Going Through Blanche DuBois’s Luggage

There is no piece of luggage quite like Blanche DuBois’s trunk in A Streetcar Named Desire. This object contains the life, or the life traces, of one of Tennessee Williams’s most enduring characters. Actors love Blanche for the same reason that they love Hamlet: she is an actor, and she understands what actors understand—that artifice is not the opposite of truth but a means of achieving it.
The Paris Review Link to Story

How to Read Caves

When I was a kid, I went on a class trip to Moaning Cavern in the Gold Country of California. Moaning Cavern. The name was horrifying: the sense that this place moaned, that it had a voice. We had to walk down into the earth, down a metal spiral staircase that was enclosed like a cage, and I was sure that the stairs would collapse, and I would fall, just like Alice in the rabbit hole, her pale blue skirt billowing out into a parachute, into nothing.
Literary Hub Link to Story

In Praise of the Book Tower

“I don’t think book towers would work for me,” wrote one reader. “I would go completely bonkers with the books stacked everywhere,” said another. Bonkers, I thought. I have driven this woman mad. I was reading the comments section of the “House Tour” of my North Carolina home on the design site Apartment Therapy.
Literary Hub Link to Story

All God’s Creatures

The North Carolina Museum of Creation and Taxidermy Hall of Fame is located in a Christian bookstore in Southern Pines, a region known primarily for its golf resorts. The nearby town of Pinehurst has hosted the U.S. Open several times, and the Pinehurst Resort alone has nine golf courses. But I was not there to see famous golfers.
Roads & Kingdoms Link to Story

The Retreat

Last year, I opted out of Thanksgiving. I had never failed to celebrate a major holiday before. When I used to live in New York City, I was accustomed to spending Thanksgivings with friends and their families as my own family was far away in California.
The Morning News Link to Story

Notes Concerning the Objects That Are On My Front Porch

It was a careful process, and sometimes I put things out there and thought about it for an hour, or a day, and then brought them back inside and stuffed them in a closet or a drawer.Sometimes they were not right; they seemed to push back against the universe. But then other things were right, and they knew that they should be out there on the porch, in the night air, and they tucked themselves into this world and stayed there.
The Bitter Southerner Link to Story

Things That Rachel Weisz Does As a Raven-Haired Raven from the Land of Ravens Where They Do Raven-y Things

Eats mice. Prophesizes things.
Queen Mob's Tea House Link to Story

A Poem About Your University’s Absolute and Unwavering Appreciation of Its Faculty in Spite of Said Faculty’s Crap Salaries

“A rise in the cost of living chipped away at salary gains by full-time faculty members in the 2017-18 academic year, according to new survey data published on Wednesday by the American Association of University Professors. Full-time faculty earned an average of 3 percent more than they did in the prior academic year.
McSweeney's Internet Tendency Link to Story


On an ugly suitcase.
Queen Mob's Tea House Link to Story

Where Lost Luggage Goes to Be Found

I pull into the parking lot of the Unclaimed Baggage Center on a gray afternoon befitting a temple of lost things. Lost things come to Scottsboro, Alabama. Well, not all lost things, but lost things in lost luggage. But I am not lost. I have driven through mountains, by fireworks megastores (each one always the “last” and “biggest”), past dead dogs rotting on the side of the road, to Scottsboro, and one of Alabama’s top tourist attractions.
Guernica Link to Story

Old Bags

Penguin Travellers tapestry suitcase (soft-sided and small); brown mock-leather Samsonite suitcase, with monogram J.A.B. Samsonite Saturn tapestry shoulder bag in cream, pink, and brown; two Coach Stewardess bags – dark brown and tan, both scuffed. Susan Harlan’s writing has appeared in venues including The Guardian US, The Paris Review Daily, The Toast, Roads & Kingdoms, The Common, The Morning News, Curbed, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Avidly, The Hairpin, Public Books, and The Awl.
The Brooklyn Quarterly Link to Story

Miniature Blue Ridge Parkway Sign

I’m always looking over the key rings at gas stations because I collect souvenirs. I also collect fridge magnets and snow globes. I never met a gift shop I didn’t like. I have as many souvenirs as keys on my key ring, and most of them make me think of distant places, but my miniature Blue Ridge Parkway sign makes me think of home.
McSweeney's Quarterly Link to Story



Susan Harlan is a writer based in Winston-Salem, NC, who is particularly interested in the relationship between place, memory, and objects. Her essays have appeared in publications including The Guardian US, The Paris Review Daily, Guernica, Roads & Kingdoms, The Morning News, The Awl, Curbed, Atlas Obscura, The Common, The Toast, Nowhere, Literary Hub, The Bitter Southerner, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, The Brooklyn Quarterly, Avidly, and Public Books. She also writes about feminist issues for venues such as Jezebel, Literary Mothers, The Feminist Wire, DAME, Skirt!, The Hairpin, The Establishment, Queen Mob's Tea House, The Belladonna, The South Carolina Review, and The Manifest-Station. She holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from New York University and an M.A. in English Renaissance theater history from King’s College London and teaches English at Wake Forest University. Her book Luggage was published in the Bloomsbury series Object Lessons in March 2018. Her book Decorating a Room of One's Own, a humorous mash-up of home design reportage and literary homes based on her column for The Toast, will be published by Abrams in October 2018.

She is represented by Jim McCarthy of Dystel, Goderich & Bourret Literary Management.



  • Writing
  • Teaching