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Letter to a Stranger: Essays to the Ones Who Haunt Us

by Colleen Kinder (Editor)

Other authors: Jenessa Abrams (Contributor), Amber Meadow Adams (Contributor), Faith Adiele (Contributor), Michael Agresta (Contributor), Howard Axelrod (Contributor)62 more, Erica Cavanagh (Contributor), Meg Charlton (Contributor), Carin Clevidence (Contributor), Ted Conover (Contributor), Jesse Donaldson (Contributor), Sally Franson (Contributor), Julia Glass (Contributor), Naomi Gordon-Loebl (Contributor), Lauren Groff (Contributor), Meron Hadero (Contributor), Sophie Haigney (Contributor), Carlynn Houghton (Contributor), Pam Houston (Contributor), Vanessa Hua (Contributor), Emmanuel Iduma (Contributor), Pico Iyer (Contributor), Leslie Jamison (Foreword), Leslie Jamison (Contributor), Akemi Johnson (Contributor), Jeremy B. Jones (Contributor), Sheba Karim (Contributor), Colleen Kinder (Contributor), Jamil Jan Kochai (Contributor), Elizabeth Kolbert (Contributor), Aviya Kushner (Contributor), Madelaine Lucas (Contributor), Alexander Lumans (Contributor), Julie Lunde (Contributor), T Kira Madden (Contributor), Lucas Mann (Contributor), Emily Matchar (Contributor), Sarah Menkedick (Contributor), Jacquelyn Mitchard (Contributor), Craig Mod (Contributor), Matthew Olzmann (Contributor), Peter Orner (Contributor), Matthew Ozmann (Contributor), Gregory Pardlo (Contributor), David Parker Jr (Contributor), Keija Parssinen (Contributor), Sarah Perry (Contributor), Kiki Petrosino (Contributor), Lia Purpura (Contributor), Kelly Ramsey (Contributor), Ying Reinhardt (Contributor), Irina Reyn (Contributor), Robin Romm (Contributor), Anjali Sachdeva (Contributor), Annie Schweikert (Contributor), Maggie Shipstead (Contributor), Aria Beth Sloss (Contributor), Lavinia Spalding (Contributor), Margo Steines (Contributor), Meera Subramanian (Contributor), Rachel Swearingen (Contributor), Michelle Tea (Contributor), Monet Patrice Thomas (Contributor), Peter Turchi (Contributor), Raksha Vasudevan (Contributor), Anna Vodicka (Contributor), Cutter Wood (Contributor), Rachel Yoder (Contributor)

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603429,981 (3.44)None
"An anthology of short, intimate second-person essays by a diverse range of writers, each honoring a fleeting encounter with a stranger met while traveling that left a profound and lasting impact; with a foreword by bestselling author Leslie Jamison"--

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"Letter to a Stranger" was/is a column in Off Assignment, a nonprofit magazine. This is a beautiful, international collection of short essays.


But this is the power of memory: the person who owns it can morph it to her desire. (Lauren Groff, 54)

It made the impossible seem possible, just by speaking it into being. (Meera Subramanian, 58)

You made it possible for me to see my childhood as something of a fable, and so to believe that it might hold the morals or rewards of a fairytale. (Madelaine Lucas, 68)

No one is guarded or unguarded for no reason. (Erica Cavanagh, 115)

I knew almost nothing about you, which is its own sort of nirvana. The small window when we can still be anyone to each other. (Jenessa Abrams, 119)

The ordinary won't expand to let the extraordinary through the door. (Colleen Kinder, 129)

As a new mother, the boundaries between me and the world had dissolved. The sturdy me, who'd so confidently navigated and made sense of the world, had vanished, and I lurched between terror and a reverent sense of oneness. (Sarah Menkedick, 137-138)

"To the Woman Who Walked Beside Me," Yonkers, New York, Sarah Perry (165-168)

When I think of you now, this is what I remember: That honest stories all end strangely. (Meg Charlton, 236)

The forward momentum of travel, like that of time itself, is a force of erasure. We move on. We leave behind. Our pasts fan out behind us like wakes on the surface of an impossibly immense flood, subsiding eventually into nothing. (Maggie Shipstead, 241)

We had been in one story. Now we were in a different one. (Carlynn Houghton, 263)

Now the story had turned into a dream story, the kind that ends when the protagonist wakes up. The kind...that makes me feel angry and betrayed as a reader, because I have invested by emotional energy in something that doesn't exist. (Carlynn Houghton, 263)

...and you just wonder all the time - Where is the thing I thought I had? Why can't I find it? (Robin Romm, 283) ( )
  JennyArch | Apr 26, 2022 |
What a fascinating project! The form and content of the letters are perhaps as diverse as the origins of the letters themselves. Yet, at the same time, there are common themes and a universality running through all of them. All themes are ideas the reader can relate to, and all trigger an emotion. The form of the book itself triggers an emotion. Throughout this book, as I read letter after letter, strangers who touched my life come to mind.

Read my complete review at http://www.memoriesfrombooks.com/2022/04/letter-to-stranger.html

Reviewed for NetGalley and a publisher’s blog tour. ( )
  njmom3 | Apr 7, 2022 |
There was the woman sitting in the movie theater a few seats away. I glanced at her and saw myself. My Doppelganger. Did she recognize me, as well?

And the older lady who sat down at my table in the downtown mall food court, an academic who told me that every culture has a sandwich, a meal wrapped in something.

And most of all, the woman who saw the child me standing in front of the toys in the grocery store, contemplating the cellophane bags of plastic cowboys and Indians and knights on horses and dogs of all breeds. I was seven or eight, very blond and golden-skinned from the sun, chubby with full cheeks and a round tummy, and a gap between my front teeth. She told me I would grow up to be beautiful. No one ever had said that to me. I was told I could look like Cinderella, if I lost weight. That I would grow up to be the fat lady in the circus if I didn’t lose weight. I was awestruck.

Strangers can impact our lives with indelible memories.

I was charmed by the idea of a book of letters written to the strangers who haunted people. Letters to a Stranger includes 60 short essays addressed to the person whose life intersected with the author, briefly, but with a lasting impact.

Passing Stanger! You do not know how longingly I look upon you,/You must be he I was seeking, or she I was seeking…

Walt Whitman, To a Stranger
“You, stranger, haunt the storyteller,” Coleen Kinder writes in her Introduction. I loved how contributors took me across the world to New York City, Portland, Oregon, Denmark, California, Beijing, Uganda, Peru, Berlin, Florence, Pakistan, Mexico, and even Antarctica.

The letters are arranged in themes. Symmetry, Mystery, Chemistry, Gratitude, Wonder. Remorse, Farewell.

The essays have intriguing titles. To the Boo Radley of my Childhood (Peter Turchi). To the Woman Whose Shoulder I Slept On (Keija Parssinen). To the Woman With the Restraining Order (Maggie Shipstead). To the Poet Who Disappeared (T Kira Madden).

The pandemic changed everything. We hid behind masks, swerved to avoid strangers on the sidewalk, stood distanced in line. It is good to remember when we were not afraid of strangers, when we could travel to new and sometimes uncomfortable places.

I enjoy reading these letters and the experiences they share. And they make me think of my own stories, the untold tales of the impact of strangers in my own life.

I received a free egalley from the publisher through NetGalley. My review is fair and unbiased. ( )
  nancyadair | Aug 5, 2021 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kinder, ColleenEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Abrams, JenessaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Adams, Amber MeadowContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Adiele, FaithContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Agresta, MichaelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Axelrod, HowardContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cavanagh, EricaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Charlton, MegContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Clevidence, CarinContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Conover, TedContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Donaldson, JesseContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Franson, SallyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Glass, JuliaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gordon-Loebl, NaomiContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Groff, LaurenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hadero, MeronContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Haigney, SophieContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Houghton, CarlynnContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Houston, PamContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hua, VanessaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Iduma, EmmanuelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Iyer, PicoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jamison, LeslieForewordsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jamison, LeslieContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Johnson, AkemiContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jones, Jeremy B.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Karim, ShebaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kinder, ColleenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kochai, Jamil JanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kolbert, ElizabethContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kushner, AviyaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lucas, MadelaineContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lumans, AlexanderContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lunde, JulieContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Madden, T KiraContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mann, LucasContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Matchar, EmilyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Menkedick, SarahContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mitchard, JacquelynContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mod, CraigContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Olzmann, MatthewContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Orner, PeterContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ozmann, MatthewContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pardlo, GregoryContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Parker Jr, DavidContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Parssinen, KeijaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Perry, SarahContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Petrosino, KikiContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Purpura, LiaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ramsey, KellyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Reinhardt, YingContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Reyn, IrinaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Romm, RobinContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sachdeva, AnjaliContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Schweikert, AnnieContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Shipstead, MaggieContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sloss, Aria BethContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Spalding, LaviniaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Steines, MargoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Subramanian, MeeraContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Swearingen, RachelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Tea, MichelleContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Thomas, Monet PatriceContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Turchi, PeterContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Vasudevan, RakshaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Vodicka, AnnaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wood, CutterContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Yoder, RachelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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