The Small-Town West Virginia Bookstore That Helped Me Survive My Terrible Childhood

The Books in My Grandparents’ Parkersburg Store Helped Me Escape From My Troubles and Understand Cruelty

Parkersburg, West Virginia, where I grew up, sits on land that was once home to the Shawnee and later belonged to George Washington. After killing Alexander Hamilton during a duel in 1804, Aaron Burr holed up at a mansion a mile away on Blennerhassett Island, embracing a mission to commit high treason or liberate Mexico, depending on how you bake the facts. A century later, Mother Jones was jailed in town. For the first years of my childhood, it seemed like nothing important had happened in the decades since, except …

How the Myth of Childhood Innocence Undermines Teenage Activism

Kids Are on the Front Lines of Society's Problems, but They're Treated as Less Than Full Citizens

Since the 1960s, so-called “youth movements” worldwide have been led by college-aged students. What has been less accepted, and less noted, is that children under 18 also have participated in …

Longing for the Softer Side of Hurricanes

A Continent Away from Horrible Destruction, I Miss the Familial Routines of My South Florida Childhood

After school, whenever I walked into my family’s home in Davie, Florida, I was always reminded of 1992’s Hurricane Andrew, which decimated nearly 64,000 homes some 60 miles away in …

How My Parents’ Wartime Gamble on Greyhounds Paid Off

The Sentimental Journey of My WWII Childhood Mixed Dog Racing with an Idyllic Life on the Road

The greyhound racing tracks were like big shiny carnivals, but I could only see them from the outside. Kids weren’t allowed in where people were gambling. Sometimes mother took …

Why Believing in Monsters Is a Rite of Passage

Creatures of the Night Give Shape to Fears and Put Our Moxie to the Test

Ours was a safe neighborhood. Postwar cinderblock cottages stood unlocked in the shade of date palms that in summer cluttered our yards with vinegary, fermenting medjools and at trimming time …

Element

The wind would be water and fire,
would be earth—sand and gravel,
mud churning, even magma—

as I held my hand out from
the car on drives back to Texas.
The …