Literary Homes


I don’t have a book quote today for my 31 days of writing on reading so I can write. What I do have is this: homes in books I’ve read. I always read fiction with an eye in the homes, such as they are. I like to imagine I know, that I can see, of what they speak.

Atticus Finch’s house could sit on First Avenue in Franklin, PA, where my grandparents lived. To get to the street, we had to wind through town and across a few small bridges. We passed the high school where my mother played sax and was on the cheer squad. The homes are modest and tidy. Just before we turned left onto the street, we passed a red barn convenience store. I imagine Scout and Jem sitting on the back stoop, planning their summers with Dill.

Or, today, on our long run, we ran through every demographic of Tulsa you can imagine, I imagined Jeannette Walls’ parents making the slow slide from a broken down four room home into homelessness. Some of the older homes we ran by are in various states of disrepair, and it’s hard not to gape at the broken windows. We could hear rigs on the highway hurtling past. The Glass Castle old very well have been set against these streets.

Also today, we ran in the leafy, lush and expansive estates of domestic perfection. All I could hear were birdsong and footfalls. And my gasping breath, but whatever. I imagine the president of some fictional university from Straight Man picking up dog droppings with his manicured fingers slid into a plastic bag from the organic grocer’s. Richard Russo’s matriarch from Empire Falls also could have nestled her awkward daughter behind the ivied walls.

I found myself thinking about literary homes and how to turn them on their heads. What if we set a story in the lushness and heard from a character who was foreign to that world? Or what if the nefarious white color ilk ruined their beautiful streets with the messiness that is so well hidden along those boulevards.

I let my eyes drift to the towering buildings and I wanted to read the stories of the people who built those mammoths, and I wanted to hear the stories behind the stories. So today this is my prompt:

Describe home. Any home. Your home, your city, your dream home. Set the timer for five minutes and go.

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