Quitter #7: July



Trace Ramsey’s All I Want to Do is Live (Pioneer’s Press, 2017), personalizes common themes of survival, depression, and life in America at a time of division and upheaval. In this collection of essays, flash nonfiction, and poetry, Ramsey examines his family history and shows us how darkness can trickle through generations. He looks to people like his grandparents and his partner for hope and works to move beyond abuse and mental illness to find what is worth passing on to his children. In a unique voice of clean, deliberate prose, he relays stories about the damage of the past and recovery in the present that is both brutal and achingly pretty. As the personal often sheds light on the universal, Trace’s memories of his childhood and the scenes from his life today also give us the story of our time, our country, and a people longing to find substance, freedom, and meaning. The following excerpt is the third in a series from the chapbook “Quitter #7 (2013).” For part two, see Quitter #7: November.

To find more writing that piques our interest, visit the Utne Reader Bookshelf.


My father taught me how to swim by lobbing me into the middle of a pool. He would throw me; I would splash in, quickly return to the surface and begin to flail around.

Between spitting and gasping I would reach for the side of the pool, basically learning to swim by lunging in the direction of the closest solid object. When I reached an edge, my father would lift me out of the water by the arms, my smooth torso brushing against the hair of his shirtless chest.

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