Growing Up Zora: What Literature Can Teach You About Home

Last weekend I went home for a visit. I’m from Roanoke, Virginia, a midsized city in the southwestern part of the state that’s surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains on all sides. Almost all of my extended family lives there, and whenever I go home everyone gets together in the living room of my grandma’s house. My cousins and I joke that everyone talks at once and nobody listens—everything is repeated about five times a sitting, at minimum—but in her house my grandma reigns queen, holding court in her leather recliner. When she talks, I listen.

One of my favorite stories she tells is about my dad when he was younger. As the only boy in a family with three girls, it was his job to mow the lawn, a chore that he despised. It seemed pointless, cutting down something that was just going to grow right back and then doing it all over again a few weeks later. Exasperated by the stupidity of it all, my dad finally informed my grandma, “When I have a house, I’m gunna pour concrete and paint it green.”

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How Soccer Can Lead to Love

Off the Shelf sat down to talk to Brigid Paskula, who has just published a wonderful novel, The Sun and Other Stars, that is set in a little town in Italy and is filled with charming characters and romance. The story, which centers around Etto, a butcher’s son, and his friends…

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A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.

-Carl Sagan