genre: Nonfiction

Breaking Boundaries

Breaking Boundaries

By Caitlin McGill   

“We are all the heroes of our own stories, and one of the arts of perspective is to see yourself small on the stage of another’s story, to see the vast expanse of the world that is not about you, and to see your power, to make your life, to make others, or break them,… Read more »

Drowning in Margaret Culkin Banning’s Pool

Drowning in Margaret Culkin Banning’s Pool

By Sharon Doorasamy   

I knew when a car was rounding the bend to my Granddaddy’s house. Swirling clouds of red clay and the echo of tires straining to navigate the rocky road always preceded a car’s presence. I’d run in my bare feet to the peach tree that resided midway up Granddaddy’s driveway to spot who was coming.… Read more »

J is for Juxtapose

J is for Juxtapose

By Maija Rothenberg   

J is for June 21, the summer solstice, the day the summer sun lingers longest in the sky and bonfires burn on beaches, the day my father was born upstairs in a farmhouse near a bay called Keweenaw, which is an Ojibway word meaning portage, the carrying of a boat or its cargo between two… Read more »



By Yasmin Azad   

My mother could not swim. She was born 10 yards from the ocean, her grandfather’s home, Jasmine Cottage, being at the very end of Church Street in the fortress of Galle, in Ceylon.  If she stood on the second floor balcony and threw a stone it could clear ten feet of road and land on… Read more »

John Gardner in Absentia

John Gardner in Absentia

By Steven Huff   

In 1964 I had a high school English teacher who, fifteen or so years earlier, had taught John Gardner, the famous novelist. Her name was Helen Schenk, and she taught at Alexander, a high school in rural Upstate New York. I was a poor student. Whatever magic she had worked on Gardner fizzled on me.… Read more »

The Three Complaints of My Mother

The Three Complaints of My Mother

By Taline Voskeritchian   

Suitcases, radios, and silent living rooms—these were my mother’s three complaints. Blessed with boundless physical energy and intellectual curiosity, my mother Anahid had little patience for drawn-out nags. Nor did she have a scheming mind. Her complaints were often the occasion for a passing dramatic pose, but while they were happening, the whole universe, it… Read more »

A Friendship of Thirty Years

A Friendship of Thirty Years

By Lee Goodman   

In the summer of 1948 my dad rented a cottage on Cape Cod from an Italian man named François. Dad was a thirty year-old bachelor from a family of lapsed Jews. He’d fought in Okinawa, come home with blown eardrums, gone into business, and now he was enjoying summer weekends in the honeysuckle air of… Read more »

In Remembrance

By Melanie Brooks   

After two days of gray skies, unseasonably cold temperatures, and on-and-off rain showers, the sun finally makes an appearance on this Monday of the long weekend. The warmth and light draw more of Nashua, New Hampshire’s residents than usual from our suburban homes to line the edges of Main Street. Children squeeze together along the… Read more »

Wait Wait, Sweet Nothing

By Ryan Daily   

You could have what your father has, the doctor said. And I said, I don’t want to know. Well, wouldn’t you want to know, the doctor replied. And, again, I said, I don’t want to know. ___________ When I was a child, my father and I would go to church and dinner on Saturday evenings.… Read more »

Bordersong—Canción de frontera

By Cecilia Weddell   

            When I was a kid, before things got bad on the other side, my parents would often take my brother and me over the border to Ciudad Juárez for a day of good food, music, and wandering. These memories are vague, fuzzy around the edges, likely warped by years—and now,… Read more »

Notes on Contemporary Writing

By DeWitt Henry   

We are all contemporary writers in the sense of being alive, here, now, productive, and  unframed by criticism; and most of us are struggling for recognition by editors and agents, who stand as gatekeepers to publishers and living readers. We are not all contemporary, however, in the sense of taking this shared present as our… Read more »

View From Sunset Rock

By J.D. Scrimgeour   

In 1833, the landscape painter Thomas Cole, recently returned to the United States from an invigorating trip to Europe, proposed to his patron, Lumen Reed, an ambitious series of paintings “wherein we see how nations have risen from the Savage state to that of Power & Glory & then fallen & become extinct.” How could… Read more »

A Wilder Agenda

By Jenny Forrester   

My brother told me I should write stories without an agenda. “You should write something everyone will enjoy – something like Holes or Secondhand Lions,” he said. Holes, by Louis Sachar, is about a prison camp for children. It’s a novel where, back in time, one of only two black characters in the book was… Read more »

Behind My Mother and Mandela

By Jean Hey   

Seven a.m. and the hotel dining room was empty except for three of us at separate tables, dotting the fringes of the room. The black woman with red lipstick and long, rippling braids faced me, her back to the stout black man in a jacket and tie. I could see both of them, and they… Read more »

You Mean, Like This?

By William Pierce   

First things first. Or rather, first things after some preamble. First things soon, to keep you waiting. Before that: the almosts and the virtuals, to put what was actually first into perspective. Because I do, in here somewhere, lose my virginity. But not first. First . . . boarding school. It was an all-boys school. … Read more »


By Karen Jahn   

“Black men die more catastrophically, across class, than anybody else in America.” Elizabeth Alexander   “Not a house in the country ain’t packed to its rafters with some dead negro’s grief.” Toni Morrison          One frigid January night in Boston, an eerie voice and slide guitar cut through the still air of our apartment. … Read more »

Of Men and Jaws

By William Orem   

When he got back from the movies, my father’s face was uncharacteristically bright. Shaped by the sensibilities of his generation—Korea, John Wayne—he had always maintained a careful, emotional blankness, the impassivity taken, at the time, to signify masculine strength. Every morning in the fall he would drive us to grade school without speaking, thirty minutes… Read more »

Flesh of Your Flesh

By Susan Grier   

Early on, in the first shell-shocked weeks after you found out, you imagined the distant day when she would have sex change surgery. That’s how you thought of it then – sex change surgery, the day they would take the knife to your daughter and make her male. She was only fifteen then, and you… Read more »


By Matthew Kenney   

The coffee shop I frequent is less than a block away from my apartment. You can find me there most afternoons, sitting outside on the patio, smoking and drinking coffee, chatting about whatever comes to mind with whomever happens to be there that time around. I’ve found it’s a great place to sit and think,… Read more »

The Dancer and the Dance: A Review of The Death of Fred Astaire and other essays from a life outside the lines  by Leslie Lawrence

The Dancer and the Dance: A Review of The Death of Fred Astaire and other essays from a life outside the lines by Leslie Lawrence

By Richard Cambridge   

“When I was a child I accepted without question that I would one day be a mother.” So begins the opening essay “The Death of Fred Astaire” in Leslie Lawrence’s collection. But this will be no traditional motherhood, for Leslie has found the love of her life, “Sandy—a sturdy, vital, grown-up woman with a full-throated… Read more »

Half the House

By Richard Hoffman   

1958 T H E Y E A R I turned nine, Bob was fitted with brown leather braces to wear at night. Dad always laced them too tightly, and Bob would cry out that they pinched him. “They won’t work, damn it, if they’re not on tight!” Dad would scold him. There was going to… Read more »

Sariling Atin—our very own, we are our stories

By Tomas Nieto   

I Am Conversation Breathe in, breathe out. My grandpa told me stories about his childhood. He told me how Japan occupied the Philippines during the Second World War. The Japanese soldiers trampled through the marketplace—looting the fisherman’s haul. As my grandpa told me this, his eyes, black pupils, looked away from me. His mind was… Read more »

excerpt I: the real h.u.

By Randall Horton   

1981 to 1983— washington, dc  mail call: Lxxxx Pxxxx inmate number (37xxxxxx) federal detenion center po box 329002 brooklyn, ny 11232   the real howard university Imagine a clarion call from a familial glass horn difficult to resist: a sweet siren. Its tenor pull inescapable and you’ve been dragged under by its metallic wake over… Read more »

“Spiritual Opioid Dreams”

By Penny Dickerson   

Two years ago on the twenty-second of August, I celebrated my fiftieth birthday in a Baptist Medical Center bed confined by two cold steel bars that were locked firm on each side. My single companion was an I.V. pole that dripped slow answers to an addictive future but kept me uncomfortably tethered to a 200… Read more »

An Unfinished Story About Eagles

By Richard Wile   

# Once upon a time I lived in Down East Maine. During the day I taught high school on Mount Desert Island, long a popular destination for tycoons like the Rockefellers and Fords, writers, painters, movie stars, and two and a half million other visitors a year. Dressed in a suit with matching tie and… Read more »

Space Heart

By Linda Buckmaster   

I. The limestone shelf has always been here. Porous limestone, ancient fossil limestone, African fragment broken from the great continent Pangea before time began and forming a hard swollen finger pointing south. Thin sea water, skinny as a snake, slips over the shelf, falling and rising, a hundred and forty million years rising and falling.… Read more »

Kathleen Aguero


By Kathleen Aguero   

I was a child, the height of a price tag that dangled from a coat, hiding among the dresses on the rack to stave off boredom. My mother and grandmother rubbed fabrics, inspected seams, scrutinized items from an arm’s length away. They’d pull a dress on me, off me, again and again — dull. But… Read more »

It Grows Back: Three Students

By J.D. Scrimgeour   

Some years ago, I wrote an essay about Salem State, the university where I have taught for over a decade, suggesting that students get just as good an education, albeit a different one, than students at more prestigious universities. While they weren’t getting luxury facilities and high-achieving classmates, they were getting small classes and valuable… Read more »

Wounds and Secretions

By Genia Blum   

Pus is the herald of our body’s healing processes; where you find pus, you discover a struggle for repair and regeneration. Yellow and putrid, it accumulates deep within a former soldier’s limb to extrude the remnants of an old injury; forming a pocket of purulence around shrapnel left behind after an ancient skirmish, it struggles… Read more »


By Andrea Vassallo   

Hugo Chavez is sitting on the side of the tub, watching my father as he takes a bath, his last one, as it turns out. My brother and I have limped him here to the tub with the built-in rails; rails it turns out he’ll never need because his time, from diagnosis to departure from… Read more »


By Christopher J. Calhoun   

(Influenced by Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric) 1. You step into the hallway, and there you are, walking towards the water fountain. Someone comes this way. A girl walks your way, but she makes sure to conveniently scoot over two full steps before she makes any contact with you. Phew. Close call. By the… Read more »

A Fable for Our Times

A Fable for Our Times

By Michelle Blake   

Reflections in an Election Year   Once upon a time, a very, very, very long time ago, a young woman went to college on the West Coast.  We’ll call her M.  It was the fall of 1969.  For the first few months of her freshman year, she continued to be a good, dutiful student who… Read more »

The Sewing Room

The Sewing Room

By Flora González   

To my Aunt Alicia The plaza below swarmed with people trying to find a place to watch the parade.  From the balconies I could clearly see the sinuous rumba line that moved like a multicolored serpent to the beat of the drums.  It was difficult to distinguish whether people were dancing or hugging.  One body… Read more »

The Mysterious Case of the Girl Gang Member

The Mysterious Case of the Girl Gang Member

By Amy Yelin   

Notes from a Self-Investigation   Scene of the Crime: Kelly’s House Port Chester, New York 1979   They want me to take off my shirt. There are three of us: Me, Sally, Kelly. We are playing a game of truth or dare on the shag rug in Kelly’s basement, a spacious, brown-paneled room with a… Read more »

ACT TRESSES: Hair as Performance Art

ACT TRESSES: Hair as Performance Art

By Elizabeth Searle   

JACKIE KENNEDY & AUDREY HEPBURN My family moved a lot.  I was the perpetual new girl: a skinny late-bloomer with buckteeth decked by metal braces. I found refuge in elaborate pretend games I played with my sister till I was well into my teens, and in old movies we watched with Mom.  I was fascinated… Read more »

Custom Made

Custom Made

By Jason Clemence   

Church attendance was a weekly chore that dad, a cheerful and candid atheist, almost always skipped.

This Shining Night

By Thomas Larson   

In January 1971, I was living in Columbia, Missouri, where for two years I’d been an undergraduate English major at the University.[i] A surprise to literate me, I’d become pencil-sucking bored with my classes, especially the non-electives “Restoration Drama” and “Chaucer.”

By 2042

By Allen Gee   

Not long ago on Christmas Eve day at Basseterre, St. Kitts, I found myself embarking on a deep-sea fishing trip, but I worried that the wind and the waves and rough waters might be too much, and that I would embarrass myself with seasickness.

Ess, Ess, Mein Kihnd

By Debbie Merion   

From far points, Bob, Rachel and I fly into the same city—Los Angeles. We have no idea how long we will be in L.A., how much underwear to pack, the big or the small toothpaste, but we are there on a mission: to help our Abigail fight her anorexia.

The Coverless Book

By Mary Collins   

The service at the crematorium was, by design, a godless affair. Daniel’s slender body was consumed in an eco-friendly cardboard coffin to the accompaniment of Heaven 17’s Temptation, one of the few hits that had ever ignited in him the courage to dance.

Before, After

By Beth Richards   

The passing cars move the air in waves that push against the side of the car I am driving, making a soft whup whup as each one goes by. The car is a Buick, wide bodied, low to the ground, solid in a middle-aged sort of way.

At the Donkey Hotel

By Leslie Lawrence   

Walk until the day becomes interesting. That’s the approach to slow travel that Rolf Potts suggests in his book called Vagabonding. It’s also my preferred approach—although I didn’t dare use it my first day in Fes.


By Mimi Schwartz   

I love being someone who charges the net for a midcourt slam and surprises with an ace now and then. Which is why a fact that I never mentioned at twenty, forty, or even sixty, is now my shibboleth: “I’m a tennis player!” People look me over and say, “Wow! You still play!” and I feel powerful in the world.

The Official Story

By Marianne Leone   

The young girl crouches, listening to the men decide her fate. She is as still as a woodland creature, hidden among the goats in the barn that is attached to her whitewashed stone house on the outskirts of Sulmona, at the foot of the fearsome Apennines.

Nature Writing and T.C. Boyle

By Dale Peterson   

Every college freshman is warned against cribbing from the Internet, but I’ve done exactly that. I’ve gone to the cloud to get the standard definition of “nature writing.”

Orality Hunger (for David Shields)

By Thomas Larson   

Since I began writing nonfiction more than two decades ago, I’ve ranged from book to long-form journalism, criticism, essay, memoir, and, of late, video essay.

An Ugly Anniversary

By Martin C. Hansen   

On November 22, 2013, I woke with brains in mind. Funny, I haven’t heard much chatter about other November twenty-seconds, but this nice, round number—the half-century, the big five-OH!