I used Google Maps to plot 21 locations from the first 108 pages of Mark Chiusano’s book, Marine Park (also known as Marine Park: Stories), which is a collection of 17 short stories that are connected to the Marine Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, which is the tiny neighborhood that surrounds the actual park: Marine Park. Chiusano’s book is a total of 196 pages, and I perused up to page 108, choosing locations to pin to my map. (I did read the entire book last year, and it is wonderful!) I chose locations that appeared on the pages and grabbed my attention, especially the ones that are personal to me.
I lived in the Marine Park neighborhood of Brooklyn from the ages of 18-29 (except for one year, 2000-2001, when I lived in the East Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan). Marine Park is a neighborhood that never appears on maps. I don’t think that it is an official neighborhood (but don’t tell the locals that). Its zip code, 11234, is actually the zip code for the entire Flatlands neighborhood of Brooklyn. Marine Park is a neighborhood that consists of a few blocks that surround the park itself. So when I discovered that Chiusano, who also grew up in Marine Park, wrote a book about the neighborhood, I was excited because it was finally written into existence. It was recorded! It was no longer ignored! It had value! It appeared!
I lived on East 21st Street, between Avenues X and Y, in the Sheepshead Bay neighborhood—zip code 11235—for the first 18 months of my life. My mother, my sister, and I then crossed Avenue X, and crossed the border to the Kings Bay neighborhood of Brooklyn, with the zip code of 11229. We moved to Bedford Avenue, between Avenues W and X, and lived there until I was 18 years old, until we moved to Coyle Street in Marine Park. In that location of Brooklyn, Bedford Avenue is considered East 25th Street, so we didn’t move far, only four blocks. My aunt, uncle, and cousin lived above us. My maternal grandparents lived one block away on East 24th Street, between Avenues X and Y; it was the typical close Italian American family. Avenue X separated the two neighborhoods and zip codes: Sheepshead Bay 11235 and Kings Bay 11229.
The aforementioned details are important because the neighborhood of Kings Bay never appears on a map, too. Marine Park and Kings Bay share that erasure. Usually, only native Brooklynites know about my three neighborhoods. People from other boroughs of New York City never heard of or visited Marine Park, Kings Bay, and Sheepshead Bay. Transplants who move to New York City never know; they usually only know about the trendy parts of northern Brooklyn and Manhattan. And only Sheepshead Bay appears on the maps because it is large, because of the train station, because of the bay itself, and because it is above Coney Island. I tell people that I come from the neighborhoods above Coney Island, and then they understand. Everyone knows about Coney Island.
I chose to plot 21 locations from Chiusano’s book on a map because it is my own way of empowering an aspect of my life—and the lives of others: the people who live in the neighborhood of Marine Park, but whose existence never appears on any maps. It is also a way of empowering one of my identities: my local identity or my geographical identity, which then creates my cultural and linguistic identities.
Marine Park: Stories was a PEN/Hemingway Award Honorable Mention.
“Marine Park—in the far reaches of Brooklyn, train-less and tourist-free—finds its literary chronicler in Mark Chiusano. Chiusano’s dazzling stories delve into family, boyhood, sports, drugs, love, and all the weird quirks of growing up in a tight-knit community on the edge of the city. In the tradition of Junot Díaz’s Drown, Stuart Dybek’s The Coast of Chicago, and Russell Banks’s Trailerpark, this is a poignant and piercing collection—announcing the arrival of a distinct new voice in American fiction.” (http://markchiusano.com)
“The stories in Mark Chiusano’s debut collection all have links to Marine Park, a part of southern Brooklyn far removed from the gentrifying hordes. . . . Those that range more widely, either thematically or geographically — including one about a retiree who gets into trouble running a shady errand and another set in Los Alamos, N.M., during the Manhattan Project—showcase Mr. Chiusano’s more formidable talents. It will be worth watching what he does when he leaves the neighborhood.” —John Williams, The New York Times
“Mark Chiusano’s debut collection, Marine Park, homes in on the Brooklyn neighborhood of the title, where the 23-year-old author grew up, offering sparkling and concise linked stories about coming of age hard by some salt marshes, where backyards are boat docks and ball fields are showcases.” —Elle
“Chiusano gives a voice to the lesser-known Brooklyn neighborhood of Marine Park in his collection of interconnected stories that unearth broader truths among quotidian events, from haircuts to train rides.” —The Huffington Post
“Mark Chiusano is the author of Marine Park, which received an honorable mention for the PEN/Hemingway Award. His fiction and essays have appeared in Guernica, Narrative Magazine, Five Chapters, Salon, Harvard Review, and online at Tin House, the New York Observer, NPR, The Atlantic, and The Paris Review, among other places. He was born and raised in Brooklyn, educated at Harvard College, spent some summers playing baseball in Switzerland, among other places sometimes more exotic than the Parade Grounds, worked at Alfred A. Knopf and Vintage Books, and now writes for the editorial page at amNY and Newsday, which means you can find him on the subway or in Long Island.” (http://markchiusano.com)