Tanvi Misra
Tanvi Misra
Tanvi Misra is a staff writer for CityLab covering urban demographics, inequality, and culture. Her work also appears in The Atlantic, NPR, and BBC.
  • Nick Oxford / Reuters

    A Catastrophe for Houston's Most Vulnerable People

    Within cities, poor communities of color often live in segregated neighborhoods with higher flood risks. This is especially true in Houston.

  • Seth Wenig / AP

    Designing the Opposite of Rikers

    A new report lays out design guidelines for community-based “justice hubs”—jails that create positive effects inside and outside their walls.

  • Brynn Anderson / AP

    The Rise of Rural Incarceration

    Local jails in smaller counties are seeing enormous growth. A new report explains why.

  • The Violence of a Ticking Clock in Sylvia Plath’s ‘Monologue at 3 a.m.’

    Patrick Semansky / AP

    While everyone else slept, I’d be awake, sitting alone under the ugly tube light in the common room of my freshman dorm. I must have seemed like I was working hard, and to be fair, I was trying. But as the sun would rise, my heart would sink at the realization that somehow, I’d done it again. Night after night, I had let time just slip away.

    In retrospect, I was going through some stuff. I’d just moved from India to the U.S. to attend college, and it hadn’t been an easy transition. For me, “Who am I?” —a question at the forefront of most people’s minds at that age—came with the addendum, “Who can I be in this new country?” The answers were many, rough, and unsatisfactory—hence, the nighttime paralysis. (The other part of it was that I had undiagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder, which I later learned manifests quite differently in women than it does in young men.)

    But that’s the context in which I read Sylvia Plath’s Collected Poems, which includes works from 1956 to the time of her suicide in 1963. “Monologue at 3 a.m.” comes toward the beginning of the collection. It’s short—but in just two paragraphs, it captures the violence of the ticking clock I felt so viscerally:

    ... to sit mute, twitching so
    under prickling stars,
    with stare, with curse
    blackening the time
    goodbyes were said, trains let go,
    and I, great magnanimous fool, thus wrenched from
    my one kingdom.

    Plath wrote in a shiny postwar world where women were told that everything was possible, and was acquainted with the anxiety of having too many choices (on paper, at least). In The Bell Jar, she famously likens the feeling to standing in front of a fig tree: Each possibility in front of her was a “fat purple fig” that slowly rotted, and then fell, as she stood frozen with indecision. In 2006, I, too, had found myself in a new world of possibility, hyperaware of trains I could miss and the kingdoms I might so easily abandon.

  • The Trauma of Migration in Bhanu Kapil’s Schizophrene

    Yannis Behrakis / Reuters

    I started and finished Bhanu Kapil’s Schizophrene on my bus ride to work: 45 minutes flat. When I got off, I felt a little woozy—and not because I was reading on a moving vehicle.

    Schizophrene is a smattering of impressions, in no particular order, from the journey of a migrant. The writing is part fiction, part poetry, part performance art, and, perhaps, part memoir—Kapil is a British-Indian writer who lives in Colorado, and her verses in Schizophrene flit back and forth between her worlds: India at the time of partition, Britain, and the “dark brown fields” of Northern Colorado. The images she creates are violently in flux, and heavy with the trauma of constantly leaving and arriving, but never belonging. This passage, towards the beginning, gave me goosebumps:

    The ship docked, and I found my home in the grid system: the damp wooden stool in the bath, a slice of bread with the cheese on it, and so on. All my life, I’ve been trying to adhere to the surface of your city, your three grey rectangles split into four parts: a red dot, the axis rotated seventy-six degrees, and so on.

  • Shannon Stapleton / Reuters

    The North Carolina High-Schoolers Fighting Deportation

    The detainment of six Central-American youth who came to the U.S. as unaccompanied minors was a policy decision—one that local students, teachers, and activists argued was categorically unfair.

  • Max Galka / Metrocosm

    Half the World’s People Live on 1 Percent of Its Land

    Mapping population density around the world

  • Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

    Affordable Housing and Jobs Are Too Far Apart

    A new report shows how cheaper rentals are clustered away from high-paying work in Cleveland, Houston, and Los Angeles.

  • Max Whittaker / Reuters

    Inside an After-School Program for Refugee Children

    The curriculum helps them learn English and share elements of the culture of their home countries.

  • B Mathur/Reuters

    I Am Not India's Daughter

    Reflections on a banned documentary about the gang rape in my hometown of Delhi