In the Key of New York City: A Memoir in Essays

In the Key of New York City: A Memoir in Essays

by Rebecca McClanahan
In the Key of New York City: A Memoir in Essays

In the Key of New York City: A Memoir in Essays

by Rebecca McClanahan


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In this lively and deeply affecting memoir, Rebecca McClanahan tracks the heartbeat of New York as only a stunned newcomer can: in overheard conversations on park benches, songs and cries sifted through apartment walls, and in encounters with street people dispensing unexpected wisdom. Having uprooted their settled lives in North Carolina to pursue a long-held dream of living in Manhattan, she and her husband struggle to find jobs, forge friendships, and create a home in a city of strangers. The 9/11 attacks and a serious cancer surgery complicate their story, merging the public with the private, the present with the past, to shape a journey richer than either could have imagined.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781597098502
Publisher: Red Hen Press
Publication date: 09/01/2020
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 1,077,769
Product dimensions: 4.90(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Rebecca McClanahan, author of ten books, has received two Pushcart Prizes, the Glasgow Award in nonfiction, the J. Howard and Barbara M. J. Wood Prize from Poetry magazine, and four fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the North Carolina Arts Council. Her work has appeared in Best American Essays, Best American Poetry, the Georgia Review, the Kenyon Review, the Sun, and in anthologies published by Doubleday, Simon & Schuster, Norton, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Bedford/St. Martin’s, and numerous others. She teaches in the MFA programs of Queens Universityand Rainier Writing Workshop and lives with her husband, video producer Donald Devet, in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Read an Excerpt

Now a horn is blaring down on the street and other horns are joining in. I go to the window to investigate. A fancy sedan is stopped in the middle of the street, sideways, blocking the yellow cab behind it, and a tall, well-dressed woman gets out of the sedan and marches over to the cab. She’s fuming, screaming at the cab driver that she’s just trying to park her car but he won’t give her an inch. The cab driver, who looks Middle Eastern, jumps out of the cab and stands nose to nose with the woman. I’m thinking it might come to physical blows. “Go back where you came from!” she screams, and someone on the sidewalk below my window—I can’t see who it is—applauds.

Go back where you came from? What would that mean for New York? I imagine the streets emptying like they do when you show a film in reverse, time sucking us backwards, the sky filling with bodies, all of us hurtling back to where we came from: the cab driver back to Saudi Arabia or Pakistan; our building’s super and his wife and children, linked in a chain of hands, flying out of the basement apartment and into the air above the Atlantic, heading toward Montenegro; all of us disappearing, even me, sucked through the streets of New York and down to North Carolina then South Carolina, to Maryland, California, then back into Virginia, Texas, Illinois, landing finally in Indiana, in the nursery of a small hospital in Tippecanoe County, my thumb in my mouth, and still the film keeps running backwards, a hundred years, another hundred years, another. Where are they now—the streets of New York, the town of the past, the land where things disappear? No more. All that’s left is forest, river, sky, and a few hundred gray squirrels, high in the trees, building their lopsided nests.

Table of Contents

Signs and Wonders 11

Sublet 16

The Music in the Walls 23

Book Marks 37

Hello Stranger 44

"And We Shall Be Changed": September 7-11, 2001 47

Eighth Avenue Moment 69

Tears, Silence, Song 70

Imagine 86

Present Tense 89

Shirley, Goodness, and Mercy 99

Early Morning, Downtown 1 Train 128

Adopt a Bench 130

Su-Thrivingly 140

The Jury is Out, Reading 143

Tomas the Shocker 151

Our Towns 155

Ginkgo Song 172

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