Review: NDA: An Autofiction Anthology edited by Caitlin Forst

Reviewed by J S Khan

Archway Editions. 2022. 204 pages.

Anthologies tend to be bulky, thanks—in large part—to their inclusion of lengthy introductions or other prefatory material. Often written by a self-effacing editor, and of an academic bend, this typical front material usually seeks to frame readers’ overall experience of the multiple texts its editors have bound in this one volume. Imagine then, my sense of relief and amusement on first opening NDA: An Autofiction Anthology to be published November 29, 2022. Not only does this particularly effective and excitingly diverse compilation weigh in at a mere 204 pages, but—on opening its first page—I could not help but smile when I saw only this brief, two-line Editor’s Note:

“Autofiction has recently been hit with moral, academic, and critical scrutiny.
I am not moral, academic, or a critic.”

While this pithy but provocative Editor’s Note may strike some readers as nothing more than a defiant sort of nose-thumbing—a flippant disavowal of responsibilities and expectations by NDA’s editor, Caitlin Forst—it remains highly impactful as constructed. After all, Forst provides us only two paragraphs, each of which contains only a single simple sentence with which to frame what’s to come. The first of these sentences establishes a consensus reality by way of an assumed contemporary reaction to the emergence of a relatively new genre—while the second immediately pivots to provide a personal perspective of that assumed consensus reality. After reading the entire anthology, I found myself returning to examine this “I” poised at the fulcrum of this Editor’s Note, unable to shake the feeling that Forst here is serving up—dare I say it?—her own sly form of autofiction.

Although “autofiction” as a term dates to the late 1970s, only in the last half-decade or so has its use penetrated beyond a small circle of critics and writers into popular discourse. As the natural portmanteau implies, “autofiction” refers to a genre that intentionally blends the more time-honored genres of fiction and autobiography—an effect typically achi