What forges the unique human personality? In Island in the City Micah McCrary, taking his genetic inheritance as immutable, considers the role geography has played in shaping who he is. Place often leaves indelible marks: the badges of self-discovery; the scars from adversity and hardship; the gilded stamps from personal triumphs; the tattoos of memory; and the new appendages—friendships, experiences, and baggage—we carry with us. Each place, with its own personality, has the power to form or revise our personhood in surprising and fascinating ways.
McCrary considers three places he has called home (Normal, Illinois; Chicago; and Prague) and reflects on how these surroundings have shaped him. His sharp-eyed, charming memoir-in-essays contemplates how aspects of his identity, such as being black, male, middle-class, queer, and American, have developed and been influenced by where he hangs his hat.
Micah McCrary’s work has been published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Rumpus, Midwestern Gothic, Identity Theory, and Third Coast. He is an assistant editor at Hotel Amerika, a contributing editor at Assay, and a founding coeditor of con•text. A teaching associate and PhD candidate in English at Ohio University, he holds an MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia College Chicago.
"In the latest entry in the publisher's American Lives series, McCrary writes of becoming aware of his black heritage early in life but also about the impression his skin color had on others in small-town Normal, Illinois, in the 1980s and '90s. . . . A slim yet potent and intimately ruminative debut memoir on travel, maturity, and culture."—Kirkus
"McCrary takes readers down his memory lane. Some memories are loving and others are haunting. But the entire journey is transformative each step of the way. He lets us in on his point of view of culture and takes readers along on his travels as we watch him come into his true self."—Amber Ogden, Hippocampus Magazine
“In Island in the City Micah McCrary dares over and over again to articulate the consequences of race, place, and the perils of having a sensitive and very particular sentience. Daring nonfiction is never quite normal; it is always an island in a city of conventional thought. McCrary’s work gives the reader this refuge and this challenge.”—David Lazar, author of I’ll Be Your Mirror: Essays and Aphorisms
“In these searching essays Micah McCrary takes us from Normal—both the place and the idea—to Chicago and Prague as he reckons with race, sex, money, and what it means to be at home.”—Eula Biss, author of On Immunity: An Inoculation
Table of Contents
Acknowledgments NORMAL Oreo Postures of Privilege To Rebel against Men Ever the Moth CHICAGO Metropolis Green and Gray Geraldyne's Room Two Cities Playground City PRAGUE Snow Globe Bohemia Island in the City A Good Fake Czech Cabaret An Idea of Prague Epilogue Works Cited