Exploring the art of prose


Tag: Chronology

Author’s Note

In these essays I revisit scenes from childhood that feel as vivid today as they did when I first lived them: liminal spaces where the veil between past and present thins; memories where longing and presence circle each other, like a dance.

In “Night Sky with Generations” a night sky holds all of time—“There, where Orion & Cassiopeia light the way for our great-grandparents as they make their way from Germany to the farms & coal mines of the Midwest.” And there, where the boards of a beloved grandfather’s piano box become the walls of a child’s playhouse.

In “Stacked,” the past takes on a more ominous hue as the narrator plumbs a palimpsest of subjugated lands and bodies—a suburban cul-de-sac plundered from the “orchards & prairie that came before we carved our way into them.” An abandoned quarry-turned-pond and the children who, filled with “expectancy & ambition,” set out to fish its waters. The boys’ insistence that the sole girl among them perform the unwanted task of gutting their catch.

“Everything I know about the body I learned at the limits of those early summers,” the essay opens, a foreshadowing of all the ways the girl will learn to say yes when she means no. This opening came easily when I began writing the essay over ten years ago. I knew it was a piece about patriarchy and the feminine body. The ending eluded me until recently, arriving only after I stopped overthinking the essay and allowed the image—“All those fish stacked neatly in the pail. Mouths open, still gasping for air”—to speak.

In “Snap,” it is again image that guides the essay: The calamine lotion. The tights. The long sleeves that cover the girl’s anxiety-induced hives as she dresses for the sixth-grade dance. “Brian Oakley’s mother’s wood-paneled station wagon” that carries the narrator home afterward, the boys who tease her packed alongside her, their fingers “small & white beneath the glow of street lamps & passing cars.”

I am beholden to the power of these images. How they anchor the essays in the physical details of the past while simultaneously transcending corporeality. The way that, alongside the use of present tense, they grant both writer and reader the opportunity to inhabit space in and between the physical and the metaphysical, between what happened once and what continues to haunt us.

They are all still with me—the girl who sits outside a playhouse built from her grandfather’s piano box, tracing the movements of her ancestors across a night sky. The bluegill shimmering beneath the surface of a quarry pond. The young girl who raises a knife to gut them. The daughter whose mother sends her, stuffed in tights and long sleeves, to a dance where she will be “the last one picked.” The girl who goes. The girl who snaps. The narrator who, even as she champions that girl, wonders if she may have gone too far, stepped over some invisible but mighty line that—nearly fifty years later—she still struggles to give herself permission to cross.


REBE HUNTMAN is the author of My Mother in Havana (February 2025, Monkfish Books), a memoir that traces her search to connect with her mother—thirty years after her death—among the gods and saints of Cuba. A former professional Latin and Afro-Cuban dancer and choreographer, for over a decade Rebe directed Chicago’s award-winning Danza Viva Center for World Dance, Art & Music and its dance company, One World Dance Theater. She collaborates with native artists in Cuba and South America, and has been featured in LATINA Magazine, Chicago Magazine, and the Chicago Tribune, and on Fox and ABC News. Rebe’s essays, stories, and poems appear in such places as The Southern Review, Ninth Letter, Sonora Review, Tampa Review, and the PINCH, and have earned her an Ohio Individual Excellence Award as well as fellowships from the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, Ragdale Foundation, PLAYA Residency, Hambidge Center, and Brush Creek Foundation. She holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from The Ohio State University and lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and Delaware, Ohio. Both e’s in her name are long. Find her on Instagram at @rebehuntman.