By Elizabeth Giorgi
So here we are, in that stretch of weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas filled with cookies, egg nog, parties and admonitions to “be of good cheer.” The holiday season is one of my favorite times of year, but even I’m prepared to admit it can all be a bit much.
As an antidote for the holiday sugar rush and the relentless push to celebrate, here’s a stocking stuffer of fiction and non-fiction that explores the holiday season’s shadow side: pieces full of ambiguity, wistfulness, even sadness, but also beauty.
The Long Winter by Megan Seling (from The Stranger)
In Megan Seling’s classic non-fiction essay, first published in 2007 in the Seattle alternative weekly newspaper, she explores her annual, devastating bouts with depression brought on by seasonal affective disorder, and her attempts one December to control her depression by baking her way through every recipe in Martha Stewart’s Holiday Cookies magazine. Watch out for NSFW ads in the site’s margins.
Western by Sherman Alexie (from The Stranger)
Speaking of The Stranger, did you know that Sherman Alexie is a regular contributor? For nine months this past year he posted a flash fiction piece a week in a column with the paper. You can read all those stories on the paper’s website; in this one from last Thanksgiving, he explores a Native American character’s take on the Kevin Costner film Dances With Wolves. Beware NSFW ads.
Bow and Arrow by Seth Fischer (from the Rumpus)
Family horror stories are a holiday staple, but what if a member of your family really goes off the rails? And what if you still love him? Fischer writes about coming to terms with his cousin’s increasing involvement in the neo-Nazi community, and about whether refusing to write off his cousin makes him complicit in his cousin’s ideology.
The Year the Monarch Didn’t Appear by Tim Robbins (from the New York Times)
For hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years, monarch butterflies have appeared in central Mexico on the Day of the Dead, with local legends referring to them as the souls of the dead returning home. But not this year. For the first time in memory, the monarchs were late to appear, straggling into the region in record-low numbers. In his sobering opinion piece, Robbins discusses the decline of monarchs, butterflies and bees.