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The Sun Magazine

Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Village Voices

Best Of The 11th Street Ruse

The 11th Street Ruse was “designed to raise the eyebrows and the social/poetical consciousness of the world. So far it has failed.” Or so its publisher, Sparrow, and editor supreme, Ellen Carter, said in their introduction to our first excerpt from the Ruse, in 1989.

Saying Its Name

When Illness Is A Secret

I swore to hate the woman who told me to undress, who sat me on the examining table, and who took my father away to talk with him outside my presence. I hated her for her chilly brusqueness, for having seen me in my underpants, and for having mentioned within earshot the words cystic fibrosis.

Lighting The Candles

Because she is old, my mother performs the Sabbath ritual very slowly. Sitting in front of the brass candlesticks given to her by her mother, she looks as if God is pressing down hard on the top of her head. Her face juts forward, and the top of her back is rounded. Because she is demented and her short-term memory is shot, it’s impossible to have a conversation with her. But she does remember some things, such as who I am, and the barucha, the blessing for the Sabbath, both in English and in Hebrew. And because she is out of her mind, after the prayer she continues talking to God intimately.



I’m kneeling in the foyer lacing my sister’s boot when I hear my mom muttering in the hallway. This time it’s not about the shoes in the living room or my father’s late child support. She’s talking about me. “Thirteen,” she says, “and you think you’re all grown up.”

The Blessing

My mother lay on a chaise longue by the swimming pool, humming an approximation of “Begin the Beguine.” Light reflected by the water played over her thighs. They were not bad thighs for a woman of sixty-five. This thought filled me with a sudden queasiness. I felt a rising in my solar plexus that reached from my navel to my teeth.

Readers Write


While my father was alive, our home was filled with Beethoven, Brahms, and Schubert. After he died, the house fell silent. I had to care for my younger sister after school while my mother worked to support us. I was painfully shy and socially backward. The only thing I enjoyed was playing in the band. I had no close friends and was never asked for a date.

Personal Stories By Our Readers ▸


What used to be called liberal is now called radical, what used to be called radical is now called insane, what used to be called reactionary is now called moderate, and what used to be called insane is now called solid conservative thinking.

Tony Kushner

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