Sonja Livingston is an award-winning essayist and author of three books of nonfiction, including the memoir Ghostbread. Sonja divides her time between Rochester, N.Y., and Richmond, Va., where she teaches in the Creative Writing Program at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her forthcoming essay collection, The Virgin of Prince Street: Expeditions into Devotion chronicles her exploration of the troubles and treasures of contemporary Catholicism as she makes her way back to church. She is an associate professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Posts By This Author

My Journey Back to a Broken Church

by Sonja Livingston 10-07-2019

Most everyone I grew up with near Goodman Street in northeast Rochester attended Corpus Christi. A post-Vatican II parish complete with folk group and food pantry to help a neighborhood of mostly single mothers, the church was a rare source of sustenance and light. Still, by the time we hit our twenties, most of us had escaped the urban neighborhood and along with it, left the church. I returned a few years ago — first for Christmas Mass, then to interview a parishioner for a story, and then for no good reason at all. This unmoored me. Even as I sang the Psalm, I surveyed the rows of empty pews. 

The Patron Saint of Just Right: Why I Wear the St. Christopher Medal

by Sonja Livingston 07-22-2019

What I did not tell my friend, even as I thanked her, is that just as Christopher has become less churchy, so have the rest of us. I did not say that I’m not quite comfortable with religious jewelry in general, and in this case, don’t even wear the medal for safe passage. Instead, St. Christopher is a reminder of beautiful imperfection and radical acceptance — the patron saint of just right.

We Draw Borders Like Children Draw Lines in Dirt

by Sonja Livingston 07-25-2018

Apart from slogans, nothing seems different but license plates, laws governing cell phone use in moving vehicles, and the ability to buy liquor locally. If not for signs informing you of your whereabouts, you would not know the exact state you’re in. The mimosas bloom their otherworldly silken blossoms without deference to zip code. Catalpa leaves cascade like oversized green hearts from massive branches. Steeples rise from Baptist churches alongside Dollar Generals and barbecue places named for the folksy characteristics of those who ostensibly manage the pits. Heavy’s. Bubby’s. Grateful Ed’s. All of these things, the sweet smoky same, regardless of state line

Remembering the Necessity of Speech on the Feast of St. Blaise

by Sonja Livingston 02-02-2018

But it would not be lost on him, the silence — our silence — on the very principles Christianity was founded on: love of neighbor, care for the poor, welcoming all. Blaise had only to renounce these values to stop the horrors inflicted upon him. Just a word to save his own neck. But he refused. Even as he was tortured and executed. How tame our religion would seem to him now, how close to the trappings of the Empire whose politicians had hauled him off to jail.