Creative Nonfiction That Will Drop Your Mouth Open

My dogs Buddy and Sammy 2021

As you may know, Twitter has a thriving writing community. It’s where I found many of the writers that I love to read. Today’s Creative Nonfiction selections have three writers I came to know through Twitter and two that are new to me, although I found their stories via Twitter links.

For many years memoir and essay have been right up there as my favorite genres. I like the intimacy of memoir and the discovery of essay. All of the following touched me – in ways alike and different.

Pat Foran and Cathy Ulrich share their stories of death and grief, feelings every one of us have experienced or will experience, in our lives. There is no one way to process grief, no time limit, as these two stories demonstrate.

Relationships can take a puzzling and twisted road. Rachel Laverdiere takes on her journey down one road with a fresh, garden-lovers eye. Anytime a writer works gardening into their life story, I’m in.

Bhavna Mehtain’s essay was a wonder to read, her story an exceptional one. It’s easily one of the top essays I’ve ever read, a very personal story of life, culture, perseverance that will stay with you a long time.

Finally, a memoir set in the 70’s – my coming of age decade! I loved the cultural details Sonja Livingston interspersed in this story of race versus popular culture. Stories like this are so necessary in bringing awareness and thoughtfulness to readers of other races and cultures. I just love this memoir.

I hope y’all will click over and read these stellar selections. Enjoy!

“Beneficiary” by Pat Foran in JMWW

There’s a little “Name of Beneficiary” box I can’t bring myself to fill in—it’s my non-arthritic fingers, you see, my midnight blue heart, I mean, my fuzzy logic brain, I should say. 

Comment: This story is such a heartbreaker. Pat turns filling out a form into an emotional journey through life and death, turning us all into a blubbering crybaby. And making us love it because he himself loved so completely.

“The Ghost in this Story” by Cathy Ulrich in Trampset

Remember how the sound of the ringing telephone has changed since that sunny day in July, how you heard its song through the open house windows, how your mother found you hiding under the back yard slide…

Comment: Cathy writes with skill and precision about a family death. This piece is like poetry with a bayonet and had me really thinking about how children process tragedy.

“Gravel” by Rachel Laverdiere in Lunch Ticket

Years before I agreed to marriage, you insisted I order three yards of gravel. When the dump truck arrived, I asked the driver to wait before he dumped. You arrived, crossed your arms and told me, “Why don’t you trust me?” Said you knew best. You were a man, so I listened. 

Comment: This story captured my interest with its’ comparison of building a relationship and building a garden.

“In the Shadow of Saris: Exploring Identity Through Memory and Dislocation”by Bhavna Mehtain in Catapult

My trousers and loose men’s shirts hid my braces and were easiest to put on, while women in my family needed to be traditionally (and many times, impeccably) dressed before they stepped out of their bedrooms. The sari may represent femininity, but the patriarchy comes roaring when women are bullied and harassed for not appearing in a sari, for wanting to dress the way they please, for style, for comfort, for pleasure. As a teenager, I watched my friends fight for the right to own a pair of jeans. I joined the fight with my mind, but not with my body. I’ve long accepted feminism’s tenets of equality, justice, and choice, but I am still grasping how to center my body within it.

Comment: This is a fascinating essay about culture, feminism, disability, and expectations put on women in India (and in general) through the history and cultural importance of the sari. It’s a mesmerizing read that I highly recommend.

“Jewel” by Sonja Livingston in Brevity

“My mother,” Tasha whispers.

I search the face for signs of Mrs. Singletary. Jewel, her name is. She’s pretty but tired after working in an auto parts factory all day and keeping her house the neatest on the street. In this early version of herself, Jewel Singletary is as sparkling as her name.

“She was Miss America,” Tasha nods at the black and white photograph.

Comment: Set in the 1970s, this piece takes us through the pop culture of the time and the societal restrictions placed on people of color, as seen through the eyes of two young girls. This is a beautifully executed memoir.


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