Ada Calhoun on 'Street Through Time'

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There’s a book that Ada Calhoun, author of “Why We Can’t Sleep: Women’s New Midlife Crisis“ thinks of as both one of her favorites to read out loud with her son, as well as one that has inspired her own writing. It’s “A Street Through Time: The 12,000 Year Journey Along the Same Street,” Illustrated by Steve Noon and written by Anne Millard. The book is the story of one street, leading the reader through historical events and the passage of time, with the street itself starring as the main character.

My name is Ada Calhoun and I'm the author of "Why We Can't Sleep Women's New Midlife Crisis."

When I was the mother of a young child, I was reading this book to him and it was called "A Street Through Time: The 12,000 Year Journey Along the Same Street," Illustrated by Steve Noon and written by Dr. Anne Millard.

The great thing about it, it's mostly pictures of the same street and every time you turn the page it's hundreds of years later. So the houses go up and there's an invasion. The houses come down and then they come back up again and then they get bigger.

What I love about this book is, first of all, it gives you this amazing history lesson, because you see how world civilization has evolved over thousands of years. And then also it just gives you the sense of perspective about how small we are and how different things have been just not that long ago.

And I love it that you'll see somebody will drop his sword in a battle and then another, 200 years later, someone will fish out the sword while they're out in their rowboat. And it inspired me a lot when I started working on a book about the history of my street, St. Mark's Place in the East Village, that's where I grew up, called St. Mark's is Dead: the Many Lives of America's Hippest Street. And I feel like I was really influenced by that way of looking at history. As you look at this, this one piece of land, and it's a stage and people come onto the stage and they have a fight or they have a conversation and then some people leave the stage and other people come on the stage.

And so, thinking of the street as a stage where things change, but it's like a fixed place, was really, really helpful to me and I think it inspired me to do the book the way I did it. Then that book did pretty well. And then I was able to do another book and then I was able to do this book. So I kind of, I traced my whole career back to reading that children's book to my son many years ago.

I like it because, yeah, we sort of think of that as anti-career time. In ways sometimes I think, okay, I'm not going to work right now. I'm going to focus on my child. Or I'm going to have to step away from my child and go do my work. But I think a lot of the best things with both are when they come together. And I think about now, reading that book to my son was really creative for me. It was really inspirational. And it, I feel like led basically my whole writing career in some ways.