Wild River Blues, about my little brother's and my epic road trip, in which we backpack the East Coast, eat obscene quantities of Cheez-Its, obsess about art and life and then learn not to obsess about art and life, was published today as a Vintage Short Original! This piece makes me intensely nostalgic and I hope it inspires you to hug your sibling.
“Jackson Samuel Menkedick, my little brother, has printed the Tao Te Ching on the back of a bunch of old Excel spreadsheets, looped them all together on a key ring, and placed this makeshift tome on the dash of his forest-green Honda Accord.
One weekend in June, while I am hunched over and sweating, cutting multiflora rose from the trails on my parents’ farm, he announces that he is going to spend the next year driving around the country, backpacking through the national parks, listening to thousands of hours of jazz, and reading the Tao. Instantly, I look up, freeze the clippers, and say, 'I am so coming with you.'"
Read the full Vintage Short.
"Drawing from the experiences and writings of Joan Didion, Susan Sontag, Louise Erdrich, Anne Enright, and other writers, Menkedick erases and redraws parts of herself as she experiences greater self-understanding, weighing values and goals against those of others in her family. She finds that her writing, previously fueled by travel, comes to serve as a stand-in for traveling itself. The natural world around her in rural Ohio provided significant opportunities for reassessment, and she embraced the entirely different journey of pregnancy and motherhood. Menkedick's writing is insightful and evocative, drawing on all the senses, and readers will be impressed by the sense of place in her writing, even while she's laboring to discern the meaning in her experience.
Menkedick's driving question is to figure out 'whether returning home signifies growing up or giving up or both—and if it’s both, what exactly we want to give up in exchange for what.' The magic of this book is that she makes so personal a question so easily accessible to readers."
Read the full review!
Thrilled about this lovely review from Publishers Weekly!
"Menkedick, a native Midwesterner, spent her 20s traveling around the globe alone, seeking out landscapes and people different from her home. Whether she was picking grapes in France or teaching English on Réunion Island, Menkedick was “using myself like a Monopoly piece, moving around the globe to acquire experience and knowledge.” At 31, she and her husband moved back home to live in a small cabin on her family’s farm in Ohio and have a baby. Menkedick’s intensely intimate collection of essays chronicles her journey from early adulthood, as a young woman who “confused travel with experience and experience with self-definition” into maturity. She beautifully depicts the physiological changes and emotional battles that took place in her mind and body as she and her husband adjusted to their new sedentary life. Menkedick is a superb storyteller and her writing is filled with remarkable scientific and literary references."
Read more at publishersweekly.com.
I'm thrilled to announce that I'll be running a new column at Vela called Milestones. A brief excerpt of the column description:
"No other great human experience is as systematically diminished as motherhood. Though we are all, to draw from Rich, “of woman born,” motherhood has long been shoved out of the domain of critical inquiry and artistic relevance in patriarchal societies...
Milestones is a space for women who are interested in both the inhibitions and potential of motherhood, its quotidian and epic elements, the way it restricts and frustrates, and also the way it liberates and enlightens. It examines motherhood as the human experience writ small in the belly, and huge in the scope of families, societies, and generations."
"If my husband and I could once feign a critical distance from our adopted cultures, maintaining the surrealistic gaze of travelers, now we must acknowledge that through the creation of our family we possess the blood, history, and responsibility of an America that spans borders. As we raise a daughter who carries in her veins both the tremendous, destructive dominion of the white United States and the largely hidden world of exploited brown labor, we must find a way to engage with each and negotiate their conflicted overlap. It is a challenge that has proved more painful and essential than I ever would have imagined when we first danced with our turkey five years ago, and slaughtered it the next day."
My essay "Open" received an Honorable Mention in The Cincinnati Review's annual contest. Judges called it a "beautiful meditation on the altered state of motherhood." Lovely to receive this little shoutout from my hometown!
Great to see that my essay "Living on the Hyphen," published in the fall 2014 issue of Oxford American, has been selected as notable in The Best American Essays 2015, edited by Ariel Levy. This news was made even more awesome by the fact that three other Vela writers–Eva Holland, Amanda Giracca, and Amy Butcher–are in the notables as well. Hurrah for women essaysists!