Notes on the Creative Nonfiction Selections

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December 22, 2022 by The Citron Review

As I’m writing this in the midst of the holiday season, I’m thinking about families and the many different iterations that make them up. I’m a reader and writer of Creative Nonfiction and Memoir which often revolves around family, the dynamics of parents and children, of siblings, and even tenuous and imagined connections between us and the ancients in our lineage.

Family is a strong theme in our six poignant essays for the Winter Issue. Citron‘s Creative Nonfiction team doesn’t set out to fit selections into a theme when we’re reading so it’s magical when one reveals itself when the selection process is finished.

In “When a House is Not a Home”, Jennifer Todhunter shares her thoughts about moving into her first home as a single mother. She reveals vivid details that are intimate, worrisome, and hopeful about this new stage of life with a yearning for paused dreams that’s palpable. “..and I’d always say, life is as young as you make it, when my boys asked how on earth I didn’t know what I wanted to be yet,”

Billie Hinton connects mothers with science and the natural world in her essay “Longing is Not Regret”. She cleverly and creatively intermingles mothering with subjects like marine biology, primatology, astronomy in a poetic yet earthy way. “A mother is a marine biologist. Pregnancy its own deep dive into ocean waters. The songs of humpback whales a listening. Tiny movements in amniotic fluid.”

“Underbelly” by Emily Lowe is an ekphrastic listicle, inspired by Aaron Wilcox’s sculpture “Underbelly”. Her prose is lyrical, expressive, and personal. I was intrigued by the myriad of ways she manifests the sculpture and how she skillfully builds tension to the eventual reveal concerning her father.  “It is a secret tucked into itself: still, sleeping.”

Ronan Fenton’s lyric essay walks us through what it’s like to return to your parent’s home after living away. “The Prodigal Nothing” peers through the lens of depression, notes how the stability of parents and home has shifted. “We sleep downstairs on the pull-out futon in the kitchen to keep the dog from howling all night. Unfamiliar food in the fridge and cupboards. Nothing I know how to eat.”

In “A Passed Down Story”  Jenna Devany Waters’ daughter is tasked with learning about a family story for a school assignment. Jenna’s family stories are ones she prefers to protect her daughter from learning. Jenna struggles with how to present a story from her traumatic childhood to her daughter that’s positive, not frightening. It’s a mother’s dilemma and one Jenna works through, allowing us into her memories. “This is just a story, a version of the version my mother told to me. Later I learn the term disassociation. Then: I was a deer, a fish, a burrowing owl. I had so many tricks of transformation.”

Jen Soong’s essay about the ancient Chinese tradition of foot binding, “Bound”,  is a  meditation based on a photograph of her Great Grandmother. It’s a what-would-I-say-if-I-met-her introspection that’s intimate and compelling. “I try to decipher her dark eyes, plum-dumpling cheeks and diminutive feet. She looks like a red-crowned crane with clipped wings. She could never escape, never fly.”

Families often are messy. Family members can disappoint and they can uplift. Parents can nurture or scar. These six stories represent many of the ways families can be. My wish for you, dear readers, is that you celebrate this holiday season and the new year with the family that nourishes you, whoever it includes.

Charlotte Hamrick
Creative Nonfiction Editor
The Citron Review


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