An essay previously published in the Emerson–based literary magazine Ploughshares has been chosen for publication in Best American Essays 2012 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).
“Objects of Affection,” by instructor Ewa Yarbrough of the Writing, Literature and Publishing (WLP) Department, was chosen from among 1,000 essays for Best American Essays 2012, which was edited this year by David Brooks, New York Times columnist and best-selling author.Her essay was one of 24 published.
“I’m extremely flattered,” Yarbrough said. “When I found out, I couldn’t believe it. I had to pinch myself.”
Yarbrough’s nine-page essay is about attitudes toward inanimate objects. As a child growing up in Poland in the 1950s and ’60s, Yarbrough grew accustomed to having few materialistic things.
“I was very possessive when I was growing up,” she said. “I just had a few items. There was a Chinese fountain pen I loved. I had only one classical music record for a long time. I listened to Beethoven’s symphony so much that to this day, I can actually hum the whole thing.”
“I was raised in a Communist country where there were shortages of everything,” Yarbrough continued. “For people in the U.S., that’s completely unimaginable.”
In her essay, Yarbrough talks about the effect World War II had on her grandmother, Antonina, who went through life with an extremely small number of personal possessions after her home was destroyed. “After she lost everything, she stopped caring about objects,” Yarbrough said.
When Yarbrough moved from California to Massachusetts in 1999 with her husband, Steve Yarbrough, WLP professor and graduate program director, she had a tough time disposing of unneeded objects—something she explains in her essay.
“It’s not like I’m a hoarder. I’m absolutely not,” Yarbrough said. “But there are some items that evoke so many memories that I want to keep them.”
Despite her husband’s objections, she held on to folk art pictures, vases, and plates from Polish relatives. She also kept Steve Yarbrough’s model tractors, which he has owned since age 5 and now adorn the bookshelf in his study.