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Karen E. Bender :
5 article(s)

Karen E. Bender is the author of the novel Like Normal People (Houghton Mifflin), and co-editor of the anthology Choice (MacAdam/Cage). Her stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Granta and Zoetrope, and have been anthologized in Best American Short Stories and the Pushcart Prize anthologies. She teaches creative writing at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.
October 8th, 2008
When a beloved family pet passes away, how do we help children face the reality of death?

We found out over the phone, while on vacation. The housesitter called us to tell us that he was at the animal hospital back home with our cat, Smokey. And then he put the vet on the line. We heard about age-related kidney disease, complete renal failure. We learned that medication and intravenous fluids might help keep him alive another month—or maybe just another week.

March 6th, 2008
A Reform Jew Explores Her Fear of Orthodoxy

We see Rabbi X. walking down the streets of our small Southern city, and we see others staring at him. He wears the outfit of a Jew from Eastern Europe, circa1800—a long black wool coat, a fur hat—and it looks hot in the middle of a sunny North Carolina day. In October, we see him striding down the street carrying the lulav, the palm stalk that Jews wave in the direction of Jerusalem to celebrate Sukko…t, the Jewish harvest festival. There is something strange and touching about him, one of a handful of Chasidic Jews in our city, a town with nothing but a small number of Jews in it, spread among the denominations of Reform, Conservative and Orthodox.

It is moving at first to see Rabbi X. I feel a sort of nostalgic

December 9th, 2007
One young family attempts to navigate the treacherous waters of Greedikah

The Maccabees didn’t stand a chance against the catalogs that began to appear in in mid-November. Our children, Jonah and Maia, began to look through them as a hobby. They each settled on one expensive present that would link their longing with that of a gazillion other children, Jewish and Christian, a terrifying and determined mob, plotting their conquests around the globe. We dreaded the arrival of the catalogs each afternoon. The children could spot them sticking out of our mailbox like eagles spotting a mouse from a great height. They were their Torahs, their holy books.
“I get to see it first!” Jonah, who was six, screamed.
“No, me!” Maia, who was two, shrieked.
Jonah could…

August 2nd, 2007
Our search for order in the darkness

A friend of mine just left her husband. She told me that she had been unhappy in the marriage for a long time but couldn’t find a way out. “I had seen a psychologist and a lawyer,” she said. “But I couldn’t act—it was too confusing, too painful. I felt overwhelmed. Then one day last week I was driving down the street and I said, ‘God, please give me a sign. Give me some sort of sign and I’ll leave.’ It was a street where I’d always wanted to live. I was driving and praying, and I looked up and saw the poster that said For Rent…. I knew what to do.”
Though I wanted to be a good, supportive friend, I have to admit that a part of me secretly recoiled at these words.

May 29th, 2006
Listening to my son talk about God

I was walking with my son, Jonah, who was six, and his friend, Jack, home from school. They were discussing Pokemon cards.
“Chancey EX has 120 HP points,” said Jonah.
“Mine has 140,” said Jack.
They were quiet, munching on Cheez-Its.
“What do you think God is?” Jack said. I looked up.
“God is what we’re breathing,” Jonah said.
“Jesus is God,” said Jack.
“God is what you eat,” said Jonah. He was three and a half feet tall, his lips orange from Cheez-Its, his shoelaces dragging, but he sounded profound as a prophet who had emerged from a cavern in the desert. “God is what you’re wearing. God is everywhere.”
There…

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