Deserved Cover

Hanging Loose Press, 2006


"When I was younger I did a lot of reading (paperback books came along at a fortuitous time for me) that gave me much escapist pleasure, and I took writing courses in college. I think unconsciously I knew that this was one way I could understand and control my life. So I think that’s what writing has done for me, given me a feeling of worth and accomplishment that the rest of my life didn’t have. I kept writing after college but have suffered through long droughts when I stopped and pretty much gave up and then miraculously came back to it. My father lived to a vigorous one hundred years before he died and I think his death freed me up to understand things better and to be able to write more freely. I do believe that we all have endless stories in us and that it just takes the right approach to get at them. I always wonder where the next story will come from. So far it’s always come, though sometimes it’s taken a long time. In the summer of 2000, after a long dry spell, I started writing what seemed like unconnected autobiographical sketches, with the purpose of trying to figure out my life. A childhood friend of mine was turning sixty-five in a few months and his wife asked some of his friends to write reminiscences about for him for a booklet she was putting together. I described some of our high school adventures and found I enjoyed writing them. I didn’t dig very deeply, just tried to be entertaining. But it got me thinking. A week later I was in Vermont by myself for two weeks and wrote about ten short pieces, three of which ended up in my book. In the fall, I submitted these three to Hanging Loose Magazine and they were accepted. This gave me the encouragement to keep going. It wasn’t until a year later that I began thinking about it as something that might be published in book form. I assigned myself different parts of my life that I hadn’t covered yet. One week, I thought about my time in the dress business and came up with three short pieces. Even after the book was accepted, I kept writing and reorganizing."

- Steven Schrader


Family Beach

Schrader's parents with his sister Estelle, Far Rockaway, 1929


“An album of affecting snapshots written with prose that is laid back but also always on its toes and achieving its effects through the accumulation of small fictional units. These can be like a finger food, candy, or chips where you need to read another and another; by my calculation, a Schrader story takes exactly the amount of time it takes to get through two subway stops, say, from 96th to 79th. It is as if another human being has rapidly told you everything he possibly could, over such a subway ride or a cup of tea—a life so particular, so Manhattan, so Jewish, so garment district, so privileged yet so impoverished and so full of longing, it belongs to all of us.”

- Allan Appel, Author of The Rabbit of Casino Boulevard and The Hebrew Tutor of Bel Air


“I read What We Deserved in a couple of sittings; literally, couldn’t put it down. This is my last book-jacket endorsement ever, and I’m delighted it’s for a work of fiction that’s the best I’ve read in years, by anyone on any continent. Schrader is a master of the short-short, the short-short-short, and of gathering and ordering all these shorts into a brilliant novel. What We Deserved is by turns, and often in combination, touching, moving, wrenching, funny, clever, hilarious, pensive, insightful, and original in structure, pace and format. It re-creates a man’s entire life, and does it in half the pages it’d take any other writer, and at the end you feel nothing’s been lost, everything’s there, each chapter timed perfectly. The book is eminently readable, with prose deceptively simple, written by a skilled craftsman who’s winnowed his words down to the essentials. Reading this, your heart will break or you’ll bust your gut laughing. The range is that vast and the book is that good.”

- Steve Dixon


“Steven Schrader’s assemblage of a mosaic of his brief memory snapshots adds up to a poignant, powerful, and funny book about growing up in New York City.”

-Isaiah Sheffer, Director, NPR’s Selected Shorts


Estelle (1927-1934)


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