The Editors’ Most Influential Essays from 2018-2023

a corkboard with images of our most memorable essays

In honor of our 5-year relaunch-iversary, we’re sharing a selection of Dismantle essays that have made an impact on us.

To be sure, this isn’t a “best of” list. We only publish pieces we love, so the whole magazine is the best of Dismantle! Instead these essays highlight the range and evolution of Dismantle’s voice, marking some standout milestones that have brought us here today. 

From inaugural editions of our beloved series to this year’s special issue on the body, we’ve seen some incredible work these last five years. Thank you to everyone who has made this magazine a special place to come for creative community, purposeful writing and excellent storytelling.

Before the Relaunch

In 2017, we were still figuring out who we were and how we should proceed. Luckily, we kept getting encouraging signs that Dismantle was a good idea. Highlights from the year include Jenny Saxton-Rodríguez’s essay on Hamilton, which was so gorgeous Lin Manuel-Miranda shared it on his socials with the comment that he wasn’t crying, there was just dust in his eyes. It was also the year we began the Dismantle After Party, and a short essay by Fiona Kang, one of Sara’s students, became a runaway hit. 

President Obama with the cast of Hamilton
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza (2015), Public Domain
A brightly clad leg lifted on a log.
Photo courtesy of Anna T. Bernstein
A group of women with different body types in bathing suits
Is there room for Asian women in the Body Positive movement? Image from ModCloth’s 2016 swimsuit campaign


The year we became a real online journal! Our After Parties got bigger, and we started to find that sweet balance of story, personal narrative, and cultural critique. 

A child in a bedroom holding new school supplies
Photo courtesy of Christina Owens


Ahh, the last Before Times year. We focused a lot on fashion and pop culture criticism that was deeper than the typical internet hot take, but more accessible and fun to read than an academic essay. We loved, for example, how Jen Ayre’s essay combined witty writing with actionable advice and empathetic critique.

These pieces continue to be among our most read. 

Broad City two young white jewish women in evening wear
The Broad City finale. l-r: Abbi Jacobson, Ilana Glazer, Photo Credit: Matthew Peyton, Comedy Central 2019
side by side images of Catherine Fung in a black dress and the famous portrait of Madame X in a similar dress and pose
Catherine Fung as John Singer Sargent’s infamous Madame X (1884). Photo courtesy of the author.


We feel like something important happened in 2020? Are we remembering right? Did the whole world literally close up shop, catch on fire, and try to end democracy? Yet somehow, our writers kept writing stunning, brilliant essays! One thing we learned when we published Aisling Walsh’s ahead-of-the-curve piece on cacao ceremonies: it can take time, but readers will always discover great writing. 

Cacao pod close up
Organic and fair trade cacao trees from Finca la Florida in Quetzaltenango. Photo/Aisling Walsh
black silhouette approaching polyamory symbols
Illustration by the author


The same day we published Madeleine Barbier’s fabulous piece on Love Island, our website crashed and we spent three months rebuilding it from scratch. Fun times. Luckily, like Aisling’s Cacao piece, the essay was too good not to attract readers. And we kept going, kicking off our new website with a special Cottagecore series and rounding out the year with Justin Duyao’s gorgeous reflection on the relationships we build with inanimate objects.

Love Island contestants on a big white couch
Screenshot from Love Island. ITV2, 2015
1980s Prairie revival snapshots
Clockwise from left: the author in 1982, Saks Fifth Avenue ad 1981, the author’s sister in 1982, Women’s Wear Daily 1983.
half visible fountain and pigeons and things
Photo courtesy of Justin Duyao

What We Hold On To

by Justin Duyao


This is the year we began publishing issues, rather than individual essays. Our first full issue came out in summer of 2022. All the essays below illustrate what every one of our writers has offered: the ability to weave critique and personal narrative around a purposeful idea, offering tools for everyday life and politics.

Academia Novel Femme Yumi Pak in a bookstore
Yumi Pak at the Downtowne Bookstore in Riverside, CA. Photo by Joo Ok Kim.
not that vanlife. close up of a dirty, tattooed hand
Photo courtesy of Effy Mitchell.
The author’s mother (left) and the author (right) in different decades. Courtesy of Iris Leona Marie Cross.


Without really intending to, so far 2023 has taken us deep into reflections on the body and diet culture. We also love to joke that we need more boobs to make the algorithms happy, so thank you to Rachel Harmon for writing an amazing essay about shopping, bras and her changing relationship to her breasts!

Two cupcakes that look like breasts
Image created with Canva Pro license.

Befriending My Breasts

by Rachel Harmon

Sara Tatyana Bernstein
Sara is the co-founder of Dismantle Magazine. You can also find her writing on Longreads, LitHub, Hippocampus, Catapult, The Outline, Racked, BuzzFeed Reader, and more.
Elise is a writer, editor and educator with 20+ years in academia and communications. When she isn’t writing web copy, editing a manuscript or putting together the next issue of Dismantle Magazine, she’s teaching. She works part time as a university instructor and recently became a certified yoga teacher. A Louisiana native, Elise enjoys spending time in Mexico with her partner and their dog, “Peligrosa.”