I haven’t posted much on this blog for the past few years. Instead, I’ve been working on a memoir called What to Tell that’s about growing as a mother while I work through a dark spot in my own childhood, and I’ve been posting the essays I’ve written in between that elsewhere on the internet. Here are some of them that continue to resonate with me.
Under the Snow this Winter, 3/2014— This appears on Jennifer Pastiloff’s beautiful blog The Manifest-Station. It’s about winter and spring and the death of friends, most recently my colleague, the super smart editor and exceptionally kind Kathy Anderson. “And I had the sensation of seeing—of being— at once both the green grass beneath my swift-moving feet and the moon-lit swath of unbroken snow that lay before me. I knew with a surety that made me less cold that spring would come, that it was coming even in the deadest part of winter, that—although I wouldn’t have used this imagery at the time— the very frozen stillness was the pause at the bottom of the exhale that makes the full inhale possible. . . .”
Crimes and Misdemeanors: Woody Allen and what we get wrong about sexual abuse, 2/2014—This first ran on The Weeklings and then got picked up by Salon. It garnered more attention than anything else I’ve written, and I watched my own response to that carefully. It was only at the last minute that I decided to include so many of the personal details about my own childhood sexual molestation, which is at the heart of my memoir, and I was nervous about publishing the piece. I was surprised and enormously gratified when the essay was met with great positivity, and having it out there was energizing and empowering. In so many ways, others’ and my own response to the piece confirmed my decision to write about this stuff, and it made me more confident that I’m ready for the book to be in the world.
Lisa, Wolf, and the World, 8/2013—I wrote this Sunday Rumpus essay in a state of agitation about the situation Lisa Carver and her son Wolf found themselves in due to lack of money. I quiver with anxiety abut money, and I pretty much idolize Lisa Carver, who I interviewed her for The Rumpus about a year before I wrote this article. ” ‘What does middle-class mean?’ a friend asked me this summer, knowing that this is something I consciously aspire to, that it’s the boulder I have my shoulder to, calves straining as I push up the hill. Bent like this, I sneak glances when I pause for a breath—in one direction I glimpse the wide, green world; in the other I see a mountain of garbage with families scrambling over it trying to make a living from others’ waste. . . .”
The Last City I Loved: Chicago, 4/12—I wrote this for the The Rumpus’s Last City I Loved series, and it struck a chord with a lot of Chicago folk. Midlife has made me so nostalgic. “I never returned to my hometown for more than a couple of weeks once I left at 18, and my parents split up and moved out of state soon thereafter. Chicago is my home. I don’t even fantasize anymore about leaving it for somewhere sunnier or more spectacular. A sojourn, a sabbatical, sure. That’d be great. That’d be fun. An affair. But Chicago is my home. There’s so much here. The Russian shore, the Caribbean coast, that place at Devon and Maplewood where the traffic chokes and the sari shops beckon. The smell of burnt duck on Argyle. The way the bike path widens when you come up on the volleyball players around Fullerton Beach. The way Michigan Avenue slices a straight, clean edge of skyscrapers apart from the infinite lake. And the cacophony of Wicker Park. . .”
Dropping the Ball, 11/11—I wrote this in response to the charges of child sexual abuse finally brought against Jerry Sandusky, the former defensive coordinator for the Penn State football team who was suspected to be a pedophile for years. “The very monstrousness of the crime is what keeps us from recognizing it. Our horror in its face turns us away.. . . “
I Know, Right?, 8/11—I jotted this short, light-ish piece for The Nervous Breakdown in order to explore some of the anxieties that popped up as I decided to write my memoir. “I’ve never been to therapy, but I know what a therapist would say about me blaming myself: I shouldn’t do it. I know I was too young. I was a small child. I know it’s OK that I didn’t tell anyone. And I know I don’t have to own anyone else’s pain. Not my mother’s, certainly. I know I’m not her. I know my daughter’s not me. These maxims have leeched into the air of modern life the way hormones from birth control pills have seeped into the water, so why would I pay for them to be laid out like tarot cards?”
Meditation on the Revelation of a Gang Rape of an Eleven-Year-Old Girl, 3/11—A piece about how we deal with inconvenient accusations of rape, prompted by the way a small Texas town and the national media responded to the gang rape of a young girl. It ran in The Nervous Breakdown.