A necessary tension in memoir is that between the individual at the center of it and the broader context—the cultural or historical moments shaping the author’s trajectory into our lives. Patrisse Khan-Cullors’s When They Call You a Terrorist, co-written with asha bandele, with a foreword by Angela Davis, . . . Read more
Live as if you were already dead.
All I can do is be me, whoever that is.
1. About the Dead Man and Dylan’s Names
I paced back and forth in my art studio, not taking my eyes off the drawing on my long white desk. I ’d just finished penciling in the eyebrows of a third African tribesman. A group of them stood on an above-ground subway platform, looking solemnly at men in suits who sat on the stopped train, . . . Read more
“There’s something about black,” said Georgia O’Keeffe. “You feel hidden away in it.” Louise Nevelson said she fell in love with black: “You can be quiet and it can contain the whole thing.” Somehow this is true for me, but it is also true that the first time I ever felt afraid looking at art was when I stood in front of Francisco de Goya’s Black Paintings. . . . Read more
To see more clearly,
we climbed the shifting sands
of the volcano. We read
in the guidebook that we might
be haunted if the mist & the light
were just right. Sure enough, . . .
Sealed with obsidian & red beryl
I could see a child inside
who dazzled the bottle beast &
I was afraid to release her
she was everything
her breath became my breath
. . .
The January that William fell down—1968—his father had plugged Christmas lights one strand into the next and laid them circular-wise around the banks of the skating pond immediately behind their house. The bulbed string haloed William as he lay on the ice with dilated pupils. The blanched sky, three figures on his vision’s fringe, . . . Read more
For years I said nothing.
Silent, I paid close attention to the words that others used.
I heard writers of nonfiction quote the opening sentence of Joan Didion’s essay “The White Album”: “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”
I heard writers and readers of all genres say that stories foster empathy. . . . Read more
When I was a girl in Wisconsin, I dreamed I ’d marry
a man from Michigan. Then I did. When I was a man
from Michigan, I dreamed I ’d marry a begonia,
flowers choked with pollen. When I was a flower
from Michigan, . . .
People were nice. I asked the priest
to wear my mother’s wedding dress during the sermon
about the difference between turning the other cheek
and looking the other way. . . .