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Christine Silk earned her B.A. in English (cum laude) at Binghamton University, and a M.A. and Ph.D. in Rhetoric from Carnegie Mellon University. She is a professional writer and editor, and has taught courses on writing, communication theory, literary analysis, and political philosophy. Christine lives in California with her family. Connect on Facebook.
A Short Autobiography
I was born in Buffalo, New York, during the 1960’s. Our house was located in a colorful district called Allentown, Buffalo's version of Greenwich Village. The residents included artists and musicians, along with blue-collar tradespeople. Small business owners ran local restaurants, liquor stores, antiques stores, taverns, boutiques, and art galleries. It is still a magnet for hipsters and bohemians, home to the yearly Allentown Art Festival. From the window of my upstairs bedroom, I could see the tall downtown buildings, including my favorite: The General Electric Tower, which reminded me of a three-tiered wedding cake.
My family was mainly working-class Italian-Catholic. My maternal grandfather was Greek, and my paternal grandfather was Irish. The Italian grandmothers in our family set the tone for the pervasive Italian influence, right down to the Sunday spaghetti dinners, and baccala (cod fish) on Christmas Eve.
My father, Joseph Patrick Murphy (1940-2008), was an insurance salesman who never went to college, but whose high-school Jesuit education gave him a good vocabulary and a huge appetite for fiction. Dad was outgoing and sociable. No matter where he went, he knew at least one person, usually several people. He preferred to meet face-to-face because he hated to talk on the phone. When he wasn't socializing, Dad kept in touch with many friends and family by sending short notes and interesting newspaper clippings through the mail. He was an old-fashioned pen-pal who undoubtedly kept the local post office in business with all the stamps he bought. He had absolutely no interest in email.
My mother, Dolores, is a retired speech pathologist. She taught me, my sister Kelly, and my brother Joe how to read before we were in kindergarten. As teenagers, after my parents divorced, we saw the strength of her character firsthand as she worked her way through college and graduate school, and then became a well-loved and admired instructor a public school. Mom was an excellent teacher. She knew how to motivate her students to learn, and how to control the less-disciplined ones, thanks to her years of practice as a parent dealing with the three of us. Because she is so warm and generous, and a wonderful cook, there were always visitors at our house. This is especially true now that she is retired.
When I was a small child, my neighborhood was a working-class community where people took pride in what little they had. Residents kept the streets clean and their houses in good repair, even though their houses were humble -- especially compared to the mansions on Delaware Avenue a mile away. By the 1980s, large parts of the city, including sections of Allentown, had become blighted neighborhoods, thanks to expansive government programs. All the problems associated with welfare dependency afflicted our neighborhood: higher crime rates, unkempt Section 8 housing, drug dealers, and drunken partiers who blasted their radios at all hours of the day and night.
My maternal grandparents, who lived five houses away from us, had suffered the hardships of the Depression and World War II. They knew all about poverty and food rationing and deprivation, but they never lost their dignity or faith in religion and the greatness of this country. That is why they were completely baffled by this new generation.
Hoodlums amused themselves by breaking glass bottles in the street. As soon as she heard the crashing glass, my grandmother would dash outside and yell at them. Often, the hoodlums yelled back and threatened her. She'd retreat into her house until they went away, then she'd grab her broom and dustpan and go back outside to clean up the broken bottles.
Eventually, the hard-working residents of Allentown (including my mom and grandparents) got together and took back their neighborhood. They formed block clubs, confronted absentee landlords, forced the taverns on Allen Street to clean up their act, and held the local homeless shelter responsible for the discarded needles left on neighbors' lawns. The block club on our street planted a community garden (which is why lovely maple trees blaze red, yellow and orange every fall on my mother’s street). These early experiences left a strong impression on me. I realized how soul-destroying government dependency is, and how essential it is for people to have the freedom to solve their own problems at the grassroots level by coming together and working for common goals, without interference from politicians and bureaucrats.
Throughout high school and college, I studied hard to get good grades at school while holding part-time jobs after school. At various times, I worked in as a babysitter, a waitress, a cashier in an Italian bakery, and a receptionist at a Catholic nursing home. I was on the high school debate team, the choir, and the school newspaper.
I attended City Honors School from fifth through twelfth grade. I earned my B.A. from Binghamton University, and my graduate degrees at Carnegie Mellon University. After graduate school, my husband and I moved to Southern California, where our children were born.
I am a writer and an editor. I have provided copywriting and editing services to many clients, including businesses and educational institutions. A collection of my short stories, Chase the Sun: Nine Short Stories of Passion, Betrayal and Revenge, is available through Amazon, Ingram, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, and other retailers worldwide in trade paperback and ebook formats.