cover image Under My Bed and Other Essays

Under My Bed and Other Essays

Jody Keisner. Univ. of Nebraska, $21.95 trade paper (242p) ISBN 978-1-4962-3047-8

Keisner debuts with a riveting essay collection that revisits her painful past. Adopted as an infant and raised in a series of homes in rural Nebraska by a borderline-abusive father and a meek mother, Keisner began these pieces as an effort to untangle longtime fears and hypervigilant compulsions, such as continually checking under beds for monsters, even into adulthood. in “The Maternal Lizard Brain,” she enumerates her biological family’s history of autoimmune diseases and imagines the threat to her daughter (“Butterfly rashes and swollen fingers and toes, hands that won’t open, elbows that won’t bend”), a theme that reappears in other essays that expound on her own diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis and the effects of the drugs she takes. In multiple selections, including “Haunted,” she turns over her difficult relationship with her father, demonstrating empathy for him while standing up to him on behalf of her own children: “Motherhood had given me the strength I’d always wanted to confront my fears.” And the heartbreaking essay “Woman Running Alone,” which recounts the story of a woman who was murdered while jogging, roils with anger about violence toward women. The essays attack difficult material straight on, but Keisner’s smart, clear, and incisive writing cuts deep. (Sept.)