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In the United States and many parts of the world, December is marked by a quest for bigger and better things—gifts, bonuses, food, celebrations, decorations, vacations, even donations. Here at In The Fray we indulge by commemorating our readers’ favorite stories of 2006—all tales of ghosts, family, and image obsession.

We begin by Grappling with Ghosts, but not the kind found in a Dickens novel. These ghosts, writes Courtney Traub, are the stuff of post-colonialism, of a France brought before a mirror to confront its scarred past. Meanwhile, Penny Newbury looks at some of colonialism’s other ghosts, those of East Timor, a former Portuguese and later Indonesian colony. In An Occupation, Newbury takes us to the country’s capitol, Dili, which remains haunted by its 1999 independence referendum.

Back in the United States, the Republican Party may be haunted by Valerie Burgher’s criticism of their crackdown on sins of the flesh at the cost of the Bible’s other six sins. And with the temperature dropping, New Yorkers are sure to be haunted by A Long Walk to Work, ITF Board of Directors member Dustin Ross’s photo essay capturing the toll of last year’s transit strike on a city and its people.

From the ghosts of colonialism, politics, and transit we turn to the ghosts and goblins of family. In her review of Devyani Saltzman’s Shooting Water, former In The Fray travel editor Anju Mary Paul explores how the decisions we make as children haunt our adult relationships—and discovers room for reconciliation.

In Love without Grammar—one of the two winners of the Best of INTERACT—ITF travel editor Michelle Caswell returns to her childhood home, where she finds love in every artifact and garden gnome. And in Arrange Me, Arrange Me Not—readers’ other favorite INTERACT essay—Meera Subramanian travels to India to assess her ancestors’ tradition of choosing their children’s spouses.

Rounding out this year’s favorites are two pieces about surface-level appearances: Kimberlee Soo’s look at how an aspiring Covergirl mimics her older sister, only to discover that her elder’s life isn’t as perfect as it appears; and Secret Asian Man’s insight into How to Make the Chinese New Year Appeal to Americans.

Speaking of seducing people with images, In The Fray will be launching a new, more user-friendly design on January 1. Not only will our new virtual home be more pleasing to your eyes; it will cater to all of you activists and networkers.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to vote for this year’s best stories—and to those who wrote and edited them. We look forward to ringing in the New Year—and our new site—with you.

Laura Nathan
Buffalo, New York

In The Fray is a nonprofit staffed by volunteers. If you liked this piece, could you please donate $10?