Passing as Privileged

A personal essay in which Narratively deputy editor Lilly Dancyger writes about dealing with people’s mistaken assumptions about the economics of her upbringing. A high-school dropout who later worked her way through college and graduate school, Dancyger grew up poor — the daughter of a single mother who was a recovering heroin addict. In New York City media circles, people tend to make comments indicating they assume she comes from privilege. Here, Dancyger sets the record straight.

Source: The Rumpus
Published: Mar 5, 2018
Length: 6 minutes (1,639 words)

Rivers of Babylon: The Story of a Third-Trimester Abortion

A bracing essay on late-term abortion, and how American politics have made an impossibly difficult situation even more painful and dangerous for women.

Source: The Rumpus
Published: Jan 30, 2018
Length: 27 minutes (6,905 words)

I Choose My Pearls: On Feminism, Disneyland, and Fashion

“‘We fought for years so you didn’t have to dress like that,’ said the woman next to me waiting to board Disneyland’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.”

Source: The Rumpus
Published: Jul 20, 2017
Length: 8 minutes (2,128 words)

The Rumpus Interview with George Saunders

In addition to plenty of great advice for aspiring writers, George Saunders reflects on the creative process for his new novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, the mystery of the “constellation of meaning” — the interviews, notes, and scenes that once distilled become his nonfiction work, and on bold compassion as the right course of resistance under a Trump presidency.

Source: The Rumpus
Published: Feb 20, 2017
Length: 23 minutes (5,848 words)

The Great Elk

You can learn a lot from a Missouri Bass Pro Shop about white America’s misperceptions and fantasies about the Osage Nation, if you’re really looking.

Source: The Rumpus
Published: Dec 26, 2016
Length: 7 minutes (1,872 words)

The Throwaways

Chadburn’s beautiful, brutal essay pairs memories of poverty and the foster care system with an unlikely clarion call: pay your taxes. “Taxes are revolutionary,” she writes. “When I pay my taxes I am telling my community I value you.”

Source: The Rumpus
Published: Jan 25, 2012
Length: 19 minutes (4,876 words)


A meditation on fall, the fall and falling:

Fall. Here is my favorite reading of the word: to have its proper place: The accent falls on the last syllable. There is a beauty in that, a symmetry. It remakes the whole idea of fall, not as a careening or a tumbling, but as a stately inevitability, as if it had been there all along.”

Source: The Rumpus
Published: Mar 1, 2015
Length: 7 minutes (1,960 words)

Standard of Care

What happens when a former prison inmate sues for medical malpractice:

Tonight in a nursing home in the North End neighborhood of Boston, not far from where his family owns a restaurant, there is a man with the brain of a boy. He is blind. He is 375 pounds because he doesn’t know when he is full. He can’t walk. His wheelchair is padded with a cushion from a beach chair that his mother folded in half. He has to be taken to the bathroom every thirty to sixty minutes. He can remember what his life was like before. He cries when he is asked about it.

Source: The Rumpus
Published: Jan 10, 2014
Length: 23 minutes (5,939 words)

Channel B

A new mother gets a glimpse into the life of another new mom—via her baby monitor. (The essay will be featured in the forthcoming Best American Essays 2013, edited by Cheryl Strayed):

“For the first few months after my son was born, I called him The Baby, or sometimes just Him with a capital H, huge proper nouns to illustrate how completely he took over my life. Is he eating, not eating? Pooping, not pooping? What color is the poop, how long ago was the poop, did I mark the poop on the spreadsheet? I had spreadsheets. I had stuff—white noise CDs and magnetic blocks and this super high-tech video monitor with a remote wireless screen and night vision, which made The Baby glow electric green in the dark like he was a CIA target. It was a little unnerving, actually. It had two frequencies, an A channel and a B channel, in case you had two kids in separate rooms, and what’s interesting about this is that one of my neighbors must have owned this same monitor, because on channel A, I saw my baby, and on channel B, I saw someone else’s.”

Source: The Rumpus
Published: Jul 17, 2013
Length: 6 minutes (1,500 words)


The writer pays a visit to a friend:

“I visit him on Tuesday nights at the only time they’ll let me see him. I show the receptionist my driver’s license, confirm my social security number and home address, and sign my name on a dotted line.

“‘Relationship?’ I’m always asked.

“‘Friend,’ I always say.

“The woman—it is the same woman every time—looks, at first, disinterested. She doesn’t even bother to raise her head. She types my name into her computer—click click, click click—but when she finds me, her face lights up.

“‘Oh, there you are,’ she says, smiling, as if it’s possible I’ve disappeared.”

Source: The Rumpus
Published: Feb 1, 2013
Length: 13 minutes (3,445 words)