Where We Lived: Essays on Places

A jewel of memories and words by Henry Allen (USA)

Pulitzer Prize winner Henry Allen tells nearly five centuries of his family's history through the places they lived.


Pulitzer Prize-winner Henry Allen brings alive nearly five centuries of family by describing places where they lived—from plantations in South Carolina and Guadeloupe to a boarding house in Queens; a sadly grand old house in Orange, New Jersey; farmhouses, mansions, apartments, ships, tents, and dormitories; towns in Rhode Island and Connecticut. He vividly describes his family’s historical journey through Indian wars, a witchcraft trial, privateering, wagon trains, a split over slave trading, the friendship of presidents, the dwindling of the old Anglo-Saxon hegemony, and the heartless mysteries of money, alcohol, and gentility.

I feared my children and their children would never know about the lost worlds of our family—love, moral stands, disappointment, Christmas dinners, the ancient and ordinary sunlight that transported us like aliens from galaxies of the past. These galaxies not only existed but persisted despite the apathy of their inheritors. Consider this book a last will and testament, an attempt to stave off the probate of oblivion.

Intense, mercurial, and bearded, Henry Allen is a Marine veteran of Vietnam and was a feature writer and art critic at The Washington Post from 1970 to 2009. His books include Going Too Far Enough:American Culture at Century's End, What It Felt Like: Living in the American Century, Fool's Mercy, and The Museum of Light Air..

Praise for Where We Lived

"Henry Allen, one of the best deadline essayists in the business.” Christopher Buckley, Author of Thank You for Smoking

"WHERE WE LIVED is a jewel of memories and words that moves -- and sticks. Henry Allen is a man who knows who he is and how and where he got there. His telling of his story rings and reads real. It is so good that if you have the time or inclination to read only one book this day—week, month, year, decade — do yourself a favor and make it this one." Jim Lehrer, American journalist and novelist, former News Anchor for the PBS NewsHour, author of several fiction and nonfiction books including A Bus of My Own and Tension City: Inside the Presidential Debates

"Henry Allen is the truest chronicler of our American dream. By taking us into the homes of his history, he reveals our own lives in shafts of sunlit prose streaming through the windows of time and place. All of Allen's arts of journalism, poetry, fiction, and painting smoothly blend into this intimate prose portrait of American life. You'll remember this book even as it helps you understand the memories of your life. Henry Allen is a treasure of American literature." James Grady, author of Six Days of the Condor and recipient of France's Grand Prix du Roman Noir

"These essays are seemingly casually written, so understated, assured and wry, that everything Henry Allen mentioned came back as vividly as the dream our childhood always is. I grew up around the same time, in the same area, but it took these essays to make me realize how amazing that world was, its immediacy paradoxically rooted in history, its small pleasures enormous. I loved the book." Ann Beattie, author of Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagines a Life and The State We're In: Maine Stories

October 2017 | 170 pp
978-1-942134-44-2 W | Trade Paper | $16.95
eBook available