“Joyride,” Creative Nonfiction, in Anti-Heroin Chic

The first time I heard Chuck Berry’s “Maybellene” was on the radio in our crowded basement apartment in the Bronx—played loud enough to stir up the lions at the zoo a mile away. In 1955, when the song came out, four of my siblings were teenagers in the throes of what would become a lifelong … Read more

“Rites of Passage,” New Fiction, in Invisible City

So many writers are told “write what you know.” I doubt many ideas worth reading would reach the page if we all followed that rule. Still, it’s a challenge to imagine someone, especially a teenager, having to face the kind of terror depicted in “Rites of Passage.” When the source of the terror is a … Read more

“The Party Favor,” Creative Nonfiction, in New World Writing

Feeling like an outsider is not unique to young people growing up with a parent who makes barely enough money to get by. At one point or another, most kids fear they won’t be accepted—maybe at a new school, or on a new team, or by some unapproachable in crowd. In “Party Favor,” I try … Read more

“The Life of a Breck Girl,” Creative Nonfiction, in Booth

There’s no shortage of books and scholarly articles about the effect alcoholism has on families. The most cursory Google search will turn up countless pages of entries, few suitable for the faint of heart. In “The Life of a Breck Girl,” my hope was to convey what I suspect is the most damaging consequence of … Read more

Read “The Betrayal,” Creative Nonfiction, in Moria

In a family struggling to make ends meet, there’s rarely any need to debate how money is spent. Paying the bills comes first—if you’re lucky—everything else is a distant second. By the time I was a high school senior, my mom had been supporting me and three of my siblings for almost a decade, working … Read more

“The Last Best Friend,” Creative Nonfiction, in Five on the Fifth

When I lost my best friend to pancreatic cancer, the news came like a sucker punch—but it shouldn’t have. The signs had been unmistakable for many months. They eluded me because I didn’t want to see them. I wanted her to continue in the role she’d played in my life for so long, the person … Read more

“Early Signs of Life,” Creative Nonfiction, in Ellipsis

So much of what we know about our family—and even about ourselves—is derived from what we’re told by parents and siblings. Their memories, their explanations of how things were become the foundation on which our interpretation of the world is built. “Early Signs of Life,” the first essay in my collection of memoirs, is surely … Read more

Read “The carriage Room,” creative nonfiction in X-R-A-Y

Memories are sometimes like an uneven chain, linking the most unrelated events. The musty smell of a dark room in a tenement basement brings back not just the discomfort of being inside it but also the echoes of what happened there. In this case, my brother’s misplaced revenge against a tenant who tried to do … Read more

Read “Where the Heart Is,” Creative Nonfiction, in The Rumpus

If you’ve stayed in a hotel or a B&B or even a friend’s house overnight, you’ve probably experienced that gently disruptive feeling that lets you know you’re not at home, not where you belong. But you adjust. When you’re a child of ten and your family is forced to find shelter with a relative, the … Read more