Again, Esquire is able to acquire and publish some of the best fiction around. In the July issue, on stands now or soon, I just got my copy in the mail a few days ago, you will find a new story by Nathan Englander titled “Everything I Know About My Family on My Mother’s Side.” Wow, that title is a mouth full but it aptly describes the story.
“Everything I Know About My Family on My Mother’s Side,” is a story full of longing as the narrator searches for information about his mother’s side of the family. He interviews his mother and a few other relatives that do not easily give up their secrets. When they do give them up they are shocking and wonderful. They help give the narrator insight and new context for his life.
When I lived in suburbs of Chicago, IL, the first or second question, mostly the first, that you were supposed to ask of a stranger was, “Who are your people,” or some variation there of like that was the most important thing about you. This question always frustrated me. I’m and American, a full-breed mutt, which was the easiest answer that I could give. Then they would always press me for the long answer: Irish, Scottish, German, Cherokee, and the list goes on, but mostly Irish, Scottish, and German. I look mostly Irish, Scottish, and German.
I know quite a bit about my mother’s side of the family, the German, the Scottish, and the Irish. I know very little about my Native American heritage, my father’s side. I know some of his brothers and sisters and half-brothers and half-sisters, but they were all orphaned by their father John Wilson, of the Cherokee Nation. Stories like this one make me think about John. Who was he? I don’t know if I will ever know. There is not much known about him.
Anyway, beyond the obvious, Englander’s story is written in a fun experimental style. It is broken into 63 linear scenes that take the reader through jumps and turns as new information is discovered.
It is a fun read, I suggest that you find a copy!
Englander, Nathan. “Everything I Know About My Family on My Mother’s Side.” Esquire. July 2008, vol 150, no 1. p. 106 – 113