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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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As a writer, I’m only anything if observant. And yet I have frightening blind spots. Despite the low square footage of my Harlem apartment, too often I can’t find things in it. Clothes, shoes, the remote. Even the can opener, which has only one place of keeping, the utensils drawer, which I search through and swear doesn’t contain the utensil it inevitably must. On the other hand, things I can find easily — and know I can find easily — I waste my time finding (my wallet, keys, and phone), a vestige of my childhood compulsions.

Such as knowing the location of my security animals. As a child I had a stuffed Tigger which I brought on sleepovers and errands with my mother. Around the third grade I added a rhinoceros named Rhino.

The night I couldn’t find Rhino, we were shacked up in a transitional apartment; we were moving about an hour away from where I had great friends and awesome sports teams and a sense of home. I wasn’t inconsolable, but unconsciously desperate. Searching not my room, but some proxy box-with-bed, I felt poles of sick hope and futility pulling from each end of me, with the magnetic force of an ultimatum I hadn’t agreed to. Too young to question the imperative of Rhino’s presence, my dread that he was still missing bemused me. Childhood is rife with navigating conflicting feelings. Most of the time, that’s when you called for Mom. More… “A Year in Psychoanalysis”

Brian Birnbaum grew up just outside Baltimore. An MFA graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, his work has been published or is forthcoming in The Collagist, Atticus Review, 3AM Magazine, and more. Brian is a Child of Deaf Adults (CODA) working in development for the family communications access business. He lives in Harlem with MK Rainey and their dog.
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When I moved back to my parents’ home in Reading, Pennsylvania, I thought it would be a brief stopover. I had recently graduated from college and just returned from a year in Japan; I was hoping to live with my parents while I worked on a book. What started as a three-month visit grew into a 23-month extended stay.

This time at home was not, however, without its memorable moments. Highlights included celebrating my 24th birthday at a Hall & Oates concert with my mother; attending the Mid-Atlantic District Barbershop Chorus Championships in Wildwood, New Jersey, with my father; a variety of squirrel encounters; and wearing a chain mail belt of my own creation to my cousin’s Renaissance-themed wedding.

Daily life was filled with pleasant discoveries (noticing the train sounds from my bedroom for the first time, watching the moon from the roof) but tinged with the… More…

In my bedroom, my father crouches close to the ground. He’s wearing jeans, a long-sleeve collared shirt, and a dark-green fleece vest. In his right hand he holds a hammer. His face is solemn, and his eyes are focused down. He’s staring at a small plastic bag of screws, pegs, and nails.

My dad understands how to use all of these fasteners. He’s worked with wood since high school, when he built a bed from scratch. The man knows his oak from his pine, his awl from his planer. But right now, my dad is confused, hesitant.

He is helping me put together my IKEA “Aneboda” bed.

My father pulls open the plastic bag and dumps its contents on the ground, separating the different fasteners into little piles. While he’s doing this, my boyfriend and I start laying the particleboard pieces of the bed around him like we’re reconstructing a… More…

There’s something about those medical paper gowns that just might be sexy. But sitting on the crinkly sterile paper of the plastic surgeon’s table, his eyes level to my nipples and his hand massaging the tissue of my left breast… it was not. In fact, I felt qualified to join a sideshow alongside the bearded lady and the freak who hangs heavy objects from his testicles. Show me to my bed of nails.

“Well, she’ll certainly like them better than a used car.”

As he said this he was looking at my mother, who sat watching in the corner, oddly impassive. She nodded and smiled, agreeing with him. I could practically see the wheels spinning in her head. She had always suggested that I go to medical school or law school since those were the places to get a husband with the best earning potential. I knew that she had… More…