Michael A. Gonzales Longreads January 13 minutes 3, words. Last October, when it was announced that the SoHo bookstore McNally Jackson would moving in June, from its Prince Street location after 14 years a decision that now seems to have been reversed , two people immediately came to mind: genius artist David Bowie, who in his lifetime was a frequent customer, and my late buddy Brook Stephenson, who worked at the shop for 11 years before his sudden passing on August 8, Later I heard he had been dancing when he suddenly collapsed, foiled by an unknown heart problem.
It was early Sunday morning when I heard the bad news from photographer Marcia Wilson. Although Marcia and I were friends, we rarely spoke on the phone, so my Spidey sense began tingling the moment I peeped her name on the caller ID. Read more…. In Ghost Wall , Moss blends evocative and stark language with a disquieting narrative. In a different work, these might be hallmarks of a coming-of-age story. In Ghost Wall , the goal is more one of simple survival.
We are driving through downtown Columbus, away from the Greyhound station. I spent fifteen hours on a bus traveling from New York City to visit for Christmas, a holiday, my mother reminds me, that is not even about Jesus anymore.
This is a thought she has reiterated over the years, yet it never prevented her from partaking in the holiday during my lifetime. The absence of a decorative tree and gifts reflected a lack of money, not a rejection of the commodification of religion. As kids, we were encouraged to list our wishes for Santa, and even now in a post-Christian adulthood, I fantasize about the relief a Christmas miracle would provide.
Because I have just a few weeks to come up with eight thousand dollars in order to register for spring classes. The most obvious resolution would be that I take the semester off, move back to Ohio, work hard, and live frugally so I can save enough money to return in the fall.
But I know that the likelihood of returning to school after a long break is small, because most who leave do not return. Lauren DePino Longreads January 21 minutes 5, words.
Upon eighth-grade graduation from my small elementary school in suburban Pennsylvania, each of my classmates and I walked away with a personalized memory book, hand-bound and laminated by some of our mothers. The theme, Planet Hollywood, in bubbly red type, sweeps across the cover like a comet, over the image of a metallic blue earth. Out of the iridescent globe jets a star-shaped photo of the respective member of the class of To imagine that the best parts of our lives were yet to come felt like waiting for immortality to begin. There was an actualized version of us out there somewhere, living the life we hoped for.
We just had to find the threshold. Our moment was there, laid out for us in plain sight — like a new outfit, just waiting, waiting for us to wake up and put it on. My defining moment, your defining moment, it could be anything. It could be meeting a partner, becoming a mother, becoming a writer. You choose your blanks and you fill yourself in.
You choose your questions and your answers. You pick your image. My smile is tentative behind braces and my chin protrudes ungracefully.
I had blown out my bangs that morning, but by the time the photo was taken, they had given in to their natural curl. I was hesitant but hopeful. When it came to envisioning the future, nothing felt out of reach. I now realize possessing this kind of incipient possibility is characteristic of privilege — of growing up in an upper-middle-class suburb where our biggest worry was not whether we could land a happy future, but which of many futures we would choose.
It was also the height of the self-esteem movement, whereby parents and teachers told children that if they worked hard enough, they could be anything they wanted. There was a major-league baseball player, a lawyer, a NASA scientist.
A geneticist, a famous actress, a teacher. There was an obstetrician, a lottery winner, at least four mothers — but no dads, not yet. There was a paleontologist, an entrepreneur, an eye doctor.
A big-time fashion designer. I wonder how many of us became who we said we would. I wonder how many of us still covet the adult life we had imagined for ourselves at 13 years old. It looked just like that: a pyramid of letters, whose hope literally rested on the statement below it.
Surrounded by gaping space, the word looked lonely and expectant. Hope is not certain. It engenders hesitation. It suggests anticipation without outcome. Why did I need to choose that word? When my middle sister Shayna saw it, she told me I jinxed my future. Jazz originated in New Orleans, but the jazz talents who moved near the Pacific Ocean created two thriving periods of musical activity that challenged New York as the center of jazz.
We became a cars-on-blocks house when I was eight years old. My mom and I lived at the bottom of a hill, in a trailer, on five acres of mostly-wooded land outside of Snohomish, Washington. We owned ten cars. Six of them more-or-less worked. Vehicles were, in large part, what people in Snohomish spent their money on. This was typical. While one car sitting on blocks, waiting to be fixed or salvaged for parts, was barely noticeable within this landscape, having a few felt different.
Carolita Johnson Longreads January 23 minutes 5, words. My skin, all my visible hair on my head, my eyebrows, my legs, armpits, and face , as well as my weight and several key body measurements all fell under this rubric. This goes for all size categories, from junior to plus size. I left it to my accountant to decide what I could legally include. It was extremely enjoyable to be able to deduct these expenses for that relatively brief period of my life as a woman.
Danielle A. Jackson Longreads December 9 minutes 2, words. From one window, in the mornings, I could see riverboats slowly slinking by. From the other, a view of the Hernando de Soto Bridge. Named after the conquistador who arrived from Florida in in search of gold, the bridge was constructed in During their heady romance, my father drove the length of that bridge from West Memphis, Arkansas to court my mother.
The night of my first date, at 16, I parked and walked along Riverside Drive, just south of the Memphis entrance to the bridge. It was late in August, the dog days of summer, the start of my junior year in high school. The air was sticky and sweet, mosquitoes nipped at my shoulders. I had a feeling of expectation in my heart, an idea of a future that I could construct. The Mississippi River is a marvel. It is filthy, contaminated, and mostly unsuitable for swimming, drinking, or fishing.
It is also, for me, steadying and grounding. It is a site of many beginnings, and something told me it was where I could grieve my father privately after many days of public ceremony. In my longing, the reasons I left nearly 20 years before seemed a nebulous mix of striving and progress and running from something, or some things, I was not yet ready to name. It is a proud majority Black city, and Blacks have power, but it was and is a tenuous kind of power, slow-coming and distributed in a scattershot way among a selected few.
We elected our first Black mayor during my lifetime, in , nearly 20 years after Atlanta. And I remember when white students left my school by the dozens and how my mother labored to enroll me in another school, to follow the current of good teachers to a better place. My mother grew up and raised all of her children in Memphis, but five years ago, she, too, left, to live out her retirement elsewhere. This year, a new cadre of progressive leaders like Tami Sawyer, London Lamar, and Lee Harris became elected officials.
My dread about home and my longing for it began to work on me anew. Sign up. Memphis, founded as it was, on the Mississippi River, situated at the borders of Arkansas and Mississippi, has long been a commercial port. Americans purchased the land from the Chickasaw Nation in , and the city incorporated in ; soon after, it became a point to transport and sell Mississippi Delta cotton. It also became an important slave market, and trading in slaves was how Nathan Bedford Forrest made his name.
Tennessee was the eleventh and last state to secede from the Union. Its mountainous eastern end, far away from cotton country and less dependent upon slavery, retained pro-Union sentiments throughout the war. Yet this revision of historical memory was not benign.
It coincided with losses of recently acquired rights of citizenship for freed men and women. Reconstruction officially ended in when federal troops left the South; by the s, state governments began erecting barriers to voting rights and mandating separate accommodations for Blacks and whites in public spaces. Lynchings, usually committed as punishment or warning against some breach of social order, spiked in the s and s. At least, publicly, they mostly minimized or ignored his history of brutality, but sometimes, when Blacks were particularly vocal and assertive, like during the push for desegregation during the s, Forrest enthusiasts resorted to threatening an unruly populace that the general would be somehow resurrected to avenge something lost.
Even in Memphis of the s and s, when I grew up, remnants and relics of the Lost Cause mythos were everywhere. I played a friend of Amy Lawrence, essentially a chorus girl, and had two speaking lines. The cast was a mix of company members and actors from outside, and we were a multicultural crew.