Thin Places
A Lit Hub | Chicago Review | Ms. Magazine March pick A Lambda Literary Most Anticipated BookIn this perceptive and provocative essay collection, an award-winning writer shares her personal and reportorial investigation into America’s search for meaningWhen Jordan Kisner was a child, she was saved by Jesus Christ at summer camp, much to the confusion of her nonreligious family. She was, she writes, “just naturally reverent,” a fact that didn’t change when she—much to her own confusion—lost her faith as a teenager. Not sure why her religious conviction had come or where it had gone, she did what anyone would do: “You go about the great American work of assigning yourself to other gods: yoga, talk radio, neoatheism, CrossFit, cleanses, football, the academy, the American Dream, Beyoncé.”A curiosity about the subtle systems guiding contemporary life pervades Kisner’s work. Her celebrated essay “Thin Places” (Best American Essays 2016), about an experimental neurosurgery developed to treat severe obsessive-compulsive disorder, asks how putting the neural touchpoint of the soul on a pacemaker may collide science and psychology with philosophical questions about illness, the limits of the self, and spiritual transformation. How should she understand the appearance of her own obsessive compulsive disorder at the very age she lost her faith?Intellectually curious and emotionally engaging, the essays in Thin Places manage to be both intimate and expansive, illuminating an unusual facet of American life, as well as how it reverberates with the author’s past and present preoccupations.

Thin Places Details

TitleThin Places
Author
ReleaseMar 3rd, 2020
PublisherFarrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN-139780374274641
Rating
GenreWriting, Essays, Nonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir

Thin Places Review

  • Meike
    January 1, 1970
    In her debut collection of essays, Jordan Kisner ponders identity and spirituality in modern-day America - reading this as a European, I can say that many of these texts capture those cultural aspects of the U.S. that seem particularly foreign to us, especially when it comes to religious attitudes and mores like debutante balls. All of the 13 essays somehow negotiate the relationship between inside and outside and the question whether these borders are permeable. Relating to that, the In her debut collection of essays, Jordan Kisner ponders identity and spirituality in modern-day America - reading this as a European, I can say that many of these texts capture those cultural aspects of the U.S. that seem particularly foreign to us, especially when it comes to religious attitudes and mores like debutante balls. All of the 13 essays somehow negotiate the relationship between inside and outside and the question whether these borders are permeable. Relating to that, the title-giving text states: "In thin places, the (Celtic) folklore goes, the barrier between the physical and the spiritual world wears thin and becomes porous. (...) Distinctions between you and not-you, real and unreal, worldly and otherworldly, fall way." Kisner's essays combine reportage, memoir and factual reasoning. Often associative and re-constructing ways of thinking, the meandering texts tend to take their readers to unexpected places, drawing connections between the immigrant experience and coming out as queer, beach parties and church services, or mommy bloggers and activism against Trump. If you want to get an idea about Kisner's writing you can check out "Jesus Raves , which won a Pushcart Prize in 2016, or "Thin Places", which was selected for The Best American Essays 2016.An interesting collection, but over the length of the book, Kisner didn't always hold my attention - I felt like some texts were lacking urgency.
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  • Bandit
    January 1, 1970
    I dont read essays as a rule. Im not sure why and going by how much I enjoyed this one, that rule really needs to change. But thats just to say that this collection didnt have an immediate attraction to me, outside of the fact that one of the essays was about OCD. That immediately interested me. But the thing is, it doesnt matter how you come to the book sometimes, it only matters that you get there and I am so very glad I came to this book, because it was absolutely terrific. Thin Places are I don’t read essays as a rule. I’m not sure why and going by how much I enjoyed this one, that rule really needs to change. But that’s just to say that this collection didn’t have an immediate attraction to me, outside of the fact that one of the essays was about OCD. That immediately interested me. But the thing is, it doesn’t matter how you come to the book sometimes, it only matters that you get there and I am so very glad I came to this book, because it was absolutely terrific. Thin Places are places in the world where the realities can bleed into each other, liminal and uncertain, complex, label defying layers that comprise so much of life. And Jordan Kisner makes for a superb guide to those places. She writes about faith, love, language in such a clever way, interspersing observational and personal perspectives. I suppose that’s the beauty of essay as a form, it allows for such infusions of personality, wherein journalism alone is valued for its detached objectivity. I’m not sure I appreciated that fact before now. But because essays are such personal beasts, the crux of their appeal hinges on the author and in this case, it works out perfectly. I’ve never read or heard of the author prior to grabbing this book off of Netgalley, so there were no expectations and had there been any, that would have still be blown right out of the water, because Kisner is just such a great writer, an absolutely awesome (yeah, awe inspiring) combination of stunning emotional intelligence, eruditeness and command of language. The best way I can describe this reading experience is…it was like having a conversation ( albeit format restricted one sided version thereof) with a smart well spoken person who told you the best, most interesting stories about all the things you found interesting. The range of these stories alone…from Mormon women uniting in their efforts to promote ethical (which is to say not the current one) government to Shakers to yes, that OCD one is notable. The way Kisner writes about things, putting them in historical and political context, drawing on facts and personal experiences…it’s so compelling. And she manages to give going on tangents a good name too, I absolutely loved the way the author veers off into a personal experience and then get right back to the main subject without skipping a single step, perfectly seamless connections between the author and their stories. And never not interesting, not for a moment. You can’t wait to see what she says next. It’s such a pleasure as a reader to be this engaged with, this excited by a book. Frankly, by a mind. Made me an instant fan. If all one sided conversations were this good, I’d pass on dialogue altogether. Loved this book and I can only hope it finds the wide readership it deserves. Recommended. Thanks Netgalley.
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  • Sharon
    January 1, 1970
    I started reading these essays on a plane and allllmoooost wanted the flight to last longer because Jordan Kisner's writing is just that good. Culturally relevant topics + stunningly beautiful prose + deep thoughtfulness = nonfiction catnip for me. There wasn't a single piece that dragged or felt out of place in the collection. Stellar!
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  • Never Without a Book
    January 1, 1970
    I could have gone without the first to essays, but out of 13, I really enjoyed 10 of them. Over all 3.5 out 5. More thoughts to come.
  • Carrie Surbaugh
    January 1, 1970
    you ever read a book so good it pisses you off?? Thats how I feel right now. I am so MAD this book is so good, the sentences are so beautiful, what the FUCK you ever read a book so good it pisses you off?? That’s how I feel right now. I am so MAD this book is so good, the sentences are so beautiful, what the FUCK
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  • Afton Montgomery
    January 1, 1970
    Jordan Kisner announces herself humbly as a master of her genre, with essays that exude brilliance individually and then perhaps even more so as a carefully ordered collection. Her "thin places" are the spaces where "the barrier between the physical world and the spiritual world wears thin and becomes porous. Invisible things, like music or love or dead people or God, might become visible there." There's no way to walk away from her collection without feeling as if you live in a thin place-- as Jordan Kisner announces herself humbly as a master of her genre, with essays that exude brilliance individually and then perhaps even more so as a carefully ordered collection. Her "thin places" are the spaces where "the barrier between the physical world and the spiritual world wears thin and becomes porous. Invisible things, like music or love or dead people or God, might become visible there." There's no way to walk away from her collection without feeling as if you live in a thin place-- as if you might never have to leave it. Reading her feels like listening to that guitar part in a favorite song when all other sound falls away and then, suddenly, your body falls away, and your self spreads to take up the entirety of a room. Kisner writes about OCD and the boundaries of selfhood, about a New York artist using empty space as a feminine medium, about a Martha Washington pageant obsessed with lineage held on the Laredo, Texas and Nuevo Laredo border. She writes of young Christians clubbing and converting during summers spent in Montauk, of forensic pathologists in Ohio quietly defending the dead who can no longer speak for themselves. She writes along tightropes, but in the world of her mind, these spaces widen to become comfortably navigable pathways. In a world that seeks to erase the spaces between, this may be the most important book you read this year.
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  • Kate
    January 1, 1970
    "A thin place is where one can walk in two worlds the worlds are fused together, knitted loosely where the differences can be discerned or tightly where the two worlds become one."~Internet Quote I really enjoyed these essays, Kisner has a way with words that makes you sit up and pay attention. In Thin Places she explores modern American spirituality, culture and personal identity. Through these 13 essays she shares some of her own intimate experience as well as insightful reportage on "A thin place is where one can walk in two worlds – the worlds are fused together, knitted loosely where the differences can be discerned or tightly where the two worlds become one."~Internet Quote •I really enjoyed these essays, Kisner has a way with words that makes you sit up and pay attention. In Thin Places she explores modern American spirituality, culture and personal identity. Through these 13 essays she shares some of her own intimate experience as well as insightful reportage on contemporary American society. From debutant balls, to OCD, to foresnic pathologists, to club hopping young Christian's, and more. This is a complex collection I feel like any description I give wont do it justice. It was a facinating read to say the least! This collection never once comes across as preachy, but rather open minded, journalistic, inquisitive and personal. Kisner's writing is excellent, lyrical prose that keep you wanting more. So looking forward to whatever she does next!•Thank You to the tagged publisher for sending me this arc opinions are my own. •For more of my book content check out instagram.com/bookalong
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  • Suzanne Bhagan
    January 1, 1970
    Thin Places by Jordan Kisner is a series of essays exploring diverse topics such as the authors wrestling with her Christian faith, experiencing postmodern popup churches in Montauk, talking with Mormon mommy bloggers, and facing her own morbidity in the morgue when doing a story on forensic pathologists. Kisner is able to take an apparently mundane topic and dig into it like an archaeologist, searching for deeper truths. Sometimes she finds it; sometimes she doesnt. If youre into nonfiction and Thin Places by Jordan Kisner is a series of essays exploring diverse topics such as the author’s wrestling with her Christian faith, experiencing postmodern popup churches in Montauk, talking with Mormon mommy bloggers, and facing her own morbidity in the morgue when doing a story on forensic pathologists. Kisner is able to take an apparently mundane topic and dig into it like an archaeologist, searching for deeper truths. Sometimes she finds it; sometimes she doesn’t. If you’re into nonfiction and longform essays, this is the book for you.
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  • Anneke
    January 1, 1970
    Book Review: Thin Places: Essays from In BetweenAuthor: Jordan KisnerPublisher: Farrar, Straus and GirouxPublication Date: March 3, 2020Review Date: November 4, 2019I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. From the blurb;In this perceptive and provocative essay collection, an award-winning writer shares her personal and reportorial investigation into Americas search for meaning.When Jordan Kisner was a child, she was saved by Jesus Christ at summer Book Review: Thin Places: Essays from In BetweenAuthor: Jordan KisnerPublisher: Farrar, Straus and GirouxPublication Date: March 3, 2020Review Date: November 4, 2019I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. From the blurb;“In this perceptive and provocative essay collection, an award-winning writer shares her personal and reportorial investigation into America’s search for meaning.When Jordan Kisner was a child, she was saved by Jesus Christ at summer camp, much to the confusion of her nonreligious family. She was, she writes, “just naturally reverent,” a fact that didn’t change when she—much to her own confusion—lost her faith as a teenager. Not sure why her religious conviction had come or where it had gone, she did what anyone would do: “You go about the great American work of assigning yourself to other gods: yoga, talk radio, neoatheism, CrossFit, cleanses, football, the academy, the American Dream, Beyoncé.”A curiosity about the subtle systems guiding contemporary life pervades Kisner’s work. Her celebrated essay “Thin Places” (Best American Essays 2016), about an experimental neurosurgery developed to treat severe obsessive-compulsive disorder, asks how putting the neural touchpoint of the soul on a pacemaker may collide science and psychology with philosophical questions about illness, the limits of the self, and spiritual transformation. How should she understand the appearance of her own obsessive compulsive disorder at the very age she lost her faith?Intellectually curious and emotionally engaging, the essays in Thin Places manage to be both intimate and expansive, illuminating an unusual facet of American life, as well as how it reverberates with the author’s past and present preoccupations.”I know this is a very long blurb. I needed to include it all, because this book of essays is so complex and varied, that on my own, I would not be able to hint at what the book is like. This is one of the most extraordinary books I’ve ever read. For starters, the language itself is gorgeous. Jordan writes about so many different aspects of her life and I was thoroughly engaged throughout each of the essays. I highly, highly recommend this book. If you are intellectually curious, if you have a love of language, if you are fascinated by current day America, you must read this book. The author was new to me and I’m very grateful to have been introduced to her writing. I will search her out elsewhere. Thank you to FSG for allowing me an early look at this magnificent work. Good luck to Jordan on Thin Places and all her other writing. This review will be posted on NetGalley, Goodreads and Amazon. #netgalley #FSG #thinplaces #jordankusner
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  • J Earl
    January 1, 1970
    Thin Places: Essays from In Between from Jordan Kisner is that rare collection where each essay makes an impact. While all collections are, by nature of being collections of separate entities, uneven this one is as as minimally uneven as any I have read in quite some time.I like essays, I read them a lot, whether in collections such as this or in various publications physical or virtual. I try to vary my expectations to suit what I am reading. Some are very instructive but don't necessarily make Thin Places: Essays from In Between from Jordan Kisner is that rare collection where each essay makes an impact. While all collections are, by nature of being collections of separate entities, uneven this one is as as minimally uneven as any I have read in quite some time.I like essays, I read them a lot, whether in collections such as this or in various publications physical or virtual. I try to vary my expectations to suit what I am reading. Some are very instructive but don't necessarily make a big personal impact. Some touch me because of some commonality but after some time they fade away (though I often revisit these). This collection touched me emotionally and intellectually, made me try to understand her and what she experienced, understand those she wrote about, and most importantly try to better understand myself based on those new insights.Perhaps the greatest gift this book offers is the gift of a new or renewed type of perspective. Many of the experiences will be both unknown to you while also seeming so familiar. You will likely, as I did, think about times in my past that might be roughly comparable, where those "thin places" are briefly exposed. Then it made me want to approach the future with a similar perspective, alert to the nuance of what is happening around me. Even more important, I think, is being more understanding in this new perspective. Of other people, of other ways of seeing and being in this world, and of what I might both gain and offer through this openness to those special "thin places." Whether they be evident in the moment or only through hindsight.I highly recommend this to any reader who likes to think about life, about what it means and how it means. Even if you don't usually read essays I think you will be pleasantly surprised by how these may speak to you.Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
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  • Bethany Bendtsen
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. The subject matter contained within the 13 essays of Jordan Kisners impressive debut collection Thin Places spans the gamut from an experimental brain surgery for OCD to the inner-workings of a patriotic debutante ball, even an Christian Evangelical group recruiting at clubs and pop-up services. While on the surface these things seem unrelated, Kisner uses her personal experiences and sharp Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. The subject matter contained within the 13 essays of Jordan Kisner’s impressive debut collection Thin Places spans the gamut from an experimental brain surgery for OCD to the inner-workings of a patriotic debutante ball, even an Christian Evangelical group recruiting at clubs and pop-up services. While on the surface these things seem unrelated, Kisner uses her personal experiences and sharp insights to tie them together in a collection that explores American life in all its contradictory in-betweenness. In one section, Kisner eulogizes her childlike wonder and curiosity, remarking that she no longer sees possibility in, for instance, the overhead compartments of a 747. Ironically, Kisner’s writing in Thin Places stands out specifically because of the skill for observation she’s claimed to have lost; with each essay, she deftly uncovers the fascinating minutia and meaning hidden amongst the everyday things most take for granted or regard as mundane. I don't think most people can say that they've spent a lot of time thinking about autopsies, but Jordan Kisner has: thinking about them, researching them, and observing them--for months. And what she is able to mine from that time spent amidst the dead and those who are tasked with finding out how they ended up that way--it’s nothing short of fascinating, with deep, far-reaching implications for the living. In the midst of topics that threaten to veer into the grotesque and overly somber, Kisner reels us back in with moments of genuine humor. Even in the rare instances when Kisner’s search for meaning misses the mark, I still found myself quite happy to be included in the scenic narrative journey. Kisner, I’m sure, has more great writing in store, and I can’t wait to read it. 4 stars.
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  • Jackie
    January 1, 1970
    I received an ARC of this title via a Goodreads Giveaway: Individually, I enjoyed many of these essays especially the ones that had more of a journalistic style looking into a specific piece of American culture like the evangelical preacher in Montauk or the debutante ball in Texas. I had assumed the whole book would be written in this style.In reality, it is much more a literary collection of essays with a very loose connecting theme. There is no doubt she is an excellent writer, but this type I received an ARC of this title via a Goodreads Giveaway: Individually, I enjoyed many of these essays especially the ones that had more of a journalistic style looking into a specific piece of American culture like the evangelical preacher in Montauk or the debutante ball in Texas. I had assumed the whole book would be written in this style.In reality, it is much more a literary collection of essays with a very loose connecting theme. There is no doubt she is an excellent writer, but this type of literary personal soul-searching is not my specific taste. So if you are looking for a deep dive into American spirituality and culture, I would not say this is the book for you, but if you are interested in excellent writing and a woman's journey through pieces of 21st century culture as related to her, then you would enjoy this book.
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  • Drew
    January 1, 1970
    6 out of 5. A revelation. Where last year's fav essay collection (Jia Tolentino's) TRICK MIRROR was a lens held to our narcissistic natures, THIN PLACES is a celebration of curiosity, of self-discovery. It is a reminder that there is still so much to know, out there. That it is okay to be curious, it is okay to change your mind, it is okay to not know something and try to find an answer for it. And Kisner (disclosure: a close friend) is a perfect guide. Her voice is warm, individual, and 6 out of 5. A revelation. Where last year's fav essay collection (Jia Tolentino's) TRICK MIRROR was a lens held to our narcissistic natures, THIN PLACES is a celebration of curiosity, of self-discovery. It is a reminder that there is still so much to know, out there. That it is okay to be curious, it is okay to change your mind, it is okay to not know something and try to find an answer for it. And Kisner (disclosure: a close friend) is a perfect guide. Her voice is warm, individual, and care-full. I would trust her to take us anywhere and I have no doubt, over time, she'll take us everywhere.
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  • Valerie
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!As a big fan of essay collections, I was excited to pick this up despite not being familiar with the author. The writing in this collection is calm, quiet, and often lyrical. Kisner takes on multiple thought-provoking topics related to philosophy, religion, and modern culture. The pacing of the collection was well done, with shorter pieces mixed in amongst longer, more Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!As a big fan of essay collections, I was excited to pick this up despite not being familiar with the author. The writing in this collection is calm, quiet, and often lyrical. Kisner takes on multiple thought-provoking topics related to philosophy, religion, and modern culture. The pacing of the collection was well done, with shorter pieces mixed in amongst longer, more engrossing essays. A wonderful read if you enjoy essay collections, non-fiction, or long form articles!
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  • Amie Whittemore
    January 1, 1970
    I heard Jordan read from her work in Charlottesville about four years ago and during that reading thought to myself, I cannot wait for this person to have a book. And now she does and it has lived up to my wild expectations! These essays are smart and honest, playful and wise, they weave observation and research with personal experience in ways that garnered insights, moments of pause and reflection. They are ordered in a way that creates stitches across the essays--even as they were written at I heard Jordan read from her work in Charlottesville about four years ago and during that reading thought to myself, I cannot wait for this person to have a book. And now she does and it has lived up to my wild expectations! These essays are smart and honest, playful and wise, they weave observation and research with personal experience in ways that garnered insights, moments of pause and reflection. They are ordered in a way that creates stitches across the essays--even as they were written at separate times, for separate occasions, they feel cohesive, thoughtfully arranged. I can't wait for her next book, though I will wait happily, as I know good art requires heaps of time.
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  • Laura Hart
    January 1, 1970
    This is an excellent collection of essays about thin placeswhere boundaries are thin, where things are in flux, where you dont feel settled. What a fascinating and relatable concept! Kisner gracefully covers everything from borders and history to religion and OCD, humbly searching for flares of happiness. Each piece is extraordinary, but my favorites were Thin Places, Big Empty, A Theory of Immortality, Habitus, and The Other City. I definitely want a copy of this when it comes out. Thanks, FSG This is an excellent collection of essays about “thin places”—where boundaries are thin, where things are in flux, where you don’t feel settled. What a fascinating and relatable concept! Kisner gracefully covers everything from borders and history to religion and OCD, humbly searching for flares of happiness. Each piece is extraordinary, but my favorites were “Thin Places,” “Big Empty,” “A Theory of Immortality,” “Habitus,” and “The Other City.” I definitely want a copy of this when it comes out. Thanks, FSG and NetGalley, for the ARC.
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  • Erin
    January 1, 1970
    Graciously received a free copy through first reads. I give this book a 3.5. Until the last couple of stories, I was going to give this book a 3, but I really enjoyed the Cleveland story and tattoo story. I enjoyed learning about newsworthy items while the author tied in her personal life to what she was learning. Stories that were solely about her bored me.Overall, decent book for being a collection of short stories which usually isn't something I'm into.
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  • Nate
    January 1, 1970
    "In thin places, the barrier between the physical world and the spiritual world wear thin and become porous." Jordan Kisner has undertaken an effort that is incredibly admirable, and executed it beautifully. Uncertainty and ambiguity have always been difficult areas for humans to navigate and we'll be grappling with them until the end of time. But this book is beautiful because it doesn't attempt to grab you by the hand and march you towards certainty, it beckons you towards the thin places, and "In thin places, the barrier between the physical world and the spiritual world wear thin and become porous." Jordan Kisner has undertaken an effort that is incredibly admirable, and executed it beautifully. Uncertainty and ambiguity have always been difficult areas for humans to navigate and we'll be grappling with them until the end of time. But this book is beautiful because it doesn't attempt to grab you by the hand and march you towards certainty, it beckons you towards the thin places, and asks how you feel being enveloped in them. In this stunning debut collection, Kisner masterfully sets the scene for each of these explorations into a variety of thin places, intelligently and intuitively using language to delicately weave a path through them, disturbing the edges just enough to make you reflect on the nature of thin places you may have visited. As we are plunging headfirst into a world that seems more divided than ever, works like this are becoming increasingly more important. Humanity has a terrible and insatiable desire to label everything and define everything as thoroughly as possible without relishing in the moments when we're unsure, when we experience something mystical, paranormal, inexplicable, or simply beautiful. We forget that we contain multitudes, that we are made up of everything that we experience and believe, that we don't have to reduce ourselves down to some essential element of our being, we are everything that we carry inside ourselves, even if we don't have a name for a feeling, or a way of even articulating it. It's ok, sit in that place in between and see if you can feel heaven reaching out from the other side.I'm excited to see what this author explores next.
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  • Mallory Wassberg
    January 1, 1970
    I was lucky enough to win this through a Goodreads giveaway and was so excited! I will start by saying, this is not the type of book I would normally read - essays arent really my thing. But I will say, I was pleasantly surprised by this book! Jordan Kisner has a knack for writing! These stories read very quickly and keep your attention the whole way through. Very thought provoking! I was lucky enough to win this through a Goodreads giveaway and was so excited! I will start by saying, this is not the type of book I would normally read - essays aren’t really my thing. But I will say, I was pleasantly surprised by this book! Jordan Kisner has a knack for writing! These stories read very quickly and keep your attention the whole way through. Very thought provoking!
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  • Beth
    January 1, 1970
    I tracked this down because I loved her essay Jesus Raves that won a Pushcart a few years ago (and is also included here). My favorite new ones were Stitching, about Mormon women activists, and Backward Miracle, about tattoos.
  • E.B.
    January 1, 1970
    These essays are incredible. Jordan killed it.
  • Rachel León
    January 1, 1970
    Review forthcoming from Chicago Review of Books.
  • Caralyn Rubli
    January 1, 1970
    Very well written essays. Some I liked, some I loved ,some I didn't get.
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