What is a summary of The Best American Essays 2017?

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This essay collection groups together the best selected essays from the previous year, compiled by a single editor—in this case, Leslie Jamison. In light of the 2016 Presidential election, which uncovered a lot of vitriol and unpleasantness on both sides of the aisle, this collection of essays has a decidedly political outlook. Particularly with regards to violence, racism, and sexism, this anthology collection gathers together essays that explore people's experiences with pain and despair.

From essays like "White Horse" which explores a rape that was brushed aside by the courts, to stories from the military about death and coping such as "If I Only Had a Leg" and "Two Shallow Graves", and even stories about racism and police brutality like "Sparrow Needy" and "The City that Bleeds". This collection explores some very serious topics and deals with the darker aspects of human nature on a national scale.

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Each year, since 1986, a collection of the best English essays is compiled into an anthology titled, appropriately "The Best American Essays" of that year. The 2017 edition in question was edited by Leslie Jamison, who chose the essays based on a political bent in light of the recent 2016 election. The election in question brought to light a great deal of sexism and racism that has plagued the nation, and created a clear divide down party lines.

All of the works in the anthology have a political message, even though they don't directly address politics. Some of the included essays are about rape, the murder of black Americans, and life in the military during this time period. Death and disturbing events riddle the essays as they relate the horrors of a marginalized life.

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In this volume, Leslie Jamison, the editor, has chosen what she considers to be the best essays of the year. The Foreword states that these essays "show an awareness of craft and forcefulness of thought" (xiv). The Foreword also clarifies that the chosen essays have to show quality as a piece of literature and must be able to stand on their own, rather than being an excerpt from a longer piece or book. They were originally published in English (or translated by the author) and must be on a subject of general interest, not a specialized subject.

In the Introduction, Jamison writes about the election of 2016 and how it made her feel "sick to [her] stomach" (xvii). She also writes that "the essay is political" (xx) even when the author is not addressing political subjects directly, as the essay questions received wisdom. The book contains 20 essays arranged alphabetically by the authors' last names, including "Sparrow Needy" by Kenneth A. McClane about his brother's death from drinking and about being black in America, and "White Horse" by Eliese Goldbach about being raped and told that she had not been raped by a disciplinary committee.

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Since 1986, the annual The Best American Essays has compiled the most noteworthy magazine articles published in the United States in the preceding year. The 2017 edition of the anthology was edited by American novelist Leslie Jamison (best known for her book The Gin Closet).

In this volume, Jamison has chosen to focus on personal narrative nonfiction. For instance, Kenneth McClane's "Sparrow Needy" (originally published in the Kenyon Review) reminisces on the author's brother's descent into alcoholism in the 1950s, beginning with his witness to a murder at the age of eight. In "Two Shallow Graves" (originally published in the Florida Review), former US Marine Jason Arment recounts the horrors he witnessed while deployed in Iraq as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, contrasting these against a kind of grim comedy that simultaneously existed. Other essays in the anthology, similarly, take the form of personal narrative.

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