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Human Parts
A publication about humanity from Medium: yours, mine, and ours.

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In Human Parts. More on Medium.

This Is Us

When I revealed deeply personal details of my life in my memoir, my friendships changed in ways I never expected

Closeup of a woman’s face with a pensive expression.
Closeup of a woman’s face with a pensive expression.

I was already a bit of a mess a year ago, just as the world changed forever. I bit my nails, pulled out strands of hair. I stared at the ceiling some nights, convinced I could hear a faint, constant ringing. “Aren’t you nervous for your book to come out?!” people asked. “Not really,” I answered. I don’t know why it felt right to lie. Not right — essential, as though only by performing cool-girl calm could I show my panic who was boss, shove it back into its hole.

I have struggled with anxiety throughout my life, but this…


Express Yourself

Where does the real me end and the fictional one begin?

A photo of a pink cloud.
A photo of a pink cloud.

In her 2010 experimental novel, How a Person Should Be, Sheila Heti writes that “most people live their entire lives with their clothes on.” They are private and possess a natural modesty. Others, artists, she writes, cannot put their clothes on. “They are destined to expose every part of themselves, so the rest of us can know what it means to be human.”

When I told my mom I wanted to publish books, she said she didn’t understand. “That would feel like running around naked.” My mom used to sell art, and her statement annoyed me. Because she was right…


This Is Us

At the library, you could say yes to everything

Blurry photo of library book shelves.
Blurry photo of library book shelves.

Recently, my children and I walked by our shuttered library and my nine-year-old son said, as if recounting a dream, “Remember… libraries? Doesn’t it seem crazy that you could just go in whenever you wanted? And there would be lots of other people there? And then you could pick whichever books you wanted and take them home for free?!”

It suddenly seemed like a thing that couldn’t possibly be real.

I’ve always loved libraries (heck, I wrote a novel about a librarian, which is obviously my secret fantasy job) but it took my kid’s observation to make me realize that…


Like many parents before me, I sob whenever I read this book to my kid

The other night, my four-year-old son approached me with Shel Silverstein’s classic picture book The Giving Tree. I didn’t even know we had a copy, but I certainly recalled the book from childhood.


More than anything, the genre challenges us to imagine beyond the status quo

Some of the first science fiction books I loved were in a YA series called The Tripods Trilogy, by John Christopher, about a future ruled by a race of invading aliens called “the masters” who rove around the country in Wellsean tripods. Human civilization is kept at a medieval level, and young people are “capped,” or given surgical implants to control their thoughts, at age 14 — which happened to be my own age when I read the books, at a time when our very nice pastor was starting to drop around the house to ask when I was going…


A lifetime of books made me who I am, for better or worse

The day before they left, my wife and I found a brief, quiet moment to share an embrace in the kitchen. I told her how much I would miss her and miss the kids, how sorry I was that my work schedule meant I couldn’t accompany them on their spring break vacation, how lonely I would be without them around. Ten days. Ten long days. What would I do with myself? My wife said, “You’ll be fine. You’ll be happy being alone. Alone with your thoughts.”

I didn’t respond. I didn’t try to counter what she was saying or feign…


Not having control over our circumstances is frustrating, but it doesn’t mean we’re helpless

A few years ago, I was really stuck. I had accepted a one-year consulting contract that required me to commute from Austin to Los Angeles. It paid very well, but the gig was a disaster.

Everything was in chaos. No one could get anything done. We were at the complete mercy of a Wall Street hedge fund and a bunch of lawyers who were battling for control of the company.

I was frustrated. After I ran into a brick wall multiple times, it was like learned helplessness. What could I do? What was the point? …


What should you read next? Whatever books shaped the people you most admire and respect.

When I was a teenager, I began a habit that would change the course of my entire life. I don’t mean to overstate it — it was simple, just a question I would ask the people I met — but without it, I’m not sure who I would have turned out to be.

Every time I would meet a successful or important person I admired, I would ask them: What’s a book that changed your life?* And then I would read that book. (In college, for instance, I was lucky enough to meet Dr. …


How a novel with F-bombs and sex gets categorized for juveniles.

Your 11-year-old is reading a YA novel by bestselling author Sarah Dessen, which she found at her middle school library. You couldn’t be happier. The book is long and appears to be quite a page-turner. (Touchdown, book! iPhone trails late in the fourth.)

Here’s an excerpt:

“Damn,” he said, wiping his mouth as he passed the bottle back to me. “Since when are you such a lush?” Then he took a deep drag, sputtering slightly as he held it in. My head felt heavy, fluid, as he exhaled, the smoke blowing across me. I closed my eyes trying to lose…


The tricky business of promoting my true-crime book

I didn’t read a true-crime book until after I’d written my own. This would explain why my true-crime work, The Kill Jar, doesn’t play by the rules. I simply didn’t know there were any rules until after I wrote it. The Kill Jar is as much a memoir as a dissection of the Oakland County Child Killings circa 1976 to 1977 in Detroit, and thereby falls outside the norm.

Mostly, the book gets a lot of four- and five-star reviews from readers who appreciate that I wove my personal narrative with the narrative of the crimes. There are also readers…

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