Best American Essays: Family Tradition
I’m still a bit stunned to have had my essay “Family Tradition,” selected by Jonathan Franzen for this dynamite collection. The essay originally appeared in Southern Indiana Review. My memoir-in-progress is based on this piece:
“On my 27th birthday, in a two-bedroom bungalow in New Jersey, my father murdered his live-in girlfriend, her fifteen-year-old daughter, then shot himself. I never sensed the shots. I should have felt them in my gut, having been born of the same blood, the same inheritance, the same home. It should have been like that feeling one twin gets when the other is in trouble, a hand burned on the stove matched with the other’s intuitive pain. But the six pints of Guinness I’d slaughtered in celebration of my birthday kept everything muffled. Instead, I felt only the fog of drunkenness, that genetic trait of its own, and spent the end of the night passed out in a chair, cocooned in a deep, black silence….”
The collection can be purchased here.
Amazon description of the collection: A true essay is “something hazarded, not definitive, not authoritative; something ventured on the basis of the author’s personal experience and subjectivity,” writes guest editor Jonathan Franzen in his introduction. However, his main criterion for selecting The Best American Essays 2016 was, in a word, risk. Whether the risks involved championing an unpopular opinion, the possibility of ruining a professional career, or irrevocably offending family, for Franzen, “the writer has to be like the firefighter, whose job, while everyone else is fleeing the flames, is to run straight into them.”