Check out my interview about being a writer in Cleveland, Ohio for Words Without Borders!

By Nathalie Handal

Image of The City and the Writer: In Cleveland with Sarah MarcusIf each city is like a game of chess, the day when I have learned the rules, I shall finally possess my empire, even if I shall never succeed in knowing all the cities it contains. —Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

Can you describe the mood of Cleveland as you feel/see it?

Cleveland is like being in the heart of a machine. I spent most of my life trying to leave. Growing up, I would have and did do anything to “get out.” It was like that place in a song; the place you get stuck in. Think Tracy Chapman. Gray and backwards, it was a place where people circled the wagons and resisted change. I have been back now since the summer of 2012 after several years “away” in other cities. I have been across the world, and I now see how I was so very wrong about Cleveland. Today’s Cleveland is not confined to the construct of place or the memory of a burning river; Cleveland is the song itself. After a long history of disillusionment and economic collapse, the energy here is bursting at the seams, pushing traditional boundaries. Cleveland’s mood is possibility. It feels like we are always on the verge of something big and things could boil over at any moment. We’ve moved back into the city. Young people are starting families. Despite our scars, we can imagine a new economy. We’re not so cool that you can’t be important here.

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