step by step, Aramide faces more and more restrictions--on what she can wear, whom she can visit, and finally where she can go. But confined to her house, visited only by the generator repairman, and allowed out only to have her fidelity tested by priests, Aramide discovers ways to subvert her husband's authority. Onoguwe's story brings surprise and delight in its lively telling.

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JAMES ENGLISH The Rose Tradition

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In this subtle and tense story, James English sets us down among the complicated relationships within a family and a neighborhood and lets us watch a betrayal unfold. It's a variation of the tale of a stranger coming to town--only the stranger is already there, and the town is someone's family.

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CATHERINE ELCIK What The Doctor Taught Me

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When family crises buffeted author Catherine Elcik with grief and stress, she found solace in the unlikeliest of places: Doctor Who. Or perhaps not so unlikely. For from this television program about time-shifting and agelessness and loss and endurance, Elcik learned powerful lessons about coping with the thieveries of illness and death. In this beautiful essay, Elcik offers wisdom to all of us--Whovians or not.

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MELANIE SENN The Art of Drumming Badly

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To hear Melanie Senn tell it, she is not a good drummer. But what matters more than her musical and percussive talent is her skill in telling the story of how she took to the drums--at first as a way to connect to her musician husband, and then as a way to experience delight. In "The Art of Drumming Badly," Senn shares her joy in learning something new and in learning not to care about inhibitions and expectations.

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