When I was a boy, it was my family’s New Year’s Eve tradition to gather for an oyster soup supper, followed by a rousing round of Rook, a trick-taking card game, that pitted one set of partners against another. We played a lot of Rook in those days. My father and my uncles were competitive,…

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Nearly each year at Christmas, my father and I went out into our woods and cut a cedar tree. I only remember us having a store-bought pine tree a handful of times. So the cedar tree was sort of a Christmas tree, but not really—not a red pine, or a white pine, or a scotch…

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This Christmas season has me thinking about privilege—those who have it, and those who don’t; those who are in the mainstream, and those who aren’t. I grew up in a small rural area of southeastern Illinois, an area where most people were working class. I remember a few folks who appeared to be on another…

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Last week, my advanced undergraduate creative nonfiction workshop read Patrick Madden’s “Writing the Brief Contrary Essay” from The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Nonfiction. Madden talks about what he calls “essayistic subversion,” by which he means the essays that, to quote Phillip Lopate, “go against the grain of popular opinion.” Think, for example,…

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