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Notional manifestations of working-class identity become evident through the recurrent appearance of diners in Cormac McCarthy’s largest and most personal novel, Suttree. Sometimes they are called lunch counters, or cafeterias, or drugstores, but the appellation is not what matters. What is essential is the subsistence repast and how McCarthy conjures these places as surrogate homes for the novel’s peripatetic protagonist, Cornelius Suttree, and his cohorts. Set directly in the middle of the twentieth century, the diners of Suttree evoke suitability, affordability, and community.

After it inherited an American twist on Ernest Hemingway’s clean well-lighted place and was put to canvas by Edward Hopper, and before it became an abiding symbol of nostalgia or of efficiency or of convenience, before its instantiation in visual narratives from Grease to Happy Days, or Diner to Five Easy Pieces, or from the films of Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese to the television series Seinfeld, The Sopranos, and Mad Men, the diner existed alongside the pool hall, the laundromat, the barroom, and the motel as one of the defining pillars of mid-century working-class iconography. These places offer shelter, sustenance, sanctuary, and shared humanity. More… “Dine and Dash”

Sean Hooks is originally from New Jersey and presently lives in Los Angeles. He teaches English and Writing at the University of California, Riverside and California State University, Dominguez Hills. Recent publications include Los Angeles Review of Books, Bright Lights Film JournalEntropyThe Molotov Cocktail3:AM Magazineand Wisconsin Review.

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The reasons to be enamored of the late poet Frank Stanford are endless. Stanford, who was born in Mississippi, lived in Memphis, and settled in western Arkansas (as much as he could ever “settle”), became a poet’s poet, a writer whose prolific output never penetrated beyond the small stable of writers and critics who wildly admired him. John Berryman, Alan Dugan, Allen Ginsberg, and Gordon Lish were fans. Given up by his biological mother at birth (in 1948), adopted by the first single woman authorized to adopt a child in Mississippi (Dorothy Gildart), and a frequent denizen of the levee camps where his later adoptive father (Albert Franklin Stanford in 1952) worked as an engineer, Stanford merged memory and fantasy to develop an iconic style that, as he published routinely throughout the 1970s, is best grasped in his defining The Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You. When his editor, Michael Cuddihy, first read this manuscript, he recalled, “It was endless, shot through with brilliant passages echoing Beowulf, Dante, the Troubadours, and others.” Stanford said he started writing it when he was 13. More… “What about That

James McWilliams is a writer based in Austin, Texas. His work has appeared in Virginia Quarterly ReviewThe New Yorkerand The Paris ReviewHe’s currently writing a book on the art and expression of the American South.

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I hoped my daughter wouldn’t be detained by the immigration officials. I hadn’t seen her in a long time and I wasn’t sure what was happening. Finally, she emerged in her tattered jeans and sweatshirt and called to me from down the hall, “Hey Mom, I made it through.” I felt myself exhale deeply, physically relieved.

Earlier that morning, my daughter and I arrived at the front of the middle school, the middle school named Haven, no less, to find the Statue of Liberty — a teacher in a green painted gown, with a crown and torch — reading those immortal words: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses . . . ” Classical music, swelling with emotion, played from the boom box at her feet.

The other moms and I smiled at one another. This was going to be fun. The eighth-grade social studies department was hosting a historical reenactment of Ellis Island during the Gilded Age. We’d be playing the guards tasked with guiding our children – just arrived refugees who understood no English — through the large school turned processing center. Before entering “the country,” these immigrants would have to negotiate check-in stations where they had to pass tests of medical wellness, physical rigor, cognitive acumen, and vocational potential. More… “Popsicles and Dreamers”

Nina Uziel-Miller is a clinical psychologist and an assistant professor of Clinical Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University. She lives in Evanston, Illinois, with her husband and two daughters.

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Politicians, stop saying mass shootings are tragedies unless you’re going to do what literary critics do with tragedies: actually interpret them.

“This was a horrible tragedy:” perhaps the most common thing we hear after each new incident that adds to the alarming trend of mass shootings in the United States. Columbine, Aurora, Newtown, Umpqua, Las Vegas, and Parkland are only the most notable communities whose names have come to symbolize the phenomenon. Their “tragic” quality is the reason, some politicians say, we shouldn’t “politicize the tragedy” – we shouldn’t refer to it in arguments about policies for the good of the nation. More… “Something Is Rotten in the United States of America”

Jeffrey R. Wilson is a faculty member in the Writing Program at Harvard University, where he teaches the Why Shakespeare? section of the university’s first-year writing course. Focused on intersections of Renaissance literature and modern sociology, his work has appeared in academic journals such as ShakespeareLaw and the Humanities, and Crime, Media, Cultureas well as public venues such as National Public RadioThe Chronicle of Higher EducationAcademe, CounterPunch, and Shakespeare and Contemporary TheoryHe is on Twitter @DrJeffreyWilson.

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The image is a black-and-white, lithographic crayon drawing, and it resides in Harvard’s Fogg Museum of American Art, an image of three men in various stages of dress in what appears to be the corner of a wooden shed or perhaps a barn. In the right background, seated in a darkened corner of the shed is a man, wearing only a shirt, leaning forward and pulling on his left sock. Even more shadowy and obscured are three men on the left of the drawing — one standing and apparently toweling off his face; another, nude and seated on the planked floor with his back to the painter; and a third, a baronial older man in derby and jacket, seated on the bench in the hazy background. You would likely not recognize it as an image of small-town, turn-of-the-century baseball but for its title: Sweeney, the Idol of the Fans, Had Hit a Home Run. More… “George Bellows: America’s Artist on the National Pastime”

Jay Thomas, Ed.D., is a professor of education at Aurora University in Aurora, IL, where he teaches courses on learning, motivation, and research methods. His publications include books and articles on assessment and gifted education, but he is equally proud of his baseball writing, which has appeared in Elysian Fields Quarterly and The National Pastime.

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In late January of 2015, a tree stood wavering on the edge of Detroit’s burnt-out Grixdale neighborhood. A loud, old engine revved. A 100-foot rope tightened. A car strained forward. The tree followed, snapping and dropping into the overgrown yard of an abandoned house. A group of bearded men looked on from the front yard of a fire-ravaged structure across the street. Satisfaction and relief filled them as the final rays of sunlight scattered into the gray horizon. They had lost two ropes and a chainsaw in bringing down the tree, but they comforted themselves with the thought that the abandoned house and the surrounding telephone lines stood unharmed.

They were pretty far from Detroit’s refurbished downtown. Years ago, this neighborhood had succumbed to the rot brought on by the crack wars. Inhabitants fled, homes were torched, and the long blocks, once designed for cars, were left sparsely populated. In 2015, it remained largely abandoned. Sometimes, there were residual flare-ups of violence and theft. Some ways down the road, there remained a crack house. In this quiet, largely forgotten place, however, adjacent to the vistas of empty lots, under the canopy of old-growth trees, there was a new community growing. They lived amongst the neglected red brick houses and chose to call themselves Fireweed, after the pioneer plant species that takes over the landscape after a forest fire. More… “Why Does a Tree Fall in Detroit?”

Andrew Fedorov is sometimes found walking across countries, but can mostly be found in New York. His writing has appeared on Outside Online, Book Forum.com, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Awl, and in the Harper’s Weekly Review. Take a look at his twitter @andrewfed

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In late January in California, in the East Bay, the fences along the streets that I walk are sporadically punctuated with blooming jasmine. The scent is sweet but not heady: a spring scent, reminding me of forsythia, or of the mock-oranges — Philadelphus lewisii, discovered by (and named for) the voyageur Meriwether Lewis in some ditch of eastern Oregon. It’s pleasant, muted yet pervasive, calm. The fences they adorn, however, are anything but subtle. Some are made of board, rough and unpainted, just barely standing, aided by wire or many, many appended nails. Others are bare chain-link, the galvanized wire mesh epitomizing a no-nonsense, function-before-status period of this bungalow-belt neighborhood in Oakland.

This is not atypical. Flowers in January, brilliant sunlight, a sense that you can walk down the street wearing a t-shirt almost any day of the year and not be cold beyond reason. Nor, for that matter, will you be stared at for having made a social or fashion faux pas. Just as the ramshackle wood fence and the no-nonsense mesh fence still stand unremarked upon, taste in clothes is equally unseen. Cars come and go on the street. Drivers hold up hands against the setting sun or flip down sunshades, and all is the same, though one may drive a new BMW, and one a 1980s Toyota Corolla. Though one may wear Gucci and Prada or Tom Ford and another Hanes and Goodwill. And critically, there will be no correlation. Mr. Hanes may be in a Porsche Carrera, and Mr. Ford might be behind the wheel of a Honda Accord. More… “Jasmine and the Good Life”

Alexander Craghead is a historian of design and place. His writing and photography has appeared in regional and national publications, including BOOM: A Journal of California, Railroad Heritage, Trains, and is the author of The Railway Palaces of Portland, Oregon: The Architectural Legacy of Henry Villard(The History Press, 2016). He currently teaches in the American Studies program at University of California Berkley, where he is also a doctoral candidate.

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“Everywhere immigrants have enriched and strengthened the fabric of American life.”
-John F. Kennedy, A Nation of Immigrants

“America is for Americans.” If this sounds like the latest 6:30 a.m. pronouncement from the Twittering fingers of the current occupant of the White House, you’re forgiven for being mistaken. It’s from the book Social and Religious Life of Italians in America by Enrico Sartorio, an Italian native and Protestant minister, describing Americans’ reactions to the huge influx of Italian immigrants to this country. The year was 1918. More… “American Roots”

John Capista is a reader who loves to write and a writer who loves to read. He reads, writes and resides in Drexel Hill, PA.

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“I’ve organized a happy hour with a wonderful group of women friends who periodically gather to support each other and share ideas and food,” Lane’s email concluded. “I’m attaching an invite.”

Lane* is a fellow writer whom I’d met in grad school and always liked. It had been many months since we’d last communicated, and I welcomed her invitation.

I looked at the flyer. “This is a great time to envision and work towards common goals and individual life pursuits,” it read. “Let’s share some of our ideas and projects that we hope to accomplish or advance in this new, exciting, uncertain, life-affirming year ahead!”
More… “The Price of Friendship”

Kathryn Paulsen writes for stage and screen as well as page. Her essays, short stories, and poetry have appeared in the New York Times, West Branch, New Letters, et al., and may currently be read or are forthcoming in journals including Humber Literary Review, The Stinging Fly, and Saint Ann’s Review. She lives in New York City but, having grown up in an Air Force family, has roots in many places. See her occasional musings at ramblesandrevels.blogspot.com.

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When I was seven, I moved out of the room I shared with my older brother and into my own room. I don’t recall what caused my parents to decide this — perhaps it was a birthday present for my brother turning ten — but for me it was nothing if not a mixed blessing. I mean, I loved getting my own desk and new wallpaper that I picked out and my own bed, all the trappings of a room to grow up in. But without my brother there with me, there was something truly terrifying about being alone at night in the dark.

Not that my brother was much of a protector. More often he’d attack me in my sleep, steal and break my toys, and “dead-arm” me over and over again for his sadistic pleasure. But in my room alone, all alone, I felt susceptible to all the forces of darkness — the monsters under the bed, the prowlers lurking at the window, the creepers in the closet waiting to kidnap me. I had no protection at all. Leaving the safety in numbers of my brother’s room and the comfort of our New York Giants’ helmet night light filled me with imaginings of untold peril.
More… “Halloween is Cancelled”

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