*CANCELED* JORDAN KISNER discusses her debut essay collection THIN PLACES, in conversation with Ann Friedman

Thin Places: Essays from In Between (FSG)

**PLEASE NOTE: Due to public health concerns, Skylight Books is canceling all events for the remainder of March. Please write to with questions.

When Jordan 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.”

A curiosity about the subtle systems guiding contemporary life pervades Kisner’s work. Her celebrated essay “Thin Places” (Best American Essays 2016), about an experimental neurosurgery developed to treat severe obsessive-compulsive disorder, asks how putting the neural touchpoint of the soul on a pacemaker may collide science and psychology with philosophical questions about illness, the limits of the self, and spiritual transformation. How should she understand the appearance of her own obsessive compulsive disorder at the very age she lost her faith?

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.

Praise for Thin Places:

“Great writing begins not with the voice but with the eyes. Jordan Kisner has piercing vision, and she sees herself as keenly as she observes the teeming, chaotic world around her. She has a powerful voice, too, dispassionate and rhapsodic in equal measure. What results is a woundingly relevant book about American dreams and madness in the early twenty-first century.”—Alex Ross, staff writer for The New Yorker and  author of The Rest Is Noise

“Kisner explores the religious, emotional, and cultural underpinnings of contemporary U.S. society in a neatly poised, sympathetic, and refreshingly unpreachy collection . . . The prose throughout is by turns lyric and clear, meditative and reportorial—a combination that suits the equal importance she puts on search and on meaning itself . . . [These] essays are as entertaining as they are eye-opening.”—Publishers Weekly 

“Jordan Kisner’s essays are like intricate tattoos: etched with a sharp and exacting blade of intellect, but made of flesh; richly drawn in their details; comprised of equal parts pleasure and pain. Like tattoos, their natural habitat is that strange borderland where our skin meets the world—where we confront our edges, or everything we can’t keep out. Always, and thrillingly, they look inward and outward with exacting grace.”—Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams

“These singular ‘encounters with the ineffable’ are full of risk and daring, urgency and contact. They confront species of belief head-on without relinquishing doubt. Beautifully lyrical and observant, Kisner’s fresh voice speaks with uncanny consolation to this extreme, seemingly apocalyptic moment.”—Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait Inside My Head

“Jordan Kisner is a pilgrim for our times. She ventures into the operating room where a surgeon inserts an electrode into a patient’s brain. She mingles with the debutantes of Laredo, Texas as they navigate the fraught space between Wasp and Hispanic privilege. Wherever she is, Kisner probes the ambiguities that we live and dream, exploring the spaces where, in her words, ‘Distinctions between you and not-you, real and unworldly, fall away.’ She is a tender but fierce writer; rigorous and wise.”—Margo Jefferson, author of Negroland: A Memoir 

“Jordan Kisner’s essays are a bewitchingly original and highly personal synthesis of incisiveness, gracefulness, thoughtfulness, and selflessness. She is an intellectual empath with the deepest moral instincts and a willingness to consider herself alongside her subjects, as a person no more or less worthy of attention. Her work gives me the feeling that I’m being told an urgent secret about humanity that is meant to be savored, then shared.”—Heidi Julavits, author of The Folded Clock

“Jordan Kisner sees reality with a telescopic, infrared focus uniquely suited to illuminating the hidden, forgotten, or obscured nooks of our cultural moment, excavating the longings and unspoken affinities that lie just beneath the surface. With revelatory grace and insight, these essays refract the world you might think you know in a new and brilliant light.”—Alexandra Kleeman, author of You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine

Jordan Kisner is the author of Thin Places, which will be published on March 3 by Farrar Straus & Giroux. Her essays have appeared in n+1, The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine, The GuardianThe Believer, and others. She has been awarded a Pushcart Prize and selected for residencies by PioneerWorks, the Millay Colony for the Arts, and Art OMI. She teaches writing at Columbia University.

Author photo by Ebru Yildiz


Ann Friedman  is a journalist who covers gender, politics, technology, and culture for many publications, including New York magazine, The Los Angeles Times, and The Gentlewoman.  She co-hosts the podcast Call Your Girlfriend, and is the co-author of Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close, which will be published by Simon & Schuster in July 2020. Find her work and subscribe to her popular weekly email newsletter at

Event date: 
Wednesday, March 25, 2020 - 7:30pm
Event address: 
1818 N Vermont Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Thin Places: Essays from In Between Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374274641
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - March 3rd, 2020