Personal Essays

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Rebecca writes about a wide range of topics. Her essay “Safety” was a Notable Essay in Best American Essays.


“Rebecca Kanner’s essay “Safety” examines the emotional and physical cost of her brother, Aaron’s, deployment to Iraq. Ms Kanner’s brother was part of Operation Phantom Fury, the 2004 invasion of Fallujah, the bloodiest battle in the Iraq war. His unit lost 19 men. Aaron was left partially deaf and almost lost a kneecap. But the unseen damage—her brother’s continual and self-admitted sense of emotional numbness—is perhaps the effect of the war most difficult for the writer and her brother to talk about and reconcile themselves to. Kanner’s reaction, one can sense on every page, still incites her to anger, and that rawness, combined with her control of her craft, makes her prose readable and alive with a rousing indignation. Still, there is nothing pat about Kanner’s understanding of political complexities. She’s never pedantic. She remains alert to, and compassionate about, her brother’s wish to serve in the Marines. She stunningly mixes descriptions of her brother’s competitive bodybuilding as a means of exerting power over the physical, along with touching images of this younger brother’s fear of the dark. She is an essayist who doesn’t take a pat position, but by admitting to moments of confusion and ambiguity, makes her viewpoint all the more persuasive.”

-Bernard Cooper, Loft McKnight Award Judge, and author of The Bill From My Father.

“Rebecca Kanner writes with visceral, timely, passionate focus. Her essays about navigating between her social ties to Americans opposed to war and her intense connection to her brother, an American soldier deployed to Iraq, are arresting, powerful, and memorable works. Kanner’s cuttingly original voice is a fresh and unconventional contribution to American literary nonfiction writing.”

-Barrie Jean Borrich, author of My Lesbian Husband and the forthcoming Body Geographic.

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