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essay (52)


Thursday, May 9, 2019

Cattle auctions, pastures, and an old horse. These make up the world of Janisse Ray's essay "Cheyenne", about an old horse taken in by Ray's family. Ray's piece explores the nature of love, the connections between love and pity, and the discovery of grace. [...] more

Burning Silence

Friday, April 19, 2019

The repetitive work of a tree-planting camp, the complexity of the forest, and above all, the sounds of that world--these are the subjects of Geoff Martin's essay "Burning Silence". Tasked with tending a loud generator, Martin contemplates how noise and stillness fuel our creativity. [...] more

Horny For Construction

Friday, December 7, 2018

Two men work to remove a heavy cast-iron tub from a bathroom. They are both middle-aged; one is a teacher, a writer. In Guy Thorvaldsen's essay "Horny For Construction," working with your hands is full of lessons--about rewards and process, but also about what Thorvaldsen calls "small disagreements with the universe". [...] more

DISPATCH: When Hobos Come Home

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Every summer since 1900, the National Hobo Convention takes place in Britt, Iowa, a tiny town whose two train lines have made it the center of hobo memory for generations. Virginia Marshall's Dispatch from the Convention captures the voices of hobos gathered to name their king and queen, and speaks of the idea of freedom and the reality of borders as they define the hobo way of life. [...] more

Death Fears Him

Monday, January 8, 2018

Mustang Wanted is one of a small group of young men who hang by their bare hands from the tops of skyscrapers. Without ropes. Laura Jones' essay "Death Fears Him" delves into this subculture, exploring the dangerous and fascinating intersection of risk and fame. [...] more

Letting Him Go

Friday, December 16, 2016

Alysia Abbott's essay tells the story of romantic risk--the risk of letting someone go in the hope and belief not only that it's the right thing to do, but also that it may be the only way to hold on. A Cat Power song, a striped shirt, and a Ukrainian restaurant all play a role in this tale of love. [...] more

In Texas

Thursday, September 22, 2016

In her essay "In Texas," Christi Craig recalls her teenaged self facing a dilemma of faith and family. Should she admit to her grandmother that she cannot speak in tongues, or should she pretend she can so as not to reveal her distance from the religion that has always bound them together? Looking back, Craig examines the connections that have endured. [...] more

Skyfaring (excerpts)

Monday, July 18, 2016

Mark Vanhoenacker reads excerpts from his recent book SKYFARING. In a seamless fusion of history, politics, geography, meteorology, family, and physics, the book asks us to reimagine what we--as pilots and as passengers--are actually doing when we enter the world between departure and discovery. www. skyfaring. com [...] more

If I Could Try It On, For Size

Monday, July 18, 2016

Cumi Ikeda's essay explores identity and race through the lyrical rhythms of poetry. The essay asks us to contemplate how we see one another and how we see ourselves--how we exist through and beyond categories. [...] more

The Art of Drumming Badly

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

To hear Melanie Senn tell it, she is not a good drummer. But what matters more than her musical and percussive talent is her skill in telling the story of how she took to the drums--at first as a way to connect to her musician husband, and then as a way to experience delight. In "The Art of Drumming Badly," Senn shares her joy in learning something new and in learning not to care about inhibitions and expectations. [...] more

What The Doctor Taught Me

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

When family crises buffeted author Catherine Elcik with grief and stress, she found solace in the unlikeliest of places: Doctor Who . Or perhaps not so unlikely. For from this television program about time-shifting and agelessness and loss and endurance, Elcik learned powerful lessons about coping with the thieveries of illness and death. In this beautiful essay, Elcik offers wisdom to all of us--Whovians or not. [...] more

Who's Walking Who

Friday, November 20, 2015

There are those who prepare for Thanksgiving weeks in advance. And there are those, like Steve Macone, who do their shopping the day before this major American holiday. His essay "Who's Walking Who," first audio-published in our October 2011 issue, finds Macone at the Somerville, Massachusetts Market Basket on Thanksgiving Wednesday. Hilarity--and insight--ensue. [...] more

Finding Forgiveness in a Ziploc Bag

Friday, November 20, 2015

Travel is supposed to be so broadening, in the words of Sinclair Lewis. But anyone embarking on a Thanksgiving-motivated journey knows that travel can be aggravating, maddening, and bewildering too. In an essay first audio-published in The Drum in July 2013, Jane Hamilton recounts a trip with her husband when the combined forces of the TSA and a Ziploc bag threatened to undo them. [...] more


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

In this expanded version of her Dispatch piece from our September issue, Kyla Hanington writes of a road trip across Canada with her husband and children. As she moves eastward with her family, Hanington is driven by hope and curiosity, wondering if their eventual destination of Saskatchewan will yield what she seeks. "Saskatchewan" was recorded in Dispatch style, with ambient noise. [...] more

Spice Memory

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Eson Kim ponders the language of spices and scents that passes between her and her mother as Kim tries to learn her mother's recipes. Kim evokes the power of the ingredients to summon memories and connection, and contemplates the poignant difficulty of mastering what her mother knows. [...] more

MuseFlash 2014

Monday, August 4, 2014

De Leon writes movingly about her grandfather's seeking forgiveness from the woman he abandoned in Guatemala. In "Lucky Woman," Luisa, De Leon's grandmother, meets him upon his return, passing defiant judgment upon him. [...] more

MuseFlash 2014

Monday, August 4, 2014

A mother's wartime theories, two daughters' misunderstandings, and the issue of sexual control as it's wielded by a mother and a father: combat and choice resonate here in Carol Sandel's "Birth Control". [...] more


Monday, March 17, 2014

The balky knobs on a Czech stove, the quirky signage on a Prague building, or the smile of a stranger on a train: these are the starting points for Allison Williams' essay about decoding the mysteries of life abroad. But more than geographical foreignness, Williams writes of the potential estrangement from one's partner and from certain crucial parts of one's identity. In "Courtesies," she explores how we navigate as we try to turn the right way. [...] more

Are You An Animal Lover?

Monday, January 13, 2014

"Are you an animal lover? " is the innocent question that precipitates the soul-searching rendered comically here by Colleen Houlihan. Squirrels, a video store, and a healthy amount of risk-taking and imagination feature in Houlihan's essay, in which an encounter with an unusual customer leads the writer into new and potentially taboo territory. [...] more

Sleeping Over

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Chris Wiewiora's essay "Sleeping Over" explores the many complications of exactly that, when the people in question are teenagers, and one of them is presided over by his father. Trust, the truth, and independence are just some of the issues at stake not just in the event but in the messages surrounding it. [...] more

Dome Life

Monday, September 30, 2013

Annie Dawid's "Dome Life" describes a life under a figurative dome, on the margins of conventional society. Set in the world of pot-growers in 1970's Mendocino County, Dawid's essay tracks a descent into drugs and violence, and other dangers hiding in plain sight. [...] more

JEAN RYAN What We Are Given

Monday, September 16, 2013

In "What We Are Given," Jean Ryan recounts the experience of taking in her mother-in-law despite the older woman's condemnation of Ryan's and her partner's sexuality. Ryan's essay asks us to consider the limits of obligation, and offers a moving exploration of the challenges of allegiance and commitment. [...] more

JOSH MACIVOR-ANDERSEN Bedford Forrest Birthday--Unexpected

Monday, September 9, 2013

Josh MacIvor-Andersen writes lyrically about his brother, who has made it to his thirtieth birthday in spite of a persistent craving for risk. MacIvor-Andersen's essay "Bedford Forrest Birthday--Unexpected" contemplates the seduction of danger, the power of risk to imbue our experience with seemingly greater value. The essay asks the question: do we need danger in order to validate our survival? [...] more

MITALI PERKINS Writing Race in Novels

Monday, July 15, 2013

Mitali Perkins' essay "Writing Race in Novels" is both a collection of practical advice on a matter of writing craft, and a philosophical analysis of how our treatment of identity--our own or that of others--reveals how we approach otherness. Though this essay is directed towards writers, it bears thought-provoking ideas for non-writers as well. [...] more

SABINE HEINLEIN Pomp and Circumstance

Monday, June 3, 2013

Sabine Heinlein's essay "Pomp and Circumstance" traces the challenges and successes in the life of a young blind man negotiating life in New York. Heinlein gives us a vivid sense of the world as this young man experiences it, as she follows him through certain key milestones. A version of the essay first appeared in the American Literary Review where it was awarded the 2011 non-fiction award. [...] more


Monday, April 29, 2013

Aine Greaney's "Sanctuary" is an eloquent meditation on the people and places that give us comfort, often in unexpected ways. With her mother's death as starting point, Greaney explores the notion of the individual in place and time, the connections that link us to history and to the present. [...] more

RON MACLEAN Is Fiction Empathy's Best Hope?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Ron MacLean's essay examines how stories connect us, and how the imagination becomes a powerful force in the creation of empathy. Citing writers Rabindranath Tagore, Ian McEwan, Tim O'Brien, and Marilynne Robinson, among others, MacLean reminds us that empathy is not just a desired effect of fiction, but a social and cultural need. In "Is Fiction Empathy's Best Hope? " MacLean offers us the hope and the promise of literature. [...] more


Friday, September 1, 2017

On May 19, 2017, GrubStreet hosted Boston's first Write-In. The Drum was on the scene to record some of the many stories told by recent immigrants and refugees. Here are stories by Yanley Francois, Zach Ben-Amots, U-Melgn ‘Mhlaba-Apebo, Dana Lopes, Carolyn De Jesus, Christelle Narcisse, and Aseret Laparra. Write-In audio was recorded by Ilya Methot and Jordan Fischer. [...] more

D.J. LEE Collage

Monday, February 4, 2013

D. J. Lee's essay "Collage" contemplates the difficult intersection between mothers and daughters, dramatized in the placement of photographs in a collage. Lee's essay explores how a two-dimensional image "can express the depth of pain and love between generations. " [...] more


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Frequent Drum contributor Steven Brykman strikes a serious tone in his essay "The Box" about a childhood visit to his older brother's residence  in a home for people with autism. Brykman tells a dramatic story of his long-ago encounter with a frightening element of his brother's life, and muses on the nature of shared experience, isolation, and love. [...] more


Monday, December 10, 2012

Jonathan Starke's "Sling and Stone" looks at Michelangelo's David with the eyes of a bodybuilder--and finds poignant mortality in the timeless statue. [...] more

KATRINA GRIGG-SAITO Assailing Otherness

Monday, November 19, 2012

In "Assailing Otherness," Katrina Grigg-Saito confronts the ultimate food taboo and survives to tell the tale.  Grigg-Saito's essay explores the limits different cultures draw around what's approved and what's beyond the pale. Her experience of learning to cook in Laos begins with the desire to get to the heart of a culture and ends with a discovery about her own assumptions and willingness to set them aside. [...] more


Monday, July 23, 2012

Aine Greaney's essay "Green Card" recounts a trip to renew the eponymous card in Lawrence, MA. As her GPS tries to lead her to the INS office, Greaney meditates on the obstacles and miscommunications of the immigrant's experience. She thinks over her years in the United States, her departure from Ireland, and her sense of belonging to those who don't belong. Greaney's essay offers a thoughtful meditation on cultural and personal identity. [...] more

STEVE MACONE Who's Walking Who

Monday, October 17, 2011

Steve Macone's "Who's Walking Who" is a wry and hilarious love letter to his local Market Basket grocery store, with its chaos, its crowds, and the various mysteries of its organizing principles. He spots the foibles of human behavior there--his own and those of others--and identifies the strange beauty of this place "where everything meets and touches". [...] more

JULIE WHEELWRIGHT excerpts from Esther: The Remarkable True Story of Esther Wheelwright, Puritan Child, Native Daughter and Mother Superior

Monday, July 25, 2011

Julie Wheelwright's Esther: The Remarkable True Story of Esther Wheelwright, Puritan Child, Native Daughter and Mother Superior provides a chilling and moving account of Wheelwright's ancestor who was abducted by Native American warriors from her Maine home in the 1600s. In the excerpts she reads aloud for The Drum , Wheelwright tells us about her own search for her ancestor, and recounts Esther's abduction, set in the context of the history and politics of the time. Not for the faint of heart, these excerpts nonetheless offer a vivid look at a [...] more

ALEXANDRA JOHNSON excerpts from The Hidden Writer

Monday, July 11, 2011

Alex Johnson's The Hidden Writer (Doubleday 1997) explores the writer's journey from diary to published writings, and the negotiations between private and public work. In her chapter "The Married Muse," Johnson looks at the relationship between Leo and Sonya Tolstoy--as husband and wife, idol and fan, writer and scribe, and muse to muse. [...] more


Monday, June 20, 2011

Amy Yelin's essay "Torn" takes us through a daughter's experience guiding her father through the rituals following her mother's death. Then things get complicated, as Yelin deals with the discovery of her father's secretive relationship with another woman. In exploring that relationship, and the new family dynamic that emerges after its often humorous revelation, Yelin sheds light on the impulses that lead us to reject or welcome one another. [...] more

RAHNA REIKO RIZZUTO excerpts from Hiroshima in the Morning

Monday, May 16, 2011

Rahna Reiko Rizzuto's memoir Hiroshima in the Morning weaves together her personal experience during a research sojourn in that city with her growing understanding of the complex political, social, and cultural issues that surround the nuclear bombing and its aftermath. She reads here from three sections of the book, examining the stresses on her marriage as she undergoes this months-long separation from her family, her relationship with her aging mother, and her own changing sense of self. Her writing examines the challenge of memory--what happens when it fails us, and when we fail it by choosing [...] more

SUSAN ORLEAN Excerpt from Rin Tin Tin

Monday, March 7, 2011

Susan Orlean has just completed a cultural biography of the dog actor Rin Tin Tin. In the excerpt she recorded for The Drum , she writes about a visit to Paris' Cimetiere des Chiens, the special cemetery for dogs. Looking for Rin Tin Tin's grave, Orlean ponders the history of the pet-person relationship, and explores the human need to memorialize what we love even as we know we can't hold onto it. [...] more


Monday, February 14, 2011

Miriam Novogrodsky writes about growing up an outsider in Montpelier, Vermont, and the year her father's winter obsession turned to economical meat-eating and the creative use of the compost pile. This is a tale of chest freezers, prairie bonnets, and snowshoe picnics with unusual sandwiches. [...] more


Monday, January 10, 2011

Steven Brykman's essay "You Know How It Is" puts a comical spin on Jewish identity, Hasidic fashion, and the perils of running errands when your girlfriend finds you annoying. [...] more

KATRINA GRIGG-SAITO The Original Feminist

Monday, December 20, 2010

Katrina Grigg-Saito's essay "The Original Feminist" provides a tender portrait of her grandmother Mimi who did it all--worked as a hairdresser, raised five children, tailored stylish clothes, and advocated for education--in the pre-Civil-Rights South. [...] more

CD COLLINS The Vigilantes of Vance

Monday, December 6, 2010

CD Collins' essay "The Vigilantes of Vance" is a portrait of her candy-eating, derringer-toting, fast-driving mother, and a drily funny story of the woman's power to enthrall those around her. [...] more


Monday, November 29, 2010

Bret Anthony Johnston closes his reading at the November 15 Four Stories event by announcing he will be plagiarizing Jamaica Kincaid's famous story "Girl". Here is his short piece "Boy". [...] more


Monday, November 29, 2010

Bret Anthony Johnston starts off his reading at the November 15 Four Stories /Drum event with "Porn Star," his entry for a dictionary of dirty words. [...] more


Monday, November 22, 2010

Reading at the November 15 Four Stories event, Ethan Gilsdorf begins with a boy facing a woodchuck, and leads us through a humorous and complex contemplation of the nature of play, cruelty, and kindness, in his essay "Just To See If I Could". [...] more


Monday, November 1, 2010

Elyssa East’s first book, Dogtown: Death and Enchantment in a New England Ghost Town , interlaces the true story of a grisly murder with the strange history of a wilderness ghost town and explores the possibility that certain landscapes wield their own unique power. She reads here from the prologue of the book, "The Prophetic Pictures. " [...] more

DEBORAH MILSTEIN A Yiddish Vocabulary

Monday, September 27, 2010

A feisty grandmother, Yiddish nicknames, and a hospital stay come together in Deborah Milstein's "A Yiddish Vocabulary. " Milstein's essay offers a reverie on Jewish heritage and on the words that bind family together. [...] more

VESTAL MCINTYRE Tickle or Torture

Monday, July 5, 2010

In his essay “Tickle or Torture,” Vestal McIntyre recounts his Wednesday-night teasings as the youngest of seven in an Idaho town. While his parents are attending Bible study, McIntyre is poked, prodded, tickled, and tortured by his siblings, although all he really desires is to be left alone. [...] more

ETHAN GILSDORF Loving the Momster

Sunday, June 27, 2010

In his essay “Loving the Momster,” Ethan Gilsdorf recounts his childhood after his mother’s 1997 death, specifically the childhood after his mother suffered an aneurism in 1978. Gilsdorf revisits his mother’s mercurial moods and changed attitude, and his own altered childhood, through emails from a childhood friend who only knew Gilsdorf’s mother after her aneurism. Despite the fragmented nature of his mother’s life, Gilsdorf is able to find and preserve a sense of her identity. [...] more


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Michelle Hoover’s essay “Our Litter Bertha” recounts her discovery of her great-grandmother's journal, the document which she later used to inspire her novel, The Quickening . Hoover ponders the stories of her Midwestern family found in diaries and letters. She contemplates her upbringing and the consequences of her relocation from Iowa to Boston. The essay is a vivid study of the connection between identity and place. [...] more

DEBORAH BLICHER Gotta Move the Cow

Monday, May 24, 2010

In “Gotta Move the Cow,” Deborah Blicher recounts her work as a patient registration receptionist in a remote African hospital. The essay excerpt paints a vivid picture of a rural community as western medicine tries to help a desperate mother and her sick son. [...] more

theme: comedy

theme: crisis

theme: relationships

theme: family

genre: essay

novel excerpt

short fiction


under 10 min

under 20 min

under 30 min

under 40 min