Category: Unbecoming

  • Fairy monster godmother gets the chair

    Yesterday, at a NeMLA panel called “Hybrid, Feminist, & Collaborative,” the writer and artist Mary-Kim Arnold talked about “feeling like a hybrid” as a child born in Korea then adopted into a New York family. Explore her whole amazing website if you have time, but here’s one piece that literally stitches image to text in […]

  • Literary sources and afterlives

    “Extended Release,” now in Guernica, is one of those poems that came to me in a rush, the kind that writers sometimes refer to as a gift, in that it arrives in near-final shape. I jotted in a dim living room during my mother’s last weeks, when she was in and out of hospitals and […]

  • Sacrifices, gifts, and a year in reading

    Fairies and gods haunted my last post, to which I have a couple of addenda: first, an English cousin spotted my story about my mother and her father propitiating the fairies with sweets and, bless him, he brought a matchbox full of sugar to Sefton Park in Liverpool and left it in Fairies Glen, pictured […]

  • Shenandoah, #DisConIII, biobreaks

    During the last few weeks, I spent 20+ hours reading and ranking national student Fulbright applications in Creative Writing so I could meet with two other jurists and wrangle amicably over the best ones to send up the decision chain. It was interesting work but EXHAUSTING and very hard to accomplish at such a busy […]

  • Writing/ being a “strong female character”

    One of the students in my senior seminar is exploring representation of female characters in contemporary fiction. On the one hand, there’s pressure to write “likeable” women protagonists. Koa Beck wrote about this for The Atlantic in 2015, quoting an amazing retort from Claire Messud, in response to a journalist’s question about whether anyone would […]

  • Rereading Sedgwick, or, Oh Yeah, I Like Teaching

    The first paragraph from this famous essay by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick just stopped me cold: “Sometime back in the middle of the first decade of the AIDS epidemic, I was picking the brains of a friend of mine, the activist scholar Cindy Patton, about the probable natural history of HIV. This was at a time […]

  • Pandemic books, like pandemics, keep coming

    September 2021 in the U.S.: vaccines are widely available for those over 12, yet people are still suffering and dying from Covid-19 at a higher rate than last September, newspaper articles keep telling me. This is a comparatively trivial point, but for related reasons, it continues to be a tough time to launch a book. […]

  • Celebration & consolation

    This morning I thought with a start: does “console” mean with-alone? It doesn’t, it turns out. According to the OED, it comes from the Latin con- (with) + sōlārī (to solace, soothe). We used to say “consolate” until Dryden, Pope, and others shortened it. But I like my pretend etymology, too. There’s inwardness to mourning, but it’s also […]

  • Grief metaphors flying

    In what’s probably a common response to grief, two scripts are running through my head constantly: “I wish I” and “At least I.” I’m so glad I interviewed my mother about her life for my writing; that I spent a lot of time with her in April, memorizing her the way you do when you […]

  • Mother of stories

    My mother died early Friday morning of lymphoma in my sister’s house in New Jersey. There’s a lot to process–the good way the family gathered around and helped her through rapidly worsening illness; all that she said to us as we nursed her; great kindness and serious failures in the medical treatment she received–and the […]