Steppie: a novel-in-progress
When a painter who chose childlessness for the sake of her Art has an affair with a father of two, and father-figure to three more, she tries to find a way to let his big, peopled world into her curated life.
STEPPIE, is the story of Simone, a single, white woman in her forties, whose bold and quirky interiority drives the narrative. Like many who live outside of family and marriage, Simone is searching for belonging. On the Sunday when she meets a handsome Black man selling Christmas trees, and asks him if he’s married, she mishears his answer, and begins an affair with him as a mistake. When she finds out that he’s taken, she vows to end the relationship, because she’s supposed to. She has women friends who’ve been cheated on. When Malcolm tells her that he has two young daughters, his being a father makes it easier.
STEPPIE is a love story, forbidden and different, but also a story of affection, betrayal, and the bond between mature women friends. It looks head on at Simone’s love of children and her chosen childlessness, which is sometimes hard for her and others to square. It goes toward the difficult. It captures the nuances and in-betweens, and sometimes contradictions, in the tacit hierarchy of marriage, singleness, motherhood, childlessness, career, wealth, and romance. More literary than romantic, STEPPIE plays out the opposite attraction push-pull between Simone, a Curtis Sittenfeld sound, who wants to bare-bones her life to make room for her Art, and Malcolm, a Black Chuck Palahniuk with a Boston accent, who wants to fill his up.
Published short stories pulled from this novel:
- Crazyhorse 100, 2021 Fiction Prize Winner, “Steppie“
Cambridge Royalty: a completed novel manuscript
CAMBRIDGE ROYALTY, a Rabbit Run meets The Wire, is an eventful story about race, love, addiction and urban renewal that takes place in The Coast, a used-to-be Black neighborhood of Cambridge, Massachusetts. This literary novel about a resilient African American addict and criminal, is the fictional story of Jackson Tower, a smart, optimistic, father with generational roots in the city, but in many ways this book is also the author’s story: the result of her compulsion to uncover the secret life of a man she had the pleasure of living with for most of the ten years they were together.
When the novel begins, Jackson works on the crew upgrading the infrastructure of an elementary school built on what was his grandfather’s land. When he was a boy, that block of property was seized by the city to accommodate the children of new families drawn to the area as part of the soaring growth brought on by Harvard, MIT, and the industries spawned by those institutions. After the union takes Jackson off the pipefitting job at the elementary school, and his city abandons his efforts to get reinstated, he tries to get whole while gradually unraveling.
This novel is a thematically-resonant story, historically accurate, and driven by dramatic events that take place in the underrepresented streets of an esteemed part of the US. Jackson himself, lovable and complicated, a victim as well as a perpetrator of injustice, has his own take on racism and fair play, sometimes illuminating, and sometimes confused. The writing rigorously avoids conforming to notions of correctness and well-meaning. Instead it seeks to widen the frame, inviting readers to struggle with the messiness of life.
Published short stories pulled from the novel:
- The New England Review published a short story that borrows closely from the first chapter.
- J Journal: New Writing on Justice published fictionalized version of a personal story that is also a later chapter in the novel. The narrative references a historical event, a property seizure in the mid-1960s by the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the neighborhood now known as “The Coast.”