Contents

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pp. xi-xii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xiii-xiv

I am deeply grateful to: Adam Hochschild, and D.W. Fenza and the Associated Writing Programs, for selecting my book for the 1995 creative nonfiction award; Malcolm Call, for his insight, generosity...

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Preface

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pp. xv-xvi

From 1933 to 1953 my father was Chief Counsel to the Secretary of the Interior. He was architect of the preliminary papers establishing statehood for Alaska and Hawaii. He assisted in the plans for Philippine independence, helped create the Puerto Rican Commonwealth, and worked to implement...

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Prologue: I Remember You, Father

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pp. 1-4

How can I help you?" Randy Groskind asks. This is the first question Randy, a therapist in Atlanta, asks me when I enter his office. I'm too tired to answer. I sit rigid on a couch and stare at the plant by the window, wishing I were small enough...

RED

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The Egyptian Princess

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pp. 7-14

I am four and pretend I am an Egyptian princess. For this game I arrange planks of wood across my parents' brown-and-white checked bedspread. The wood becomes a tributary of the Nile River, and as I flee along the bank, escaping, green reeds brush my legs. Someone is chasing me. Downstairs in...

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Heartbeats in Stone

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pp. 15-35

In Washington, D.C., we lived in a two-family house on Southern Avenue. Now, when I am five, we move into a ranch house on Kingswood Road in the suburbs. How proud my parents are of their brand-new home, the first they've ever purchased. How beautiful are the hardwood...

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Night Spirits

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pp. 36-84

In St. Thomas we live in a Danish colonial house next to Blackbeard's Castle on Blackbeard's Hill. My bedroom is at one end of the house with three separate entrances. One can enter it from a wood porch which wraps around...

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New Jersey Girl

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pp. 85-176

Winter. St. Thomas's red, green, blue mute to white snow, brown trees, New Jersey asphalt. An opaque iron sky replaces crimson sunsets, usurps colors that stream from the red core of the sun. Our house has no porch, no veranda. All the windows are shut tight. Only one...

BLUE

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Tuesdays

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pp. 179-223

"How can I help you?" Randy had asked. Change me, I think. Is that the answer? Stop me. Or teach me new words, I think. Maybe that's the answer. Teach me to speak. Help me find a soul. Help me find my body. Teach me to cry. When I first see Randy, when he first asks this question...

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Two Small Rooms in Minnesota

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pp. 224-251

In the mid-1980s my parents move to Rochester, Minnesota. To me, it seems as if they go there to die, although to live in a retirement complex associated with the Mayo Clinic is not without logic. This move scares me. I don't want to feel my fear of their deaths, so I look for the joke. I tell...

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The Girl on the Beach: Recovered

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pp. 252-254

Now my parents are dead. They can only hurt me again if I let them. Only I can allow this to happen. Except I won't. I can't. It is time to turn my head and gaze in new directions. It is time to practice speaking the new words I have...

GREEN

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Christmas Spirits

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pp. 257-272

When I enter the classroom I notice her immediately. She is obese and has difficulty fitting onto the school chair attached to the desk. She wears thick glasses, and the skin on her face is pale as if she hides from sun, hides from light. Stringy hair trails to her shoulders. Her clothes, not just...