Cooperman, Griswold receive notable mentions in ‘Best American Essays 2023’

Elvis Presley’s grave at Graceland. (Photo: Jeannette Cooperman)

Jeannette Cooperman and John Griswold, both staff writers for The Common Reader, the journal of essays and ideas housed at Washington University in St. Louis, have been named to the Notable Essays list in “Best American Essays 2023.”

Founded in 1986 by series editor Robert Atwan, “Best American Essays” honors the year’s finest works of creative nonfiction. As with other titles in the Best American series, the selection process begins with the series editor choosing roughly 100 candidate articles. From this group, each volume’s guest editor — critic and journalist Vivian Gornick for 2023 — selects approximately 20 for publication. The remaining nominees are highlighted in the Notable Essays list.

Cooperman (left) and Griswold

“It is extremely difficult for anyone’s essay to be selected as one of the Best American Essays or listed as one of the Notable Essays,” says Gerald Early, the Merle Kling Professor of Modern Letters in Arts & Sciences as well as founding editor of The Common Reader. “Thousands of essays are submitted. This recognition attests to Jeanette and John’s abilities and to the quality of our publication.”

Cooperman was recognized for “The Pilgrimage to the King’s Heartbreak Hotel,” which chronicles a visit to Graceland on the 45th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death and ponders the many contradictions — of race and class, of rebellion and traditionalism, of earnestness and appetite — that defined the artist.

Griswold was recognized for “My Mother the Book,” which explores his childhood in the Little Egypt region of southern Illinois as well as his relationship with his mother, a woman of “hard poise” who “taught me to see and then drove me out for seeing.”

For more information about “Best American Essays,” visit For more writing by Cooperman and Griswold, visit

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