Monday, May 24, 2021

The #Midwessay: Lyndsey Ellis, On Memory and Reinvention in St. Louis

Like fellow Midwesterner and incredible essayist Sonya Huber, I loathe the harmful writing advice of “show don’t tell.” Yet, I am also a writer born and raised in the Show Me State. While Missouri is steeped in Southern front-porch storytelling, the Middle West’s characteristic pragmatism, understatement, and complicated* past and present are perpetual in our prose. We want it both ways: to show and to tell, to be Southern and Midwestern. Ultimately, there’s a certain resilience and toughness Missouri essayists must harbor because we can’t assume you, dear reader, share our points of reference or understand why we stay or live in this place, however long. Ultimately, though, describing what others do not know or have the words for makes for wilder, more inventive stories. The Missouri essayists in this project share the very Midwestern joys and terror of what it’s like to be in a state with “no particular place to go.” What constrains and releases us may surprise you.

Missourians: we'd love to have more essays riffing and rumbling on the #Midwessay! Contact me at michaella.thornton at gmail and I'll be happy to include your thoughts and insights in this project.

 —Michaella A. Thornton

* And by “complicated,” I mean openly racist, homophobic, transphobic, sexist, ableist, xenophobic, and more. We have a lot to unpack and improve on here.

On Memory and Reinvention in St. Louis

Lyndsey Ellis 


A re-examination of the Midwest in recent years has hurled this region further into a national conversation that asks vital questions, like who are we and what are we doing here? 
     The answers always vary, depending on who’s being asked. One thing I know, and remain quite proud of, is the fact that the responses come from a more accurate representation of who lives and experiences the Midwest: Natives, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Caucasians. Straight and gay, liberal and conservative, blue collars and white collars, religious and non-religious, corporate workers and creative minds—all people who make up the Heartland. 
     And, still St. Louis remains a hidden gem loaded with highs and lows. Equally flawed and sacred. Too Midwest and not Midwest enough. 
     I feel right at home. Again. 
     The city’s complicated nature mirrors my own personal feelings of forever being on the cusp—stuck between two worlds. Introverted and extroverted. Country and educated. Seen and unseen. Realistic and fantasy-driven. Scared and courageous. 
     Anchored in this two-ness, I’m learning gratitude and being present this time around. To listen with more than my ears and speak with more than my mouth. I’m taking my time with the memories and along the way, creating more memories. 
     Crown Candy, Vess sodas, Imo’s Pizza, Grandma’s house, “What High School You Go To?”, Velvet Freeze Ice Cream, The Quiet Storm on Magic 108 FM, Red Hot Riplets, school tornado drills, Chop Suey, Jamestown Mall, Northwest Plaza, Northland Shopping Center, River Roads Mall, salty hot dogs @ Cardinals games, Halls Ferry 14 Cinema, The Halls Ferry Strip, Delmar Loop, Fitz Root Beer, our backyard tomato garden, The Tilt, The Palace Family Skating Center, Saints Skating Rink, Skate King, Granddaddy’s annual b-day/Labor Day parties/jam sessions, Ryan’s Steakhouse, jarred lightning bugs, Budweiser, St. Louis Arena, One City Center, Diner’s Delight, underground caves, The Bubbleheads, Lemp Mansion, The Ambassador, riding in the trailer of Uncle Bill’s truck before it was illegal, Twilight Tuesdays @ History Museum, Raging Rivers, Hazelwood Six Flags Day, Spanish Lake Park, Vacation Bible School, Ponderosa wings & Boone's on NYE, Mill Creek, The Ville, Show Choir & Dance at CVPA in the 1990’s/2000’s, Sumner vs. Vashon, Sweetie Pie’s, Gateway Arch, Laclede’s Landing, Tequila Wild, White Castle’s on Halls Ferry (pre-renovation), cold grape-flavored kisses on hot muggy nights, Sunday brunch at Amelia Earhart’s at Stouffer’s Hotel on I-70 across from the airport, etc.


Lyndsey Ellis is the author of Bone Broth (Hidden Timber Books, spring 2021). She’s a fiction writer and essayist who's passionate about exploring intergenerational resilience in the Midwest. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Catapult, Electric Literature, Joyland, Entropy, The Offing, Shondaland, Santa Monica Review, Stockholm Review of Literature, and several anthologies. She was a recipient of the San Francisco Foundation’s 2016 Joseph Henry Jackson Literary Award and 2018 Barbara Deming Memorial Fund for her fiction. She’s a prose editor for great weather for MEDIA and The Account: A Journal of Poetry, Prose and Thought. Ellis lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

What is the #Midwessay? What is the Midwest? What are the characteristics, if any, of the #Midwessay (the Midwest essay)? What gathers us together? What pulls us apart? Springing from a twitter conversation, we started asking writers and readers what they imagine (or would like to reimagine) as the Midwest and the Midwessay. The #Midwessay is a series of reports from the Midwest (whatever that is) by and/or about Midwestern essay and essayists (whatever those are). Essay Daily will be publishing these, sorted (loosely) by state, in February 2021 and beyond.  These #Midwessays will be collected here and on a separate site at a later date. If you'd like to submit a report / essay, send it our way. Details and coordinators for each state are listed here. You can also ping Ander (link at the upper right) if we don't list a coordinator yet for your state. —The Editors

No comments:

Post a Comment