Thursday Jan 27

Robert Clark Young The theme for my creative nonfiction selections this month is: Jealousy. As in, I am extremely jealous of the gifts of all four of these writers. I experience jealousy whenever I’m reading and find myself saying, “Shouldn’t I be writing this well?”

My first selection is “Altered State,” by Robyn Richey Piz. Tragically, Robyn passed away earlier this year, after a valiant struggle with kidney disease. Her essay dramatizes her bravery as she fought the illness. The world has lost a gifted author, inspirational hero, and precious human being. We can only guess at the extraordinary writing she would have produced had she lived. I know that you will get a lot out of her posthumously published essay.

It’s not often that I come across a piece like Michael Lacare’s “Claire.” Lacare’s work presents itself to us fully formed, as though it has always existed, as though there isn’t one syllable’s worth of revision that could improve it. There’s a level of accomplishment here that one associates with “established” literary names, and to have found this piece one day just sitting there in my slush pile, waiting for me to read it and be amazed by it, has been nothing short of extraordinary. You should remember the name—Michael Lacare—I think you’ll be hearing it again.

I must say the same for Jennifer Nelson, who this month asks us to “Give Me a Chance.” Nelson is a very confident and open writer, unafraid to take a risk—she is, in other words, very much like her portrait of herself in this personal essay. She doesn’t care what her daughter thinks. She doesn’t care what the people back home think. She doesn’t care what the locals in Morocco think. For all I know, she doesn’t care what I think. But I am going to say it anyway: We need more people and more writers like Jennifer Nelson in this world.  

Finally, Robin Fasano’s “My Father, Myself,” speaks to me—and should speak to millions of others—because of the demographic reality of our aging parents. For the past five years, I’ve been working as a caregiver in my parents’ home. Thus, I am always interested in stories that explore the intergenerational dynamics that come into play once you receive that phone call that begins with, “I have some bad news,” and then you learn that one of your parents has fallen ill. All of those millions of us who’ve received that call—or who fear receiving it—will find something of value in Fasano’s short but poignant essay.