For nearly 20 years, spring has been a season for rain showers, mud puddles and the announcement of TIME Magazine's 100 Most Influential People List. The honor of being included on such a list is undeniable, and although the public likes to grouse and grumble about who makes the list (and who does not), and whether the list itself is influential or outdated, the point is that people talk -— loudly, and at length — about the #Time100. This year's list includes two incredibly influential authors, who have managed to find that sweet spot of bestselling and thought-provoking.
The TIME 100 first began in 1999 and has become a widely anticipated annual event, serving as a final say on the "who's who" of, well, the world. Although being included on the list is considered an honor, objectively, it's an indication of influence, not morality or "goodness" — which explains why Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un are on the same list as Tarana Burke (founder of the #MeToo movement) and Olympian Adam Rippon in 2018.
"Each year our TIME 100 list lets us step back and measure the forces that move us. Which is more powerful, hope or proof? Ambition or altruism? The lessons of the past or the lure of the future?" wrote Nancy Gibbs in a 2016 article called, "How We Pick the TIME 100."
This year, as has been done in years past, each honoree receives a brief, several-paragraph biography, penned by someone who understands them, intimately. Cardi B was covered by Taraji P. Henson, for example, and Lupita Nyong'o wrote about Trevor Noah.
Both of the writers featured this year, Jesmyn Ward and Kevin Kwan, have published work that seeks to illuminate their own communities, that serve as salves for their peers, and as open doors to the rest of the world. Their works are heart-rending and tender, biting and, at times, deeply, painfully funny. Ward focuses on the lives of African-Americans in this country, and shouts stories people have tried to never hear; Kwan explores contemporary Asian identity and its intersections with gender, politics and aesthetics.
At just 41 years old, she's won the National Book Award twice and been awarded a MacArthur "Genius" grant. As producer and director Lee Daniels, who penned Ward's bio for TIME, wrote, "Jesmyn Ward’s writing is brutal and moving, tragic and beautiful...She is a modern-day William Faulkner, painting tapestries of an America that has not been heard."
Kevin Kwan, whose feature was penned by actress Constance Wu, is the creator of the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy, which takes readers deep into the world of, basically, "crazy rich Asians."
The first of the trilogy, Crazy Rich Asians, which hit shelves in 2013, has been enduringly, wildly, popular. Like, I tried to reserve it through the New York Public Library System this winter, and it took me about two months to make it to the top of the waiting list.
"Kwan knows that the small, silly parts of being human are our softest spots. And that softness is where we find our deepest humanity," wrote Wu of Kwan. "Kwan doesn’t focus on making Asians cool; he focuses on making our stories whole. The bits we’re proud of, the bits we try to hide, the tremendous heart that beats underneath it all."
Wanna see the full #Time100 list? Duh, of course you do. Check it out on TIME's website.