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The Long Weeping: Portrait Essays

by Jessie van Eerden

Winner of the 2017 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award for Essays


196 pp.  / paper  /  $18.00
Orison Books
ISBN: 978-0-9964397-5-6
Distributed to the trade by Itasca Books
1-800-901-3480 /
Publication Date: November 7, 2017





In this collection of portraits, the eye is the vital “lamp of the body,” a spiritual organ van Eerden uses to craft essays that are as much encounters as they are likenesses, as much being seen as seeing. Historical subjects like Simone Weil and the Beguines confront the author’s imaginative and intellectual being, while the viscerally close foci of family and a lost marriage must also be reckoned with. The author’s religious tradition and the rural landscape of Terra Alta, West Virginia are two backgrounds that are neither chosen nor fully understood, but van Eerden’s attention to these matters becomes its own form of devotion, a longing to see and to believe—the longing itself taking on the robustness of faith. This is the common goal of these essays, to fully meet each subject and return to it some form of wholeness, a quest full of lush imagery and insights.





“Van Eerden’s fundamentalist religious upbringing is recognized, not despised, as a vital part of her past, even as she moves into larger spiritual circles. Humility, warmth, and charm underscore the collection’s darker brushes with death, divorce, and self-doubt. Essays extend an invitation to peer through van Eerden’s particular window, which reveals the commonality of humanity despite differing circumstances. Traversing the full range of human experiences with grace, The Long Weeping insists that solace awaits on the other side of even the blackest tumult, if only it can be perceived and grasped.”

 –Foreword Reviews, starred review


“Van Eerden sidles into her Appalachian past carrying Simone Weil on her shoulders and her own grit between her toes, ‘speaking out of fury, knowing that fury can have the same source as love.’ […] Van Eerden may be working out her faith, awash in fear and trembling, through these essays, leaving the unanswerable questions unanswered but reckoned with through lyric.”

Sarah WellsRiver Teeth


“[I]n The Long Weeping the motifs are intentional, controlled, revelatory, and unexpected.”

Caitlin EthertonBlackbird


“Van Eerden is one of the best essayists working today if judged by her craft and intellect alone, but her gifts go beyond those: she is also one of the most honest. The Long Weepingturns a visionary eye and a laser mind on subjects often simplified or even scorned by contemporary culture: white poverty, mysticism, love of family, the wisdom of modest people. Van Eerden is brave enough to say the hard things. She’s strong enough to love the hard places.”

Ann Pancake, author of Given Ground and Me and My Daddy Listen to Bob Marley


“In these startlingly honest and imaginative essays, ​van Eerden enlarges the world around her, giving flesh to what is all too often flattened by the outside eye, anointing places and people and the throbbing spaces between them as she searches out and sings litanies to what she calls the ‘larger body I belonged to and could not leave.’ Lush and razor-sharp, The Long Weeping shimmers with intelligence and grace. The truest essays I’ve read in a long time.”

Sonja Livingston, author of Ghostbread and Queen of the Fall 


“Jessie van Eerden’s wholehearted essays are acts of ardent and radical comprehension, contending with mysteries and memories that would lead many to declare an impasse, or to employ miniaturizing disdain. Van Eerden is too adventurous a comprehender to be easily thwarted, though, and she is too serious for disdain. In these portrait essays she takes all of her subjects seriously—the ‘Woman with Dog with Mange,’ the concubine shooing the birds away from her sons’ dead bodies, the checkout lady at the Dollar General, as well as her younger self, who at the time felt herself ‘scruffy and insignificant.’ Here is no nefarious regularizing of the past or imposition of ideology; here is the shock of experience—funny, warm, odd, grievous—in a West Virginia childhood, twelfth-century Belgium, or an interior desert where you learn how to love. Like someone fleeing to the desert from supposedly desirable, supposedly enviable things, Jessie van Eerden’s book is ‘mad for something else’ and I was thrilled to follow her.”

Amy Leach, author of Things That Are





Jessie van Eerden is the author of two novels, Glorybound (WordFarm), recipient of the 2012 Editor’s Choice Fiction Prize from Foreword Reviews, and My Radio Radio (Vandalia Press, 2016). Her work has appeared in The Oxford AmericanImage, Cimarron Review, The River Teeth Reader, and Best American Spiritual Writing, among other places. Van Eerden received an MFA in nonfiction from the University of Iowa in 2007 and was awarded the 2007-2008 Milton Fellowship at Image and Seattle Pacific University for work on her first novel. She currently directs the low-residency MFA program at West Virginia Wesleyan College.

The Long Weeping: Portrait Essays, by Jessie van Eerden

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