One summer in the late 90s...
I won my first $25 for a story about surfing in California. It went something like this: sharks had surfaced down the beach and were coming my way. Out past where the waves broke, I panicked. I paddled toward shore as fast as I could, terrified. Black fins. Closer. And then, I heard a couple girls shout from the shallows: "Look — dolphins!"
For about twenty years, I realize now, I've been committed to identifying (ill-founded) fears and replacing them with what I see as the very best kind of argument: true stories. The goal: contributing to emotional/social/political relationships based less on bullshit.
I love so many forms of art and media, but I'm a writer first. Even as hi! becomes *wave* becomes 👋 in day-to-day hellos — I believe big time in the ability of the written word to identify, articulate, and address problems. A picture might be worth a thousand words, but my thousand and your thousand can be miles apart — and I think we still need words to bring us back together.
Adam Valen Levinson is an affiliate of the Middle East Institute, and a Fellow at the Center for Cultural Sociology at Yale University, where he studies senses of humor as a key to cross cultural understanding.
He has written, filmed, and photographed for Al Jazeera, The Paris Review, Haaretz, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, and VICE, and did college stints at the Meccas of real fake news: The Colbert Report and The Onion. All of his stories are true.
He usually lives in America.