Does anyone ever really understand what their parents do? In The Good Bad Things, Jennifer Kabat tries to unravel the truth about her late father, who may or may not have been in the CIA. Was he up to something more radical than the exportation of democracy? In a hybrid essay woven with slides her father took on his trips for the State Department, she delves into the era of the Cold War, when communism was fought with co-operatives, rural America was drafted into the fray, and rural electric co-ops were mobilized for the fight. The essay is a reckoning with an era and its values, and asks how they might haunt our own moment.

A recent finalist for Notting Hill Editions’ Essay Prize, Jennifer Kabat is working on a book of linked essays, GROWING UP MODERN, exploring ideology and the landscape from the modernist suburb where she grew up to where she lives now in the Catskill Mountains. Harper’s, The White Review, The Virginia Quarterly Review and LARB have run selections from the book. Her ongoing collaboration with Kate Newby was recently subject of an exhibition at the Poor Farm in rural Wisconsin, and her essays have been included in exhibitions at Arnolfini in Bristol UK and in “Autobiography” at Index in Stockholm. Awarded a Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant for her criticism, she teaches at NYU.