Readers Say

Book Club: We asked for your best creative writing. ‘Vertigo’ was one of our favorites.

Read Lauren Jappe's winning poem, "Vertigo."

Lauren Jappe is a Boston-area writer using fiction, journalism, and poetry to explore themes of social justice, trauma, and family secrets.

If you could travel to another time or alternate universe, where would you go?

Last month, we asked readers to try their hand at answering this question through creative writing. We received poems, flash fiction, and personal essays from readers exploring their memories and imagined futures.

The prompt was inspired by’s Book Club’s January pick, “A Fractured Infinity” by Nathan Tavares, a sci-fi adventure book with a romance at the center of its multiverse story. 

Below you’ll find one of our selected pieces, a poem titled “Vertigo” by Lauren Jappe. 


I place my grandmother, like a bookmark, where I want her:

away from roads with jagged edges, their galloping cars.

I set her down as I would a game piece: a plastic house, then someone else’s turn.

When I was little I stuck

my feet between hotel balusters. The sidewalk gray and flat below me.

Electricity buzzing in my hair’s roots. A stuffed animal tight

in my hand extended over the railing.

I could scale

the twisted metal in an instant.

The air asked in its thin voice if I would fly.

My grandmother’s resentments brewed. The body’s many treacheries—diabetes,

yellowed fat, stubborn clusters of cancer—

how to count them all? To assemble is to forgive.

Let them gather the force of a thunderstorm, darkening

the daylight of the healthy and the young,

and aim bolts of lightning

into your own flesh.

With each shriek

you’ll sting their ears, and they will know

what it means to crumble.

If you throw yourself from a hotel balcony—

eyes squished against the wind, and your choice—

is that power? Why does everyone answer to you now,

you who answered the wind’s question?

Now I place my grandmother in an old car

where she fights with my mother,

who is young, long-haired, lost sleep unbetrayed in her unlined face,

and who argues back over the steering wheel.

She studies the skies. She knows

lightning will soon strike and she must become a woodland animal,

round and curled against the ground.

Give nothing to a storm.

But my grandmother opens the passenger door and the wind

asks, and asks, and asks its question, and my mother screams.

Her hands quake as they grip the wheel.

My grandmother says: That’s nothing. Real pain is in the sores and aches

of remorseless womanhood

as she edges herself out

over the spinning gray road.

In a poem my grandmother

weighs no more than a game piece. She’s so light

I can loosen her fingers on the door. The seatbelt from its clasp.

But my mother’s shriek is an ocean inside me.

It’s her weather I’ve learned to chart, her sky I watch for danger,

and it’s her scream that stops me,

a spiteful god,

from reaching into their car,

holding my grandmother to that promised jump.

Lauren Jappe is a Boston-area writer using fiction, journalism, and poetry to explore themes of social justice, trauma, and family secrets. You can read more of her work at

Join our next virtual Book Club discussion

Join our next virtual author discussion with Laura Zigman and The Silver Unicorn Bookstore’s Megan Birch-McMichael on Feb. 22 at 6 p.m.