“[Starred Review] An illuminating stroll through the decades of one of the most culturally significant streets in America…breezy…engagingly personal…Rather than a nostalgic lament, this revelatory book celebrates an indelible cultural imprint.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Calhoun, a journalist who grew up on New York City’s St. Marks Place, delivers a captivating, multidimensional history of her native stomping ground…As Calhoun traces the neighborhood’s evolution from wealthy and respectable to gritty and poverty-stricken and back again, she shows how one street can become a microcosm of America’s political and cultural history.” — Publishers Weekly
One of “the most compelling nonfiction titles set to arrive in bookstores between now and December.” — The Millions
Up Wednesday on Narratively is a story I wrote about the Fox Sisters, who invented American Spiritualism in 1848. While writing it, I spent some time in Rochester, where I visited the old foundation of the family’s home, now a holy site for Spiritualists, and met Chris Davis, super-helpful museum director of the Newark-Arcadia Historical Society. There’s apparently going to be a Fox Sisters movie based on a 1936 New Yorker story; I’m thinking Daniel Craig as Captain Kane? Meanwhile, here’s a Fox Sisters bibliography I put together.
Abbott, Karen. “The Fox Sisters and the Rap on Spiritualism,” Smithsonian, October 30, 2012.
Aventi, Anthony. “Chapter 16: Rochester Rap: The First Haunted House,” in Behind the Crystal Ball: Magic, Science, and the Occult from Antiquity Through the New Age. New York: Times Books, 1996.
Ballou, Adin. An Exposition of Views Respecting the Principal Facts, Causes and Peculiarities Involved in Spirit Manifestations. Boston: Bela Marsh, 1853. (more…)
Publishers Weekly says… St. Marks Is Dead: The Many Lives of America’s Hippest Street
Calhoun, a journalist who grew up on New York City’s St. Marks Place, delivers a captivating, multidimensional history of her native stomping ground, long a magnet for the counterculture. In a vivid and fluid narrative that draws on interviews with over 200 current and former residents, Calhoun highlights pivotal aspects of St. Marks’s 400-year history: the 19th- and 20th-century social reformers who founded schools and services for the indigent, Emma Goldman and her plot to assassinate Henry Frick, the successive waves of immigration and resultant ethnic tensions, a thriving music scene that’s included both Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable and the Beastie Boys, the AIDS crisis, the 1988 Tompkins Square Park Riot, the skater scene of the 1990s, and much more. She also brings many famous and infamous residents to life, including mobster Benny “Dopey” Fein, W.H. Auden, Amiri Baraka (when he was known as LeRoi Jones), and Father Michael Allen, the “hippie” priest of St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery, who saw the future of religion in jazz and poetry. As Calhoun traces the neighborhood’s evolution from wealthy and respectable to gritty and poverty-stricken and back again, she shows how one street can become a microcosm of America’s political and cultural history. (Nov.) Find the review here.
Here is a less-bleak-than-usual child welfare story I wrote for the ABC News/Univision site Fusion about Rise magazine. This story was reported with the support of the Fund for Journalism on Child Well-Being and the National Health Journalism Fellowship, programs of the USC Annenberg School of Journalism.
Kirkus says: [STARRED REVIEW] An illuminating stroll through the decades of one of the most culturally significant streets in America…Journalist Calhoun vividly details the long legacy of artistic upheaval, political foment, demographic transformation, and resistance to gentrification along the street on New York’s Lower East Side where she grew up. St. Marks Place doesn’t submit to the easy stereotyping of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury, perhaps because “hippies” and “Summer of Love” represented such a comparatively brief blip in American culture. The hippies of St. Marks preferred to be called “freaks,” with less of an emphasis on love and more on the liberation of anarchy. But as the author traces the legacy of St. Marks back four centuries, she shows how the street has long served as a magnet for radical visionaries, crackpot artists, self-proclaimed prophets, and runaways with nowhere else to go. “Disillusioned St. Marks Place bohemians— those who were Beats in the fifties, hippies in the sixties, punks in the seventies, or anarchists in the eighties—often say the street is dead now, with only the time of death a matter of debate,” she writes, and then counters, “but this book will show that every cohort’s arrival, the flowering of its utopia, killed someone else’s.” In quickly paced, anecdotal fashion, Calhoun connects the dots between Emma Goldman and Abbie Hoffman, Charlie Parker and the Velvet Underground, those who occupied the neighborhood during different decades but sustained its character as kindred spirits…The breezy approach underscores the radical, significant transformations experienced by St. Marks and leads to her engagingly personal reflection on how a child raised there might not feel much nostalgia for blocks of discarded needles, used condoms, and threats of pedophilia: “though St. Marks Place will probably always elude true respectability, the street today is safer and more pleasant than at any point in the last fifty years.” Rather than a nostalgic lament, this revelatory book celebrates an indelible cultural imprint.
ST MARKS IS DEAD: The Many Lives of America’s Hippest Street
BOOK PARTY AND LAUNCH!
FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC!
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 2, 2015
AT THE COOPER UNION GREAT HALL
ENTRANCE ONE BLOCK BELOW ST. MARKS, AT 7 EAST 7TH ST
Chat with your neighbors, buy a book, have a drink, listen to a short talk by author Ada Calhoun about the street’s history, see never-before-published photos from the neighborhood’s past, and enjoy punk covers by a very exciting band!
Beer has been lovingly provided by Brooklyn Brewery.
AFTER THE EVENT, FOLLOW US TO BARCADE (FORMER HOME OF THE ST. MARK’S BATHS AND MONDO KIM’S!) FOR AN EXTENDED HAPPY HOUR!
I have a Modern Love in the New York Times this weekend about wedding vows, religion, and airline policy. Here’s an excerpt:
One thing I love about marriage (and I love a lot of things about marriage) is that you can have a bad day or even a bad few years, full of doubt and fights and confusion and storming out of the house. But as long as you don’t get divorced, you are no less married than couples who never have a hint of trouble (I am told such people exist). You can be bad at a religion and still be 100 percent that religion. Just because you take the Lord’s name in vain doesn’t make you suddenly a non-Christian. You can be a sinner. In fact, I think it’s good theology that no matter how hard you try, you are sure to be a sinner, just as you are sure to be lousy, at least sometimes, at being married. There is perfection only in death. Read the whole thing here.
UPDATE: The piece went viral, and the New York Times did a follow-up on the response. You can read that here.
Idaho lawyer Richard Hearn just won a surprising and groundbreaking abortion-rights victory at the Ninth Circuit, and no one seemed to be saying anything much about it, so I called him up and asked him why. Here’s my interview with him for New York Magazine‘s The Cut.
Do you expect courts around the country will see more of these cases, because of the rise in home abortions using drugs purchased online?
I think DIY abortions are already exploding. They are usually done early in pregnancy, and very few people are being prosecuted for it, because few people know about it. The Georgia case [Kenlissia Jones] is an exception, because she told the social worker when she went to the hospital. Most women don’t go to the hospital and they don’t tell anyone. That’s why the number of official abortions is going down. Because it’s so easy. These Texas laws (they may close down the remaining abortion clinics in that state) will force women not to go to Planned Parenthood, because they can’t get there or can’t afford it. Read the rest here.
On June 1, 2015, I spent 8 hours at the Montgomery Circuit Courthouse in Christiansburg, Virginia, for the sentencing hearing of Jessica Ewing, who killed her friend Samanata Shrestha at Virginia Tech last year. I wrote a story about the case for Cosmopolitan online. Here’s an excerpt: “I think most people are probably scratching their heads,” Ewing’s lawyer, Tyson Daniel, told Cosmopolitan.com by phone before the hearing. “Because the only thing that has been presented all this time has been the commonwealth’s evidence.” And what the commonwealth described in its summary of facts was bleak: Shrestha had invited Ewing over for dinner. At the apartment, Ewing strangled Shrestha, then put the body in a sleeping bag and put it in the victim’s car. Her plans to burn the body were thwarted when a friend wouldn’t help her. She described this in a damning journal entry as: “Some friend. He fucking won’t even help me move a goddamn body … friendship test failed.” Read the rest here.