Short Stuff: Essays, Life’s Snippets, and Poetry
by Carolyn Whiteside Panko

"Sea of faces, not so strange.
Blues, greens, browns are warmer now.
Enlightened? Friendly?
More human now, as I am."

Panko's work is a chronicle of her life in the context of the impactful events of history she and her family lived (and grew) through. From grief to joy, the author experiences the entire spectrum of emotions, from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. From growing up as an only child in the 1940s to being a grandmother, Panko's experiences provide audiences with a birds-eye view into her life.

While the work opens up with the innocence of childhood in Houston, adulthood brings staggering challenges that coincide with tumultuous times in American history. Specifically, she depicts her husband, Glenn, attending sit-ins at drugstores to eradicate segregation and the end of the poll tax that levied a fee for one's right to vote. Later, she provides commentary on her reaction to JFK's assassination and the subsequent demise of Lee Harvey Oswald. Panko was also committed to advocating for humanity as she guided her children to never stand for social injustices that permeate society.

The second half of the collection features intriguing experimental poetry like "Overflow," which is structured with the use of repetition to feel like overflow. Panko's poetry section covers a range of relatable topics, from the pure love of fur babies to being mired in the comfort of self-pity and feeling listless through life. Then, to wrap up her work, the author circles back to the pendulum of life events, from the grief of losing her father to the chaos that ensues with her mother as a result. Above all else, though, this is a work about growing through relationships and experiencing what it means to be human.

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