How Venezuela’s Oil Riches Fueled a Literary Explosion

In the Mid-20th Century, Writers Seized on the Conflicts Laid Bare by Petroleum's Power to Reshape Society

On December 14, 1922, a gusher of petroleum was discovered in Zulia, a rural area of western Venezuela. For nine days the oil showered onto the surrounding farmland, scaring the locals who thought it was an ill omen. Whether or not that was true, it was certainly a sign that Venezuela’s entanglement with oil—economically, politically, and culturally—would change the country forever.

Ever since, writers and intellectuals have spilled ink trying to understand how the oil changed the path of Venezuela, not to mention Venezuelans themselves. One of the first was Arturo …

How a Pakistani Novelist and Translator Learned to Love Dictionaries

The Books He Once Saw as 'Villainous' and 'Unwieldy' Helped Him Introduce Children to Urdu Classical Literature

An image from a winter morning in Hyderabad, Pakistan, when I was four, forms my earliest memory of literacy.

Bundled up in layers of sweaters, I am reciting from an …

The Real-Life Adventuress Who Turned Nancy Drew Into a Modern Heroine

Mildred Wirt Benson Helped Invent the Fictional Teen Sleuth Who Became a Generational Role Model

Nancy Drew struggled this way and that. She twisted and squirmed. She kicked and clawed. But she was powerless in the grip of the man.

‘Little wildcat! You won’t do …

How America Invented ‘Young Adult’ Fiction for a New Kind of Teenager

In the '60s and '70s, Books Like The Outsiders and The Chocolate War Told Stories That Dealt With Complex Emotions and Social Realities

Like jazz, the Broadway musical, and the foot-long hot dog, young adult literature is an American gift to the world, an innovative, groundbreaking genre that I’ve been following closely for …

Treason Isn’t Just a Crime—It’s a Sin of the Heart

In Dante's Inferno, Traitors Are Cast Into Deepest Hell for Breaking the Bonds of Love

If you’re looking to nail someone for treason these days, don’t talk to a lawyer. The answer you’ll get will be short and likely disappointing: It’s hard to convict someone …