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Briallen Hopper in conversation w/ Karen Rile

  • Shakespeare & Co. 1632 Walnut Street Philadelphia, PA 19103 (map)

BRIALLEN HOPPER is the editor of the religion and culture magazine Killing the Buddha, and she teaches writing at Queens College, City University of New York, and holds a PhD in English from Princeton.

She is widely published—one of her most well-known essays is “On Spinsters” at the Los Angeles Review of Books. Her essays, reviews, op-eds, profiles, listicles, and sermons have appeared in The Chronicle of Higher EducationHuffPost,  Longreads, The New Inquiry, The New Republic, Newsweek, New York Magazine/The CutThe Paris Review, The Stranger, Talking Points Memo, and more.

Her first book, Hard to Love: Essays and Confessions (Bloomsbury, 2019), is a collection of essays on love and friendship.

“Hopper’s essays seem like love songs . . . delicate, thoughtful elegies to friendship, compassion, and grace. A fresh, well-crafted collection.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Briallen Hopper’s essay collection, Hard to Love, is an exceptional work: an expert tangle of memoir, literary criticism, pop cultural analysis and political meditation that will make you think differently and more deeply about family, friendship, faith and Cheers. It is at once inviting and spiky, hard and funny; it is smart as hell. Hopper is capacious in her curiosities, pointed in her arguments and extremely generous to her readers: she invites us in, takes us where she’s been, and shows us what she's made of it all.  Hard to Love is warm, buoyant, connective; I felt less alone having read it.”—Rebecca Traister, author of All the Single Ladies and Good and Mad

“Briallen Hopper’s extraordinary essay collection, Hard to Love, is full of heart and wisdom and humor and surprise. It has sharpened and electrified my senses of intimacy and family—how both are more multiple, more complicated, and ultimately more capacious than I’d understood them to be. It moves effortlessly between the personal and political, exposing all the ways in which they have never been separable at all. I know I’ll return to this book over and over during the years to come: for its gifts of insight and delight, for the primal and powerful gift of its company—and I know I’ll be giving it to others, to the people I love most, so they can experience its gifts as well.” —Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams and The Recovering 

“I adored Briallen Hopper’s Hard to Love and its miraculous intermingling of revelatory criticism and soulful memoir. Hopper’s essays tell the story of a life in reading, baking, hoarding, praying, and watching Cheers; in friends, roommates, siblings, and, last and least, lovers. In its excesses of tenderness, intelligence, and pleasure, this book brilliantly puts the lie to the idea that a single life is less full—or less complicated—than a coupled one.” —Alice Bolin, author of Dead Girls

KAREN RILE is the author of Winter Music, a novel set in Philadelphia, and numerous works of fiction and creative nonfiction. Her writing has appeared in literary magazines such as The Southern Review, American Writing, Creative Nonfiction, The Land Grant College Review, Other Voices, Superstition ReviewBosque, and Apiary, and has been shortlisted among The Best American Short Stories. Karen has published articles and essays in many newspapers including The San Francisco ChronicleThe New York Times, and the The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She is a frequent contributor to the Pennsylvania Gazette, JSTOR Daily, and the Philadelphia Inquirer and writes a weekly parents’ column on She is also the founding editor of Cleaver, an online magazine featuring poetry, literary fiction and nonfiction, flash, art, radio plays, book reviews, craft essays, and more. Karen lives in Philadelphia and teaches fiction and creative nonfiction at the University of Pennsylvania.