Just as is probably the case with you, I am in part a product of people, places, and events I had no say in.

That certainly includes the seemingly innocent choices my parents made in raising me, as well as the random occurrences of my life.

But each of us is also touched, if ever so subtly, by fading, almost imperceptible aftershocks from the past, ones that continue towards us, across time, like ripples on water.

These ripples may at times rock our boat so gently we don’t even notice, but it doesn’t mean they haven’t pushed us in one direction or the other, perhaps toward shore, perhaps further out.

Perhaps both.

My mother, for one, was born into the Great Depression, raised in a gritty steel town in the industrial northeast, and bequeathed with what was at that time the stigma of being Italian-American. The turbulence in her life continues to make waves in my own.

And yet I’m coming to believe I can’t parse good and bad in my inheritance. That same DNA that makes me an accomplished escape artist also encodes me with an urge to write, and I couldn’t shake it off if I wanted to.

So this is my attempt to examine it all, to understand what happened to the people I loved, to make the stories make sense.

– James Michael Starr



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