Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

The Crafts of Freedom

Martin Luther King Jr.’s Mountaintop speech was more than brilliant rhetorical art; it was also the culmination of a lifetime spent in intense and extensive reading

April 2, 2015 We rightly associate Martin Luther King Jr.’s oratorical eloquence with his vocation as a Baptist minister, following his father and grandfather before him. But King also emerged from the rhetorical tradition of the liberal arts, transforming the sources with which he engaged throughout his too-brief life.

Read more

Good Fortune

It was a weirdly specific message to get from a cookie

Divorce is an ugly business — at least it was for me. I felt as though everything in my life was broken: my home, my family, even my sanity. I didn’t know it then, but far from being over, my life was about to get interesting.

Read more

Little Lost Girl

I hadn’t yet learned what being lost feels like

Sometimes during my wanderings, I would hear an announcement over the public address system for a child who had been lost. The microphone would crackle, then I’d hear “We have a little lost girl,” followed by her name and a description. The announcements seemed plaintive, urgent, important.

Read more

A Tennessee Christmas

My father wasn’t about to buy a tree

Cutting one’s own Christmas tree certainly does evoke images of a happy family pulling a sleigh through snowy landscapes in the Appalachian Mountains. But my family’s Christmas tree acquisition process wasn’t quite what Norman Rockwell had in mind.

Read more


One sound undulated constantly through my father’s life

His tone was edgy. He limped past me gruffly. My mother flashed me the look which meant to shut up about it. Other than to occasionally refer to himself as crippled, my father almost never talked about the complications of his disability.

Read more

Hope Smiles

A holiday experiment yields a lesson in kindness

In return for sore feet, knuckles slammed in register drawers, and more of that sort of amusement, I had the privilege of watching, over and over again, one of the most powerful human emotions: generosity, and the genuine desire to give to others, not as a perfunctory requirement, but as an expression of love.

Read more