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The Sun Magazine

Essays, Memoirs, and True Stories

The Meek

“A tough row to hoe” is not a casual metaphor if you’ve actually done it. Unless you’ve picked cotton. My mother picked cotton as a child. For her, hoeing a garden was leisure compared to pulling the heavy sacks and slicing her hands to ribbons on the sharp, dry husks of the cotton boles.

An Encounter

This afternoon, waiting for the crosstown bus at 79th and Third Avenue, leaning wearily against the shelter support — a long wait — I saw Christ.

The Forgotten Children

When I pushed away the cot and lifted the trapdoor, his eyes glinted for a moment like an animal’s in the beam of Mother’s flashlight. Biscuit crumbs clung to his mouth, and around his shoulders was the old blanket he’d secreted away. I reached down to help him up, but he shrank from me, his eyes filled with hatred.

Portrait Of The Artist

I was painting on the night my mother died. Without realizing it then, I was saved by my obstinacy, my insistence on painting no matter what. Although painting has never been a replacement for tears — or for joy either — it was a healer for that moment.

Corned Beef On Rye

When I was seven, my father used to complain that I ate like a dinosaur — the kind that stood on its hind legs and ripped off tree branches with its mouth. The louder he yelled at me, the more I used my spoon like a shovel, until he’d wrap his fingers around my wrist and squeeze so tightly I couldn’t breathe.

Thorns Into Feathers

Coping With Chronic Illness

When I heard the first melancholy notes of the cello in Schumann’s A Minor Concerto, my world changed. I knew the music of illness when I heard it.


A Story

For years I would ask my wife each day at dinner, “Why must we eat this food? It’s terrible — knishes, chicken soup, challah, kreplach,” and my wife would say, “We have to eat this food. We’re Jewish.”

The Gift

He was a gruff, crusty, old-country Italian, with a long memory for past hurts both real and imagined. When he was feeling testy — which was most of the time — he responded with a grunt. He gave me one now that meant no.


Awkwardly, in fits and starts, the words came back to me.

Hail Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with thee . . .


I kept walking backwards. My shadow on the wall of the house was monstrously tall. I waved at it with both arms. The shadow’s arms were longer and wilder than mine.


The Neugents

In the tobacco country of rural North Carolina, David M. Spear has photographed a family of plain-living people, and the beauty of his vision is startling. An old woman preparing to shampoo loosens her long, white hair; it floats, diaphanous, over a bowl of water. A man lying in bed gazes out a grimy window, his weathered, pensive face illuminated by sunlight.

June 1994

*NOTE: Original copies of this issue are no longer available. Unbound, laser-printed copies will be provided for print orders.

Readers Write


TV dinners, small yellow eggs, baked Alaska

Personal Stories By Our Readers ▸


The way one eats is the way one works.

Czech proverb

More Quotations ▸
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