Overjoyed that my creative nonfiction piece “Doldrums”—about my fascination with The Shakers, being becalmed in my 20s, and a pretty terrible apartment complex I lived in during that time—is in the May 2017 issue of Pithead Chapel, which you can read online:
Earlier, I had been watching the Ken Burns documentary The Shakers: Hands to Work, Hearts to God. It chronicles the Shakers’ rise, their history, their eventual fall. Celibacy was their undoing. Many could not sustain their faith, what was asked of them, but ultimately, yes, the celibacy was what did them in—they couldn’t keep their numbers up, they could no longer find joy in these daily rituals. In one Shaker community called Pleasant Hill, in Kentucky, an eighteen-year-old named Polly committed suicide by hanging on September 13, 1815. The narrator recounts the impassive words of the community elders that had been written down about her death: that Polly killed herself above the kitchen in the sister’s shop. That she was naturally agreeable and good, but that she spoiled it all.
A special thanks to nonfiction editor Katherine Gehan for the encouragement and excitement about this piece—and to all the editors for taking it! Pithead Chapel has long been one of my favorite journals, and I’m delighted to again be featured in an issue.