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Nonfiction The Upper New Review

Taking Root: A Study of Suburban Life

By Monmita Chakrabarti

“I love these roads where the houses don’t change”- Ella Yelich-O’Connor (Lorde)

Picture a white man dressed in round glasses, Dickies, and a patterned sweater that he always makes a point to say he thrifted. He isn’t wearing a beanie but he certainly owns many. He grew up in New York City and we are having a conversation in his car, a very nice car, as he gives me a ride from my parents’ house in Dublin, OH back to our college an hour away. As we drive through the suburb where I grew up, he tells me that it is terrifying, with its pristine lawns and cookie cutter houses. He calls it a sundown town. Of course, New York City is a melting pot, so he notices these things. As if the part of the city in which he lives isn’t also a product of racial violence and redlining, as if a white man implicating a person of color in a white supremacist project isn’t the pot calling the kettle black. I am allowed to say that Dublin is ugly and racist. I would accept it if another person of color said that it felt hostile towards them, but I was hurt when the statement came from this man. If Dublin is a sundown town, what does it mean that I care about it so much? When I was a child I ran wild through the big lawns and played pretend with the other brown skinned neighborhood children. I was so happy. I hold my nostalgia dear and close, for when I was young enough to ignore the small violences occurring all around me.

***

In 1801, the brothers Peter and Benjamin Sells traveled up the Scioto River to what is now Columbus, Ohio scouting the surrounding area. They purchased 400 acres and named it Sells Town, just two years before Ohio became the seventeenth state of the Union, thirty two years before all Wyandot families in the area but one—the family of Bill Moose—were forcibly removed to reservations, and sixty four years before slavery was abolished. In 1810, Sells Town was named Dublin by John Shields, after his home in Ireland. In 2005, my family moved there.

Categories
Nonfiction The Upper New Review

The River Knows Me

By Tim Ott

When I returned to the United States from Rwanda, having served a couple years in Peace Corps, somebody asked me to teach a sense of place lesson. We were at a place called Davidson Flat, one of the most popular places on the Deschutes River in Oregon, east of the Cascades, in the sagebrush desert of the Columbia Plateau. We hiked up to a place with a pretty view, and I introduced the lesson by poking fun at the idea of sense of place as being a fad that had just popped up into popular consciousness while I had been abroad. I noted that some things in my country had changed while I was gone. Sriracha was out, and Frank’s Red Hot Sauce was in. Something called Tinder was all the rage in the dating scene. And now I was surrounded by people who talked about mindfulness and a sense of place without explaining to me what they were.

Why would anyone need to make an effort to get a sense of place? Had people forgotten how to read a map while I was gone? (perhaps they had—a few months later I was leading a group in the Oregon Cascades using a map and compass, and another hiker passed me on the trail and asked me where my phone was). I got a couple chuckles from the students as I made fun of “sense of place,” then proceeded to teach a sense of place lesson that my co-instructors told me was well done. While I might not have completely understood what a sense of place was, if there is a place I know, it is there, the approximately one hundred river miles flowing north from Warm Springs to the Columbia River.

Categories
Nonfiction The Upper New Review

Inheritance

by Taylor Roseweeds

A glass-topped tray in a carved wooden frame affixed with two brass handles hangs on the wall by my bed, five blue swallows hand-painted on its surface. It’s the type of tray you might bring to a sick person in bed, but I’ve chosen to hang it on the wall exactly as it hung in my grandparents’ bedroom until I inherited it in 2016. I spent portions of each summer and many Christmases with them on their apple orchard—a welcome break from a less idyllic daily life. Despite the availability of a spare bedroom, my sister and I almost always slept in the living room on two matching couches.

When we were small, we’d wake up before anyone else and get in our grandparents’ tall, soft bed. I would choose my grandpa’s side and he would check that my feet were tucked in, muttering something about Jack Frost coming to get my feet. In a dream—or a waking imagining seeded by this idea of Jack Frost—I sometimes saw a creepy man at the foot of the bed, emerging from the closet. So, while my grandparents tried to get a few more minutes rest, I would turn my gaze away from the closet and focus instead on the wall where the bird tray hung underneath an extremely 1970’s print featuring sunflowers in a vase. In calligraphy, it read “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” I’d watch the birds fly and take in the pleasant philosophical depth of that simple statement, drifting back to sleep.


When my grandma—Dee Loris—died in 2016, preceded by her husband seven years earlier, she left a houseful of stuff. An individual binder-style scrapbook album of snapshots for each year from 1958 to 2015 as well as additional themed books for vacations, older photos, or individual people. Kitchen cupboards crammed with sets of dishes, papered inside with recipes and diet tips cut out from Woman’s Day and Redbook. Basement rooms with closets still bearing treasure—Gunne Sax dresses, washed-soft vintage tees, and bell bottom jeans so wide my aunts said they’d have to stop walking on windy days when their pants transformed into sails.

Categories
Fiction The Upper New Review

The Feeder And The Fed

by Eamon McGrath

“A little bit higher,” she called down from the balcony to her husband.

The garden was still wet from the storm the previous night. Caroline hadn’t slept well, waking up to the crash of thunder and the rattle of the old double windows in the wind. When she was a child, the sound of thunder excited her, and she couldn’t imagine how anyone could be afraid of it. Even Toby, the chocolate Labrador she had grown up with, hadn’t been afraid, and weren’t all dogs supposed to instinctively fear such loud noises? She had a memory of lying on the floor of her sister’s bedroom with Toby during a summer thunderstorm, gazing up at the rain streaming down onto the room’s small skylight, her hands pressed firmly into the carpet as if to steady herself.

But as she had gotten older, it wasn’t exactly that she had come to be afraid of thunder. Instead, it brought on a feeling of disquiet, of creeping anxiety. She wasn’t sure exactly when this change had begun.

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