Photo by Mary Bakija

During the winter of 2014-2015, I began to spend a lot more time sitting on my porch. In the morning, I’d pull on extra layers and drink tea while wearing mittens. At night after coming home from seeing friends, I’d linger a bit in the plastic Adirondack chair before going inside. Initially, I sat there for the thin, cool air, easier to breath than the stifling indoors, where oxygen mingled with memories. When roommates moved in, the porch was an extra room. And it was during this time that I began to read and listen to short stories exclusively on the porch — I knew I had limited time to spend there, or should limit my time there, and the length could create an endpoint.

So when, during the summer, Coach Ian West began asking on Facebook for American short story authors he should read as part of an upcoming personal project, I had several less obvious ones to recommend. Input came from several people, including a few locals, and at the point when his list had reached about 200 names, I asked when he’d get a book club going. Then one afternoon in July I ran into him at a cafe on Cortelyou Road.

“Mary,” Ian said. “Were you serious about doing a book club?”

“Yeah, sure,” I said.

“Great,” he said, opening a notebook packed with neat scribbles. “Because I’ve had some ideas…”

Continue reading