Notes on the Creative Nonfiction Selections

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June 20, 2021 by The Citron Review

In her autobiography All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes, Maya Angelou says, “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”

I’ve been thinking about the concept of home lately. Is it only a house, town or region where we were brought up? Or can it be something else, something more? Can it be whatever gives us that feeling which cannot be described but only felt in our bones, in our core? 

I’ve always felt deep peace while walking in the woods, among the trees, the sky, the big quiet. As a kid, I’d spend hours sitting under or in trees in the woods, far from noise and demands. Now, as an adult with limited access to the woods, I feel most at home and at peace in my own bedroom. I feel safe there, looking out my second story window into the treetops, insulated from an ever more frightening world. I had a conversation with my cousin, with whom I am very close, and she said she felt most at home with books. She said, “Many times throughout the course of my life, home was in a book. Books are wonderful because you can go away in them for a long time and that’s a delight when your life is tough.” Her teenage daughter said, “Home is where I feel comfortable. Sometimes I just want to go home but I don’t know where it is.”

Acceptance, security, comfort: this is what we all want. It’s not always found where you grew up or in the family you were born into. Often, it’s a family or community you’ve chosen, curated. Sometimes it’s a few minutes, an hour, a day when everything falls into place. If you’re lucky it can be a relationship with someone who gets you just the way you are. 

Although home isn’t a dominant theme in our five selections of Creative Nonfiction in this issue, it is a subtle one. In “Barefoot Diptych”, Rachel Laverdiere maps her relationship with a man she cared very much about in beautiful, nostalgic detail. “You kissed my toes and declared them beautiful. Anointed them with flamingo pink polish.” He loved her just the way she was, yet at the end of the relationship, she reveals a truth about the home within herself that his leaving has reawakened.

“A Stream of Prayer” puts us in the middle of a close-knit family separated by continents. Sara Chansarkar’s aunt in India is very ill in hospital and the family is united in prayer and ritual for her healing. Sara thinks back on her relationship with this aunt, to a time when she lived with her family in India. “So, I think of the pickle made by Khala — a glass jar on her terrace containing carrot sticks, soaked in sunlight and spices and love. I lose count of the prayer, my thumb hovering between the middle and index fingers.” Clearly, Sara’s family home in India was infused with love and continues to support a secure foundation that crosses oceans. 

During the pandemic, home is alternately a refuge and a cage. “Companion” is a micro nonfiction by Jennifer Ronsman taking us into a few dreamy, intimate moments during her confinement. I don’t want to give anything away in this short piece but it is beautifully written, a story many will feel a kinship in reading. 

“For twenty-one days my mother waits for me.” Kerry Herlihy takes us on her mother’s life journey in her moving piece, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Mother.” From childhood to death, Kerry shows us her mother’s struggle to create a supportive and nurturing life for herself and Kerry. “She comes again and again so I won’t lose the job I need to survive.” A perfect example of family as home. 

Finally, Jen Rouse shares her deeply intimate testament of a breakthrough in her life in “Disdain Forward.” She shares her struggle with anxiety, obsession, ritual and the moment she decides to fight it all. “On this day in this room, sitting next to the woman who looks like the thinnest glass and rarely is allowed to see her children, I decide to participate.” She opens the door into a new home, one inhabited by a group of people struggling together, moving forward together, healing together. A family of choice.This is the second issue of The Citron Review with Ronit Plank and myself as Creative Nonfiction Co-editors. It has quickly become our online literary home due to the kindness and exceptional support of the Citron family. We were honored to read each and every submission to this genre and only wish we could publish you all! As I close, I want to invite you to submit your nonfiction stories, essays, memoirs to us and know we will treat each one as the deeply personal gems that they are. I hope you enjoy reading this issue as much as we enjoyed putting it together.

Charlotte Hamrick
Creative Nonfiction Editor
The Citron Review

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