Ilana Masad

Many of the allegations of sexual assault and rape that received widespread media coverage in the past few years have involved men in positions of power — producers, high-powered comedians, America's one-time favorite TV dad — accused of coercing, pressuring, or outright assaulting women who were beholden to them in some way.

More than 1 in 5 people living in the U.S. has a disability, making it the largest minority group in the country.

A few months ago, I watched a chilling film, My Friend Dahmer, based on a graphic memoir written by a high school friend(ish) of infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.

While IMDB's logline for the film reads, "A young Jeffrey Dahmer struggles to belong in high school," I saw it more as an attempt to contextualize Dahmer. It showed his chaotic family life, the masculinity he was expected to perform yet couldn't, his social ineptness, and the disturbing ways his instincts were and weren't validated.

Plague, virus, and zombie apocalypse narratives tend to share a few common threads: Often, humanity brings such terrors upon itself; usually, survivors or those with immunity come together in ragtag groups and attempt to find a cure and/or fight their way through to where the other healthy people are; and, almost always, humanity survives — perhaps in drastically reduced numbers, sans modern technology — and must learn to rebuild itself anew.

An ex-pastor, an alcoholic, and an atheist walks into a bar ... No, that's not a typo in the verb conjugation; Mark Haines is all three of these things, and rather than turning into a terrible, corny joke, he emerges as an empathetic, deeply complex, and fiercely self-critical protagonist and narrator in Patrick Coleman's debut novel, The Churchgoer.

Audacity in the face of great odds is a mesmerizing thing to watch. It is the kind of performance that ambitious women have always had to put on in their quest to achieve their dreams — just think of superstars like Janelle Monáe, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and others, all of whom project a confidence and strength onstage and in their work to such an extent that it's easy to forget that they are human beings with complex inner lives, insecurities, moments of weakness or doubt or shame. Fame discourages us from looking at icons as people, as if doing so will make them lose their power.

I have a theory. We, consumers of media in a capitalist, money-obsessed country, love a good fraudster. There's some compelling evidence, too.

It's been a minute since I've read a book whose narrator I didn't like at first. Maybe it's because some part of me, the perfectionist hungry to be loved and eager to be accepted, shies away from protagonists who don't care about such things. Maybe I just haven't been reading many narratives told in first person recently. Probably, it's a mix of both.

When the kerfuffle over the impending release of Harper Lee's Go Set A Watchman was cluttering up my news feeds in 2015, I confess that I didn't pay much attention.