When my grandmother died in 2018, these were among the things I took from the condo where she’d lived since the 1990s. She was a music teacher and she read a lot. She was interested in science and unexplained phenomena, including the possibility of extra-terrestrial life. She had a large collection of LPs—classical and opera music she’d been collecting since the 1950s—but I couldn’t fit them in my car (or my apartment) and they were given to a charity shop. She tried to teach me to read music and play the piano, but I never learned. The photograph is a view of the Mississippi River from the porch of the house she lived in before she moved to the condo. I spent a lot of my childhood in that house, on that porch. She always rose early. Her lack of sleep was a point of pride. The porch was where I’d find her when I got out of bed. She’d have been up for hours, drinking coffee and doing the crossword. Once, in winter, when I was a toddler, walking from her house to her car in the dark so she could drop me off with my parents on her way to the elementary school where she worked, I asked, Why do we have to get up in the middle of the night?

Kathryn Scanlan received a 2021 American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for “exceptional accomplishment” in literature. Her story collection THE DOMINANT ANIMAL was named a Best Book of 2020 by The Guardian, Southwest Review, and Publishers Weekly, and her first book, AUG 9-FOG, was praised in a starred review by Publishers Weekly as “an outstanding debut, profound and moving: Scanlan’s portrait of an everywoman feels entirely new.” Scanlan’s most recent novel KICK THE LATCH, is out now. She lives and works in Los Angeles.