Ethel Street House

Cold and Hungry and Far From Home

The first place where we lived on our own in the United States was the first floor of this nice house on Ethel Street in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

In “Home Furnishings,” the young narrator, speaking of the detested pigtails that her mother and grandmother make her wear, says:

That made me look like a refugee, which in fact I was. Or, as Americans at the start of the Fifties liked to put it, a DP—a Displaced Person. That term didn’t disturb me as much as it did my family because that’s how I felt: displaced first from Latvia, then from Austria and now from Ethel Street.

The series of stories that will comprise this collection are about the growing up and growing old of a girl much like me from a family much like mine. Like me, she is displaced from Latvia to Austria and then, in the States, from Michigan to Massachusetts to Alabama and, finally, Maryland. She experiences the dislocating effects of major public events such as the Soviet Union’s lowering the Iron Curtain on her nation and the socio-sexual revolution of the Sixties. Also more private events such as childbirth, marriage, divorce and death.

But neither the girl nor the other people portrayed in the pieces are real. I would not presume to present any of them factually, since I am convinced that we create fictions every time we attempt to tell a story, whether it is one in which we have ever participated. Or not.

Table of Contents

1. Making Soup

2. Home Furnishings

3. That Dress

4. Winter Wonderland

5. The Microclimate of Trees

6. Salt

7.  Take It

8. The Soaking Tub**

9. Asleep Among Shards*

10. The State of Spitting Pits**

11. From a Distance

12. The Land Bridge Problem

13. The Second of March**

14. Talk to Her

15. The Disposable Woman

* Needs to be written

** Requires revision and editing

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ILSE MUNRO

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