Someone once said to be a great writer, you have to be left alone. The thing about being a writer in New York is this city will leave you the hell alone.
Last night I went to an event at Housing Works Bookstore (an organization doing fantastic work, check them out.) Jazmine Hughes, Eve Peyser, Syreeta McFadden, Durga Chew-Bose, Norman Brannon, Yahdon Israel, Glory Edim, Mira Jacob, Helena Fitzgerald, and Claire Beaudreault, came together to share their New York stories in 180 seconds or less. Aside from being a "New York story" there were no other rules. Some told them, animated and engaging like we had been friends with them for ten years. Others read excerpts from their books, forthcoming or already published.
I'll admit, I only knew a few of the names but once I saw Jason Diamond was hosting, I was sold on the event. Ever since I went to his book signing of Searching for John Hughes at The Strand, I've become a bigger admirer of his work.
Almost everyone that got up on stage said how long they had lived in New York City. There were lifelong New Yorkers in Eve Peyser, and Yahdon Israel. Others had just hit 5-, 11-, and 20-year anniversaries.
I have only lived in New York for three months, but if I had to tell a 3-minute New York story it would be about last night. Being in a room with hundreds of people with no two alike origin stories who have come to the same bookstore because we have a shared interest is electrifying. Living here is like being part of a huge club where no one knows or cares who the other members are. But there is something unifying in the present about living here and will be in the future, long after you leave (if you ever do.)
On the stage, stories were told about gentrification, summertime sex, bad and broken relationships, and witnessing something truly awful, like accidental death or suicide. Each was bound together by the dirty streets we walk every day, crossing paths without ever meeting. Because New York is nothing without the people who live here. We were all on Crosby Street last night but every day, for better or worse– we're in New York. Separate but together.
Some of my other favorite lines from last night:
When you first move to New York, you'll notice couples fighting on the streets. If you live here long enough, you'll become one of those couples.
My boyfriend and I broke up on a Tuesday. We went for a walk, 5 years tied up in 20 minutes.
By Kathryn Greene