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Self-Review – Gentrification

Review – Gentrification

Gentrification is about an extremely controversial topic—abortion. When I wrote it, Roe v Wade was still fairly secure. I didn’t intend to write a prophecy.
Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quill | Gentrification


The story idea originally came to me because house flippers are a pretty large segment of the customers for the company where I work. And then the peeling away of the layers of ownership turned into something far different. But I did not intend to write about much. But it just … happened.


While peeling wallpaper from an old house’s walls, the narrator comes across a mural, painted in pastels. So, it’s clearly for a child.

She traces down the ownership of the house, finally finding one woman who was probably around when the mural was painted.

Yet Hazel Prentice Morse wasn’t just around. She was in the thick of it.

Characters in Gentrification

The characters are the unnamed narrative, a woman who is a retired lawyer. Also, Hazel Morse, the storyteller, who was twelve at the time of the events. In addition, Hazel’s Aunt Martha and Martha’s boyfriend, Chet. Also, Hazel’s parents and her grandparents.

Memorable Quotes

That woman, Hazel Prentice Morse, agreed to meet with me. We met at a café in her much nicer neighborhood, where she was reserved and somewhat skeptical, even after seeing numerous pictures. Then I drove her to the brownstone. The four flights we had to walk up weren’t too kind to our old knees.

When we were in the room and she saw the mural in the flesh as it were, she started to cry. I didn’t really have much of a place to sit during renovations, so I went downstairs to give her some privacy and find the one folding chair I always bring so I can have a place to eat my lunch.

I brought the chair up. She sat down as I leaned against the windowsill. “What is it?” I asked. “What do you remember, Mrs. Morse? Do you know who the artist was?” When I was still practicing law, I took a ton of depositions. I know how to gently get information out of frightened witnesses. You never forget how to do that.

“Yes, I know who it was.” She stared off into the distance.

“You don’t have to tell me anything.” She was no witness. I didn’t have to indulge my morbid curiosity.

“I do, actually. Woman to woman. It’s funny. But I’m the only person alive who remembers. I imagine the statute has run by now.”


“The Statute of Limitations—you know—how long you can be charged with a crime.”


The story has a PG-13 rating. There are some rather upsetting parts of it, and I depict deaths but not in detail. However, the deaths are told via the conceit of having a character relate them decades later. So, the reader is even further removed from them.

But they’re still not the kind of thing most people like to talk about, or ever think about.

Gentrification: the Upshot

I have workshopped this story more than once and I have submitted it for publication. So for a publisher with the cojones to take it on, I think it’s a story to tell.

But I have been getting the feeling that publishers are just too afraid to rock the boat right now.

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