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The Love that Calls Us

By Allison Backous TroyNovember 14, 2011

In college, I encountered some lines from Gregory Wolfe about the vocation of the artist. As someone who had been carrying the desire to write, and the desire to make this writing my life work, the words were perfect. “Vocation,” Greg wrote, “is a mysterious thing. It seems to come to us both from without—as a call…

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Maid of Honor

By Allison Backous TroyMarch 1, 2012

So knowing, what is known? …that some are born and some are brought to the glory of this world. —Lucille Clifton, “Far Memory” This weekend, my younger sister is taking a train to Grand Rapids. She is coming to help me with details: to try on shoes and seal envelopes, to shake out the ivory…

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In the Kitchen

By Allison Backous TroyDecember 5, 2011

My mother lives in a little yellow house on John Street in Whiting, Indiana, where the Chicago skyline looms across the northern edge of town, where British Petroleum’s refining towers, which flank the town’s southern edge, burn both night and day, their white eyes flaming through the rain that has made me late for my…

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Pride and Progress

By Allison Backous TroyOctober 21, 2011

My family moved to Sauk Village when I was eight years old. The town rode the border between Illinois and Indiana, an hour south of Chicago; its town motto was Pride and Progress, stamped on a blue concrete sign flanking the intersection of Sauk Trail and 394, the westernmost edge of town. We didn’t know…

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A Heart in Two Places

By Allison Backous TroySeptember 24, 2011

The grid is the plan above the earth. It is a compass of possibilities. —D.J. Waldie, Holy Land During the time I spent completing my MFA, I worked for months on a single essay about the south suburbs of Chicago, where I spent my youth and young adulthood. I had just moved to Michigan, and…

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The Work is Calling

By Allison Backous TroySeptember 13, 2011

“It was only love we were looking for….” —Patty Griffin Part of my task at Good Letters, for myself, is to work on my first book. With the ways that daily life squashes my writing time, I’m trying to see these posts as ways into my memoir. The book that I’ve wanted to write, and…

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Recovering Together

By Allison Backous TroyApril 2, 2010

My father is a sophisticated kind of guy. When I visit his house, he lines the guest bed with red satin sheets that he picked up from the dollar store. He has never been rich. But that never seems to stop him. “You’re never too poor for a little style, Red,” he tells me, setting…

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My Own “Rex Manning Day”

By Allison Backous TroyOctober 3, 2011

After my parents’ divorce, my mother moved us kids to a trailer on the northeast side of town. It was long and narrow, like a ship’s galley, and the wallpaper’s thin brown stripes seemed to carve themselves into the drywall. The trailer never felt like home, never felt like a place you could settle. We…

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Cancer and the Cloud of Witnesses

By Allison Backous TroyAugust 4, 2011

As I type this, the band-aid on my back is sliding off, the Vaseline from the dermatology office a slick, clear ooze spread below my shoulder blades. I had to get a mole removed, and the daily care the resulting wound requires is both minimal and difficult: I’m having a hard time reaching my arms…

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A Conversion Story

By Allison Backous TroyJuly 14, 2011

The word “conversion” reminds me of Anne Lamott, whose own Damascus Road story is one that I love telling my students: Lamott recalls the fevered days after an abortion when, drunk and spotting blood, she noticed a stray cat sitting at her doorstep. The cat followed Lamott everywhere, down the street and to the liquor…

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