By sheer happenstance, I received an assignment from L Magazine to write about various difficulties children with developmental and/or psychological issues face as they are going back to school. I write “happenstance,” because I had just finished Andrew Solomon’s magisterial Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity only a few days before the assignment.
If you have any interest in this topic, Solomon has written the defining book, which I expect will be read for many years to come. It is so great because, among other things, Solomon wrote it with obvious, authentic empathy. This makes me think of something Jonathan Franzen wrote about David Foster Wallace:
At the level of form and intention, however, this very cataloguing of despair about his own authentic goodness is received by the reader as a gift of authentic goodness: we feel the love in the fact of his art, and we love him for it.
The same could be said for Solomon and especially for those people who told the stories of their lives in the book. They are gifts.
Anyway: my resulting piece, Back to School Struggles, could have been probably doubly or triply as long as it ended up being (word count limitations!) and probably better, but I am happy I could contribute something small to the general understanding.