The Phoenix House (2013)
This book is memoiristic yet speculative: it attempts to piece together a home that feels like another planet. After my mom’s death, my dad married her best friend and moved to Phoenix to live with her six children and her. I've never been to Phoenix—let alone my father’s house—and have never met most of my stepsiblings. Both my dad and stepmother are rightwing religious zealots and have made me feel less than welcome. The Phoenix House came about when I found a scrapbook with the same title, the photos gone but their captions remaining. I renamed my stepsiblings using names from these captions, creating fictionalized versions of each. I used a first-edition copy of Annapurna (my dad used to be a mountain climber) to “house” these character sketches, creating a hybrid of the two objects. I wrote much of the narrative on photorealistic swimming-pool stationary, and worked in photos from an interior design book, illustrations from a late-1990s Adobe Illustrator manual, and the cover from a cheaply published edition of L. M. Montgomery’s classic melodrama, The Blue Castle, with the eponymous building depicted through pirated photos of a night-lit Cinderella castle. The result is a dreamlike tour through an exoticized domestic space: a new house built from the ashes of the old and named for the capitol of a notoriously unwelcoming state.