Hallow This Ground

Hallow This Ground

Colin Rafferty
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 02/01/2016
ISBN: 978-0-253-01913-4
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Beginning outside the boarded-up windows of Columbine High School and ending almost twelve years later on the fields of Shiloh National Military Park, Hallow This Ground revolves around monuments and memorials—physical structures that mark the intersection of time and place. In the ways they invite us to interact with them, these sites teach us to recognize our ties to the past. Colin Rafferty explores places as familiar as his hometown of Kansas City and as alien as the concentration camps of Poland in an attempt to understand not only our common histories, but also his own past, present, and future. Rafferty blends the travel essay with the lyric, the memoir with the analytic, in this meditation on the ways personal histories intersect with History, and how those intersections affect the way we understand and interact with Place.

Author Bio

Colin Rafferty teaches creative writing at the University of Mary Washington. His website is colinrafferty.com.


“A Midwesterner, convinced that nothing has happened to him, travels to the sites of historic events to see the monuments and memorials erected there. During his travels, he thinks about not only how these monuments work and what they say about us, but also about who he might become.”

“Thoughtful and insightful, Rafferty deftly and playfully weaves cultural and personal narrative into a book that is not just enlightening, but a pure pleasure to read. Colin Rafferty is an excellent guide down the rabbit hole and into this wonderland of physical objects our culture has built to help us remember both disaster and heroism.”
 — Sheryl St. Germain, author of Navigating Disaster: Sixteen Essays of Love and a Song of Despair

“Colin Rafferty has written about the spaces between before and after, time and place, memory and imagination, fact and story.  He acts as a guide across our land and beyond to show us how we stand before the monument or the memorial to remember what has been forgotten, to imagine what happened, and to separate history from mythology.  These essays reveal how the words "On this site" can never bring back all that happened, but they can resurrect the phantoms that haunt our history, both private and public. Hallow This Ground is a stunning and moving tour through history and memory, loss and love, and ultimately, through the desire to wonder after what's true so we might better know ourselves.”
 — Jill Talbot, author of The Way We Weren’t: A Memoir

“These essays, wondrous in their scope, travel far and wide to deftly inquire something this reader never really considered—what is a monument? The effect of following Colin Rafferty through shipwreck sites, presidential birthplaces, death camps, and into his growing understanding of body, memory, and self, is nothing short of—dare I say it?—monumental.”
 — Elena Passarello, author of Let Me Clear My Throat

“Equal parts elegy, tragedy and history, Rafferty traces the distance between regret and remembering, and by doing so, writes his own monument; one that reminds us of what we’ve lost, and what we don’t dare lose again.”
 — B. J. Hollars, author of This Is Only a Test

“In this riveting debut collection of lyric essays . . . the author delves deep into the heart of past atrocities while probing the motivations of the living to memorialize, and he comes to some provocative conclusions. . . . Though fixed on what remains of some of history's darkest moments, Rafferty's essays, both gripping and wonderfully reflective, illuminate.”
 — Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

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Table of Contents


Afterwards: an Introduction

A for Absence

A for Ancestry
The Path

A for Answers
Notes Towards Building the Memorial

A for Anatomy
Bystanders: The Yellow Flowers
Victims: The End of the World
Perpetrators: Undrawn Lines

A for Ache
The Definite Article

A for Accident
This Day In History

A for Accumulation
What I Was Doing There
Phantoms (a Correspondence)
Reflecting Mirror: Orlando, the Day After
Hallow This Ground

Aftermath: a Conclusion