Forgotten Borough

Writers Come to Terms with Queens

Edited by Nicole Steinberg

Subjects: New York/regional, Literature, Fiction, Poetry
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Paperback : 9781438435848, 216 pages, July 2015
Hardcover : 9781438435831, 216 pages, February 2011

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Table of contents


Introduction: Between the Boulevards
Nicole Steinberg

85‑11 Avon Street
Julia Alvarez

To Bridge: The Spaces Between, Behind, and Around Us
Buzz Poole

Love and Shame
Margo Rabb

Waiting for Big Bird
Marcy Dermansky

Thinking on the N
Susan Y. Chi

Victor LaValle

Ethelerie’s Blank Check
Arthur Nersesian

The Maspeth Holders
Margarita Shalina

Three Poems
Nicole Cooley
The Sunnyside Shuffle
Ron Hogan

Eating East Elmhurst
Molly McCloy

High Q
Roger Sedarat

God Lived in Queens
Jayanti Tamm

How to Disappear Completely
John Weir

Snow Forts
Robert Lasner

Four Poems
Juanita TorrenceThompson

A Queens Necropolis: The Burial and Building of New York
Marc Landas

Rockaway Sonnets
Jill Eisenstadt

Accent Reduction
Mark Swartz

Koshchei the Deathless
Irina Reyn

Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
Marissa Walsh

The Children
Jocelyn Lieu

Rigoberto González

Notes and Permissions

Twenty-four contemporary writers reflect on life in New York City’s biggest underdog, the “forgotten borough” of Queens.


The stories, poems, and essays in Forgotten Borough offer twenty-four takes on New York City's biggest underdog: Queens. From the immigrant communities of Forest Hills to the unsung heroes of Maspeth and the bustling crowds of Flushing, Queens is the most diverse county in the United States, but unlike the iconic boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and the Bronx, it's neither as well known in other parts of the country nor as well traveled by New Yorkers (at least those who don't need to take the 7 Train to get home). Featuring writers who hail from the borough as well as those who have moved there and come to call it home, Forgotten Borough uncovers the New York stories that most of us don't get to hear, tales that reflect not only upon contemporary life in Queens but also its humble history and its evolution to the multicultural community—the community of communities—it is today. Taken together, they offer a vivid, layered portrait of Queens as a microcosm of America, where race, ethnicity, class, and industrial growth all influence our collective past, as well as our present and future.

Nicole Steinberg is an editor at large at LIT magazine, and her poetry has appeared in publications such as No Tell Motel, BOMB, Gulf Coast, Barrow Street, Barrelhouse, and Coconut. She is the author of the chapbook Birds of Tokyo and founder and curator of Earshot, a Brooklyn-based reading series dedicated to emerging writers. She hails from all over Queens and currently lives in Philadelphia, where she works at The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.


"Forgotten Borough, represents the strength of the literary community not just of Queens, but of all of New York. It's a great collection jam-packed with stories, essays, and poetry by an array of authors who all merit further attention. " — Verbicide Magazine

"…a welcome collection of essays and other pieces … You don't have to be from Queens to like it. Not if you care for writers like Julia Alvarez, Jill Eisenstadt, and Victor LaValle, among many other contributors. " — Red Weather Review

"…[Steinberg] has compiled an anthology that reflects her experience growing up in the borough and being viewed as an outsider in New York City. " — New York Daily News

"This collection brings Queens to life; it shows the underbelly of New York, the place of the nitty gritty. Most of these stories work, they help bring this unknowable region alive … Hopefully this will help bring Queens out from the shadows. " — San Francisco Book Review

"Unlike many theme-centered anthologies, which may grow repetitive or feel forced, Steinberg's selections are entertaining and varied enough so that there truly is something for everyone—even for the Queens novice. " — Queens Chronicle

"…more than two dozen stories, poems and even Queens-themed haikus take a reader on a cultural tour of the borough, stopping in neighborhoods from Astoria to the Rockaway Peninsula, giving readers a thorough taste of the densely populated piece of land they might only know for being what's outside their vehicle's windows when they're stuck in traffic. " — Queens Tribune

"Though Queens has been home to many great writers—including the father of American poetry Walt Whitman, Beat pioneer Jack Kerouac, Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Alan Dugan, two-fisted journalist Jimmy Breslin, singer-songwriter Paul Simon, rap legend LL Cool J, and renowned novelist Mary Gordon—it rarely comes to mind as a breeding ground for major literary talent. Nicole Steinberg's first-rate book should go a long way toward rectifying that situation. A terrific read, it makes a powerful case for this long-overlooked borough as a place of remarkable artistic richness and vitality. " —Kimiko Hahn, author of Toxic Flora: Poems