Personal Essays Archive
Those who write about their mental illnesses—Jane Kenyon, Susanna Kaysen, Andrew Solomon, Kay Redfield Jamison, and Elizabeth Wurtzel to name a very small few—often struggle to reconcile their character with the disease that riddles them.
Between December 1960 and October 1962, around fourteen-thousand unaccompanied children arrived in Miami from Cuba as part of Operation Pedro Pan; my father, migrated here on June 29, 1961.
I left Hungary in 1981, and never questioned that freedom of speech has always been a feature of the West.
This year, I learned that the emotional background to William Goldman’s famous novel is fictional.
Reading John Donne’s “Air and Angels,” I came to know that if I listened to a poem, I would know it, even if I didn’t understand everything it said.
Spic, Richie said in the cafeteria, and I don’t remember why. After, as we walked back to our fourth grade classroom, I pushed him down when he turned his back.
I first met Jim McPherson when he was twenty-five to my twenty-six. I’d read none of Jim’s work and had no idea that he’d published in the Atlantic, had studied with Alan Lebowitz, been mentored by Edward Weeks, and was finishing his first collection, Hue and Cry.
It took four years for a glioblastoma, a brain cancer that has a median survival rate of fourteen months, to take my mom’s life. It took me those same four years to read Jack Kerouac’s famous work.
I advertise little about myself, I am careful with that terse word, “writer,” but perfect strangers seem to sense the ghost in me. This stranger, certainly, has sensed it. She has seen. She begins.
It doesn’t take much formal study to read a novel in another language, if you don’t mind being unable to understand the occasional sentence or paragraph. It depends more on guessing and sympathy with a particular language or culture than it does on a knowledge of grammar or vocabulary.