Newest Brief Essays

"Women's Hour, YMCA" featured in Kenyon Review Online

"I Second That Emotion" (craft essay) featured in New Ohio Review


Other Brief Essays

"Advanced Directive to My Future Roommate…"

"Things Gone the Way of Time," recently reprinted in Brief Encounters: A Collection of Contemporary Nonfiction (Norton)


Study with Rebecca this summer

Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, June 18-25


Kenyon Review PODCAST with Rebecca

(on memoir, genre-crossing, writing practice, and more)


Word Painting Revised Edition: The Fine Art of Writing Descriptively

New edition includes over 100 writing exercises for all genres.

Word Painting

The Tribal Knot

Rebecca'a newest nonfiction book, The Tribal Knot: A Memoir of Family, Community, and a Century of Change is now available from Indiana University Press and Amazon.

Tribal Knot


from The Gettysburg Review

 The Kiss
            One well-known book suggests that first you cry, but I didn’t.  After I hung up the phone, I walked to our apartment window and looked down at the street. The vendors were out: the Korean fruit stand couple, the African sellers of purses and sunglasses, the proprietor of the umbrella-shaded Halel stand where smoke escapes in steamy wisps.  A row of yellow cabs was lined up outside the Warwick Hotel, and when a man jogged past wearing a red jersey, it occurred to me that I should open the window and shout to him–about his red jersey, maybe, or about where he thought he was going. My ears felt hot. I heard a high-pitched buzzing. A mosquito? It was mid-March, and besides, I was five floors above the ground–ground that, I now realized, was spinning. My father once told me that the best thing to do when the room starts spinning is to sit still for a moment.
           Just a few minutes before the doctor’s call, I had been on a three-mile run in Central Park, carrying in my head some lines for a poem about kangaroos I had begun a week before, shortly after returning from the Routine Procedure, as I would continue to refer to it over the next few months. If you are anywhere near my age, you are familiar with the Routine Procedure, that unpleasant, potentially demeaning event every conscientious internist urges you toward as you approach your fiftieth birthday.

            The gastroenterologist, who came highly recommended, was a handsome, walnut-colored man with a deep, soothing baritone voice. My husband accompanied me as I had accompanied him a few years earlier for his Routine Procedure, because, as the pamphlets advise, you may be drowsy afterwards and should not plan to drive yourself home, or, in my case, to flag down a cab. Having had bad reactions to anesthesia in the past, I reminded myself that this was only mild sedation–Sublimaze or Valium, maybe. Just something to relax me. Maybe it wouldn’t make me sick...

The Riddle Song and Other Rememberings
Other Longer Essays
  • And We Shall Be Changed: New York City, September 2001
    from The Kenyon Review
    ..."a wondrous essay," writes the editor of Kenyon Review, "evoking the rich vibrancy of life in New York City even as the events of 9/11 shadow the horizon."

  • The Van Angels
    from Shenandoah
    If miracles still happened in my world, I assumed they were small, inconsequential ones; the good ones had already been used up…. I don't pretend to understand all that happened that day, or why, if there is a why…