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How Fast Can You Run is the first novel from poet Harriet Levin Millan. Though a novel, it is based on a real person, Michael Majok Kuch. Kuch became a child refugee, one of the Sudanese Lost Boys, when his village was destroyed during the country’s civil war. But How Fast Can You Run is more than a survival story; it also preserves memories of Kuch’s early village life continuing onto his experiences getting his education in the United States. We spoke to Millan and Kuch about their collaboration on the book at Millan’s office at Drexel University where she teaches. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

More… “How Fast Can You Write”

Richard Abowitz is the editor of The Smart Set. Get in touch at rabowitz@drexel.edu.
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My Atta Joann bought her house in Skokie, Illinois the same year that I was born. My parents had been living in Michigan for quite some time after moving from Chicago, but even with a toddler and a full-time job, my mother would still come with the same frequency as if she were still a bachelorette on Devon Avenue to see her sister for baklava and a cup of black tea.

I grow up at my aunt’s breakfast nook, always the weary traveler. I come as a tired kid from Ann Arbor who drinks tea only if it is steeped in milk and drowned in sugar. I see family and friends — lines blurred between who was who — nearly always cramped in the small kitchen, shouting over one another in neo-Aramaic as my aunt elegantly sweeps through with a tray of teacups for the table, already full of cheese, eggs, and bread for those who end up there. More… “Home Sweet Hummus”

Nohra Murad was born in an Assyrian community in Michigan before being moved to an even larger Assyrian community in Phoenix. She then moved to Philadelphia to study biomedical engineering at Drexel University. She still brews strong black tea from Ashtar’s Market in Chicago in her tiny Powelton Village kitchen.
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I became a fool for horses rather late in life. In my early 30s I got a job as a counselor in a horseback program for juvenile delinquents. Except for a few pony rides as a kid — one at a circus and another offered by a classmate who had a crush on me — I had no experience with horses and learned along with my charges. The majority of the teenage girls with whom I worked were African-Americans, and the program honored the Buffalo Soldiers. (The Buffalo Soldiers — ninth and tenth Cavalry and 24th and 25th Infantry Regiments — were the first all-black units the U.S. military established and instrumental in campaigns against the Comanches and Apaches.) Together, we went through all the original drills, countless injuries and embarrassments, and about once a month, to a reenactment. Our battlefields were eastern, and the McClellan saddles and tack English-inspired, but our horses had been bred on desert and prairie soils: hardy Texas and Arizona ponies, some of them bearing white freeze brands on their necks that marked them as mustangs captured and auctioned off by the Bureau of Land Management.

My stint at this program still is the only time I ever set foot east of the Rockies. Our camp simmered in subtropical humidity near Florida’s Yeehaw Junction, a wretched crossroads 30 miles north of Lake Okeechobee. It was primitive: wall tents with cots for the kids, a mess tent, fenced pasture, and unfurnished trailers for staff, everything plunked into a clearing hacked from saw palmetto thickets — the unwanted rounded up in an unwanted place. More… “Here’s to the Horses”

Michael Engelhard is the author of the essay collection, American Wild: Explorations from the Grand Canyon to the Arctic Ocean, and of Ice Bear: The Cultural History of an Arctic Icon. Now living in Fairbanks, Alaska and working as a wilderness guide in the Arctic, he has not been back on a horse since the events here described.
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Rudolfo Botelho must have been about 65, perhaps younger, though of course to a 15 year old he appeared ancient. His white moustache bristled on an otherwise mild beige-skinned face. You didn’t much notice his small size; it was always the moustache you saw. And the twinkle — there was the twinkle. I lived in Shanghai, 15 years old in 1948, a Eurasian child of an Italian-Dutch-Indonesian father and Chinese mother. My parents knew him back in the golden days of Shanghai’s roaring ‘20s like those in America. I met him when he became the accompanist for the choir at St. Columban’s, a church run by Irish priests. More… “Bottles & Me”

Lucille Bellucci grew up in Shanghai with an Italian-Dutch-Indonesian father and Chinese mother. After exile from China, the family sailed to Italy, where they lived five years before immigrating to the United States. Lucille has also lived 15 years in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
She has five novels and has won many awards for her short stories and essays.
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In June, West Berlin, NJ, became the home to the country’s first construction theme park, Diggerland. When I first saw the billboard on I-95, I was skeptical, but intrigued. The whole thing seemed like a showcase for JCB construction equipment and a tool to encourage children over 36 inches tall – the height requirement for all the rides – to get interested in a career of labor. But as a photographer, the visual possibilities of the visual possibilities of spinning carnival rides built from big yellow construction equipment seemed endless. So, I bought my tickets. 

Michael Bucher is a photographer and writer in Philadelphia. You’ll find his work, among other places, on The Smart Set, Table Matters, and at JUMP Magazine, where he is the photo editor.

Yes, you can eat fruit for every meal.

During late summers, I become almost fruitarian. Sometimes, nearing the dinner hour, I suddenly realize that the only things I’ve eaten all day have been fresh melon, berries, nectarines, and plums.

The root of this fruity love affair is clearly my childhood summers, which I spent at my family’s open-air, roadside produce stand in southern New Jersey. My cousins and I sold fruit and vegetables in a makeshift wooden structure with hand-written signs at the edge of property owned by my father and uncle’s packing house. I worked there pretty much from the first grade, when I had a little corner where I sold little containers of bruised and overripe “seconds” under a sign that read “Bargain Table. Everything 50 cents.”

By the time I was about 12, I awoke before sunrise and — before eating breakfast — pedaled my bike a few miles over to the packing house, where… More…

The orange juice didn't need the help to go down, but it didn't hurt.

When I was a little girl, my mother would put a teaspoon of sugar, maybe two, in my glass of orange juice. I loved the taste of the sugar slurry at the bottom of the glass. I’d get as much of it as I could, having drained the juice.

 

I never got much of the sugar in the glass, but I’d drink all she gave me, and as I drank the juice I enjoyed the promise of unalloyed sweetness. I think that’s what she intended.

We never drank frozen orange juice or juice from a carton. My mother used a clear glass juicer, which collected the juice, pulp, and seeds. Then she strained the juice for me so that I never had to contend with floating seeds. Only later when I squeezed my own juice — or hers… More…

They make December move oh so slowly.

In defending Christmas I have nothing to say about Jesus Christ, a terrifying and influential historical figure who, I confess, has had little impact on my life. My Christmas, the Christmas I have known, revolves centrally around objects — most crucially around presents and then secondarily around things like Christmas trees, ornaments, decorations, advent calendars, etc., and people — the people I’ve known, the family members whose faces come most quickly to mind when I smell pine needles, as if their faces are the secret look of pine needles and the two are united forever in a correspondence that is prior to history, understanding, or even my own awareness.

Morgan Meis has a PhD in Philosophy and is a founding member of Flux Factory, an arts collective in New York. He has written for n+1, The Believer, Harper’s Magazine, and The… More…

Whether girls with long lashes or U.S. presidents, they scream souvenir.

Every July when I was a child, my parents would pack their bags and go on vacation. My sister and I were left home with our grandparents. We played dodge ball and drank bug juice in the grungy day-camp nearby, and spent the rest of our time drawing with chalk on the driveway and vegetating in front of the TV. It was adults, not children, who had the exciting lives then — and no one questioned our parents’ right to fly off for a month to France or Italy, Bermuda, Mexico, or Guadeloupe. We enjoyed staying with our grandparents, who allowed us to eat cookies for breakfast and stay up to watch The Tonight Show, but what we liked most was the expectation of our parents’ return. It wasn’t that we missed them — such a thing never occurred to us — but we looked forward to the souvenirs they… More…