icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

My Works


The Soros sisters’ eyes are the blue of lunar seas, their complexions cloud white, and their identical pageboys well-bottom black. The term “beautiful” has never been applied sincerely to either sister, though Ivy, the youngest by two years, might be deemed the better looking, because she has detectable cheekbones and a waist narrower than her hips. Isabel has very little in the way of body fat, but is square-shaped from almost any angle. Even her face is square-shaped. It’s been that way since birth....


From Sally Hemings's memoir:
…When I was a very young child, the fact of slavery—my own enslavement and that of everyone I knew well and loved—was a sort of deadness beyond the world in which I believed myself to live. Before the age of six or seven, I don't think I even knew we were slaves. In part, this was because we were called "servants" and "laborers" by the Jeffersons, and those were the words that we ourselves used. I can't recall ever hearing my mother refer to herself or to any member of our family by the term "slave." Also, I never lacked for food. I lived in a solid cabin that was kept warm in the winter by a stone fireplace, and for much of my childhood, I was able to wander about Monticello as freely as a dog. This seemed a good and ordinary life to me—nothing like "slavery," at least insofar as that word had any meaning for me at all...



Now they tell us that we have destroyed our world
with our fires and our feasts, but isn’t that what
we have always feared? Isn’t that what our priests
have always muttered in incense smoke and cave
dark from one time to the next? Isn’t that the worry
on our doctors’ faces? The answering sweatiness
on our finger tips? Our mute and sacred knowing?
We keep changing the words, but the meaning
soaks through: That shadow on your lung, your filth,
your shame—you dared to think that you
were loved, but joy must have its revenge....

MILOSZ'S CHOICE; An Investigation of Sentimentality

SEVERAL YEARS AGO I had an argument with a woman about Czeslaw Milosz. I no longer remember the woman’s name but I do remember vividly where we were: L'Isle sur la Sorgue, a city of canals and creaking waterwheels in the south of France...


In 1988, just before I began teaching writing in the New York City public schools with Teachers & Writers Collaborative, I was feeling pretty confident. I had just sold my first book -- a short story collection -- to a major publisher, I had a masters in English literature, and I had worked for eight years as a freelance journalist. It seemed to me that -- at least when it came to teaching elementary school -- I knew everything I needed to know about writing...


PROLOGUE: Working For Human Happiness

On the morning of September 24, 1854, forty-five children sat in the front benches of a meeting house in Dowagiac, Michigan. Most were between ten and twelve years old, though at least one was six, and a few were as old as fifteen....