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The St. Lawrence Book Award for a first collection of short stories or poems
The St. Lawrence Book Award for a first collection of short stories or poems
The St. Lawrence Book Award for a first collection of short stories or poemsThe St. Lawrence Book Award for a first collection of short stories or poemsThe St. Lawrence Book Award for a first collection of short stories or poems
The St. Lawrence Book Award for a first collection of short stories or poems
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If These Streets Could Talk:
Fiction and Poetry from NY Writers Coalition
Edited by Deborah Clearman, Joshua Bolotsky, Rebecca Strauss, and Raina Wallens

NY Writers Coalition Press, 2006

Reviewed by Diane Goettel
For the last 5 years, NY WRITERS COALITION has provided free creative writing workshops throughout New York City for people who have been historically deprived of voices in our society. Working with at-risk youth, adult residents of supportive housing, the formerly incarcerated, senior citizens and others, this not-for-profit organization creates unique opportunities for such groups to be heard through the powerful art of writing. Visit NYWC at www.nywriterscoalition.org.
At a NY Writers Coalition (NYWC) workshop you might find a group of seven-year-olds from the Bronx writing about their favorite foods. Or you might find a few adults sitting together and writing about what it was like at Ground Zero when the towers fell. At a New York Writers Coalition workshop you will find residents of the five boroughs of New York City writing about their lives, their wishes, their fears. You will find people writing in order to claim a voice.

For five years, NYWC has provided free writing workshops to groups of people who are voiceless in our society. If These Streets Could Talk: Fiction and Poetry from NY Writers Coalition is a collection of some of the work that has been created in these workshops. The writings in this book are honest, quirky, sobering, humorous, and all quite beautiful. The first poem of If These Streets Could Talk is by Cindy Lei, Age 7. She writes:


Pretty

I am from New York City
I am from brushes with daisies
I am from big white dumplings with things inside
I am from long pink dresses that I wear for dances.
I feel excited when I am wearing the pink dress.
I am from fudge
I am from congratulations and happy birthday.
I am from presents, medium-sized in a blue box
with a pink ribbon.
I am from fresh air.

I am from quickly spoken Chinese.
I am from the stories I write, stories with problems.
I am from little and big sisters.
I am from Chinatown where there are interesting signs
and English-speaking people can’t understand.

The final piece in the collection is about aging gracefully. In “Tips for Aging”, Wesley Maxwell Baynes discusses the packets of experience that life brings in each decade and concludes with advice on how to stay healthy and happy.

Some of the most sobering work in If These Streets Could Talk exists within the chapter titled “God Tensed in an Airline Seat.” In her prose piece “Calling the Children: September 11, 2004", Lisa Fenger writes:








Each chapter within the book offers a unique look at what it means to be a New Yorker, a man, a woman, a child, an adult, a nearly lost teen, a parent, a human. It is a powerful text, full of fantastic writing and beautiful – and sometimes painful-- honesty.

That morning, after a moment of silence, the calling for the children began. Into the morning air, one by one for hours, mothers and fathers stood where their children and vanished and called them by name. They called into the sky and down into the pit, they searched the heavens, their hearts, the depths of the dust of the earth, and not finding them, they cast flowers onto the silent pools in their despair. Where do dead childrenlive?