A journey into my family history, the chemical industry, and genetics

Illustration: Sara Wong

It’s 1989. I’m 26, 19 weeks pregnant, and I really need to pee. The technician calls my name and I follow her to the examining room where I undress and slip under the cold white sheet on the examining table. After some discussion about morning sickness, she applies gel to the wand and places it on my small baby mound. She gently presses the wand over my full bladder. I feel a slight release of warm urine between my legs. …


Bake any banana bread this past year? You’re not alone. Many of us adopted new pastimes and rituals while being (mostly) stuck inside during various stay-at-home restrictions. Some pastimes were born of necessity, others of boredom. Some will last, most won’t, especially as life returns to normal…whatever normal is.

With my children having long ago flown the coop (could someone please nominate parents of small children for a Nobel Prize?) and my work scaling back considerably, I had nothing but time on my hands when the mandatory stay-at-home order went into effect in California a year ago this month. Add…


By Amy Roost

The week after pandemonium* broke out, I met a friend for coffee. I thought Amy and I had shared everything — including our names—over the course of our nearly 50-year friendship. So I was surprised when, after kibitzing a while, she presented me with a jigsaw puzzle featuring an eclectic assortment of words in different colors, fonts and type sizes.

“I figured you could use a break from social media,” she offered.

“Ah, right,” I turned the box over, looking for something better than 500-pieces of cardboard.

“Also, I know how much you love words.” Of course…


A true story as told to (and written by) Amy Roost for Estela Salazar.

Don José

I was 6 when Don José surprised me with some cookies and milk before bed. I got so sleepy. The next day I woke up all bloody, with a cut on my ankle. Mami and my sister Valery washed me and bandaged my wound. It was not only my ankle that hurt. Everywhere, my body was sore. My back. Between my legs. But I couldn’t remember anything. Many years later, my therapist would explain.

This was in Tijuana, where I had moved with my…


Nine years ago, at the age of 47, the editor of my hometown community paper offered to let me write a bi-monthly column. It marked the start of what would be an improbable journey to a successful writing career.

Success didn’t happen overnight. It wasn’t until 2014, that I had a piece of writing go viral. Then, in 2015, I leveraged my experience writing about politics to secure a full-time writing position for an elections software company. In 2017, I wrote a podcast and pitched an accompanying story to the New York Times that resulted in a film and book…


Our last family vacation was to Mexico City, circa Roma’s 1970–71

‎Alfonso Cuarón’s biographical masterpiece, Roma, was nominated for 10 Academy Awards including Best Foreign Language Film, Best Picture, and Best Director. I can relate to Roma’s painfully accurate portrayal of a family breaking apart in the 1970s. It’s what happened to mine and what made it the most difficult film I’ve ever sat through.

My alarm bells began ringing from the very beginning of the film centering on arguably its most symbolic character: The family’s German Shepherd who no one walks or picks up after.

In 1964, when I was two, my parents brought home a German Shepherd puppy. Because…


In 1962, my parents adopted an infant girl who they named Rebecca. Rebecca’s birth certificate identified her as Caucasian. However, over the course of a few months her skin darkened. And when my parents began to ask questions, they learned that Rebecca was half African American. While they were surprised, my parents were split on how to proceed. My dad, a prominent businessman, felt that raising a black child in all-white Deerfield would be too much of a hardship on the family and Rebecca herself. My mom, an ardent civil rights activist, had bonded with her baby and wanted to…


Last month, my husband and I took our 13-year old yellow lab, Tiki, to the veterinarian…for the last time.

Ever since she was diagnosed with bladder cancer a few months ago, I’ve been bargaining with God (I’m not religious, mind you). First, I asked God to allow Tiki to survive until I got back from a trip to Toronto. She survived. Then I asked God to allow her to survive until my oldest son came home from college for fall break. She survived.

Most recently, I asked that she be allowed to survive until Christmas when my younger son was…


Spencer is my easy child. He sleeps through the night at two months old, charms his teachers with kind-heartedness, and rarely complains about getting less attention than his big brother Stuart, who was born with multiple birth defects.

This wash and wear phase lasts until Spencer is 19, when we learned that he, like his brother before him, has a malformation embedded deep within his brain. Because it could do more harm than good, the doctors advise against surgery, recommending, instead, a wait-and-see approach.

*

My phone vibrates just as work wraps up. …

Amy Roost

Essays, anthologies, and memoirs, oh my!!

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