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Amy Bonnaffons, GA

Senior Writer

Amy is the author of the story collection, THE WRONG HEAVEN (Little Brown, 2018), and the novel, THE REGRETS (Little, Brown, 2020). Her short story “Horse” was performed on NPR’s This American Life in 2017. Her essays and fiction have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Essay Review, The Sun, Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from New York University and is working on a PhD in Creative Writing with a Certificate in Women’s Studies at the University of Georgia. Amy’s first love is writing but she is also an occasional musician, specializing in vocal music from Eastern Europe. She also loves to ride her bike, do yoga, travel, study languages, and has spent long periods of time in Japan, Brazil, Thailand, and Burma. She edits an online magazine, 7×, that publishes collaborations between writers and visual artists.

As a Story Terrace writer, Amy interviews customers and turns their life stories into books. Get to know her better by reading her autobiographical anecdote below.

The Zoo

My first serious relationship ended a week before I started my summer job at the zoo. Every morning as I drove my parents’ Toyota to work, I’d put on a Dar Williams CD and cry. I felt as tragic as it was possible to feel while wearing an oversized blue T-shirt with gorillas printed on the front.

As an educator at the zoo’s day camp for precocious animal-lovers aged six to twelve, I spent most of my time mediating disputes over popular crayon colors, assuring anxious parents about peanut allergies, and asking my campers, “Is it an emergency?” in a voice that carried the proper ring of adult authority.

The job also brought me—a bookish, city kid—closer to nature than ever before. Much of nature, I learned, was disgusting. I had to learn to do demonstrations with pythons, a tarantula, and a Madagascan hissing cockroach the size of my palm. As I held each alien-textured animal in my bare hands, proffering it for the children to touch (“Gently, please, gently!”), I masked my unease. All creatures, adorable or nasty, deserved our interest, did they not? Couldn’t they all inspire wonder?

Our classroom bordered the Silverback gorilla exhibit, separated only by a glass partition. When the children arrived the first day, a heavy curtain obscured it. During lunch, one of us counselors would slowly draw the curtain back and watch as the expansive-looking gorilla “habitat” revealed itself.

Once the children noticed what was happening, they would rush to the window and press their hands and faces against the glass. Sometimes the gorillas went indifferently about their business. Other times they hammed it up, doing tricks or putting their palms against the children’s—prison-visit style.

There was a new baby gorilla that summer, and once I saw the father lie on his back and airplane the baby above him, balancing the baby’s stomach on his wide flat feet. My heart caught, watching them. In a way I couldn’t explain, observing this recognizable human gesture made me feel a little less alone.

Soon I lost my fear of the snake and cockroach. I even began to feel a kind of kinship with them. There was something hard and private about them that appealed to me, something I could relate to—in the cockroach’s brittle exterior, the python’s restless wiggle, the spider’s defensive crouch. The snake, like me, had to shed things to stay alive. My breakup might have taught me a new variety of loneliness, but here was a new kind of connection—silent and perhaps entirely imagined, but connection nonetheless.


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