In the Key of New York City

Our lives are sublets anyway, and too quickly gone at that.

In this lively and deeply affecting memoir, Rebecca McClanahan tracks the heartbeat of New York as only a stunned newcomer can: in overheard conversations on park benches, songs and cries sifted through apartment walls, and in encounters with street people dispensing unexpected wisdom. Having uprooted their settled lives in North Carolina to pursue a long-held dream of living in Manhattan, she and her husband struggle to find jobs, forge friendships, and create a home in a city of strangers. The 9/11 attacks and a serious cancer surgery complicate their story, merging the public with the private, the present with the past, to shape a journey richer than either could have imagined.


“How brilliantly Rebecca McClanahan marries New York to the country of her life and imagination, thus recreating the city. One lives with her in this beautifully-wrought memoir as one lives in a New York apartment—hearing the neighbors breathe, inhaling the tense air, scanning the prairies of the streets, and greeting the mysteries of strangers as though no one has ever seen such things before. ‘Play each scene as if it were new,’ she quotes her teachers, who she says are dead. Yet their words live here. It’s no easy feat to make New York new. This writer does it wondrously.”
—Roger Rosenblatt, New York Times–bestselling author of Making Toast and The Boy Detective: A New York Childhood

“This book—by turns witty, thought-provoking, and moving—invites the reader to reflect on urban life in contemporary America. A keen observer of much that often passes unnoticed, this writer inspires us to reconsider the meaning of the insignificant events and circumstances of our own lives.”
—Kathleen Norris, New York Times–bestselling author of Dakota: A Spiritual Geography and The Cloister Walk

“The 9/11 essays in Rebecca McClanahan’s In the Key of New York City are wondrous, evoking the rich vibrancy of life in the city even as horrific events shadow the horizon. McClanahan, one of the finest practitioners of the creative essay in America today, daringly weaves the city and its creatures into a memorable and resilient testament: the world was changed, but New York endures.”
—David H. Lynn, Former Editor, the Kenyon Review

A black background with white script that reads In the Key of New York City a memoir in essays by Rebecca McClanahan.

Rebecca McClanahan ( Author Website )

Publication Date: September 1, 2020

Genre/Imprint: Memoir, Red Hen Press

$14.95 Tradepaper

Shop: Red Hen, Bookshop, Barnes & Noble

ISBN: 978-1-59709-850-2