NC Literary Hall of Fame



In the Key of New York City: A Memoir in Essays by Rebecca McClanahan

Red Hen Press
$14.95, paperback
ISBN: 978-1-597098502
September, 2020
Nonfiction: Memoir
Available from your local bookstore or

"This book—by turns witty, thought-provoking, and moving—invites the reader to reflect on urban life in contemporary America. A keen observer of much that often passes unnoticed, this writer inspires us to reconsider the meaning of the insignificant events and circumstances of our own lives."
—Kathleen Norris, New York Times bestselling author of Dakota: A Spiritual Geography and The Cloister Walk

"This marvelous book is a treasure chest of wisdom and humility and humor and discovery. I read it in one sitting. So will you."
—Abigail Thomas, New York Times bestselling author of A Three Dog Life and Safekeeping

"How brilliantly Rebecca McClanahan marries New York to the country of her life and imagination, thus recreating the city. One lives with her in this beautifully-wrought memoir as one lives in a New York apartment—hearing the neighbors breathe, inhaling the tense air, scanning the prairies of the streets, and greeting the mysteries of strangers as though no one has ever seen such things before. 'Play each scene as if it were new, ' she quotes her teachers, who she says are dead. Yet their words live here. It's no easy feat to make New York new. This writer does it wondrously."
—Roger Rosenblatt, New York Times bestselling author of Making Toast and The Boy Detective: A New York Childhood

In this lively and deeply affecting memoir, Rebecca McClanahan tracks the heartbeat of New York as only a stunned newcomer can: in overheard conversations on park benches, songs and cries sifted through apartment walls, and in encounters with street people dispensing unexpected wisdom. Having uprooted their settled lives in North Carolina to pursue a long-held dream of living in Manhattan, she and her husband struggle to find jobs, forge friendships, and create a home in a city of strangers. The 9/11 attacks and a serious cancer surgery complicate their story, merging the public with the private, the present with the past, to shape a journey richer than either could have imagined.

Rebecca McClanahan's newest book is In the Key of New York City: A Memoir in Essays, out from Red Hen Press in 2020. She is the author of ten previous books, including The Tribal Knot: A Memoir of Family, Community, and a Century of Change and a revised edition of Word Painting: The Fine Art of Writing Descriptively, which has sold nearly 50,000 copies and is used as a text in many writing programs. Her work has appeared in Best American Essays, Best American Poetry, Kenyon Review, Georgia Review, Gettysburg Review, Boulevard, The Sun, and in anthologies published by Doubleday, Norton, Putnam, Penguin, Beacon, St. Martin's, and numerous other publishers.

Recipient of two Pushcart Prizes, the Wood Prize from Poetry, and the Glasgow Award in Nonfiction for The Riddle Song and Other Rememberings, she has also received the N.C. Governor's Award for Excellence in Education, a MacDowell Colony fellowship, and four literary fellowships from New York Foundation for the Arts and the North Carolina Arts Council, among other honors and awards.

She teaches in the MFA programs of Queens University (Charlotte) and Rainier Writing Workshop (Pacific Lutheran University) and at the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop and gives readings, talks, and workshops throughout the country.

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