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Essays & Nonfiction

"The Bench of Broken Dreams"

The New York Times, 2007


There's a small, curious plaque on a bench in Greenwich Village that reads: "In Memory of Chelica, Who Loved Coffee and Cigarettes." The person to whom it pays tribute, however, left a much bigger imprint on the people she knew and the neighborhood in which she too briefly lived. 



"Retracing Picasso's Footsteps in Paris"

American Way, 2020


This travel piece for American Airlines' in-flight magazine guides visitors through Montmartre to glimpse what inspired a young Pablo Picasso following his first trip to Paris at the turn of the century to see the World's Fair. When viewing Le Moulin de la Galette, Au Lapin Agile or other aging sites in the storied quartier, it's easy to imagine being transported back in time to when the fledgling artist rendered these scenes in his early paintings.



"Working on a Novel About an Artist? Write Like a Painter"

Literary Hub, 2019


I speak with Nellie Herman – the author of The Season of Migration – about how creating a novel with van Gogh as the main character enhanced her powers of observation and analyze how Naima Coster – the author of Halsey Street – masterfully borrowed from the visual arts to construct her narrative about a young painter in modern-day Brooklyn.



"How Real Is That Ruin? Don't Ask, the Locals Say"

The New York Times, 2006


Tourists visiting a small town in the southern highlands of Peru are greeted by an unusual site displaying what many locals claim are remnants of an ancient Incan fertility temple. A healthy trade in handcraft souvenirs has grown up around it. But the tale of the structure's origins and significance is not so simple, according to archaeologists and historians.



Guest Post at "A Writer of History"

A Writer of History, 2019


This essay for M.K. Tod's blog about historical fiction looks at how the autobiographical, socially conscious paintings of Pablo Picasso's tumultuous youth inspired my novel The Blue Period



"The French Chef Who Taught Washington How to Eat"

The Washingtonian, 2015

A look at the extraordinary life of Jean-Louis Palladin. Once the youngest Michelin-starred chef in France, happenstance landed him in a cave-like restaurant in the basement of The Watergate Hotel in the late 1970s. He soon became a bigger-than-life personality in Reagan-era Washington and one of the nation's first celebrity chefs. His legacy of reshaping cuisine in America can still be seen everywhere on dinner plates and at farm stands today.



"Three Must-Read Novels About Artists"

The Millions, 2019
With a wealth of künstlerromane debuting during the same season in 2019, the author takes a close-up look at three vivid standouts: Catherine Cusset's Life of David Hockney, Paolo Parisi's Basquiat: A Graphic Novel and Barbara Bourland's Fake Like Me.



"Drug Users' Hard Lessons Become Tools to Teach Doctors"

The New York Times, 2006


At a hospital in the Bronx, women enrolled in a methadone recovery program school interns on the realities of drug use that they learned firsthand, as part of an effort to improve patient care and help doctors communicate more effectively.



"Old-Growth Finds the New World"

The New York Times, 2007


Reclaimed teak has grown in popularity in recent years in the west. It is undoubtedly a unique and beautiful addition to a home. And there are ecological benefits to reusing existing wood instead of harvesting new trees from vulnerable teak forests that are extremely difficult to replenish. However, some preservationists in Southeast Asia say that the trade has encouraged the decline of traditional houses and contributed to the overall erosion of the area's character.