Under My Bed and Other Essays


Under My Bed and Other Essays

Jody Keisner

American Lives Series

240 pages


September 2022


$21.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)

(Requires Adobe Digital Editions)

September 2022


$21.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)

(Requires Adobe Digital Editions)

September 2022


$21.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Jody Keisner was raised in rural Nebraska towns by a volatile father and kind but passive mother. As a young adult living alone for the first time, she began a nighttime ritual of checking under her bed each night, not sure who she was afraid of finding. An intruder? A monster? Her father? Keisner’s fears mature as she becomes a wife and mother, and the boogeyman under the bed shape-shifts, though its shapes are no less frightening—a young aunt’s drowning, the “chest chomp” in the classic horror movie The Thing, a diagnosis of a chronic autoimmune disease, the murder of a young college student, an eccentric grandmother’s belief in reincarnation and her dying advice: “Don’t be afraid.”

In Under My Bed and Other Essays, Jody Keisner searches for the roots of the violence and fear that afflict women, starting with the working-class midwestern family she was adopted into and ending with her own experience of mothering daughters. In essays both literary and experimental, Keisner illustrates the tension between the illusion of safety, our desire for control, and our struggle to keep the things we fear from reaching out and pulling us under.

Author Bio

Jody Keisner is an associate professor of English at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Threepenny Review, Brevity, Fourth Genre, and AARP’s the Girlfriend, among other periodicals. Find out more at www.jodykeisner.com.


"Keisner debuts with a riveting essay collection that revisits her painful past. . . . The essays attack difficult material straight on, but Keisner's smart, clear, and incisive writing cuts deep."—Publishers Weekly

“Vulnerable and smart, thoughtful and thought-provoking, gorgeously written and poignantly tender, Under My Bed and Other Essays shines a light into darkness and shows us all the messy glories of what it means to be human.”—Randon Billings Noble, editor of A Harp in the Stars: An Anthology of Lyric Essays

“Moving and thoughtful in equal measure, Jody Keisner sifts through the fears embedded in girls and women in a culture where men’s violence against women is a constant threat. Under My Bed is a most memorable read as well as a fruitful work to inspire classroom discussion.”—Jane Caputi, author of The Age of Sex Crime

Under My Bed and Other Essays offers compelling insight into the fears and anxieties that assault our daily thoughts and that seem embedded at times in our very nerves and tissues. Jody Keisner knows the pain and compulsion firsthand and writes of it with compassion and surprise. A vivid and absorbing book.”—Dinty W. Moore, author of Between Panic and Desire

“This book explores our aversion to scary things, as well as the emotional, physical, cultural, and psychological allure of fear. Keisner examines everything from horror movies to giving birth—and does it fearlessly. This should be a paradox, but it’s not. Instead, it’s a literary achievement. Yes, soldiers, astronauts, and refugees overcome their fears, but so do the rest of us. To do so with grace is another thing. This book is that thing.”—Sue William Silverman, author of How to Survive Death and Other Inconveniences

“Keisner courageously maps the dark corners of her psyche, extracting difficult insights without resorting to the saccharine in putting these fears to bed.”—Sonya Huber, author of Supremely Tiny Acts: A Memoir of a Day

“Fear has many faces, and terror knows no single name. From wildfires to haunted houses, horror films to the monster beneath the bed, Jody Keisner grapples deep within this darkness, riding the line between paranoia and pure evil in this journey from the outside world into her own interior. . . . Eerie, elegiac, and empowering most of all. Don’t run, don’t hide, just read.”—B.J. Hollars, author of This Is Only a Test

Table of Contents

Part 1. Origins
Under My Bed
Recreationally Terrified
The Secret of Water
Part 2. Under the Skin
The Maternal Lizard Brain
Neural Pathways to Love
Body Language
Side Effects
Part 3. Risings
My Grandmother and the Sleeping Prophet
Runaway Daughter
Woman Running Alone
Selected Bibliography

Also of Interest