- Editors' Notes
International Year in Review
In this issue we present the third installment of Biography's International Year in Review, a collection of short essays discussing publications in memoir, autobiography, biography, and other forms of life writing in the previous year across a wide range of countries and regions. As in the past, a few contributors aim for a broad overview, but most focus on a selection of texts that represent a notable trend or reflect the author's particular interests. With last year's collection (vol. 40, no. 4) we increased the number of contributions, extended our coverage of Europe and South America, and included essays from Africa, the Caribbean, and Central America. This year the number of essays has grown from twenty-two to twenty-five, and we are very pleased to include authors offering viewpoints from yet another part of the world: Sleiman El Hajj on Lebanon, Szidonia Haragos on countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council, and Adam Yaghi on Palestine.
My circumlocution "yet another part of the world" ("the Middle East"? "the Arab World"? "the Arabsphere"?) highlights one of the challenges we have faced in putting together these collections. When we conceived the International Year in Review, we knew that we would run up against the limitations of geographical categorization. Our formulation "nation or region" acknowledges the leakiness of the nation-state as a container for life narratives, but it only partially addresses the historical, linguistic, and cultural connections among lives and life stories that transcend national borders, as do the experiences of exile, displacement, and diaspora. Countries define and enforce their national identities in ways that often run afoul of the self-identifications of people living within them, with or without the benefits of citizenship, and resistance to those exclusions often animates the stories those people tell.
From different angles, many of this year's contributions illuminate instances of boundary-crossing and pushback from the margins. Tobias Heinrich's review of recent biographies of Maria Theresa, a figure whose life predates the formation of the modern states of Austria and Germany, covers books published in German and French in Austria, France, and Germany. Hans Renders and David Veltman's inventory of recent biographies in the Netherlands engages the historical, linguistic, and literary relations between the Netherlands and Belgium. Writing about the prominent role of auto/biographical essays in Australia, Kylie Cardell includes a [End Page iv] discussion of the anthology Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia, in which young Indigenous Australians document the experience of coming of age on the under-resourced edge of Australian society, and Sleiman El Hajj's essay foregrounds life narratives that convey the pressures on Palestinian refugees and on cis and transgender women who are making a place for themselves in Lebanon. Though certainly inadequate and restrictive, the established denominators of countries and regions continue to spur us to think through the dynamic, often conflicted interactions among personal, community, and national identities as they are reflected in auto/biographical projects.
As in the past, this note introducing the International Year in Review also serves as a call for papers. Happy as we are with this year's collection, we're always aiming to broaden the feature's scope. Following the launch of the first installment, we have actively sought submissions representing what we still see as especially conspicuous absences, including Argentina, Denmark, Egypt, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and Switzerland, but we invite reviews of the year's work in life writing in any other "part of the world." Over the past two years, Edgard Sankara and Nick Tembo have supplied vibrant essays on Burkina Faso and South Africa, respectively, but the countries of the African continent are still underrepresented. Likewise, this year we are very pleased that Sergio da Silva Barcellos (Brazil), Gabriel Jaime Murillo-Arango (Colombia), and Gerardo Necoechea Gracia (Mexico) have all come back with excellent reviews, but we would welcome more contributions from Central and South America. We have stepped into the Caribbean with Rose Mary Allen and Jeroen Heuvel's essay on Curaçao in last year's collection, and this year, with Ricia Chansky...