My mother bragged about me to anyone who would listen. But in reality, she didn’t see me at all.

Me, my sister Heidi, and my mother in Greece, 1984.

It’s impossible to say where in my maternal line, exactly, things went wrong. In a family obsessed with genealogy, though, the stories go way back. My grandmother — a petite woman who knitted bright scarves for me and bought Froot Loops as a treat when I visited — once flushed my grandfather’s ashes down the toilet in a fit of rage a few years after his death. Her own father, a prominent pediatric vision researcher, was chilly and distant, but perhaps…

Lavender is nice, but it turned out I’d known the answer since I was 6.

Early in 2020, before I associated the word “pandemic” with anything other than disaster movies, I went to the doctor to figure out a treatment for my anxiety. Looking over my answers on the questionnaire, she noted that I had no symptoms of depression except for chronic trouble falling asleep. “What’s keeping you awake?” she asked with concern.

I was 43 years old, so it wasn’t easy to admit the reason: I was obsessed with playing Cooking Fever, and the frantic pace of time-management games…

Somebody’s going to write the Great Pandemic Novel. Why shouldn’t it be you?

My father used to tell me that “may you live in interesting times” was an ancient curse. As a little kid, that idea was simply puzzling. For anyone who has lived through any part of the past 20 years, though, it needs no explanation. And the past year, all by itself? Don’t get me started.

Embrace “me time” on a grand scale.

Want to make a pilgrimage to Times Square just to get a limited-edition “Unicorn milkshake”? Go for it. (2017)

After years of happily solo city travel, it wasn’t until I decided to go to Vegas on my own that my friends put their collective foot down. “That’s weird,” one girlfriend gently informed me. “Nobody goes to Vegas all alone. I’m sure someone’s willing to go with you.”

Sure they would. That’s why I kept it quiet until it was too late for anyone to crash my one-woman party.

In my teens I thought I was an introvert, but in retrospect, I’m pretty sure I was just an extrovert with low self-esteem. I’ve…

This Is Us

A tribute to Beverly Cleary

Me, age two or three, 1979.

My childhood library was a mile from our apartment, a route that took my mother and me across an overpass that ran through thick woods, down the quiet streets of a New Deal-built neighborhood with tiny rowhouses and an Art Deco movie theater in the town square. My mother didn’t drive, even though it was the early 1980s and every other mother did, so it was always a walk, pushing my little sister in an umbrella stroller. Whatever books I wanted to bring home, I would have to carry.

We made that walk frequently, and I had no way of…

On the Met rooftop, August 2019, keeping my composure.

The rooftops of New York City have long held a special magic for me. Back in 2011, when my first novel, The Kingdom of Childhood, was about to launch, I got invited to a book-industry party on the rooftop of a hotel on East 50th Street where I ran into Margaret Atwood. All debut authors feel a touch of imposter syndrome, but if you really want to feel a roaring, red-lining case of it, try being a mom from Maryland chatting up Margaret Atwood about your new novel while wearing a cocktail dress you picked up at TJ Maxx just…

Rebecca Coleman

Author of The Kingdom of Childhood. Mom. Editor. Book lover.

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