Exploring the art of prose


Author: Shana Graham

Katya’s House by Shana Graham

alt text: image is a color photograph of an evening sky filled with palm trees; title card for Shana Graham's new creative nonfiction piece "Katya's House"

  In Katya’s house there are eight women who will never leave. They are splayed across a big, black, L-shaped couch in various states of beatific decline at two o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon. They are arranged haphazardly: Some dozing…

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Author’s Note

When I began writing “Katya’s House,” I was spiraling at the precipice of two major endings: (1) the death of my beloved grandmother and (2) the implosion of my marriage and, with it, the foundations of my adult life thus far. I was questioning everything about story—about linear narrative, choice/will, continuity, individual voice, and destiny—both in writing and in life.

How did any “rules” of story make sense when widows slump on couches in hospice homes like Katya’s house, still seeped in fragments of stories, conflicts, secrets, desires that would never be known or completed? What form could contemplate the big black nothing at the end of a marriage where all the pain and ugliness and hope were supposed to deliver us somewhere redemptive, somewhere other than nowhere. And…was there something especially masculine and American in the idea of a singular, self-determined story, one with conflict defined and surpassed? Something to learn, perhaps, from the widows, from Grandma, about the swirling and spiraling interconnectivity of real stories and lives that might guide a way forward, or at least provide some solace?

This essay was my attempt—in both its narrative and form—to explore these questions and ideas. It was my attempt to write my way through my own darkness and into my next chapter. I dedicate it to Grandma Nettie.


SHANA GRAHAM is a Miami-based writer, producer, and community builder. She is currently a Lawrence A. Sanders Fellow at Florida International University. Her work has appeared in publications including The Los Angeles Review, Utne Reader, Litro, and Queen Mob’s Teahouse. You can find her on Twitter @_supershana_.