A Letter From São Paulo, Where the Definition of ‘Unbearable’ Has Shifted

As Brazil’s Death Count Rises, a Writer of Fantasies Embraces Realism in Quarantine

I’ve been training myself to be productive at home since I finished high school. The very idea of becoming a writer came from an interview with Patricia Highsmith that I read in the 1990s; the journalist described her life in a beautiful house near the mountains in Switzerland. Still a teenager, I thought this was the kind of life I wanted. Not necessarily Switzerland, I thought. A small apartment in the city could also satisfy my dreams of quietude, if I were able to work at home.

But my teenage dreams …

Where I Go: Jigsaw Puzzles | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Where I Go: Jigsaw Puzzles

Whenever I Have Too Much to Think About or Not Enough, I Pull Out a Puzzle    

Like most children of my generation, the first jigsaw puzzle I ever did was likely a plywood map of the United States, divided into 10 or so pieces with little …

A Letter From Beijing, Where There Is No Normal to Go Back to | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

A Letter From Beijing, Where There Is No Normal to Go Back to

During Months in Lockdown, a Family Grows Closer and Gets Better at Taking Disappointments in Stride 

In China, people have recently emerged after spending months in their homes. Ching-Ching Ni, editor-in-chief of the New York Times Chinese website, explained to Zócalo how being stuck at home …

COVID-19 Is Magnifying the ‘Politics of Division’ | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

COVID-19 Is Magnifying the ‘Politics of Division’

Zócalo's 2019 Book Prize Winner Warns That Democracies Must Embrace the Politics of Hope and Unity 

The COVID-19 pandemic has come at a critical historical moment. For the last two decades or so—since the collapse of the Soviet Union and communist rule in Eastern Europe—we have …

Your Neighbors Can Help You Battle Adversity and Disaster | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Your Neighbors Can Help You Battle Adversity and Disaster

Zócalo's First Book Prize Winner Reflects on the Power of the People Nearby to Ease Both Pandemics and Politics

My book, In the Neighborhood, published 10 years ago this spring, asked how Americans live as neighbors—and what we lose when the people next door are strangers.

These questions …

How Warren Harding’s Campaign for ‘Normalcy’ Led to Catastrophe | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

How Warren Harding’s Campaign for ‘Normalcy’ Led to Catastrophe

The 29th President’s Promise of Safety to a Nation Shaken by WWI and the 1918 Flu Led to Freewheeling Consumption and Giddy Speculation

What is normalcy? And what does it mean when we tell ourselves that we want to get back to it?

When American historians hear talk of “normalcy,” we think of Warren …