Jordan Kisner '16 Publishes Essay Collection with FSG

BY Nina Mahesh, March 10, 2020

Thin Places: Essays From In Between, a collection by writing alumna Jordan Kisner '16, was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux this month. The collection came out on March 3, 2020. 


Kisner explains, “thin places” are, according to a Celtic proverb, where “the barrier between the physical world and the spiritual world wears thin and becomes porous.” Kisner followed this idea of lack of distinction and porousness into her essays. In an interview with Publishers Weekly Kisner explained, “What’s beautiful about the essay is you can resist the impulse to make the categories clean. You can make it muddy and fluid.”


Book Synopsis: In this perceptive and provocative essay collection, an award-winning writer shares her personal and reportorial investigation into America’s search for meaning. When Kisner was a child, she was saved by Jesus Christ at summer camp, much to the confusion of her nonreligious family. She was, she writes, “just naturally reverent,” a fact that didn’t change when she—much to her own confusion—lost her faith as a teenager. Not sure why her religious conviction had come or where it had gone, she did what anyone would do: “You go about the great American work of assigning yourself to other gods: yoga, talk radio, neoatheism, CrossFit, cleanses, football, the academy, the American Dream, Beyoncé.” Intellectually curious and emotionally engaging, the essays in Thin Places manage to be both intimate and expansive, illuminating an unusual facet of American life, as well as how it reverberates with the author's past and present preoccupations.


Publishers Weekly said, “Debut author Kisner explores the religious, emotional, and cultural underpinnings of contemporary U.S. society in a neatly poised, sympathetic, and refreshingly unpreachy collection of 13 essays.”  While The New York Times praised, “Kisner displays an impressive range of narrative modes in this book, bouncing nimbly between gravity (in her ethnography and her bird’s-eye philosophizing) and comic relief, which she peppers in just when our heads are starting to spin.” The Chicago Book Review said, “...the fluidity of Kisner’s essays in her debut book, Thin Places, is arguably the most striking thing about this collection. Kisner seems to effortlessly move from research to personal memoir to social commentary—often within a single essay.

Kisner is a teacher of creative writing at Columbia University, on the creative team at Tables of Contents, and a mentor-editor for The Op-Ed Project. She writes essays, features, and reviews for n+1, The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine, The Guardian, The Believer, and others. Her essay Jesus Raves received a 2016 Pushcart Prize. Her essay Thin Places was selected for publication in Best American Essays 2016.  She holds an MFA from Columbia University, and has been awarded fellowships and residencies from PioneerWorks, the Millay Colony for the Arts, Art OMI, and others.