Diving Lessons

Tammy Delatorre’s essay “Diving Lessons,” winner of the 2015 Slippery Elm Prize, has made the Notable list of Best American Essays 2016!

Read Tammy’s winning piece here.

For this reader, “Diving Lessons” is the kind of prose that uses narrative drive to guide the reader through the messy, cyclical, and shocking recognition of what it means to be alive. It is a study in craft–well-worked over, carefully edited, sophisticated style–the kind of writing we should all strive for when we ask a reader for her or his time and attention. But more importantly, it strikes deep. It’s ambitious, and it tackles its subject with courage and honesty. From the first moments of the piece, the body feels the world, the body is the keeper of the truth, and the truth is something we all need to know, and do now because of this writer’s fearlessness and skill.

Much later, in a moment of revelation, the narrator explains, “The words rose up, as if I had no control.” This is the very heart of the piece, because it so admits to the chaotic, dangerous, and vulnerable experience of living, but it is the clarity and deftness of great writing that moves this emotional truth from the narrator to the reader, or at least, for this reader, giving me what I’m always looking for in a narrative, passing to me, almost magically, the most meaningful and yet weightless gift–understanding.

–Brendan Kiely
Co-author of All American Boys Author of The Gospel of Winter www.brendankiely.com

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