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Neil Shea

Neil Shea is a writer, filmmaker, and teacher. His work regularly appears in National Geographic, and he’s a contributing editor to VQR and the American Scholar. He teaches at Sewanee, the University of the South, and Boston University.


Photo by Neil Shea

Subway Rorschach

Spring 2017 | Essays

In the new city we carry our newborn son down the block and into the subway. His first journey, diving under rivers, piercing webs of pipes and wires, rattling past ghost stations and lunch boxes lost by the sandhogs a century ago. They say in new cities you are given grace—some time in which to believe anything, to dodge blame, to gather memories that years from now will fall like hail on unlucky relatives. Who knows? We’re tired and the kid, this lump, warm and dense as dough, is getting heavy. While the car idles (and before he spits up) a woman speaks to his bobbling head and says, “Mixed-race babies always have that look.”

Moving awkwardly across winter fields, avoiding men, women walk to the funeral of a local elder in the Pech Valley near Combat Outpost Honaker-Miracle.

The Talking Season

The soldiers at the gate are not pleased that I have invited a Taliban commander for tea. “What the fuck?” they say, laughing but sort of not laughing. “You mean we gotta search that motherfucker? Man, shit. I mean, if he’s, like, wearing [...]

A waiter in Havana. (All photos courtesy of the author.)

The Revolution Is

Winter 2009 | Reporting

As President Obama makes his historic visit to Cuba this week, take a look at some of the work we've published about the island and its people.

Ramadi Nights

A sandstorm approaches while the sun sets over downtown Ramadi. Second Lieutenant Dave Hagner was tall and smooth-faced, and like many other marines he carried himself in a way that brought his toughness into uncomfortable contrast wit [...]